Andy Timmons Guitar Lessons – Opportunity

Andy Timmons: As much as I love playing, writing and performing, I also truly love to teach! Join my online #GuitarXperience @ GuitarXperience.net

Here’s an excerpt from our full in bloom interview with Andy Timmons:

full in bloom: Tell us a little history about how you started playing guitar.

Andy Timmons: I had toy guitars from the age of 4. I vividly remember being able to play The Monkees’ “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” at that age (on one string anyway! Haha!) I have three older brothers who at that time all played a little bit of guitar, so I would pick their guitar up when they weren’t around (I was very shy about it) and try to figure out what I saw them play. So, essentially , I was self-taught until the age of 16. During that time I largely learned from listening to my record collection which consisted of mostly 60’s pop 45s handed down to me from my brothers (Beatles, Dave Clark Five, Kinks, etc) but then I got my first job when I was @12 yrs old (sweeping hair at a barber shop!) and could afford to buy my own records (and eventually my first electric guitar for $12.95 from Goldman’s Pawn Shop in Evansville, Indiana). With my first week’s pay from the Lawndale Barber Shop I purchased Kiss Alive and the Raspberries’ Greatest Hits. That’s still pretty much where my head is today…I love good heavy rock, but I’m always drawn to a great sounding, well written pop song. It wasn’t long before I joined my first band, Taylor Bay, of which I was a member for seven years until I left for the University of Miami (more on that later) As I progressed on my instrument, I began to realize that playing guitar and making music was really what I wanted to do in life. I was also a very realistic guy and knew that making it in a rock band was very difficult and a long-shot at best. Especially living in a relatively small town in the Midwest! I was grabbing up every copy of Guitar Player magazine that I could looking for any information that would help me expand my self learned knowledge. I began reading about guys like Tommy Tedesco, Larry Carlton, and Steve Lukather who made their living playing guitar in the recording studio. I was enthralled!! Wow…maybe this is what I could do! It became clear that these guys needed to know how to read music and also play the guitar in any style. I realized I needed help at this point and began looking for a teacher. I had heard of a guy named Ron Pritchett who was known as a great teacher and played really great jazz. I found his number in the phone book, but it took several weeks to gather the courage to call! (remember the shy boy?) Ron was the perfect guy for me….he started me off with extremely basic reading lessons (literally Mary Had A Little Lamb) but at the end of each lesson he would play some jazz guitar records by guys like Joe Pass, Barney Kessel, and Herb Ellis. Before long he was giving me chord changes to jazz standards every week.

As I continued to study w/Ron, I was playing 3 nights a week in my rock band, and then when it came time for college I began studying as a classical guitar major at the University of Evansville. My instructor there, Renato Butturi, was a really wonderful player and a great guy. I certainly learned a lot at that time about classical music but I wasn’t focused enough on that style to become really proficient. Luckily, Renato saw my strengths in other styles, and being a good jazzer himself, would sometimes spend our lessons talking about improvising. I remember a couple of instances when I came to a lesson a little less-than-prepared (embarrassing to admit!) and we would spend the time playing free-form improvisations with absolutely no direction, except what the other player was playing. I learned so much from these sessions…especially the art of listening to everything else going on…not just yourself!! This is probably the single most important attribute a player can develop if their goal is to make music w/other players!!

Thank you Renato for pointing my ears in the right direction!! After two years at the UofE, I transferred to the University of Miami which was well known as a jazz school (and as a starting point and hangout for Pat Metheny, Steve Morse’s Dixie Dregs, Jaco Pastorius and many other greats) and offered a jazz guitar program. Fantastic, stay in school to make Mom happy, and play electric guitar all day (and 6 nights a week in a cover band!). I grew more in the two years spent in Miami than at any other point in my career. This, I must say, has to do with equal parts 1)faculty 2) the players there and 3) gigging ALL the time. My two instructors there, Rick Schmuck and eventually Randall Dollahon, were extremely inspiring jazz encyclopedias!! Both had great tone and feel.

There was a large handful of guitar players living on the same dormitory floor as me who are still to this day some of the greatest players I’ve ever heard! We would hang out all the time exchanging ideas and learning from each other. Mike Abbott was the stand-out straight-ahead jazzer, Brian Monroney was a great jazzer with amazing ears that could also play like Carlton, Teddy Castellucci was the Tommy Tedesco and could play killer jazz and could literally read anything set in front of him, Ted Kumpel (my roommate) was the cool fusion guy taking his cues from John Schofield and Steve Kahn and me… I was the rock guy. On top of all this, I joined a top-forty band that literally gigged six nights a week the entire time I was in Miami. It was the ultimate way to grow…learn all day, then apply to real-world settings at night. I’m not real sure if the dance crowd knew I was playing Charlie Parker licks over Madonna’s “Borderline” or not, but I thought it was cool! When I left Miami in 1985 it effectively ended my consistent studying with a teacher. That being said, I leaned so much from the people I’ve studied with that I’ll never have time to apply it all!! I am of course always learning new things from the music

I listen to. I would say my biggest influences were (and are) Ace Frehley, Ted Nugent, Steve Lukather, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, Mike Stern, Pat Metheny, and more recently Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai. I am most drawn to music and players that have dynamics and great sensitivity…essential for expressive music.

full in bloom: You actually started as a solo artist in Dallas. How would you describe the Dallas music scene at that time?

Andy: Well, I began my Texas residence in Denton in 1985 having joined a band formed at the University of Miami with fretless bass great Steve Bailey and incredible drummer Ray Brinker. The band was called Brinker and we recorded a record in 1986 (released independently on cassette only) and played together for @ two years. From there I joined a local band, the Molly Maguires, which eventually evolved into a really great Beatles cover band called Revolver. Around 1988, I was really itching to play original music again and began jamming a lot with other players. Denton was great for this as it was where North Texas State University was and they’re also known for their great jazz dept…so there were lots of great musicians always available to jam. We would set up anywhere….living rooms, backyards, even on the street! This is how I met Mitch Marine and Mike Daane. Rob Wechsler (great electric violinist and also engineer who I eventually did my first jingle sessions with and with whom most of my solo work has been recorded) was always having jams at his place. Mitch, Mike and I connected instantly and it wasn’t long before we began doing some local shows. The Denton club scene back then was awesome…lots of little hole-in -the-wall places that let you play whatever you wanted to…and people would come check it out! We began playing mostly covers (like Cream, Hendrix, Satriani, Vai, etc) but also began working up songs I was writing (the first session we did as a band was “It’s Getting Better” which was eventually released on ear X-tacy.) We got popular very quickly and began getting gigs in Dallas which was also a very happening music scene at the time with a great variety of venues to play and an equally great variety of bands to play there!

full in bloom: Did you ever play at the Basement in Dallas?

Andy: Oh Yes!! We played the Basement many times!! Always great shows there. We were asked to take part in a benefit for homeless people sometime @ 1994-5 in an all acoustic concert. I remember writing “Homeless” specifically for this show (I later recorded this song for the Orange Swirl CD). We also played Farmer Sez, Elvis Costello’s What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding, and a really great lounge version ofKiss’ Strutter w/Mike Daane on lead vocals which segued into Pat Metheny’s Phase Dance. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that I doubt those two songs have ever been played together like that before or since!!! (Yes, a recording exists somewhere…)

full in bloom: How did you get involved with the band Danger Danger?

Andy: Buddy Blaze, then artist relations guy for Kramer Guitars, was helping Jonathan Cain, John Waite, and Ricky Phillips look for a guitar player for their new band Bad English as Neal Schon had done the demos but was more interested in his solo career. Buddy, a native Texan, decided what they were looking for was in Texas so be asked a journalist friend of his, David Huff of Jam magazine, “who’s the happening player in Dallas?” and through asking around my name came up. Buddy called me and asked for a demo tape.

Luckily we had recorded It’s Getting Better and two other tracks at this time (Wanted Man and Innocence Lost). About a week after sending them to Buddy, I had a message on my answering machine from Jonathan Cain saying “we dig your playing and want you to come to San Francisco to audition”. I was really excited to say the least!! I flew out a week later and the audition went great. I was pretty nervous but played well. John Waite gave me a ride to the airport and his parting words were “unless you lose a finger, you’ve got the gig!” They then flew me to L.A. to spend a trial week to see how things went. Everything was going well, then Neal called mid-week saying he was interested in the gig now. I saw the writing on the wall at that point, though they politely said “we’ll spend a week w/Neal and we’ll let you know how it goes”. I knew my chances were slim, seeing that with Neal in the band you have ½ of Journey….kind of a no-brainer. All in all, it was still a great experience. John Waite is an amazing singer and Ricky and Jonathan couldn’t have been nicer guys. On my last day Neal was coming in and we had a heck of a jam!! After that fell through, Buddy said “don’t worry about that, I know these other guys that have a record coming out and are looking for a guitar player”. “What’s the band?” “Danger Danger”….””never heard of them” Buddy put me in touch with Bruno Ravel (a Spector bass endorser which was being made by Kramer at the time) and I sent him a tape. He called back saying they wanted to fly me to New York to audition…which went well, though I think they were struggling with substance over image (meaning I was a good player, but didn’t necessarily look like a rock star). I flew out for a 2nd audition and they told me they’d call over Christmas. I got the call when I was visiting my family in Indiana. Eric Todd, the band’s manager called and very slowly and painstakingly told me “even though you’re a good player and everything……we just really feel that…..well (meanwhile I was interjecting “oh, I understand” etc trying to make it easy for him to let me down) the next thing I knew, Bruno, Steve, Ted and Kasey were yelling over the phone “you’re in the band man….hahaha gotcha!!!!”

full in bloom: Why did you leave the band?

Andy: We actually did a third record for Epic called “Cockroach” that went unreleased until very recently. It is by far the best work Danger Danger had done up to that point. But….Seattle and rap had already taken over and it was too late. Things were always tense between Ted vs. Steve and Bruno and things culminated with Ted leaving (and suing) the band. The label gave the OK to replace the lead vocals with Paul Laine (one of two or three guys considered) but upon completion they kept putting off the release date until finally we had to split up. They own the record at that point and there was nothing we could do to get it back (some labels are cooler about that than others…I think somebody pissed somebody off along the way……ah, karma…) Though certainly disappointing, it was an easy decision for me to just move back to Texas and finish the recording I had been working on all along since I joined DD. That eventually led to the release of “ear X-tacy I think around 1995.

full in bloom: 3 fond memories of your days in Danger Danger.

Andy: 1. Everybody’s sense of humor. No matter how much bullshit was going on in the band or around us in the business, we we’re always laughing. Steve and Bruno could easily be a comedy team, if not, one of the married couples in When Harry Met Sally….hysterical!

2. When I first joined the band, I moved in with Ted in his small Hackensack apartment.

We had a rehearsal the next day so we decided to go over the songs just he and I on an acoustic guitar. I was blown away when he started singing. Sounded just like the guy on the record!! Haha! A really great distinctive voice. Great day.

3. Again, every night on the Kiss tours. Playing in the arenas then watching the Kiss show from the side of the stage EVERY night. Like little kids all over again.

full in bloom: Do you remember early Pantera? Any memories come to mind?

Andy: I remember my roommate in Denton, Bill Bush (now of Garbage fame) had a cassette of Pantera. They looked very glam back then and they played the same clubs my band was playing like Dallas City Limits, Savvy’s, Joe’s Garage etc. I remember they played covers from Dokken and Ratt and other L.A. bands. I remember Darrell always being great…sounding like Eddie and Warren DiMartini effortlessly. Somebody sent me a cassette recently of Dime and I playing together in a music store sometime in the late ‘80s. I haven’t had the courage to listen to it yet….though I remember we had a blast.

Darrell was an easy guy to love…easy going…friendly as hell….always glad to see you.

I know we had a lot of respect for each other…I’m really sad that we didn’t get a chance to make more music together.

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