over in Austin Texas, guitarist Don Leady is turning heads
around with his 2013 CD entitled Hillbilly Boogie Surfin
Blues. The self-produced CD finds Don in the studio
backed up by a pair of excellent drummers running through a dozen
instrumental rockers that touch on surf-rock, jazz, blues and early
roots rock n roll in the spirit of fellow Texan Buddy
Holly, who actually did cut instrumental sides way back in the 1950's.
Come to think of it, I could see Buddy really liking Dons CD,
with its inspiring pristine recording sound and all. Don Leady earned
his reputation as one of Austins finest musicians thanks to
his work with The Tailgators and the incredible Big Guitars From Texas
lineup with Denny Freeman. Hillbilly Boogie Surfin Blues
features fun-filled CD cover art and, enhanced by a pro studio recording,
coupled with a very clean sounding mix and master, the sound is first
rate. Featuring 12 rockin guitar tracks, Hillbilly Boogie
Surfin Blues is one of the finest instrumental surf-rock
/ hillbilly-jazz guitar albums of 2013. www.DonLeady.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Its been a long time since I heard a guitar instrumental record
as good as your new CD. How did the Hillbilly Boogie Surfin
Blues CD come together and over what period of time was the album
written and recorded?
DON LEADY: Actually the beginning was about 2009 when I wrote
"Thunder And Lightning on my Fernandes Tele (more about
this guitar later). That song set the bar for the rest of the songs.
I've always loved guitar instrumentals and it took me a very long
time to write these songs, about three years. I had to wait for the
songs to come to me. I wanted them to sound like individual songs
not the same song, so I had to wait to come up with fresh ideas. Also,
some of the songs are hard to play without getting lost so it took
me a while to master them after I wrote them. It was really fun to
have a new song to work on. Nothing makes me happier than when you
know you have a new song and you are playing it for the first time.
I actually started recording in 2011 at home. It took me quite a while
to record the songs because I recorded them without overdubs and that
is a real challenge but it improved my playing on the songs a lot.
I actually recorded the guitar and bass at home on a digital recorder
with click track. I recorded the guitar completely dry so it sounded
like an electric guitar with no amp and did the same thing with the
bass. My Dano 2 Lipstick tubes silver sparkle like my Fender Tele
on the CD. I had talked with Stuart Sullivan and asked him if he could
put my guitar and bass through his cool gear and he said that it would
be possible so I continued to record at home with no pressure and
I think that it helped me to play the songs the way I had imagined
mwe3: Can you tell us about the studio where you recorded the
CD and how you worked with Stuart Sullivan on the recording and mixing
and how you achieved such a great sound on the CD sound and mastering?
As I said earlier I recorded all the guitar and bass tracks on my
digital recorder dry with no effects of any kind on the guitar or
bass, then I took the tracks to Wire recording studio and Stuart Sullivan
put it on his recording gear and played it back through a 1968 Silverface
Princeton and we set the tone more for a little distortion edge and
also put it through a reissue Baseman and we dialed that in to fatten
up that Tele tone. They were in a big room: 15' ceiling and mic-ed
close with a 57 thru a Neve 1073, an old 175b limiter and a
room mic-RCA 44 or Telefunken sm-2, thru API 312 and Neve 2264. As
you can tell I got this info from Stuart. Thats pretty much
what we did on all the songs but varied the tones and of course. I
use different pickup selections which can change the tone a lot. The
bass went direct sometimes and on some songs we used an Ampeg B-15.
Stuart is a studio pro that I have worked with for years with the
Tailgators and other projects. I supervised him mixing this CD. I
have learned one thing from recording at home, is that the end product
is what you are hearing and it can be done in several ways as long
as you keep it real. The drums were cut thru an API console with lots
of room mics. We mixed thru vintage API 32/32, using an old Phillips
tape echo and an EMT plate and an echo plate for reverb.
mwe3: Theres some great interplay between you and the
two drummers Nico and Art Kidd. How long have you known those guys
and who else was involved in the album? The cover art too is fantastic.
I like the Full Three Dimensional Stereo logo! Kind of
reminds me of the 1960s.
LEADY: Yes the 3D stereo was the idea of Grego, an
Austin artist/musician and I thought it was funny. He did the layout
of the CD and my longtime friend and bass player with the Tailgators
JJ Barrera took that photo at his house and said that I ought to put
flames on my hands, so there. (lol) What is unusual about the interplay
of the drums is that they were recorded after the guitar and bass.
Art Kidd is a real gifted musician and I've been doing gigs with him
for years so he is pretty used to my playing. It was hotter 'n hell
in the studio no A/C and Art literally played his ass off. He recorded
12 drum tracks in one day and I used 7 of them which I thought was
fantastic. Niko Leophonte is another great drummer in the Austin scene
and he has his own studio. So I got him to play on 5 tracks and he
recorded his drums at his studio and it was a job but we finally got
them to sound like I wanted. The interplay is because these guys are
so great they slid right in there. It did take a lot of listening
to make sure that there wasn't anything on there that bothered me
and Nico and I went back and forth on the computer until he had the
songs the way I had envisioned them.
mwe3: That clean sound thats achieved on your new CD,
sounds kind of influenced by that classic guitar sound that Buddy
Holly achieved back in the late 1950s. Must be that Texas guitar sound!
Who were your big guitar influences, especially from the instrumental
side of things? How about The Ventures, Duane Eddy and from England
The Shadows were huge in the instrumental world.
DON LEADY: Yes, I like a clean guitar sound thats also
powerful and then I usually like a little tube amp distortion to warm
it up... sometimes I use 2 amps and I have a small champ that sounds
great. And of course I like reverb. maybe it cause its so hot down
here or somethin' like the water.
Well you named three already. I loved all three of three and especially
Duane Eddy. The Ventures came later. I found out about Duane Eddy
and flipped my lid. I learned all his songs when I was in the 5th
grade. Later I went to Chuck Berry, Ike Turner... his Prancin
was a St. Louis standard, BB King, Lawrence Welk... loved those twin
guitars. Link Wray, Arthur Guitar Smith and Chet Atkins definitely
impressed me and I learned some of their tunes tunes. I did this when
I was in high school. Later after I had played for years, I studied
several styles and learned a lot more about the blues, country, vintage
rock n roll and boogie woogie.
mwe3: Can you tell us about your early history growing up around
St. Louis and when you moved to Austin? What were some of your early
bands? I read The Tailgators had quite a following and then you formed
Big Guitars From Texas and what was it like working with Denny Freeman?
Are the bands still active? Dennys great too.
I guess I can say that my Arthur Godfrey uke got me started on playing
when I was 6. It had a plastic box that went over the strings and
you pushed buttons to change chords. It was plastic and had calico
palm trees on it. My grandma was a night club singer in the 1920's
- 50's and she would sing and I played the uke for her, standards
like Sunny Side Of The Street and Five Foot Two.
I played it for a couple years and my dad bought me a Kay guitar and
I started learning it.
I took lessons from a kid named Tony Amatto who had a band, Tony And
The Flames and I started playing rock n roll, whatever was popular
on the radio. I formed my first band when I was 12 called The Ramblers,
real original, (lol). And when I was 16 I joined a band called The
Hitchhikers and played in that rock n roll band till I
was 20. I got drafted in 1966, got out in 1969 and became a folkie
with a D28 Martin for about a few years and learned a lot of roots
Steve Doerr and I had started a duo called Clutch Cargo in 1972 and
we traveled all over the country playing folk clubs. We finally settled
in San Francisco and we played clubs and on the street. Lucinda Williams
was a fellow street player. We had daily gigs at the Canary and Giradelli
Square and Union Square. We stayed there a year or so and we went
our separate ways.
In 1974 I moved to Fort Worth, Texas and stayed there a few years
and wrote a lot of songs. In 1978 Steve Doerr (Leroi Brothers) moved
to Fort Worth to play with me so we both went electric and had a real
blast going to the New Bluebird night club where we danced to the
Juke Jumpers with Robert Ealey singing, he also owned the club. Also
we would go to Dallas to hear the T-birds when they were the best
blues band when they had Mike Buck and Keith Ferguson as a rhythm
section. Man they were a great band to dance to. Mike Buck was from
Fort Worth and we knew him from the T Birds. He invited us to come
to Austin and start a new band called The Headhunters so we moved
down to Austin and the great guy Joe Nick Patoski (Texas Monthly /
Joe King Carrascos manager) put us up till we got settled.
playing and we had a short stint with Lou Ann Barton (Louann And The
Flip Tops). We played a few gigs with her and started The Leroi Brothers
soon afterwards. I played with the Lerois for about 4 years
and got on Capitol Records and actually recorded in the old Capitol
building that resembles a stack of 45's. We did a good run and decided
in 1984 to form The Tailgators with Keith Ferguson who had just gotten
out of the T-birds so we played till about 1995 and I got tired of
touring the world. I started a swing band called Alamo Suite and I
stayed around Austin and Texas playing all types of music.
Oh yeah, back in 1984 or 85 we had a band of 4 guitar pickers
and called ourselves Big Guitars From Texas. We cut a CD Trash,
Twang And Thunder and darn if we didn't get nominated for a Grammy.
We went to the ceremony but didn't win. Jeff Beck won... he beat us
out and also fellow Texan Stevie Ray. It was a real fun time, Stevie
Wonder touched me, by accident. (lol) We were all blasted, they had
an open bar. The guitar players were Denny Freeman, Frankie Camaro,
Evan Johns, myself and Keith Ferguson on bass with Mike Buck drums
(ex T-bird / Leroi brother) so it was a family project. We did a reunion
benefit for Evan Johns at Antones. Still had the same band except
Keith isn't living so I got JJ Barrera, my bass player to do the benefit.
Denny is a great man and player. I love to play with him he really
knows what not to play and he has some of the craziest whammy bar
solos, and of course Evan is a wild man on the guitar, way over the
top, and frankie is more surfy and had a band called Moto X. It was
a great band.
What guitars are you featuring on the Hillbilly Boogie Surfin
Blues CD and what guitars are your favorite to play and record
DON LEADY: I used my Fernandes Tele on all the songs. It is
my favorite even though I didn't want it to be. Here's the story:
back in 1986 The Tailgaters were playing in DC and a fan, Pete Bell
came up to me and said that he is a car painter and him and a friend
painted this Fernandes guitar with a very cool gator hide that was
a blue/green. They laughed and said that I would probably not play
it but could hang it on the wall. Back in those days the stages were
real hot so I would break strings a lot. Anyway I had that guitar
on stage and I picked it up and it blew away that Fender Tele and
played great with a rosewood fingerboard and really great sounding
pickups. I started using it after that. I have several types of guitars
for different music but this guitar is my favorite. Anyway after Pete
Bell heard it he said he wanted it back, ha!
mwe3: How about telling us what amps, strings, picks and other
sound effects you prefer? Are you a big fan of reverb?
DON LEADY: I have a 1960's Vibroverb and a Champ Tweed Fender.
I also have a Roland 15 watt that sounds good with other amps cause
its clean. I like reverb on records but I use the Fender Tank
reverb for gigs in the Vibroverb, and a old Boss delay sometimes.
I use D'addario xl .10s and Tortex picks.
What are some of your musical plans for 2013 and beyond? I hope youll
be able to record more of your instrumentals and have a follow up
DON LEADY: I hope to tour and do festivals and I'm already
writing new songs. I have 4 right now in this style. I also may do
another Tailgaters recording if I have time. I have several new songs
in that style.
Thanks to Don Leady @ www.DonLeady.com
history by Don Leady: (top to bottom)
1 Big Guitars From Texas reunion benefit 2013 - Antones, Austin, TX.
2 1970, St. Louis, 1941 c-1 Martin guitar
3 The Tailgators - 1984 keith ferguson, gary "mudcat" smith
4 1995 Dallas "Three Teardrops" w/ 1950's Danelectro copper
5 Clutch Cargo in St. Louis 1972 w/rhythm section. When we traveled
it was a duo.
6 The Tailgaters at Evangeline cafe in Austin 2012 with Chico Oropesa,
JJ Barrera, Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff and the famous Evan Johns
as special guests.