41: G.E. Smith

Of course GE has done it all. He started playing publicly in Pennsylvania when he was 11, did the obligatory 10,000 hours with The Scratch Band in Ct., produced hit after hit and toured with with Hall and Oates, lead the powerhouse Saturday Night Live band in New York, toured the world playing with Bob Dylan among others and is active today with a newly recorded album waiting in the wings soon to be released. His first hand knowledge of instruments and equipment can not be matched. The man knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t hold back. This is a much anticipated and enjoyable podcast recorded on a sparkling day in Amagansett. He is most  generous with his time and stories. Settle in for a pleasurable and wide ranging conversation with one of the smartest, most talented and just plain nicest musicians today. 

G E and Cesar Diaz started their quest for vintage instruments when neither they or the instruments were old.

That TORO mower is pre CBS.

Cesar and GE couldn’t buy beer legally but they were rocking!


He didn’t wast much time graduating to the good stuff.

G E gained wide exposure when he led the Saturday Night Live band during their heydays. He got a chance to play with most of his musical heroes. Many viewers tuned in just to see what cool old guitar he was using that week.

©Ken Regan Getty Images

GE lead the band for the 30th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s recording career.
L-R: Roger McGuinn, G E, Eric Clapton, Bob, Tom Petty, Steve Cropper Neil Young.How

Peter Wolf’s Soul review The Beacon Theatre NYC.

Backing Irma Thomas on a Jazzmaster.

Percy Sledge singing “When a man loves a woman” like it was the first time.

Mike Eldred of Fender Honors George with introduction of the G. E. Smith model Telecaster. which is based on George’s love of Leo Fenders earl lap steels. Note the neck markings and unusual pick up mounting.

This video was created to help settle the question of this Telecaster’s authenticity as belonging to Mike Bloomfield.

Once again George leads a band. This time for Les Paul’s 100th birthday celebration. Another group of great guitarist takes their direction from G E.

40: Thomas Goldsmith

Tommy Goldsmith writer, musician, record producer, historian and raconteur has just released “Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown The Making of an American Classic”. Sure there are musicians who have left their mark on music. Will anyone ever play the cornet like Louis Armstrong, the cello like Pablo Casals, the saxophone like Charlie Parker, or the electric bass like Jaco Pastorius ? Earl Scruggs not only excelled at his chosen instrument, the 5 string banjo but created a music that can’t be played without his style. Goldsmith tells the story of Scruggs development and of Bluegrass Music itself from the inside. His 30 years of writing on music and culture for newspapers in N.C. and Tenn. along with producing over 20 records for various artists in Nashville give him a unique perspective. As a musician himself Goldsmith understood exactly what Earl was talking about when he interviewed him over several years of their friendship. Goldsmith also edited “The Bluegrass Reader” which won the Best Journalist award from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

At last we have a sit down with a fellow tar heel and it’s nothing but fun. Who knew that King Records artist, The Stanley Brothers recorded their label mates, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters hit “Finger Popping Time” ? This is the kind of detail true music enthusiasts are eager to share.

Spotify Playlist for songs in this podcast

You will need a Spotify account to listen to the full versions of the referenced tunes.

Bluegrass Canon or Cannon Fodder ?

We presented the following LPs to Tommy for his reaction..almost all were Canon almost no fodder.

in 1972 Earle Scruggs released “Earl Scruggs His Family and Friends”. It featured his sons Gary and Randy, The Byrds, Doc Watson, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan among others. “Nashville Skyline Rag” from this LP is one of 4 tunes recorded with the Scruggs featured on 2019’s “Bob Dylan Travelin’ Thru The Bootleg Series Vol. 15.

The 5 string is not Mr Goldsmith’s instrument of choice but he looks so good here I couldn’t resist posting this

After you’ve gotten your copy of “Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown The making of An American Classic” then you can shop for “Speed Bumps On A Dirt Road When Old Time Music Met Bluegrass”, John Cohen’s magnificent new book of photos that overlaps the subject of Tommy Goldsmith’s podcast perfectly.

© John Cohen
© John Cohen

38: John Hammond pt. 2

We return to John Hammond’s place to continue our conversation that was recorded in SLN #37. In this podcast he discusses some of his favorite guitars and why. He shares great stories of the Greenwich Village scene he was so much a part of in the 60s and the shift to electric music that he helped bring about. We continue his tales of touring and recording which continue through today.

Professionally it probably started for John at The Newport Folk Festival 1963. He left there with a manager and a recording contract.

A photograph of Blind Boy Fuller inspired John to start playing a metal bodied National Duolian

A 1930’s National Duolian. A metal bodied guitar with the bridge resting on a spun aluminum cone that amplifies the vibrations of the strings. Mass production, available by mail order, relatively inexpensive and almost indestructible. They found their way into many roots musicians hands and onto their 78s.

John Hammond as a New York native was at the heart of the Greenwich Village Folk Music scene in the 60s. His stories of the musicians and clubs are fascinating. below is a shot of The Cafe Au Go Go with John’s name at the top . Could this have been the week he took Jimi James (Jimi Hendrix) there to launch his career?

©Don Paulsen

2 books that cover the “Folk Scare” are : “The Face of Folk Music” photos by David Gahr, text by Robert Shelton published 1968 and “Folk City” which accompanied a major exhibition of the same name at The Museum of the City of New York. 2015.

Below the 3 photos that John discusses at my request. These were shot at the recording session for Bob Dylan’s “Bringing it all Back Home” LP in January of 1965. The first 2 are widely published. The 3rd with a seated solo John Hammond holding a Stratocaster I’ve only seen in Daniel Kramer’s book “A Year and a Day”. John Sebastian and Dylan are playing acoustic guitars . Hammond is seated behind a Wurlitzer Piano . However as John explains in SLN podcast #38 in all of the photos he is actually holding and playing the Stratocaster. Glad we cleared that up! Bonus points if you remember this is the month that CBS’s Clive Davis negotiated the purchase of Fender Musical Instruments.

Photograph © Marla Hammond Taken week of 9/23/91 Russian Hill Recording Studio San Francisco “Got Love If You Want It” John Hammond, Tom Waits, John lee Hooker, J.J.Cale

“Wicked Grin” The “Must Have” album of John’s brilliant interpretation of Tom Wait’s songs. If you haven’t heard this you have a major treat in store

The Delaney and Bonnie Sequence, as promised.

Clockwise from top left: “Home” Stax 1969, “Accept no Substitute” Elektra 1969,
“On Tour with Eric Clapton” Atco 1970, “To Bonnie from Delaney” Atco 1970

37: John Hammond

The Blues have always been John Hammond’s musical passion. Throughout his career he has explored all facets of The Blues from primitive solo acoustic to sophisticated urban played with a who’s who of stellar accompanist. He started in his hometown of New York City as a member of the folk revival but his emphasis was on the blues always leading the pack with his deep knowledge, ability, taste and charisma. He was performing Robert Johnson and incorporating electric accompaniment long before anyone else. He has always performed live throughout his career and generously shares great stories of his life both as a performer and recording artist. In this Sidetrack Liner Notes podcast (the first of 2) we trace his career by exploring his LP s in chronological order. It is with a small amount of pride that we note the John Hammond performed at The Sidetrack Coffee House in 1965. 

Special Thanks to Thomas Goldsmith for saving this original poster from 1965

How Badass could you be in 1964?

Only his 2nd LP for Vanguard and already he was raiding the Chess Catalogue for electric blues. Great cover photo by Barry Finestein husband of Mary Travers.

History made here. Full on electric blues using his friends from Toronto Garth, Levon and Robbie (of The Hawks soon to become The Band) and a few Chicago pals, Mike Bloomfield and Charlie Musselwhite. Who was hanging out at this session getting ideas about “going electric”? None other than his Village friend Bob Dylan.

Most of us first heard about blues legend Robert Johnson from the work of John Hammond. This new book recommended by John goes a long way to clearing up some of the myth and legend without diminishing the the music.

Another must read is this new book about the A&R men of early American roots music recordings. John Hammond’s Father the important Columbia Records executive is given justifiable praise in this book

36: Steve Earle


Most of us found out about Steve Earle when his first album, “Guitar Town” came out in 1986. It is still one of the best first album from any artist ever. To date he has released 17 albums and won Grammeys for several of them. If that weren’t enough, he has appeared in 2 television series, “The Wired” and “Treme” and written 2 books, “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” and “Doghouse Roses”. His most recent album “Guy” is composed entirely of songs by one of his Texas songwriting mentors, Guy Clark. 10 years ago he released “Townes” comprised of songs of another of his mentors, Townes Van Zandt. In this podcast Steve shares his strong opinions on a range of topics: recording techniques, musicians who deserve the designation- genius, his admiration for his touring band, The Dukes, (should have asked him if they are The Dukes of Earle ?), the quality of certain acoustic and electric guitars etc. It’s a rapid fire conversation where the facts and anecdotes come at you fast and furious. If you’re a SLN listener you will love this podcast.

1986 Steve’s first. One of the best first LPs ever

“Guy” Steve’s compilation of his mentor Guy Clark’s songs

The classic Guy Clark L P “Old No 1”

Steve refers to Doc Watson playing a Les Paul in the 50s before he was worshipped (with good reason) for his acoustic flat top picking. Note the mic “stand” and that CF-100?

Some of Steve’s early guitars L -R Vox serenader, Fender Newporter and a Gibson LG O

Outtake from a VG cover shoot

2008 Earle at NYC’s Judson Memorial Church

The “Peace Love” J-200 referenced in Steve’s conversation.

35: Dan Forte – Bonus Track

But wait, there’s more. At 3 1/2 hours podcast 34 was hardly short. Don’t even ask how we left this out of that podcast but we did, we found it and now you can listen to even more of Dan’s stories. Included in this podcast are his stories of interviewing George Harrison and more about his father’s record collection and Tommy Tedesco. We think it will be many moons before Dan’s record for length of podcast and number of entertaining stories is equaled. Enjoy.

34: Dan Forte

Dan Forte’s musical journey was blessed from the start: Family– father who loved Django Reinhardt, Location- the S.F. Bay Area, Timing- the 60s. Throw in talent, humor, taste and skill for a can’t miss mixture. Dan took full advantage of S.F.’s 60’s- 70’s scene where live music was everything.  While getting his BA at Stanford, he taught an accredited “History of the Blues”class, put on concerts and wrote about music for the university‘s newspaper. Journalism followed, where he helped Guitar Player Magazine rise to the top. 

Eventually Senior Associate Editor at GP, Dan also introduced the mysterious but always humorous Teisco Del Rey who has brought to light some of the weirdest guitars ever, and received the prestigious ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism. After relocating to Austin, he released 2 instrumental-rock albums, “The Many Moods of Teisco Del Rey” (1992) and “Teisco Del Rey Plays Music for Lovers” (1996). As Teisco he maintains an inspiring if sporadic concert schedule.

Dan has interviewed a veritable encyclopedia of guitarists. We await the book that must be forthcoming. For more than a decade, he has called Vintage Guitar Magazine home base. His cover story on Mike Bloomfield is as good as it gets. His VG reviews are always spot on as well. 

In this extensive podcast Dan holds nothing back. It’s a joyful ride where he shares his lifetime pursuit and love of music. 

Dan and Albert King Hayward California 1970

Dan and James Jamerson in L.A. 1977 with the Precision Bass that changed music

From his position at Guitar Player Magazine during the 80’s Dan interviewed many of the greats. It helped that he knew who the greats were. Here he is having too much fun interviewing Duane Eddy

© Deed Eddy

Teisco Del Rey, Dan’s nom de guitar makes the scene at a late 80s NYC guitar show

This guitar followed him home. He kept it for awhile

The Many Moods of Teiseco Del Rey

No Sophomore Slump for Teisco

Gary Smith on Harp with Dan on guitar. Check Gary’s harp on Southbay Beatdown on the Spotify playlist for SLN #34

33: The John Sally Ride

Do yourself a favor. Listen to this podcast and get captivated by the musical camaraderie that swirls between John Dunbar lead singer and songwrtiter (A Confederacy of Dunces, The Kunks), Sal Maida, bassist (Roxy Music, Sparks, Milk N Cookies) and Sal Nunziato, drummer (Pep In The Cat, The Cool Jerks). The musical references come fast and furious like they probably did in the studio when they recorded their hook fueled new C D “Nothing Doing” a follow up to their first CD , “A New Set of Downs”. The 3 New Yorkers were kind enough to share their experiences and enthusiasm for this podcast. These guys know their craft and are having a good time practicing it. A great ride for sure.

Bandcamp link for The John Sally Ride: https://thejohnsallyride.bandcamp.com/album/nothing-doing

“I Love you Minnie More” John Dunbar’s song inspired by John Cassavetes 1971 film “Minnie and Moskovitz” Re-edited by Derek Davidson.

Sal Maida’s book . A rock and Roll life

Link for Burning Wood, Sal Nunziato’s excellent music blog: www.burnwoodtonite.blogspot.com

32: Ian S. Port

Ian S. Port author “The Birth of Loud”
Ian S. Port’s book “The Birth Of Loud” tells a well researched story of the birth of the electric guitar and it’s impact on popular music and our culture. It’s a refreshing read where Ian looks into corners seldom searched and gives some well deserving figures their time in the light. His literary device of a rivalry between Les Paul and Leo Fender frames the story well but more accurately describes the marketing and cultural forces that both figures were operating in. Leo and Les are throughly depicted as the unique Americans that they were who’s influence still resonates today. It does not matter if you are a musician or someone with an interest in popular music “The Birth of Loud’ will be a delightful read and add to your enjoyment of this music.

This video features The California Playboys, the first California teen age band that played Fender instruments. Leo Fender was certainly a fan of Western Swing.

L to R: George Fullerton, Les Paul, Chet Atkins and Leo Fender

Les Paul at home in Mahway with his original 8 track recorder early 80’s

His house was insane. Equipment was everywhere.

Les was still using a 4X4 block strung with guitar strings to test pickups. Why not?

We gathered a few guitars and shot them on his bed.

Here’s Les performing at that time with the “Paulverizor” mounted on his guitar

Les, ever the tinkerer was his own “roadie” at this show.

Robb Lawrence along with others is thanked by Ian in the acknowledgements. Here Robb is seen showing one of his prototype guitars to Leo Fender at a NAMM Show in the early 80s