Long recognized as one of the iconic instruments to make a profound impact in rock, soul, jazz, country and electric blues music, the unique look and sound of the Fender Telecaster remains as timeless as the classic tracks it was used to record.
A trio of life-long “Tele” enthusiasts will be continuing their in-performance homage to the guitar and some of the players most-associated with it as Jim Weider, G.E. Smith and Danny Kortchmar bring their Masters of the Telecaster show to The Kate in Old Saybrook (Feb. 13) and Infinity Hall in Hartford (March 21).
Weider and Kortchmar were guests on the Jan. 31 edition of Greasy Tracks where they discussed the up-coming shows as well sharing insight to what has made the Telecaster the guitar of choice for so many musicians over the years.
The entire program was dedicated to tracks featuring Telecaster players. Here’s the setlist.
Introduced by the innovative designer Leo Fender in 1950 and eventually branded the Telecaster in 1951, the revolutionary six string holds the distinction of being the first mass-produced, solid-body guitar — despite being possibly overshadowed in popularity by the Fender Stratocaster which made its debut in 1954.
Over the years, the guitar gained great renown in in all musical genres and was the oft-preferred instrument of such legendary players as
Jeff Beck, Michael Bloomfield, James Burton, Roy Buchanan, Eric Clapton, Albert Collins, Steve Cropper, Jesse Edwin Davis, Cornell Dupree, Danny Gatton, Merle Haggard, Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, Jimmy Johnson, Terry Kath, Buck Owens, Les Paul, Muddy Waters, Clarence White and Reggie Young to name but a few.
Weider, a life-long Telecaster player, joined The Band in 1985 and was the group’s sole guitarist until 1999 when the group broke up following the death of bassist Rick Danko. Weider would work closely with the Levon Helm Band as lead guitarist from 2009 until Helm’s death in 2012.
In addition to collaborating on designs produced by amplifier guru Mitch Colby, Weider works occasionally with some side projects — playing a variety of styles from Band covers with The Weight, to more improvisational forays with JIM WEIDER’S ProJECT PERCoLAToR and in the spirit of Helm’s diverse musical catalog with the Midnight Ramble Band.
Smith’s prowess as a player has kept him busy in the studio, on stage and on the set for years. Known as Hall & Oates’ go-to player in the late 1970s into the mid-80s, Smith soon became one of the most recognized guitarists in the U.S. during his tenure as musical director and leader of the Saturday Night Live Band (1985-1995), a position he juggled while putting in a four-year stint playing lead guitar in Bob Dylan’s touring band. In addition to doing studio work with Mick Jagger and David Bowie, Smith along with guitarists Snowy White and Dave Kilminster backed Roger Waters for three years during The Wall Live tours.
Early in his career, Kortchmar gained the reputation of being a versatile studio musician who was able to play various styles as well as having a knack with arrangements and songwriting. He played important roles in some of James Taylor’s most famous work and featured on Carole King’s landmark release “Tapestry” with his short-lived band, Jo Mama, providing much of the backing.
His involvement with Taylor and King projects led to Kortchmar working sessions with bassist Leland Sklar, drummer Russ Kunkel and keyboardist Craig Doerge. The four players soon became The Section and would go on to be one of the most in-demand studio and touring backing bands of the 1970s as they worked with King, Taylor, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon as well as David Crosby and Graham Nash. At times, guitarists David Lindley and Waddy Wachtel would also collaborate with The Section on sessions.
Nicknamed “The Mellow Mafia,” The Section released three of their own albums of primarily instrumental material.
Throughout the 1980s, Kortchmar played on and co-produced Don Henley chart-climbers Building The Perfect Beast and The End of The Innocence as well as co-writing a handful of tracks on each album.
Now in its 20th year, Greasy Tracks is the longest-running soul and blues program in the state and airs Saturday’s 3:30-5:30 p.m.