The name Arlen Roth commands an immediate respect in the music world. From his early beginnings in Woodstock, New York, backing up folk artists to his numerous recordings and tours supporting acts like John Prine and Simon & Garfunkel. Roth has a reputation as a guitarist to be reckoned with. His company Hot Licks pioneered the teaching of instruments through audio and video instruction, making him a teacher’s teacher and someone we all look up to and respect. Besides many great lessons of his own, the company also released audio and/or video lessons with artists such as Buddy Guy, Eric Johnson, Joe Bonamassa, Danny Gatton, Junior Wells, Brian Setzer, Mick Taylor, Lonnie Mack, Warren Haynes and countless others. He’s also released numerous albums of his own as well as instructional method books for guitar. They are all top notch and worth picking up. He just released a new album called Tele Masters which features Roth trading licks with some of his guitar playing friends including Joe Bonamassa, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill and many others. The album is produced by Tom Hambridge,and is a musical masterpiece. If you love great guitar playing and great songs, do yourself a favor and grab a copy! As a teacher myself, Arlen has been a huge inspiration on “the right way to do this.” Having been around so many greats in this business, I can say that Arlen Roth is one of the best and a real pleasure to speak with. He has amazing stories and a contagious sense of humor . I had the honor of speaking with him in early February about the new album and his amazing life in Music.
Todd Beebe: Hey Arlen, thanks so much for talking to me today- it’s an honor!
Arlen Roth: Hey Todd- sure! Thank you for speaking with me!
TB: I’d like to talk about your amazing career and the new album of course.
AR: Sure! That would be great, I’d love to!
TB: So let’s go way back to the start! What were your actual first memories of music?
AR: Well the earliest was before I played music. Growing up in the Bronx, New York City. I have a brother who’s 10 years older than me and he had this wonderful little 45 record player. He’d always be playing Fats Domino and he always played real quality stuff and so I just loved hearing it! In the 50’s growing up with 50’s music and in the Summer time we used to go up to White Lake New York which was where the Woodstock festival was you know, in Bethel. I remember a lot of wonderful Summer nights we spent there with our friends and cousins. They were all basically 10 years older than me but I would hang out with them and I remember this stuff like it was yesterday, and music was everywhere! Dion and the Belmonts or you might hear the doo-wop stuff in the Bronx, guys would sing on the corner of my street you know, everyone would sing acapella harmony. So I grew up appreciating that and then in my house of course I grew up with my dad who’s Al Ross. He was a famous New York cartoonist. So he would play flamenco records in the house, like these really raw old flamenco albums which of course were very guitar heavy and I would immediately start to try to copy some of that stuff. There was a Stella guitar in the apartment with two strings on it that my brother had. He went to college in Chicago at IIT. And so I started with just those two strings. I was able to do a lot of slide guitar and things like. One day my dad said to me “I just know you’re going to be a guitar player! I can just see it!” So at the age of eight I started playing violin in school and that was like, instant easy for me right away! I mean it had strings and I loved it! I played great, mostly by ear, and then of course the guitar I ended up playing totally by ear. So at about 10 I switched over to the guitar and that was it you know! But music and art and creativity was always all around me you know? So that was how it happened really.
TB: Yeah I’ve seen some of the stuff you put up on your website about your dad. He really seemed like an awesome guy!
AR: Yeah he was the greatest! A phenomenal guy, brilliant! He also understood the joy and the importance of being with your children when they’re growing up. We had him around all the time cause he was a freelance cartoonist. There are a lot of kids on my street that ended up becoming artists just because of the influence of watching him with his kids. So he would play that flamenco in the apartment when he was going through his Picasso periods and my brother would also play all that great music. In fact when I went out to visit him in Chicago when I was probably only 8, he actually took me to some of those blues clubs! His first roommate in college, his father owned a couple of clubs or something, I think it was on Madison Street. So I remember going to a club and they were sliding a Coca-Cola down the whole bar you know, like it was a drink! I remember the ceiling felt like it was on top of my head and I was only 8 years old! So it was a fabulous experience! I think it might have even been Muddy Waters that was playing there. Then my brother did a whole series of photographs of Sleepy John Estes at his apartment in Chicago. So I was getting immersed in all that stuff early on, so it just felt like a natural transition. Plus my brother was away doing his thing with art and all that stuff. I always wanted to follow him, so I started getting into photography and photographers that were teaching him. So yeah, those are my earliest memories for sure!
AR: Yes, she kicked me out because I had an electric guitar! But she was great because she gave me a very good respect for the right hand. I was like 9 years old. I’d say I took about four or five lessons with her and then I got this 4 pickup Ideal electric guitar on 48th Street. The day I bought it in the store, there was Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones! I recognized Charlie and I got his autograph. Years later I was telling this story on the BBC in London and the phone lit up and they said “you were the first kid ever to recognize Charlie! We couldn’t believe what a charming little boy you were and to this day Charlie still can’t believe that any kid in 1964 recognized him in that little tiny music shop on 48th Street!” I knew it was him the minute I saw him!
TB: That’s unbelievable!
AR: Yeah! I remember my dad pushed me to go over and get his autograph! “That’s one of the Rolling Stones!” you know! And the Stones were playing that night at the Academy of Music. It was really cool! This was in a store called Ben’s Music. It was the tiniest music store on 48th Street and I always wondered why Charlie was in there? And then once I saw the music shops in London, they’re all so crowded and cramped. I knew that’s why he was there, because it felt like home! To him that was a music shop! Of course the music shops back then were smaller anyways. They weren’t anything like the big chain stores are today. Even Manny’s was much bigger than the other stores. (Author’s note: Manny’s was a famous New York music store that was in business from 1935 to 2009)
TB: So you went to The High School of Music in New York City right? Then you studied at Philadelphia College from ‘69 to ‘71?
AR: Right! Philadelphia College of Art and during that time my band Steel, they were living with me. And in Philly you know, we could go to all the pawn shops and find all these great old guitars and we put on these block parties. We would get like a thousand people at these block parties! You’d just section off an area and get a flatbed and start playing and have these unbelievable concerts & jam sessions. We would just play for hours and hours! I learned so much during those times you know? And then of course at school there was a handful of guitar players and I became like the cool guy and everybody wanted to jam with me. We had these jam sessions going into the wee hours of the morning in the lobbies of some of these buildings. It was incredible! We had our VW bus and the band would just get into that bus, load up our stuff and go up to Woodstock on many weekends. Because I believed that if I was going to get anywhere, I had to be heard in the town of Woodstock. Because I knew that the Band was there, Bob Dylan and everybody was there at that time. So that’s when I really started to get discovered. But the Philadelphia experience was really more about the music than it was about the art school you know?
TB: Okay now who were some of your early influences? I know Michael Bloomfield for sure right? I’m a huge fan of Michael’s! I think he’s been so influential on just about everyone!
AR: Yes! He was a gigantic influence! Michael Bloomfield just set me on fire! He was a guy who was essentially a part of the then current Chicago Blues scene, which was still a thriving scene, but he was already creating something new within all that. Within it and also outside of it. You could hear of course the obvious influences: Otis Rush and B.B. King. But Michael was in the Butterfield band and just wanted to make fiery music, you know. And of course Paul Butterfield! There was just so much energy to that stuff you know?! Of course B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, all the people I would listen to at that time. That’s the great thing about the blues because you just instantaneously want to go further back! So right away I was discovering Son House and Robert Johnson and some of the great ragtime guys like Blind Blake and slide guitarists like Elmore James and Tampa Red, Bukka White. All of them really had their influence, but at the same time I was falling in love with country music. So I was simultaneously loving the blues but I was also going crazy for Jimmie Rodgers! Or Roy Acuff. Hank Williams of course. Country music, to my ear, it was not that far away from blues you know? And I wasn’t thinking racially. It was just music! American music, you know?!
AR: Definitely! So I was getting to be a country player just as much as a blues player and when I started to hear Clarence White with the Byrds, I loved the Byrds! And I loved the Lovin’ Spoonful. I’m actually doing an album now with John Sebastian which is a real honor, because I grew up with that and loving that music and loving Zal Yanovsky as a player. So the big influences on me were Mike Bloomfield, Zal Yanovsky, Clarence White enormously! That’s where my whole string bending thing came from. I also listened to a lot of steel guitar players like Herb Remington and Jerry Byrd and people like that you know. I like the steel guitar sound. When I was a kid, we used to go up to the country and in the summertime I could tune in far off Western country stations. Like I would pick up WWVA from Wheeling, West Virginia. I would pick up stuff from Carbondale, Pennsylvania, AM stations that played country. And I just wanted to hear that steel guitar sound you know!? I wanted to hear some of that stuff. I wasn’t enjoying a lot of what was going on in the contemporary music scene at the time. But when I heard Jimi Hendrix and I heard him play clean, and I heard The wind cries Mary I just thought “Oh my God this guy is really great!” He was like an R&B guitar player you know!? He had some country in there too. So my ear was always very fine tuned towards that blend of the Blues and Country and the R&B and kind of like a whole mixture of everything, which I just love! But I developed a big foundation in the blues for sure.
TB: Now did you ever interact or meet Mike Bloomfield or Hendrix at all?
AR: No I wish I could have! I was just a little too young. Paul Butterfield used to say to me “Man when you play on stage you ARE Michael Bloomfield!” Paul Butterfield was so great! I don’t think he gets enough credit for how powerful a musician he was you know? But Paul and Michael’s sound together- that’s what everybody wanted to hear at that time! At our high school there were tons of guitar players and we all loved it! It was a really exciting time!
TB: So besides playing with your band Steel, when was your first actual feeling of “now I’m going into the big time!?”
AR: Well I had to go where the action was, I had to go up to Woodstock and make it happen for sure! There was a guy named Tony Brown who played bass. He played bass on Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks album. One day I was playing at the Sled Hill Cafe there in Woodstock and this guy comes up and says “Ever heard of Happy & Artie Traum?” And I’m like “Oh my God yes! People that make records, wow I can’t believe it!” (laughs) He said “well I’m playing with them!” I had never even met somebody at that point who actually made a record! So right away I realized okay, now I’m in this community of people that really do this! So sure enough I started doing some concerts with him and then Happy & Artie had me playing with them too. This was around 1970 – ‘71. Then a lot of the folk artists around at that time would hire me. Eric Andersen and John Herald were up there. Then in ‘74 I got to be with this band called Janey & Dennis. We toured with the Bee Gees. In 1974 we opened for them and they’d have me sit in on pedal steel on a few songs. Then in ‘75 I got the John Prine call. At that time I was still hanging around Woodstock a lot. I wasn’t living in Woodstock but I was doing a lot of sessions up there, a lot of gigs with people that were based in Woodstock. But then I got the Prine gig and that changed everything! I had to go out to LA to start everything with him. We had a big 7 month tour and of course I got to play a lot with Steve Goodman too. Two big Chicago guys there! Their manager, Al Bunetta became a dear friend of mine. Sadly he recently passed away. He was a great friend.
TB: Wasn’t Kris Kristofferson one of those guys hanging around that whole scene too?
AR: Oh yeah! Bonnie Raitt was around a lot with Prine too. She was even touring with us on our bus. I love Bonnie, she’s fantastic!
AR: Yeah! He would come up to me and he’d be like shy about it! He’d say “Arlen, could you teach me a new chord so I could write another song?” I’m just like “any chord? Does it matter what key it might be in or anything?” It was really funny! We had a lot of shticks like that! We’d be up there playing and I’d say “your B string is flat!” and he’d go “I don’t know what that means!” He’d say “Arlen just feel free to reach behind me and start tuning my guitar.” So that became part of the act! He’d be up there singing “Dear Abby..Dear Abby….” and I’d be back there raising the B or lowering the G! Hilarious!
TB: That’s great! So this all eventually led up to you playing with Simon & Garfunkel as well?
AR: Well yeah things kept moving along. That was a great time too!
TB: So this is all obviously before the internet. It sounds like you had a great word-of-mouth going around!
AR: Oh yeah everybody wanted me on everything! I remember doing a session just because I was walking down 57th Street with a guitar! This guy was outside saying “Hey Arlen we’re Looking Glass!” They were the band that sang “Brandy.. you’re a fine girl”, and there we were upstairs and I’m playing with Looking Glass just from walking down the street! That’s a rare occurrence of course, but word of mouth was great back in those days because you could feel like you were getting hot! I’m like 20 – 21 years old and all these people are calling me and they’re saying “How much would it cost me to have you play on something?” I remember that band Stories. They had the hit with Brother Louie. You know (sings) “Louie, Louie, Louie Louieee!” I remember the guy calling me at my apartment in the Bronx. I’m on the phone and talking to him saying “Do I really have to go on stage wearing one of those silver suits you guys wear?” (laughs) Cause they had those matching suits. So I kind of passed on that gig! But they were nice people. It was weird because a lot of times in New York per say, I’d walk into a session and they would hear my accent and they would actually look down on me for being a New Yorker in New York! They expected me to be a guy from Texas or a guy from Tennessee or something like that.
TB: Oh wow! That’s Interesting!
AR: Yeah! It was like a strike against me! Of course the minute I started playing that would change everything you know.
TB: Let’s talk guitars for a minute. What was your first really good one?
AR: Well I remember when the vintage boom first happened, me and my dad went down to 48th Street. This was 1967 and I got my first really good guitar, my first gold top Les Paul which I still have. It’s a ‘52. That really turned me around.
TB: I’ve seen that! You actually had Les sign that one correct?
AR: Yeah he signed it! I said “Les! Do you know you just signed a 1952?!”, and he said “I see so many of them!” (laughs) I found my ‘54 Strat in the trunk of a car in Woodstock for $75 lying in a puddle of water. The trunk was leaking. It was like a 1950 Plymouth. It was 75 bucks and I already knew that it was something special! But up to that point I had never really played Fenders. When I played that I said “this Strat is fantastic for me!” I was much more at home on a Fender. I mean I love Les Pauls too! I have a few. I just got a ‘55 flat top that’s almost like a Les Paul/Telecaster you know? It’s a ‘55 Special Blonde. That’s a great guitar! But once I had a Fender in my hands, once I started doing things with a volume control and I could start bending behind the nut and I could feel that one piece maple neck, it just sang to me! But cutting my teeth on the Les Paul was great for me. I went from the Les Paul to the ‘54 Strat to the ‘53 Tele. So not a bad beginning!
AR: My first book was Slide Guitar which came out in 1974. I was only 19 when I started writing that book. I got a three-book deal: Slide guitar, Nashville guitar and How To Play Blues Guitar. And they were all pretty groundbreaking books for that time because they were teaching things that nobody had ever taught. I remember being at the conference that Music Sales held for all their sales people. I came to the conference with a national steel guitar and I talked about the book and I played like crazy for them and they never forgot it. I mean that book broke sales records for them that first year. The fact that I went out of my way and I made a presentation for them playing the music that was in the book, they just loved it! Of course I was really just a kid. When I got my first advance for that book it was $150! The woman said to me “What are you going to do with the money?” I was like “I’m going to put it in my piggy bank!” you know!? (laughs) It was like “what are you gonna do with the money little boy?” I was thinking “I don’t know. Maybe I could take a cab ride home!” You know?! Meanwhile the book has gone on to be a classic standard for slide guitar. So what happened was, those small advances started to turn me off to the book writing thing. So it’s about 8 years later when I got the call to do the book Complete Electric Guitar. And they said to me “how does a $10,000 advance sound?” And I’m like “What?! $10,000!? Are you kidding me?!” That book came out in ‘82.
TB: That book is great too! It covers it all. I still have a copy at home! So let’s talk about Hot Licks! So many of us can say we learned how to play or greatly improved our playing because of your instruction! What an awesome thing. It’s a huge part of the history of the guitar that’s for sure! For anyone that grew up during that era, Hot Licks was huge!
AR: Yeah it’s great! The thing about those tapes, they not only teach you but they also inspire you! It’s important to note too- I never wanted to promote it like it was my company. I wanted to just be one of the guys you know? You learned from Eric Johnson you learned from Arlen Roth you learned from John Entwistle. It wasn’t like “Arlen Roth presents!” Guys would come to me and say “oh I didn’t know it was your company!” And I said “that’s exactly the image I want to project!” What better compliment could I have than to be respected amongst my peers you know?
AR: Right! In the beginning it was very hard to convince people to do them. Nobody wanted to quote-unquote “give away their tricks” or most of them were afraid they didn’t know how to articulate what it was that they did. But that’s the beauty! That’s what I wanted because not only can I help you convey that but the video doesn’t lie! Video was still a novelty at that point you know? We had five years of being only audio tapes from ‘79 to ‘84 and then in ‘84 we went into video.
TB: Okay so besides yourself, who was the first artist you released on video?
AR: On video it was John Entwistle. We did a lot of audio tapes before that one on video. My first ad in Guitar player magazine had 48 tapes of me teaching everything from how to play guitar to slide guitar to blues guitar, you know all different series. And the orders kept coming in so fast! I didn’t realize when you advertised in the April issue it would come out in February!
TB: You were such a pioneer in that format of teaching. That was unheard of at the time. What gave you the idea to start Hot Licks?
AR: So we only had $2,000 left and I wasn’t doing any touring, the phone wasn’t ringing. So I said to my future wife Deborah I said “it’s time. It’s that time to do that thing that I always wanted to do.” Cause I would encourage my students to tape their lessons. Going all the way back to 1970 my students would come with tape recorders to record their lessons. Some of them had years worth of cassettes with me! You can imagine the stories that are on those cassettes!
TB: Yeah we need to hear one of those!
AR: I know! (laughs) So I would do that and then one day a student said to me “I really miss those lessons on tape because I’m moving away.” And a light went on and I said “that’s it! Lessons on tape!” That was in ’73. So in ’79 I took out a $1,500 ad in Guitar Player. I bought a $500 tape recorder which I bought across the street at an electronic store. I was living in a loft right beneath the World Trade Center. I was a block and a half from the world trade Center on Warren Street in New York City. And I just started cutting those. I would give a good lesson to a student and then I would go in the bedroom and record a lesson. I would feel like my teaching chops were up! You know? But back then I had to say “if you could picture- it’s my second finger on the third string” and I had to verbally describe everything on audio tapes. So once I got into videos it was great you know!?
TB: So then you got into doing the lessons for Gibson awhile back? Your lessons with them ran from 2007 – 2012 right?
AR: Yeah, I did six years of lessons for Gibson, and those were great, I love those! Yeah I would bang those out boy! I think one day I did about 100 of them in a day, because they were only like 5 to 7 minute lessons a piece.
AR: Crossroads was a fantastic experience for me! I got a phone call from Ry Cooder and the Director and they’re telling me I’m going to be doing the stuff with Ralph Macchio. I was also chosen because I was in the New York area. Ralph lived on Long Island. So we spent like 2 months preparing for the film and working out parts and basically getting him a foundation as a guitar player. He really wanted to play the guitar in the film but I knew that he wasn’t going to be able to get strong enough as a player to do that. So his house was littered with all my guitars and I’d go out there four days a week for two months just giving him a foundation before we even started the film. So we had a great time doing that and then I went out to L.A. and we started recording some of the stuff. You probably know this too but I found a rare cassette that I had of the sessions when we recorded all the stuff. Early recordings, and I put some of those up on SoundCloud on my website. (Check them out here!: https://www.arlenroth.com/media/)
TB: Yeah I heard those! Great stuff!
AR: They’re wonderful tracks!
TB: So we’ve all heard so many different stories over the years. It’s become known though that you were the man behind the music for sure, definitely making Ralph look good and ready for the cameras!
AR: Well all of the stuff that Ralph played was originally me. The ending was going to be Ry Cooder versus me, having a slide dual. And Ry Cooder was going to be the Jack Butler character okay? That’s why some of those tracks are like that, it’s like me and Ry trading slide licks. Then the director, Walter Hill said “well it’s not enough of a boxing match.” And I knew right away he wanted it to be like the Karate Kid you know? And so Cooder said to me “you’re going to write all this stuff, you’re going to play it all and then you’re going to teach Ralph all that stuff?” I said “great, fantastic!” So I spent eight weeks in Mississippi filming on location. A lot of that stuff I had to make up on the spot, which that’s never a problem for me, but I’d be there with a little battery-powered Pignose amp, which by the way I still have! It’s the one they used in the film. Also there was a little Peavey I found in a local store in Greenville that’s also battery-powered and I could play in the middle of a cotton field and play a part and then teach it to Ralph. Of course Walter Hill didn’t understand the terminology! He’s saying “Arlen we need him to shuffle here… I think he needs to shuffle along.. we need some guitar playing so have him shuffle.” And I imagine the whole movie is going to be “da, da, da, da” (sings a Blues shuffle rhythm). So I always crack everybody up at my guitar clinics when I tell that story! But the whole thing was a real honor because there was a couple times that Walter said to me “Arlen, you direct!” There’s that scene where they meet at the crossroads and they drive up in that black car and all that. I was in the Director’s chair. I’m sitting there directing that! And I’m saying “cut!” and Ralph goes “I know I missed the B string!” or something like that! I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything you know?! It was one of the greatest things in the world to do and a very cool movie making music with very cool people! I loved making music with Ry Cooder and had a great time doing those tracks. (Author’s note: There’s much more on Arlen’s involvement with Crossroads. Go to https://www.arlenroth.com/crossroads/ and check it out!)
TB: So how did the new Tele Masters album come to be? Was this something you wanted to do for a while?
AR: Yes it’s something I’ve wanted to do for long time. Of course the seeds were sown years ago when I did my album Toolin’ Around, because that was kind of like this one. Then I did the Slide guitar summit album, where I really focused on slide guitar. So I said you know, “when I’m done with this slide album, I’ve got to do one with all the Tele guys”, cause I’m equally known for both you know? So I knew there were so many people that would jump at the opportunity and then other folks like Steve Wariner and guys like that who I knew them but I didn’t know they knew me. And Wariner’s like “sure! count me in!” And I’m like “man Steve Wariner said okay and Vince Gill said okay and Brad Paisley said okay!” and I couldn’t believe it you know!? Such an honor to have these guys and I wanted it to not just be another collection of Tele guitar whacking you know, I wanted it to be Tele with great songs. So that’s why I’ve got like Steve Cropper on there and Cropper’s even singing! So great to hear him sing!
TB: Yeah “White Lightning” is such a cool tune!
AR: Thanks! Yeah it’s a great tune and it was so much fun cause I got to know Steve way back when I was playing with John Prine. He was producing Prine’s album. That was 1975 and I got to know him then. I was even in the first incarnation of The Blues Brothers when I was doing Saturday Night Live. John Belushi said “here put on this hat, put on these glasses! We’re going to go out there, so teach me a blues song!” So I taught him Rocket 88 and we ran out and we warmed up the audience on Saturday Night Live, cause I was playing on the show with Art Garfunkel. This was in ’78. I knew Jerry Donahue way back and Albert Lee of course. Albert Lee was even on Toolin’ Around with me. So we’ve been good friends ever since. We’ve played together on Les Paul tributes and stuff. So I’ve got all these great people on the album plus I’ve got Lexie, my daughter singing, and I could have gone on and on! The album is dedicated to the Tele greats of the past like Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton, Albert Collins and all those guys of course!
TB: How did you first meet Tom Hambridge? He does a great job producing, and has of course done some great production work for so many others, including Buddy Guy. He played drums with Roy Buchanan at one time right?
AR: Yes! At the time Tom was playing with Roy Buchanan I got to play with him at Martha’s Vineyard. We played with Kate Taylor and James Taylor and did some performing for Bill Clinton at a couple of Bill Clinton gatherings and parties. Tommy was from Boston at that time and he had a band out there called TH and the Wreckage okay? And so Kate Taylor is James Taylor’s sister. She introduced me to Tom and we got together in New York and he said “let’s get together and form a band!” And he had this bass player with him, Tom McDonald. Years went by and we both ended up getting into different things. But we always remained friends and remained in touch, and then I saw he was producing all these cool albums with so many people I knew so I got in touch with him and we kind of mutually agreed to do the Slide guitar summit album. And now this one! Tommy’s great and what a terrific drummer!
TB: Yeah I just saw his January shows with Buddy at Legends. He’s an unbelievable drummer!
AR: Definitely! And he’s such a sweet guy, and he made those sessions just keep on cooking you know? You never felt like you were working but you’re always having a good time and you’re always getting home in time to see your family or whatever. This was all in Nashville you know? He’s just great and I look forward to doing more work with him!
TB: Yes! Top notch production and drumming, and what a lineup of musicians!
AR: It’s just a great feeling to assemble all these people you know!? Jack Pearson is so wonderful and Joe Bonamassa played on it. They’re all so great! And I also like what it does too, because it stretches my playing into different areas. It pushes me! You know it’s like, well I’m going to stand toe-to-toe with Joe Bonamassa, now I’m going to be with Albert Lee again you know?! These are all different styles and different vibes I love.
TB: I was going to ask – did you pick all of the songs for everybody?
AR: Oh yeah! Although Tommy picked the one for Cropper. Cause he wrote it with Steve- “White Lightning.” Everything else is what I picked. Some of those songs I wrote a long time ago or even recorded on other albums.
TB: Yeah Roadworthy was on the Lonely Street album correct?
TB: Your Daughter Lexie Roth sings on Tennessee Waltz. What a voice! My God! Absolutely unreal. It’s so beautiful.
AR: Thank you! Yeah it’s so pretty, it’s also my favorite solo on the whole album- that break that I take on Tennessee Waltz. But yes Lexie sounds great! I’ve always said she’s going to introduce a new generation to that song with her voice! (Author’s note: Lexie Roth is a singer/songwriter and all around artist on so many levels, it’s impossible to list them all here! Do yourself a favor and check out everything she does! https://www.facebook.com/LexieRothMusic/)
TB: So who is your current touring band?
AR: Well, it’s actually been the same group of people that I’ve had for a long time now. It’s me with Chris Foley on 2nd guitar, and Eddie Denise is a wonderful bass player who also plays with Dion. My drummer is Peter O’Brien and then Cindy Cashdollar on Steel guitar. I try to get Cindy when I can cause she’s off doing stuff with other people a lot and doing her own shows too.
TB: Yeah Cindy’s amazing! Then there’s A minor thing. Such a great track! That’s such a great chord progression!
AR: Yeah! That got called that cause I kept saying “ok lets play that A Minor thing”, so it’s like okay let’s call it A minor thing! That’s an original. I’ve had that for a long time. I just wanted to hear what it sounded like with a band and I wanted something a little jazzy that leans a little bit more towards that jazz stuff you know?
TB: Bunky goes back a ways too I believe?
AR: I used to call my daughter Gillian Bunky when she was a baby. The reason I did Bunky, I needed like a fast picking kind of thing for Brad Paisley and I figured it would be perfect for him. So I wanted to bring it back. And also the fact that it’s dedicated to my late daughter Gillian makes it special.
TB: You and Joe Bonamassa sound great on Joe’s Blues!
AR: Joe Bonamassa is great! I love that fiery approach that he has! He takes it to such a frenzied level you know, those licks! He was the last one to do a video for me when my wife was alive. It was the last video cover she designed for Hot Licks. He was like 21.
TB: My final question is a cliche one, but it’s always great to hear an artists answer: How does Arlen Roth want to be remembered?
AR: Well the first thing I would want to be is remembered! (Laughs) Number one. It’s really important- please remember! But I don’t know, I think that in the end I’d want to just be remembered as a guy who did some innovative things and was an artist first before anything else and a father first you know? Loved his children and wanted to pass on a little of that to them and in spite of tragedy, went on as best as he could you know? But I think it’s important to me that other people know that I innovated things. Not only in the teaching of guitar but also on the playing of the guitar- how I play and what I do. Because early on I already knew that I had something unique to offer you know? And that I live my life hopefully to the fullest and that the creative legacy goes on that people would be able to quote and say “oh there’s an Arlen Roth lick!” or whatever it might be you know? Unfortunately a lot of that stuff doesn’t really happen until you’re gone. People are finally willing to admit that you’re an influence on them. But I just want to enjoy what there is of life left and I want to continue making a lot of music. That’s what I was put here for and that’s when I’m happiest.
TB: That’s a great answer! No worries Arlen- I know you’ll never be forgotten and your legacy will stand the test of time for sure! And we’re looking forward to all the things on the horizon for you as well! I know you have plenty of great music still waiting to be made!
AR: Thank you so much!
TB: Well thanks again Arlen, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for talking to me today. And thanks for all the great music and lessons through the years, and for keeping the guitar alive and taking it to another level.
AR: Thanks so much Todd! It was great talking to you today. Thanks so much for speaking with me!
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