Barstool Rockers

A Music Conversation

Barstool Rockers is a podcast about music.  Hosted by two life-long rock fans, it aims to inform and hopefully entertain.

Episode 34: Don Felder

He played a role in one of the most epic guitar solos EVER. His double-neck guitar is in the New York City Metropolitan Museum’s Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll exhibition. He took a little time out while he was in New York City for the opening of that exhibition to chat with Finn about his new album, American Rock ‘n’ Roll, his legendary guitar and teaching Tom Petty.

Thanks to Anastasia Vishnevsky for our theme music and as always, please consider subscribing to our podcast through your favorite app. If you like what you hear, please leave a rating and/or review. It helps our podcast rise through the rankings so others can discover it.

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No matter how you look at it, 2019 is shaping up to be the Year of the Fingers — Don “Fingers” Felder, that is. Felder, a true American rock and roll guitar hero, is very much looking forward to building upon his rich legacy as one of the most innovative riff-generating songwriters of the modern rock era while continuing his growth as a featured touring and recording solo artist.

Not only is Felder a proud, longstanding member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, having been inducted with the Eagles back in 1998, he was also inaugurated into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville in 2016 and the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2017. Fact is, Felder spent 27 years with the Eagles, who have sold over 150 million albums worldwide to date and own the fine distinction of recording the top-selling album of all time — Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which has sold over 38 million copies (and counting). “I’m blessed enough to have contributed to and been a part of a very talented mixture of voices, writing, guitar parts, and production,” he says of the group. “It was a magical, unique combination that happened in a certain place and time. I’m very proud of that.”

Don left the band in 2001 and has since forged an impressive career as a top-tier solo artist, having placed the hard-driving “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” in the pole position of the same-named 1981 animated film (a song that remains one of the most requested staples of his live set to this very day), along with a pair of fully realized full-length albums, 1983’s sonically soaring Airborne and 2012’s multifaceted song-cycle treatise, Road to Forever.

Felder added “best-selling author” to his ever-impressive C.V. when his spellbinding 2008 memoir, Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001), became an instant New York Times bestselling smash. “There’s still a lot of excitement about it,” he observes. “I still get all these posts about it on Facebook and Twitter, and as many as 50 people come up to the front of the stage who have the book and want me to sign it at just about every show.”

The “Fingers” nickname is well-warranted, as anyone who has ever watched the man’s hands blaze across whatever guitar fretboard he has in tow can readily attest. In fact, the inherent prowess of those dexterous digits helped Felder navigate the burgeoning rock scene in his native Gainesville, Florida, while he was growing up there in the 1960s. That formative time included a stint teaching guitar to a young sandy-haired Southern gentleman by the name of Tom Petty. “Who knew he would become such a rock music icon?” Felder muses. “I was so proud to see Tom become as popular and influential as he did.”

Felder also studied hands-on with the masters himself, having learned slide guitar from his longtime friend Duane Allman, not to mention incorporating the more melodic principals of jazz icons like Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Miles Davis alongside the core values of the blues he gleaned from the likes of Albert King and B.B. King into his own milieu. “I’m primarily influenced melodically by horn players,” he reveals. “I learned about pacing from Miles Davis, who would take a breath and leave you hanging on a note while he finished his phrase — that was very influential on me. I realized most horn players can only play one note at a time, and you have to be very selective about the melody you choose.”

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Don’s discerning musical taste ultimately bore much great fruit in iconic songs such as “Already Gone,” “Victim of Love,” “Those Shoes,” and his most popular creation, “Hotel California,” which he recast in an entirely new way for the Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over in 1994. “I will tell you the version of ‘Hotel California’ that I re-recorded on nylon-string guitar for that reunion is the only song I know of — and I’ve asked the people in the RIAA — that has been recorded twice by the same band, and then nominated for Grammys both times. Isn’t that something?” (Indeed it is, for the original “Hotel California” single won for Record of the Year in 1977, and the Hell Freezes Over single version was nominated for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal in 1995.)

Felder has also recorded with and performed alongside top-drawer artists such as The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Michael Jackson, Alice Cooper, Warren Zevon, Diana Ross, Stevie Nicks, Vince Gill, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and Stephen Stills, whom Don first crossed paths with in the aforementioned Gainesville in the early 1960s. (Don’s impressive list of collaborators, like the road, could literally go on forever.) “I grew up with Stephen Stills,” Felder confirms, “and before I joined the Eagles in 1974, I toured with Crosby & Nash in ’73, ironically by being Stephen Stills, playing and singing his parts.” Felder clearly left a distinct impression on that storied duo, as Graham Nash himself notes, “I’ve always been an admirer of Don’s. As a guitar player and a singer, he’s so great. He learned all of our stuff overnight, and he played with us the very next day. I’m a fan.”

Spending more and more time on the road as the front man of his own tight-knit solo band made Felder realize he needed to put in the time to hone his own distinctive voice into a finely tuned instrument. “That’s just how I work,” Don explains. “A lead vocal has to fit the song — it has to fit the timbre and texture of the song. Otherwise, you’re a one-note samba.” Felder counts extended road runs with Foreigner, Styx, Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus, and REO Speedwagon as touring highlights.

In addition to his musical proficiency as a double-threat guitarist/vocalist, Felder is most proud of his ongoing charity work for the likes of Starkey Hearing Foundation in 2018, the Ruck N Roll Charity Ball in Hong Kong for underprivileged children in 2016, and Autism Speaks in 2014, to name but a few of the worthy causes he supports.

What’s next for our man Fingers Felder? Extensive touring is most definitely already locked into place, in addition to a new studio album that’s been in the works for quite some time. “On Road to Forever, I had only one guest on guitar — Steve Lukather [of Toto] — and I played every other guitar part on every other song,” he concludes. “I didn’t want to do that this time. I wanted to have people come in and light it up. My goal was to play with them and have a good time. It was a ball.”

Stay tuned for more on that exciting new project when the time comes. In the meantime, let us continue to admire the essence of Don Felder, a man who continues to push boundaries and expand horizons. It’s the only way that he can travel down that road.

Episode 33: Michael Schenker

Michael Schenker is a changed man. With a career stretching back to 1969, the German guitar virtuoso is an artist for whom the term ‘volatile’ has sometimes seemed invented. Recorded with singers and musicians associated with Michael in previous decades, the aptly-titled Resurrection sees Schenker embracing his past to build something fresh and exciting. We had a brief opportunity to chat with Michael about his new tour

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Episode 32: Uli John Roth

Uli Jon Roth is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitar players ever. He is one of the last greats who is still around to present his magical style of playing which he already forged in the late Sixties when he was still in his teens. Uli played his first ever show in December 1968 - at the age of 13 - and to celebrate his upcoming 50th Stage Anniversary, he will perform concerts across North America this spring. He had some time to chat with us recently during an extended visit to a truckstop in Canada....

Thanks to Anastasia Vishnevsky for our theme music and as always, please consider subscribing to our podcast through your favorite app. If you like what you hear, please leave a rating and/or review. It helps our podcast rise through the rankings so others can discover it.

The musical career of Uli Jon Roth spans an amazing five decades. As an artist, Uli is a phenomenon and his unique set of talents has gained him an international reputation as a musical visionary and innovator early on in his career. Having explored the world of rock music and written symphonies for orchestras, Uli has recently come full circle to re-connect with his roots.

Uli Jon Roth made his mark on the world of music already as a teenager.

Born in Düsseldorf, Germany, on Dec 18, 1954, he discovered his love for the electric guitar in 1968 and played his first concert later that year at the age of 13 as a member of the band BLUE INFINITY. In the following years, while still in high school, Uli played in several bands in Hanover, including DAWN ROAD, while also studying classical guitar as well as the piano and violin.

In the year 1973, the four members of Uli’s band DAWN ROAD joined forces with RUDOLF SCHENKER and KLAUS MEINE and formed a new incarnation of Rudolf’s Band THE SCORPIONS. The first show of the “new” SCORPIONS was a live TV appearance, which lead to a 5-year recording deal with one of the major international record companies at the time, RCA.

During his five-year tenure as a member of Germany’s number one band, in the early Seventies, ULI JON ROTH built the foundation for his status of rock guitar legend the world over. ULI quickly established himself as one of the main song-writers in the band and gained an international reputation as one of the most important innovators of the electric guitar.

He recorded five albums with the band, each one of which was to achieve iconic status in the history of rock music:

FLY TO THE RAINBOW (1974), IN TRANCE (1975), VIRGIN KILLER (1976) and TAKEN BY FORCE (1977). His farewell album from that period, a live album recorded in Japan in 1978 - TOKYO TAPES - is generally recognised as one of the great live-albums in the history of rock music and has influenced scores of younger musicians.

During his final year with the SCORPIONS, ULI felt increasingly stifled by the confinements of mainstream rock music and decided to leave the group to form a band of his own, ELECTRIC SUN. With this band Uli created a unique and unmistakeable style, which progressed and matured during three studio albums. These were EARTHQUAKE (1978), FIRE WIND (1980) and BEYOND THE ASTRAL SKIES (1984). Tours through Europe and the US established Electric Sun internationally as an important precursor of later musical trends.

Classical music has always played a fundamental role in Uli’s musical view of the world. Even during his time with the Scorpions, it was his classical leanings – combined with a strong influence of JIMI HENDRIX – which set his playing apart and which brought him international recognition. Yet despite his love for classical music, U.J.R. has nevertheless still felt drawn to Rock.

In 1991, he acted as musical director for a German television show entitled “A DIFFERENT SIDE OF JIMI HENDRIX” which featured JACK BRUCE, SIMON PHILLIPS, RANDY HANSEN, JOHN WETTON, ZENO, JULE NEIGEL, PETER BURSCH and others. This show later became the most frequently broadcast Rock Palast special in its long history and has been transmitted more than twenty times since then.

During the years after ELECTRIC SUN, Uli Jon Roth’s classical leanings took the front seat: He wrote no less than four symphonies, one concerto as well as a piano solo composition AQUILA SUITE. His first symphony, EUROPA EX FAVILLA, received its premiere in Belgium in 1993 within the framework of a concert televised by German TV. The music was performed by the BRUSSELS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA under the title SYMPHONIC ROCK FOR EUROPE. The three-hour long show was a resounding success with the audience and presented a novel, though organic mixture of classical and rock music. The line-up on stage consisted of nearly one hundred participants including rock singers, band, classical choir, and the symphony orchestra.

U.J.R.’s follow-up project PROLOGUE TO THE SYMPHONIC LEGENDS (SKY OF AVALON) sold 60 000 copies on the first day of its release in Japan. At the same time U.J.R. took part in a TV charity event hosted by JOSÉ CARRERAS, which featured the THREE TENORS, SARAH BRIGHTMAN, MONSERRAT CABALLE, UDO JÜRGENS and BONNIE TYLER among others. Together with his one-time colleague, SCORPIONS singer KLAUS MEINE and the PRAGUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, he performed one of the SKY OF AVALON pieces, BRIDGE TO HEAVEN.

After a touring hiatus of 13 years, in 1998, ULI accepted an invitation by JOE SATRIANI to participate in a European tour of the G3, an almost annual meeting of guitar greatness, featuring three great guitarists. This was followed by the release of a double album TRANSCENDENTAL SKY GUITAR.

A further milestone in Uli’s career was his headlining appearance at the ROCK & BLUES FESTIVAL at CASTLE DONINGTON in the UK in 2001. His special guests on stage included rock legends JACK BRUCE (CREAM), UFO with MICHAEL SCHENKER, DON AIREY and CLIVE BUNKER (JETHRO TULL, ELECTRIC SUN). This concert was later released as a DVD under the title LEGENDS OF ROCK by SPV. A large-scale UK tour under the same title followed one year later, which also featured GLENN HUGHES (ex-DEEP PURPLE) and Uli’s friend FRANK MARINO (MAHOGANY RUSH).

In 2003 Uli recorded his critically acclaimed METAMORPHOSIS OF THE SEASONS in his studio in Wales. The album contains an ingenious version of the complete FOUR SEASONS by ANTONIO VIVALDI as well as an original new concerto by Roth which is entitled METAMORPHOSIS CONCERTO. Together with his own creation, SKY ORCHESTRA, Roth produced a truly monumental album.

U.J.R.’s precise rendition of Vivaldi’s timeless masterpiece on the guitar is only feasible because of his unique trade mark instrument, the SKY GUITAR. ULI invented this now legendary instrument to obtain nearly twice the tonal range of a conventional guitar. This means that it enables him to play in the highest registers of the violin range as well as those of the Cello. After a successful collaboration with Florida-based DEAN GUITARS, which distributed a limited edition of 50 SKY GUITARS, Uli decided to form his own UJR SKY GUITARS company to produce new editions of these remarkable instruments.

In 2005, Uli Jon Roth shared the stage again with the SCORPIONS for the first time since his departure. This was followed by many others in England, Germany, and Greece. In 2006, the SCORPIONS performed a reunion concert at the world’s biggest Heavy Metal festival, the Wacken Open Air in Germany, in front of more than 80 000 people featuring Uli and Michael Schenker. The concert resulted in a DVD release, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER. In 2016 Uli was guesting with SCORPIONS at the LOUD PARK FESTIVAL in SAITAMA SUPER DOME, TOKYO.

In 2006, ULI JON ROTH founded a teaching facility in Los Angeles, SKY ACADEMY, with the purpose of sharing his musical philosophy which transcends purely technical wizardry to find profound artistic depth and to awake ones’ musical potential. The first five-day seminar was held at the UCLA and included three epic SKY ACADEMY CONCERTS with a plethora of 25 guest artists, including ROBBIE KRIEGER of the DOORS, DON DOKKEN, MICHELANGELO BATIO, DAVID PAICH. Since then Uli has held over seventy SKY ACADEMY SEMINARS in many different countries. With their wide-reaching range of teachings, these seminars have proved very popular not only with musicians, but also non-musicians and fans. Uli loves teaching and is currently preparing his first Sky Academy book.

The following year, 2007 Uli played at two big German festivals as guest of the SMASHING PUMPKINS. At one of them, Rock Am Ring, Uli played some unforgettable guitar solos together with the Pumpkins‘ BILLY CORGAN in front of an audience of 90000 people, which was televised on German mainstream TV Channel ZDF. This was followed by a joint starring appearance which featured BILLY CORGAN and ULI JON ROTH in a TV show “DURCH DIE NACHT”, on European ARTE Television.

Due to his widely reputed skills of improvisation on the guitar, Uli has often been invited to spontaneous guest appearances with other artists. Over the years, Uli appeared and jammed with DEEP PURPLE, SLASH, SMASHING PUMPKINS, PAUL GILBERT, DORO, AVANTASIA, MICHAEL SCHENKER, BRUCE DICKINSON, GAMMA RAY, RICHIE KOTZEN, UFO, JACK BRUCE and many others.

In 2008 Uli Jon Roth released a new studio album, UNDER A DARK SKY, which featured a full orchestra as well as rock musicians. LIZ VANDALL and MARK BOALS were sharing lead vocals. The album was first premiered live at the GITARANAKI GUITAR FESTIVAL in New Zealand, where Uli taught several Sky Academy seminars in auditoriums to school children in three high schools. This was followed by large tours on several continents in recent years. In 2012, Uli debuted at the ROYAL ALBERT HALL in London, performing for the SUNFLOWER CHARITY, which is dedicated to alternative cancer research. On this memorable evening, Uli shared the stage with BRUCE DICKINSON, BRIAN MAY, JOHN PAUL JONES, BRIAN AUGER, ALFIE BOE, ALICE COOPER and IAN PAICE.

In 2013 Uli embarked on an epic tour and played over 100 concerts and over twenty SKY ACADEMY SEMINARS, including a tour of South America. He guested with SMASHING PUMPKINS at the iconic GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL in England, as well as with DEEP PURPLE and DORO at the WACKEN OPEN AIR FESTIVAL in August. He also guested in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with Brazil’s foremost band, ANGRA and TARJA TURUNEN later that same month.

One of the highlights for Uli of the year 2014 was his participation as musical director in a special event at the celebrated GUITARE-EN-SCENE Festival in France. Uli shared the stage with his illustrious guitar player friends STEVE VAI and STEVE MORSE, performing music of JIMI HENDRIX together. ERIC SARDINAS also joined not the jam for a couple of songs.

2015 began with a long US Tour EXTREME GUITAR with VINNIE MOORE, CRAIG GOLDIE, VINNIE APPICE and KOFI BAKER. February saw the release of Uli’s long-awaited double CD “SCORPIONS REVISITED”, which featured exclusively songs from Uli’s early Scorpions era. The album became an instant success with fans and critics alike and sold extremely well.

Later that month, in February 2015, Uli Jon Roth played a three-day tour of Japan to virtually sold-out venues, which included the legendary SUN PLAZA HALL in Tokyo, which had been the concert hall SCORPIONS had originally played with Uli back in 1978 and where they recorded one of the strongest live-albums of all time – TOKYO TAPES. Uli’s return to Sun Plaza Hall was an emotional occasion for the fans and the memorable concert was recorded for Blu-Ray and DVD release by a Japanese Television station, which were released under the title TOKYO TAPES REVISITED in 2017.

Directly following this tour Uli held his first ever SKY ACADEMY in Tokyo and Singapore.

In May of 2015, Uli performed at an outdoor guitar festival in Wroclaw, Poland, jamming on stage with violin virtuoso NIGEL KENNEDY. That year also saw Uli’s first concerts in the United Arab Emirates.

In the spring of 1916 Uli presented THE ULTIMATE GUITAR EXPERIENCE tour to audiences all over North America. The program featured guest artists JENNIFER BATTEN and Andy TIMMONS.

A further highlight of 2016 was Uli’s appearance at the SAITAMA SUPER DOME in Tokyo, Japan, at the LOUD PARK FESTIVAL, where he played a set of his own, but also made a surprise guest appearance with his old friends SCORPIONS, who now featured a new drummer, MICKEY DEE.

2017 was another whirlwind of successful touring for Uli with over 100 concerts, including an extensive tour of the US, appearances on various Cruise liners, including 70000 TONS OF METAL, and a European tour.

Back in 1982, Uli had designed a revolutionary new kind of guitar, which was to become his trademark instrument - the iconic SKY GUITAR. The original idea was to build a guitar which would greatly enhance the range and sonic spectrum of traditional electric guitars. After an initial five prototypes had been built in the Eighties, Uli played Sky Guitars exclusively from then on. Thirty years later, Uli was persuaded to make the guitars available to the public. A limited edition of 50 Sky Guitars was marketed successfully by DEAN GUITARS, one of the world’s leading guitar companies. In 2017, the CEO of DEAN, ELLIOTT RUBINSON, who was one of Uli’s best friends - and also his bass player on various tours - died prematurely. After this, Uli decided to part ways with the company. He then decided to found his own company - UJR SKY-GUITARS – with the aim to build new Sky Guitars and to further push the envelope of revolutionary new guitar designs (see the website below).

In the Spring of 2018, Uli Jon Roth took part in a long European Tour with JOE SATRIANI and JOHN PETRUCCI under the umbrella of the celebrated G3 concept. The tour was a complete success and Uli and his brilliant young band - which featured the talented NIKLAS TURMANN on vocals and guitar and DAVID KLOSINSKI on guitar - gained a lot of new fans due to their exhilarating performances on European stages.

During this tour, Uli also showcased the latest models of his UJR SKY-GUITARS brand.

In May 2018, Uli and his band performed a stunning show at the ROCK HARD FESTIVAL in Germany, which was televised by ROCK PALAST TV.

Uli’s first ever concert took place in 1968 - at the age of 13! At the end of 2018 ULI JON ROTH celebrated his 50th ON STASSGE ANNIVERSARY with a series of spectacular concerts in Europe and Japan. For this special occasion he was joined by his former band member RUDOLF SCHENKER, and together they performed at Sun Plaza Hall in Tokyo for the first time since their iconic Tokyo Tapes Album.

Uli Jon Roth is currently working on a new acoustic album and there is new material on the horizon...

As it seems, the journey of one of the worlds’ greatest guitarists is far from over.

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