The March 16 edition of Greasy Tracks spotlighted the Fender Telecaster, long recognized as one of the iconic instruments to make a profound impact in rock, soul, jazz, country and electric blues music.
Interviews with Telecaster players Jim Weider and Larry Campbell were included as the guests provided insight on the guitar, players who’ve influenced them and some of their favorite songs where the Tele played a pivotal role.
In what has become an annual rite, Weider and Campbell, along with veteran Tele player G.E. Smith, the bring their “Masters of the Telecaster” show to Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts in Patchogue, NY, on April 5 and StageOne in Fairfield on April 6.
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 in The Weight Band, 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.
A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Campbell has become a go-to session player, producer and touring sideman, rising to prominence when he spent more than eight years on Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour” which ran 1997-2004. He regularly worked with Weider over a seven-year period playing in Levon Helm’s “Midnight Rambles” series.
Campbell’s session work and production credits run the gamut from B.B. King, David Bromberg and The Black Crowes to Bob Dylan, Helm, Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson.
In 2015, Campbell and his wife, Teresa Williams, released their first project together. The follow-up, Contraband Love, came out in 2017.
Campbell has won three Grammy Awards for his work as a producer, the first in 2007 for Levon Helm, Dirt Farmer, which was co-produced with Helm’s daughter, Amy. In 2009, Helm’s Electric Dirt, with Campbell producing, won a Grammy for Best Americana Album. Helm’s 2011 live release, Ramble at The Ryman, took a Grammy for Best Americana Album with Campbell rounding out his trio of Grammy honors for producing the live album.
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.
His status as a premier sideman not withstanding, Smith also worked with bands including Moonalice, Great Caesar’s Ghost and Hot Tuna.