Russell, Rusty, Guitar Player
Still Feeling the Fire
Few images conjure the spirit of the '70s like the Les Paul-toting guitarist gazing from the cover of Frampton Comes Alive! At 16 million albums sold, it's still the best-selling live release of all time, and the anthemic hits from that 1976 double album are staples of today's classic rock radio format. But for Peter Frampton, that album is just one highlight in a career that has lasted more than three decades. And if his status as a bona fide guitar hero was obscured by pop superstardom, Frampton's guitar credentials are unassailable: He has lent his melodic solos and sustaining overdrive to artists such as David Bowie, George Harrison, Herb Alpert, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Steve Morse. Now 50, Frampton has just released Live in Detroit [AVIA/CMD] in DVD and CD versions. Shot in HDTV and recorded in 5.1 surround, Live features classic Frampton hits and new material.
"I've still got a lot of years to develop further," says Frampton, relaxing in his home studio in a Nashville suburb. "You're never finished trying to improve, and if you keep the passion for the instrument, you'll have more to draw on and more to often I think I'm more fluid now, and what I play comes even more from the heart. I went through a few years trying to play what I thought people expected from me, but nothing ever turns out for the best if it's driven by a desire to please someone. My success was frustrating in a way because I was an entertainer, not a musician. I'd say to my guitar, `Look what you got me into? By the '90s, I was feeling fairly insecure about my playing. But hearing that people like Steve Morse and Steve Vai considered me an influence was positive reinforcement. All I can ask is that people take me seriously as a guitar player."
Topping Frampton's list of influences are Hank Marvin and Django Reinhardt. "I never go anywhere without a Django CD," he says. "He never ceases to amaze and inspire me. In fact, I've got one of his Selmer/Maccaferri tenor guitars. It's my pride and joy--sort of a Holy Grail. I also listened to Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck when I was a teenager, but I was into jazz and R&B as well."
Out of his mixed bag of influences, Frampton developed his melodic, song-driven solo style. "I'm always composing when I play, as opposed to just playing licks," he explains. "I play solos mostly out of chord shapes, with the notes falling around the patterns."
Frampton's right-hand technique is fairly straightforward--alternate picking that frequently combines a pick-and-fingers approach--but he tosses in a few tricks. "I'll often play notes in the middle of a bend," he says. "It's almost like a pedal steel. You bend up, and on the way down, you land on the note you're looking for. You really have to listen and develop a feel for it at different points on the neck. Also, left-hand vibrato is something people don't pay enough attention to. …