On this night at the Roxy Theatre, the guitar was king. The six-string summit began early at the famous Sunset Strip venue; the house still filling in as Duane Betts and his Pistoleers took the stage a few minutes past eight o’clock. Tearing into the Rolling Stones nugget, “Silver Train,” Betts and his fellow axe man Johnny Stachela established the proverbial and literal tone right from the drop; blistering guitars and cranked-up amps. Plenty of jams rumbled through the half-hour set, with Stachela shining on slide and Betts driving sweetly melodic through his original “Taking Time,” then as the two paired up for a beautiful rendition of Betts’ father Dickey’s “Blue Sky.” Yet, this was but the thunder before the lightning.
The curtain parted on the North Mississippi Allstars with just the sibling duo of Luther and Cody Dickinson, on guitar and drums respectively, onstage. Luther, working both fretboard and keyboard through a crunching opener that left him with a broken string, seemed positively possessed by the spirit.
Your slide playing is fantastic. You have tone and touch that is hard to come by. If I wanted to learn to play the slide today, where should I start? Who should I listen to?
The first guys that really caught my ear were Duane Allman and Ry Cooder. I love Elmore James. I think Derek Trucks has taken slide guitar beyond the stratosphere. Good intonation is the most important skill when it comes to slide. You have to really develop your ear. The beauty is that without frets the possibilities are infinite. It’s much easier to start with open E or G tunings. You get the nice overtones while you’re developing your right hand technique. It’s nice to play in standard tuning as well because you can just pull out the slide in any song.
Give me one piece of musical advice you would give to a younger version of yourself.
I was fortunate when I was younger that I had good people around me. My friend Ron Rogers taught me a lot about recording guitar and he turned me on to Howlin Wolf and guys like Kelly Joe Phelps when I was getting serious about slide guitar. I always had people pushing me to get out of my comfort zone and explore new music. The best musical advice is to listen to as much good music as you can and study it. It’s amazing how it will find its way into your own playing.
Handle It – EP
by Johnny Stachela Band
Digital Album Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high quality download in MP3, FLAC, & more. Buy Now $5 USD
1. Handle It
3. Weight Of Your World
4. Automatic Pistol
released June 17, 2016
Sebastian Ciceri – Bass, Vocals
Vincent Fossett. Jr. – Drums
Produced and Mixed by Jorgen Carlsson
Engineered and Mastered by Steve Holroyd
Recorded at Rogers Boat Studio
All songs written by Johnny Stachela
“Handle It” and “Weight Of Your World” co-written by Stoll Vaughan
Johnny Stachela, an accomplished slide guitar player, has maintained a tireless schedule of performing and recording in Los Angeles for nearly two decades. But his musical journey began long before that.
At age 5, Stachela says, “I would learn Black Sabbath riffs on a one-string toy guitar.”
When he was 12 his parents gifted him an electric guitar and amplifier. Since then he has gone on to record with Grammy Award winning producer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin), and he has warmed up stages for guitar legends like Dickey Betts, Robbie Krieger, and Mike Campbell among many others.
Making music, for Stachela, is a calling that began with his connection to the blues.
“The blues to me has always been about the feeling. And that’s what I loved about it. The blues is honest. It’s life. It’s so real. When it hits, all the other bullshit just fades away.”
Through his commitment and dedication to the craft, Stachela is creating a legacy all his own with the release of two solo EPs and numerous collaborations with other artists.
In 2017, Johnny Stachela and Duane Betts played a one-off show with Gov’t Mule’s Matt Abts and Jorgen Carlsson as Bando. The two guitar slingers also played sold-out shows with North Mississippi Allstars at the Roxy in Hollywood and an opening set for Devon Allman Project at the Fillmore in San Francisco.
All of this jamming led to the formation of Duane Betts and the Pistoleers, which now serves as an outlet for Betts original material. Stachela and Betts will be on the road with the Devon Allman Project for much of 2018.
The Allman/Betts world tour is making stops at beloved North American venues including The Beacon Theater in New York, Tipitina’s in New Orleans, and Red Rocks in Morrison, CO. The European leg of the tour kicks off in August with shows in Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, UK and Germany.