10 Things You Gotta Do to Play like Joe Walsh

By Gress, Jesse | Guitar Player, May 2007 | Go to article overview

10 Things You Gotta Do to Play like Joe Walsh


Gress, Jesse, Guitar Player


"HOW YA DOIN'? WE'RE THE JAMES GANG FROM LAST CENTURY," DRAWLED rock and roll extraordinaire Joe Walsh in characteristic nasal twang as he kicked off a string of 15 dates during the summer of 2006. The historic tour marked the much anticipated reunion of one of the greatest rock bands in American history. Just ask Pete Townshend--the British guitar god was so enamored of Walsh, bassist Dale Peters, and drummer Jim Fox, he had them open for the Who in the early '70s. Walsh's face-frying guitar style, snarly tones, clever songwriting, engagingly snarky vocals, and legendary sense of humor put the Cleveland-based power trio on the rock and roll map with four excellent albums, all of which are required Rock 101 listening: Yet Album (1969), Rides Again (1970), Thirds, and Live In Concert (1971). Laden with FM classics such as "Funk #49," "Walk Away," and "Tend My Garden," these powerful sides blended funky electric and atmospheric acoustic guitars with country-punk and proto-metal elements to cook up a tasty sonic stew that in many ways made the band America's strongest answer to Britain's mightiest rock export, Led Zeppelin.

Walsh left the James Gang to forge an even more successful solo career that produced a string of acclaimed albums, including Barnstorm (1972), The Smoker You Drink the Player You Get (1973), and So What (1974) before joining the Eagles in 1976. He remained with the group until 1980, recording the benchmark Hotel California, The Long Run, and their then-swan-song disc Eagles Live in the process. Walsh continued to release solo albums--But Seriously Folks (1978), There Goes the Neighborhood (1981), Got Any Gum? (1987), Ordinary Average Guy (1991), and Songs For a Dying Planet (1992) among them--during and after his first tenure with the winged ones, and in 1994 returned to the nest for a highly successful Eagles reunion tour and resultant live album, Hell Freezes Over. The band has toured regularly since then and promises a new studio release, The Long Road to Eden, in 2007.

Along the road, Walsh has also collaborated with musicians as diverse as B.B. King, Dan Fogelberg, Steve Winwood, Ringo Starr, and late, great jazz guitar guru and GP columnist Howard Roberts. Walsh even ran for President of the United States back in 1980, and recently alluded that he might be ready to try again. To pass time until the primaries, here are ten things you can do to cop the Joe Walsh vibe: First, you've gotta ...

1 GET STOKED

Initially a high-school bassist, Walsh switched to guitar and soaked up the sounds of the '60s during his college years at Kent State while tempering his music theory studies with electronics and welding classes. ("I listened to the radio four hours a day.") The James Gang's melting pot of influences included recordings by the Yardbirds, the Kinks, the Who, the Beaties, the Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Cream, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. Walsh also cites Joe Maphis, the Ventures, Freddie King, Jimmy Reed, Les Paul, B.B. King, and Albert King as personal heroes. Early on, the Gang paid tribute to their heroes with rousing covers of the Yardbirds "Lost Woman" (which became an extended in-concert jam) and Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird" on their debut, Yer Album. On Rides Again, they added an unlikely but astonishing combination of "Beck's Bolero," Ravel's "Bolero" (yep, you've gotta learn this classical theme), and Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" on the classic "The Bomber: Closet Queen/Cast Your Fate to the Wind" medley.

2 GATHER SOME BEAUTIES

Walsh once told GP that his all-time favorite setup was a '58, '59, or %0 Gibson Les Paul, a wah pedal, a tube-model Echoplex, and a pair of Fender Super Reverbs, and that he prefers a Les Paul with raised action for slide work. Nonetheless, the Wichita native has amassed and used a wide assortment of instruments and amps over the years, including a Gibson Flying V; various vintage Fender Telecasters and Stratocasters; a Gretsch Country Gentleman with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece; Fender Vibrolux, Champ, and Twin Reverb amps; Vox AC30s; and various Marshalls and Hiwatts. …

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