Q&A with Jay Gordon, moved the blues forward to the 21st century, infusing the music with the fire and power of rock

"Blues is all about Freedom, there are no rules, music doesn't lie to you when it sounds good it is good and when it's bad is bad. No matter what you think or what anyone else thinks in every generation the counterculture just changes with the way the world."

Jay Gordon: Slide Rules & Blues Party

Jay Gordon grew up in Chicago, the center of the blues world. Throughout his career, Jay Gordon has become famous for his slashing guitar solos, his passionate vocals, and his dedication to the blues. While his inspirations have included Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, he does not sound like any of his predecessors and has long had his own distinctive voice. Never interested in merely recreating the past, Jay has moved the blues forward to the 21st century, infusing the music with the fire and power of rock while carving out his own place in the music world. Gordon has recorded 17 CDs, his latest cd in 2019 "Slide Rules" received world wide air play. Creative, Aggressive, Blistering slide guitar-and then some! Really, it doesn't begin to describe what Jay Gordon brings to the Blues party. Amazing slide guitar, vocals, and overall energy and artistry is found on Slide Rules. It's absolutely captivating. Slide GuitarMastery a work of art.

Headlined his own European tours and gained a worldwide reputation. Harold G Jackson (aka Jay Gordon) was one of 50 guitarists picked by Eric Clapton (who was very impressed after hearing one of Jay's CDs) to perform at the 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival. Jay has played and opened up for artists, such as, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Paul Rogers, Bad Co., 38 Special, BB King, Def Leopard, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, and many more. Jay also played to 250,000 screaming fans at Sturgis, S.D. several times. (Jay Gordon's interview @ blues.gr, 2015)

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the blues and Rock Counterculture influence your views of the world and the journey you've taken?

Well I do believe that the blues and rock culture has influenced me quite a bit especially as a Young Man. As young boy I found myself hanging out with primarily people that played the blues who were much older than myself and lived on the south side of Chicago. You know we all have our own thoughts of how the world is. The counterculture is really just separations of genres, when you're talkin music you know what's not mainstream or status quo for say, the blues is always been the stepchild of the music industry but yet at the same time it's the Cornerstone of All American music and it's the foundation of All American music that's why the blues is always been the most important music to me. The counterculture is really the opposition to the mainstream culture. For the longest time music is a social expression of how one feels being creative through an instrument and I believe that most people that play Blues and rock and roll music are Outcast they think outside of the box and they express their freedom of speech and their freedom on their instruments. The blues has taken me all over the world and I got to meet some of the finest blues musicians and learn about their culture. From playing blues and rock I've gotten a chance to communicate and share my views about world issues, politics, religion and talking about the sexual Revolution. I believe that the hippies were the biggest Counterculture in America and you know it basically spread worldwide. The Blues was invented in America, but you know the English picked it up big time and made it very famous by covering songs by artists that were around, Chess Records, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, the list goes on. Music has a big impact on all generations. The counterculture to me is existentialism of philosophy through literature, poetry, Eastern mysticism, drugs and all forms of music. The blues is rebellious and it's always been connected with Lucifer, you know what I mean, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil I guess it really impacted him back then and now people that play music especially myself, have always considered myself to be an outlaw because I think outside the box. When I see a thousand people going one way I'd definitely go the other way, that's what I've done with my music.

Blues is a way of life, it's a whole lifestyle some people who have really been around real Blues musicians will understand what I mean it's a whole different scenario than hanging out with rock players. Demonstrations for social injustice, just look at Woodstock 1969 to me that was definitely one of the biggest Gatherings of the counterculture in the United States I mean you had 32 groups Rock and oriented blues bands on that stage spreading their message. Definitely one of the biggest happenings when you talk about the counterculture. Astrology, mysticism the occult black magic white magic all esoteric subjects that people don't relate to in their everyday life. That is the counterculture to me. Blues is all about Freedom, there are no rules, music doesn't lie to you when it sounds good it is good and when it's bad is bad. No matter what you think or what anyone else thinks in every generation the counterculture just changes with the way the world.

"It's very important to surround yourself with a team of people who share your vision and who understand the artistic value that you have. Learn all aspects of the industry that you can. It is very important to cover your intellectual property, what I mean by that, is the songs that you wrote are your songs. Copyright your songs and always Own 100% of your publishing."

How do you describe "Slide Rules" sound and songbook? What touched (emotionally) you from the sound of slide?

I would describe my sound as Sonic. My guitar sound is honest and it's What I Hear in my head before the tape machine even starts rolling. 90% of my tone comes from my fingers the other 10% comes from the amp and and my guitar. The sound starts first in my own head and then it's transform through my fingers and then through the amp and into the tape machine that's how I basically explain it.
Slide guitar, the sound of it got to me because it sounded like a human voice and it was very mysterious it was raw clean perfectly in tune sometimes you know it could sound like heaven or walking through the depths hell. When I heard Robert Johnson for the first time it sounded like there were two people playing. He would play the bass line with his thumb and then played the melody with the slide at the same time. It sounded very orchestrated for one guy playing slide guitar.  I love Johnny Winter, Duane Allman, Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, I mean to list goes on and on and all those guys had a different tone and you know, some people in the early days used a glass slide, copper, brass, a knife or beer bottle. I prefer the brass slide and I used to use copper slides too. I used to buy copper tubing and make my own slides, but I still prefer the brass one. It has a much more funky abrasive sound.

The song book on slide rules is about real life experiences. I sing about love lost loved won, about The Daily Grind and the hustle of everyday life, and the truth about freedom. About real things that have happened to me and friends and World issues. At this point the record has been out since November 15th and it's been received quite well by many different critics and has been getting a lot of airplay. I'm really happy that people enjoy my work and I just can't wait to get out on the road again and perform the album live, because all my records are recorded live, the band members all plays at the same time in the same room just like we're playing a show. I don't overdub use drum machines or use harmonizers on my voice nothing phony everything is real, the music has its own heartbeat we record in the same room and that's how all records should be made. The music is spontaneous even though it's rehearsed. Once again, each one of these questions I could write a book on, but sometimes it's best to just get out while you're ahead.  By the way I really love the sound of slide guitar it really speaks to me in a different way then any other type of music that is played I play slide guitar in 440 also open E D & G.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I think the best advice that was ever given to me was never quit never give up and always believe in your dream. If you have passion and commitment and believe in what you are trying to achieve, that is the main ingredients that keeps your craft moving forward. I was told to believe in yourself and listen to your heart to achieve what you want for your music and your life. Usually things work out for you that way because to many cooks in the kitchen always spoil the broth. Surround yourself with people that you can share your vision with who understand what you're trying to accomplish. When I was younger, I always tried to surround myself with people that were much better than myself who knew more about music and life, they were quite older than myself. When I was 11 years old, I was in a band with people that were 18 and 19 and 20 years old and they were playing music a lot longer than myself and I learned a lot from all those guys. I started making records at 13, that was my first recording date I was really Blown Away how records were made and that's what really got me into the recording process and wanted to make albums. One thing I know for sure is that there is nothing permanent in the life except change and if you are able to adapt in any situation you will survive anything. As much as I believe in the Blues, my grandmother and and other great musicians that I have played with have always told me to listen to all types of music and absorb it like a sponge, you definitely will become a better player if it's in you and if it's in your head you will be able to transpose those thoughts and sounds you hear in your head through your instrument. I have experience in my lifetime many great things that have blessed me in many different ways. I have also experienced some of the worst situations you can ever think of and I've gotten through them. I know one thing's for sure that music has been a safe haven for me it's always been my church My Sanctuary and my first love.

What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

Well I think what changed my life for the most was getting my first guitar. Music definitely help shape my personality in many different ways and also changed my thoughts about the world. Music has multiplied my perspective in life in general and how I view the world. There's been many different highlights in my life and career so far. I've met a lot of my heroes and have the chance to share the stage with a lot of them and also get to know them on a personal level. Also being able to see the world and other cultures and share my music with another countries, was a game changer for me. Also, the first time hearing my music on the radio. Winning Awards and having air play all over the world and having my music in record stores. Getting great reviews having people contacting you to do gigs I mean all these things are just amazing and doors open up. When you really are into what you're doing people really can hear the genuine artistic craft you have when you're honest to yourself. I think it's important to give back, so we always try to do some benefits for a special events for certain causes that we believe in it's important to give back and make other people happy. Sometimes giving is better than receiving. Creativity becomes a habit there's always something new you can learn.

"I think the best advice that was ever given to me was never quit never give up and always believe in your dream. If you have passion and commitment and believe in what you are trying to achieve, that is the main ingredients that keeps your craft moving forward."

Are there any memories from the 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival which you’d like to share with us?

It was a pretty important gig for me I was really happy to be able to be on that bill with 49 other great guitar players. I actually got that gig through Dave wiedeman. He was the director artist relations of the Guitar Center in Hollywood CA. Dave gave the record to Eric Clapton and that's how I got the gig, I heard that he picked the guitar players and I was one of them.
I got some good memories playing at the festival. I remember riding the bus from the hotel to the stage sitting next to Hubert Sumlin. We talked about all styles of Blues. He's a living legend and we shared some feelings about other Blues musicians who we admired, and it was fabulous. I also was a judge and I remember sitting next to Jeff skunk Baxter from The Doobie Brothers, the guitar contest was called Guitar Armageddon. I also remember having lunch with Marty Stuart one afternoon and hanging out with Mickey Rourke that was quite an experience. After he introduced Eric Clapton, Mickey and I sat and talk for about 3 hours, he had these two little dogs with him. In the hotel we were staying at Buddy Guy came in I guess with his two bodyguards. We sat there and talked about Teresa's lounge in Chicago. When I was a kid in Chicago I use to jam there with him and Junior Wells. There were many great players there, 3 days of fabulous music the whole experience was really good It was great to be a part of a festival on such a big level like that. Yes, I do believe that music definitely has the power to influence our society and influence many generations to come. When music is good it never dies it will be here forever.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss all the great songs of the past. Those songs are here to stay and they always find a new audience. Today’s music just don't have any soul, that's why 99.9% of the music that has been recorded in the recent years has no life span. (I"m talking about main stream radio) I just hope that the music business somehow turns around for the better and remembers that all the great music came from the blues.

"Blues is a way of life, it's a whole lifestyle some people who have really been around real Blues musicians will understand what I mean it's a whole different scenario than hanging out with rock players."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
I would change many things on how the music world is run today. The music business since 1999-2001 when Napster was started the industry started to decrease big time.  Record sales declined because these two guys started to give music away for free to the world which is really bull shit. I mean let's face it, it cost lots of money to record, it cost money to pay musicians, money for Merch, money for tour support and the list goes on and on and on. The music business really is a big boys game and it takes a lot of money to make things work on a large scale. The internet has changed the music business, some may think it's positive some may think it's negative but either way you look at it, it is what it is and you have to adapt to it. There are always ways to be creative. I mean what can we do, it'll never go back to being the way it was but maybe in the future somehow someway it may turn around with a more positive outcome for all musicians. I remember the days all my records were everywhere form Mom and Pop stores to the listening post on Tower Records/Virgin Records. I remember selling thousands of physical CDs. Sure, I miss those days and I'm sure many artists feel the same way. I believe you just got to be a little bit more creative and make your own rules and make it work. Radio is very important and a powerful tool just like it is always been for all artists. It's important to have a great radio and publicity guy on your team. Special Thanks goes out to Frank Roszak who has done a great job promoting this record for me. When I was growing up, I couldn't wait to go to the record store and buy albums. The record store was my home away from home.  Musicians back then seem to really have it together they were very creative. When I would go see them live they would play their ass off, I mean they were really great players who really believed in their art and the craft and the albums that they were creating was the real deal.

Today's music to me is like pasteurized cheese the majority of it has no substance. The recording process today you have everybody using harmonizers and all kinds of voice pitch controls, drum machines and they over dub all the music. I mean it's just not natural, everything is to compressed. I've heard a lot of great albums from the 70s and 80s that actually had mistakes in them that I caught but it was the feel in the groove and the message that made the song. Even if it did speed up most listeners wouldn't know but at least it was real but I don't want to get off on all that and sound negative because, I'm a very positive guy. Whatever turns you on and if that works for you thats fine. Remember music is very subjective to one's own ear so what I really think is good you may not like, what you may think is good I may not like, so it is what it is. Life goes on, remember the gods love the Blues because it's real and it's the foundation of All American music. I don't live in the past and I will do great recordings in the future. But actually, today I'm living in the present and it seems fine to me. So check out my new release "SLIDE RULES" that's what's happening with Jay Gordon these days. I'd I like to thank all the radio stations and all the people that have written positive reviews on my record. It makes me feel good to be appreciated and nice when someone actually gets what the hell I'm doing. There is room for everybody out there as long as you have it together and have a dream and have a message to share. Chase your dream and don't let anyone stop you. Play what you hear in your head and what you feel in your heart. I believe you'll always come out ahead, and remember music breeds peace.

"Well I think what changed my life for the most was getting my first guitar. Music definitely help shape my personality in many different ways and also changed my thoughts about the world. Music has multiplied my perspective in life in general and how I view the world."

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

It's very important to surround yourself with a team of people who share your vision and who understand the artistic value that you have. Learn all aspects of the industry that you can. It is very important to cover your intellectual property, what I mean by that, is the songs that you wrote are your songs. Copyright your songs and always Own 100% of your publishing.

PS: When you are out playing concerts Never piss off the sound man!

I feel I'm blessed And it's great to be a part of the Gretsch Guitar Family. I've been endorsed with them for about three years now. They make some great guitars with a killer tone that just don't quit. All right I hope you all enjoyed what I had to say and I'm signing off right now remember once again MUSIC BREEDS PEACE!

Jay Gordon & Blues Venon - Home

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