Magazine article Guitar Player

Steely Dan's Walter Becker

Magazine article Guitar Player

Steely Dan's Walter Becker

Article excerpt

"Holding an electric guitar reduces your I.Q. 50 or 60 points," deadpans Walter Becker. "It produces a simulated autistic state." He should know. As half of Steely Dan, Becker recorded with some of the hottest guitarists in the business--Larry Carlton, Jeff Baxter, Steve Khan, Dean Parks, Lee Ritenour, Jay Graydon, Hugh McCracken, and Elliot Randall. Becker's solos on the Dan classics "FM," "Bad Sneakers," "Black Friday," "Josie," and "Gaucho" proved he could hang with these heavies, no sweat. His lines were as memorable as those by any of the session pros, and his left-of-center approach added wit and verve to Steely Dan's tight, well-groomed tracks.

"In those days, I was going on almost pure intuition," Walter admits. "It was basically the spirit of trying to get in there and do the best I could with a very limited technical palette. Many musicians play much better than me. One of the things they've learned is not to make mistakes, not to clam. But trying to stay within known boundaries can sometimes limit how you think." Becker's solos are characterized by jazzy intervals, keening bends, snappy attack, and a clean, edgy tone. At times, his playing sounded almost out of control (check out "FM" and "Black Friday"). "I was desperately reaching out for something that probably didn't exist," he laughs.

Though Becker and cohort Donald Fagen achieved notoriety for their meticulous tracking, Walter took a surprisingly casual approach to his gear: "FOR |FM' I used an old '54 Strat, which has since been stolen. I used it on all of the Aja stuff. I think I had some sort of a Gallien-Krueger amp that week. For |Black Friday,' I borrowed a Telecaster with a Gibson pickup from Denny. [Along with Jeff Baxter, Denny Diaz was one of Dan's original guitarists.] I played it through an Ampeg head."

After a nearly 15-year hiatus, Becker has rejoined Fagen to produce Kamakiriad, Donald's second solo album. …

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