Q&A with Nevada-based blues guitarist Rick Berthod - high energy and soulful blues with peripheral visions

"The Blues, (as is all music) is artistic expression. Some think of the Blues as sad and lonely music, but it can bring joy and happiness as well. Music can take people to a place where they forget about their everyday problems & make people smile more often."

Rick Berthod: Blues With A Feeling

Rick Berthod is a well known blues guitarist and composer who tours across the country and in Vegas and California. Rick has shared the stage with B.B. King, Gregg Allman, John Mayall, & Savoy Brown on several occasions, and with Robben Ford, Etta James and the Yardbirds. In 1988, Albert Collins “The Master of the Telecaster” helped Rick put together a band of the best blues players on the West Coast. Rick has performed at festivals in Europe, Canada, and the USA. Inducted into the Las Vegas Blues Hall of Fame in 2018. Rick says "Music has made me into the person I am today. It has taken me upon many journeys, from my first guitar almost 40 years ago to when Rita King inducted me into the Las Vegas Blues Hall of Fame in June 2017. One of the best moments of my life. Music has defined me my entire life."                                  (Photo: Rick Berthod)

Rick's new 9th album "Tribute to Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac Years)", released in October 2022. Rick says: "My relationship with Peter Green started from my uncle. When I was 14 years old, He first played blues records for me when I would go to his house. He told me about seeing Peter & Fleetwood Mac open for Deep Purple. When I heard "Oh Well" I knew I wanted to play guitar. Peter's pure emotion & soul hit me like a ton of bricks. Songs like "Need your Love So bad" still can bring a tear to my eye. Song like "Jumping at Shadows" gives me goose bumps."

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Music has made me into the person I am today. It has taken me upon many journeys, from my first guitar almost 40 years ago to when Rita King inducted me into the Las Vegas Blues Hall of Fame in June 2017. One of the best moments of my life. Music has defined me my entire life.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I would describe my sound as Blues based guitar music with some soul in there. It’s about the entire band playing the shit out of their instruments and about being in the moment of the music.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started and what has remained the same?

I have grown as an artist by writing & recording original music. I have written over 100 songs & recorded over 60 originals on my 9 releases. What has remained the same is my love of music, guitar & performing live.

"The balance between technique and soul is a tough one. I feel you need some technique to emote your feeling into music. With too much technique a person may be thinking to much and not actually projecting soulfulness. Very important to put yourself in a place where you channel inspiration in the moment to create soul." (Photo: Rick Berthod)

You've one new release titled "Tribute to Peter Green". How did that relationship (with Peter Green's music) come about?

My relationship with Peter Green started from my uncle. When I was 14 years old, He first played blues records for me when I would go to his house. He told me about seeing Peter & Fleetwood Mac open for Deep Purple. When I heard "Oh Well" I knew I wanted to play guitar. Peter's pure emotion & soul hit me like a ton of bricks. Songs like "Need your Love So bad" still can bring a tear to my eye. Song like "Jumping at Shadows" gives me goose bumps.

Why do you think that Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac's has such a devoted following because the music is from the heart in the moment music with great compositions. The music is soulful & timeless. The band from 1968 to 1971 had a tremendous influence on other bands from that era. All 70's musicians wanted to write & play like Fleetwood Mac.

Are there any memories from Gregg Allman and John Mayall which you’d like to share with us?

A memory from first time I opened for Gregg Allman was when he played my Gibson Les Paul in the dressing room right before we went on. Gregg played the chords from "Melissa" & sang part of "Come & Go Blues". After the show I went to a party & when I walked in Gregg & Johnny Neal were listening to my album "Rock Rhythm & Blues" Gregg said "you made a great record". I was in such awe of Gregg, when he called my house & left a message on my tape answering machine, I saved the tape for years!

When I met John Mayall, we opened for him in Colorado. At the time Walter Trout & Coco Montoya where the guitar players in the band. What I learned from John was how to be a band leader & direct the players on stage. He was a total pro & business man. I loved everything about him.

"I would like to see younger people accept and embrace live music. Technological advances have changed the music world. The young kids of today need to experience the raw honesty of live music in an intimate setting. Backing tracks, lip-syncing, auto tune need to go away." (Photo: Rick Berthod)

Why was the Blues never a part of the pop/popular music? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?

Popular songs that provoke emotion, can move people, might have some blues influence in there somewhere. You kind of have to listen for it. There are chord progressions that are blues based in some music. There may be a little blues in some popular music.

The balance between technique and soul is a tough one. I feel you need some technique to emote your feeling into music. With too much technique a person may be thinking to much and not actually projecting soulfulness. Very important to put yourself in a place where you channel inspiration in the moment to create soul.

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

Meeting BB King & Albert Collins was life changing. I’ll never forget when BB told me “Just do what you love & people will see your passion”. Albert Collins work ethic had a huge impact on my life. Albert would drive his bus and you could find him under the hood working on the motor before a show at the venue or hotel parking lot.

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

There was just something special about old school recording. All musicians in the studio, live recording, the warmth of analog tape, laying down tracks until you get that magical recording.

"The Nevada blues scene is alive and well. We have venues where you can see new artists as well as famous players. Las Vegas has a history which represents glamour of Vegas as well as the hunger, pain and sadness that also exists on the streets here." (Photo: Rick Berthod)

Are there any memories from the late greats BB King and Etta James which you’d like to share with us?

The first time I opened for BB King... BB was booked for two nights in a row at The Strand in Redondo Beach. I opened for BB that first night and it was an amazing show! Later that night, we were in BB’s bus and he asked me if I was opening the show the next day. After I told him they only booked us for the one night, BB replied" I want you to open for us tomorrow". Needless to say, I opened up for Mr. King the next night and 3 more shows in Southern California. A highlight of my career and life.

A Memory with Etta was when we opened for Etta at the House of Blues in Anaheim CA with the Bobby Murray Band… Etta's two Son's Donto & Semeto played Drums & Bass. One of my guitar solo's "Got House" (when the applause was rumbling the theater & would not stop). In the dressing room after the set. Etta said; "you boys were on fire, you brought the house down"! I will never forget the proud look on her face. She was a inspiration to see her work the audience night after night.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would like to see younger people accept and embrace live music. Technological advances have changed the music world. The young kids of today need to experience the raw honesty of live music in an intimate setting. Backing tracks, lip-syncing, auto tune need to go away.

What would you say characterizes Nevada's blues scene in comparison to other local scenes and circuits?

The Nevada blues scene is alive and well. We have venues where you can see new artists as well as famous players. Las Vegas has a history which represents glamour of Vegas as well as the hunger, pain and sadness that also exists on the streets here.

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

Magic happens through creativity and spontaneity. Success is achieved through communication and collaboration.

"I would describe my sound as Blues based guitar music with some soul in there. It’s about the entire band playing the shit out of their instruments and about being in the moment of the music." 

(Photo: Rick Berthod)

What is the impact of Blues on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

The Blues, (as is all music) is artistic expression. Some think of the Blues as sad and lonely music, but it can bring joy and happiness as well. Music can take people to a place where they forget about their everyday problems & make people smile more often.

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