Thursday night at Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the Santa Monica Pier, guitarist Duane Betts and his fellow Pistoleers guitarist Johnny Stachela joined the rhythm section of Gov’t Mule- drummer Matt Abts and bassist Jorgen Carlsson- forming the quartet, Bando. Throughout the summer, the historic ocean boardwalk hosts free Thursday night concerts on its planks. With an empty post-holiday date on the calendar, Rusty’s offered its own free show, bringing the four together for this unique one-off. Bando played a near two-hour set mostly of covers, ranging from Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones to a pair of classics from The Allman Brothers Band. Betts and Stachela alternated vocals much of the night, with Stachela taking on Hendrix with “Spanish Castle Magic” and several blues standards, while Betts offered the Stones’ “Silver Train” and two originals, including “Taking Time.” The pair of guitarists extended solos on nearly every entry, including over fifteen-minute versions of the Allman’s “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and a closing “Whipping Post.”
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
Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, Johnny Stachela’s passion for the guitar ignited early in his life.
At age 5, Stachela says, “I would learn Black Sabbath riffs on a one-string toy guitar.”
He remembers the moment his commitment to music cemented.
“I was standing in the magazine aisle at Tower records, looking at a guitar ad. I knew then I had to play guitar. That was going to be my thing.”
He was right.
Stachela, an accomplished slide guitar player, has recorded with Grammy Award winning producer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin), and he has warmed up stages for guitar legends like Dickey Betts, Robert Randolph, Robbie Krieger, Mike Campbell, and Robben Ford. But now, with the release of two EPs, Stachela is creating a legacy all his own.
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. Some people think the blues are sad, but for me it’s the release of emotion into musical expression. The blues is honest. It’s life. It’s so real. There’s so much feeling. There is comfort in knowing that others have the same pain. We’re all in it together.”
In 2017, when Duane Betts finished his tour duty with Dawes, the time was right to start a new band.
“Our friendship goes back awhile and we have a great chemistry playing music together.” The next obvious step was to focus on Duane’s original music. Duane Betts and the Pistoleers wrapped up their first year together with the Devon Allman Project, playing a sold-out show with a host of special guests at the Fillmore in San Francisco.