Scott Sharrard During FAME Studios Session w/ Duane Allman’s 1957 Les Paul Goldtop
The Globe in Madison WI was the jam session everyone spoke of in my circle in hushed whispers. As a young teen in Milwaukee I couldn't wait to take the drive and witness the heartbeat of funk drumming in the flesh. Ronn Gilbert was the first band member I had the pleasure of meeting and jamming with. He invited me to see the band and sit in, at that point I was about 18. Of course my partner Sean Dixon made the journey North with me. Clyde had all the soul and swagger in spades. His grace and punch lit up the band stand, he even sang some Ray Charles ballads with aplomb. Mel Ford was on guitar, that was the night I decided I was gonna commit to old blackface fender amps and semi hollow gibsons. Mel was pulling a whole variety of great sounds out of that rig. I played my tunes and Clyde was so kind and supportive. Years later Id meet my NYC band mate Moses Patrou on my first Jay Collins band gig. Low and behold he grew up there and under the spell of Clyde in the flesh. My favorite story I got off of Clyde, the album Live and Loud in Dallas '68 is one of the most incendiary band recordings in history. It sounds like Seal Team 6 fighting their way out of a hostile territory with punk rock fury. Theres even a string quartet on this thing. They had a primitive PA like so many gigs back then. They were inventing shit! A packed stadium in Dallas and the fury aroused by the assassination of MLK that week were thick in the air. The band played on and toured. James could not be stopped. And neither could Jabo and Clyde. The tank gunners of his brigade. With no mics on the drums the guys furiously whipped their instruments with precision. Clyde recounted that halfway through, whipping the snare and kick all the way to the stadium nose bleeds, he looked down and his drum heads are covered in blood from all his callous bursting. That people is how they did it. So as we put another indelible legend and master torchbearer to rest lets remember, desperate times call for desperate measures and they also call for real music with a message and power. the kind of power that makes you lose yourself into bleeding all over your drums. Go listen to that record. Write a song, PLAY a beat. Fuck the sampling. Fuck demographic marketing. Lets all get together and make a joyous and inflammatory noise, on the 1, in honor of the men.
"Sometimes you have to be good to be lucky. I suspect that's the case for Scott Sharrard. While not a house hold name, this guy is well versed in the ways of rock n' roll having been schooled by some of the best musicians and music industry insiders. He is currently the music director and lead guitar player for the Gregg Allman Band, but that accomplishment is only the tip of the iceberg for this very talented man."
-Ira Haberman, The Sound Podcast
Music is still the answer. That’s what I keep coming back to, it’s what I do after all, but it’s also been my way of life for as long as I can remember. The world feels more fractured than ever, there are so many issues plaguing us that it’s become a tsunami of grief and confusion every day. The news inflates our hysteria and distracts us from our humanity. At a time when I think we don’t know ourselves anymore and in a time when we can’t seem to find human connection, music is still the answer.
So I’ve resolved to double down on writing and gigs and do my small part in this community. We are going full steam ahead to Muscle Shoals and Memphis in December of this year to make my new album. It’s an album I’ve been trying to make for 4 years. But now I’ve really got to get on with it. I’ll be asking for your help as we no longer have record labels to be our patrons. It’s all come down to the artists and the people. Truthfully its always been just about us. It’s a bullshit free system. It’s not gonna make any of us rich, but maybe that keeps us all honest. At the least it will keep the music pure. Unadulterated by board room meetings and the dreaded “demographic marketing” of the 90’s and on through the demise of the record men.
There’s something new around the corner. I’m gonna be 40 in December so I have no illusions about my role in this. I’m trying to protect the traditions that I was taught by the older generation of musicians who taught me, I still believe they did it right. At most times it has been like protecting a tiny candle in a raging hurricane, sometimes with one hand tied behind my back. I still have hope that there’s a young generation coming up that’s going to pick up the flame we have been trying to protect and storm the palace with blazing torches.
Meanwhile, I’ve seen a million schemes come and go and the real music is still here. The blues, rock and roll, soul, jazz, country...they are all just names. Genre was invented by guys who needed to divide us so they could sell their product in a less complicated way, cause marketing people NEVER want to actually market anything. That would require actual work and sacrifice. Funny that creating music requires so much time and sacrifice but when it came to selling it most people did not seem to care enough.
But the truth is that we are complicated and all the music is one. There is no genre, great music is great music. The language of the soul. That means that music should always remind us that we are one. It’s the definitive sound of our human struggle, and specifically our countries struggle. We should be proud that we have turned so much suffering and misunderstanding into something beautiful and timeless for the whole world to marvel at for all time.
My generation has always lived in the shadow of the 1960’s. It was the definitive time in our countries cultural and artistic renaissance. Mainly the music. We had the musical Da Vinci’s, and Picasso’s come to life all at once while our country burned itself down in the background. The standard was raised so high. Genre’s all blended together from that period. It was a movement. We need another one. And by we, I mean the whole music community. Then maybe we can try to create some valid soundtracks for all this confusion. Something to lead us all back into the light. Together we can at least try to find a way. In the meantime, in the words of the great Patti Smith (and with thanks to Patterson Hood for sharing this quote) “Love each other, Motherfuckers!”
May/June 2016 has been a pretty incredible time for myself and my band. It all started with Prince’s passing. I detailed my feelings on that event with a pretty passionate and confessional essay that helped to illuminate his immense influence on the course of my musical life. He’s yet another lost legend that we get to invoke with every passing note. So the last couple months of gigs have been a sort of rallying point for myself and our Brickyard Band family. And it’s really starting to feel like a NY musical commune at this point.
There’s no question that the Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 residency has deepened our resolve to bring together all the talented people we are so lucky to know. Amy Helm is such a revelation and inspiration for us all, the purity of her voice and musical spirit melds the best of her dad’s direct delivery and the burnished Soul of her musical God Mother Mavis Staples into a totally original artist. Having her join, us and lend her talents to one of our shows was the best possible send off to 3 weeks worth of one offs.
Then in Week 2 my musical brothers of the road, Marc Quinone’s and Pete Levin of the Gregg Allman Band, came down to send our groove into a whole’ nother stratosphere. Of course I’m lucky enough to hang with Gregg Allman, help him run his band as MD and write songs together. But the icing was to have him take time out of his hectic schedule to come down to our gig and sing his ass off on one of his many classic compositions “Ain't Wasting Time No More”. Bill Sims JR was our official guest that night. Bill has been inspiring me to play and sing the blues in NYC for 20 years. He’s still one of the best ANYWHERE and he brought the house down with his jaw dropping Blues mastery and a couple revelatory Bob Dylan arrangements.
We also had the honor of playing Mountain Jam for the first time. Our upstate family, Jay Collins on Baritone sax and Connor Kennedy on guitar and vocals rounded out the band there. We had selfishly prayed for rain and got it, we basically closed the damn festival because of a torrential storm around 3pm and the indoor stage we had been assigned to was absolutely packed thanks to the efforts of our tireless manager and “spiritual adviser”/tour mystic Jesse G.
Late this week I’ll be doing my first round at Fur Peace Ranch with the great Jorma Kaukonen and my band will be coming out as well to play a show on that Saturday night in Ohio. It’s such an honor to fuse my love of teaching with a live performance jam with my band from NYC. Then it’s off to the next tour of Gregg Allman band shows in the South.
One more night at Rockwood Wednesday and it’s gonna be crammed with more friends, young and old, sage musicians with wisdom and some fresh jams with young bloods. It will hopefully be packed wall to wall again with what we can only call our “fans”. Really they are our friends. The music business has been a disaster for so long. The only way out is to strengthen our local musical community of fans and artists and lead each other into the light. I’m no spring chicken, and the people who know me well can tell you that the “dark lord” is sometimes one of my nicknames, but this early summer has really lifted me up. Losing Prince was crushing. But his absence will remind us all every day of what the standard needs to be. Strength in numbers, the blues at the heart, rock and roll in our souls, one gig at a time, we will continue to protect the music the best we can. I’ve been doing this so long and I’m so thankful for the friends I have who are so talented and the music fans who have rallied to raise my band up to another level. Onwards!
Last Thursday, April 21st is a day I will never forget. That was the day that we found out we had lost Prince. It wasn’t another TMZ fable or disposable sound bite. It was life. The starkest reminder of our mortality, one of the true prophets of our tribe was gone forever.
I’ve read a lot of touching tributes to our man (Questlove did a remarkable job) and I’ve seen some great musical send offs (The D’angelo performance on Fallon was stunning). I spent the entire week debating whether I should sound off on this one. Yes, we’ve lost so many this year. 2016 has dealt a decisive blow to our musical renaissance that lasted from the 1930’s to the mid to late ‘80s and spanned across the Atlantic to our brothers and sisters in England. Bowie, Toussaint and BB King were all horrible losses for us all. We saw BB coming, Bowie had perhaps cheated death for as long as he could, pushing his body and mind to the outer limits time and again. Toussaint didn’t make sense but he was pushing up there in age. Prince though? I mean, I saw this guy play a half dozen or so times live and he was just invincible. I was sure that he would be with us well into his 80’s, slapping us with a cane to get our shit together. This was a betrayal. I’m pissed about this one. Trumps message lives and Prince’s dies, what does this say about where we are going? More disturbing than that, who is our Prince now?
It all started for me with Prince, at the age of about 8 my first vivid memory of buying my own cassette tape was the “Purple Rain” soundtrack. Then the videos on MTV in heavy rotation. Unlike Questloves religious family that threw out his Prince music and banned it from the house, my family embraced him whole heartedly as the next Jimi Hendrix (an artist they loved, my mom in particular). Of all the tributes I’ve read there has been ample and justified praise for Prince’s Virtuosity, showmanship, and stagecraft. But don’t ever forget, Prince was one of US. And by that I mean a musician, first. Like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and a handful of others, he blurred the lines of race, sex, politics, religion, ethnicity, style and sound into one perfect sonic collage. He was one of these artists. Like a Picasso or Rembrandt. Every piece was either a giant window into a complete world or it at least had a couple black holes you could slip into. When one of my favorite Prince tracks comes on (and there may be hundreds of favs for me) I’m locked into the story every time. That seamless blend of great songcraft, delivery, production, and the lyrical story. This is music making at its highest. The use of musical styles as if they are just colors on his palette. Prince was one of the artists who taught us, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, it doesn’t matter if you love jazz, classical, blues and hip hop, this is all music. He was a MUSICIAN. And he was the only contemporary of my generation who followed through with a fearless commitment to not be boxed into “demographics” or styles. He was the embodiment of untamable creativity.
In recent years I had lost touch with our beloved leader. I hadn’t seen a show in a while. I heard he was still kicking ass. But his commitment to the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Who’s bizarre hoodoo surrounding medicine and surgeries may have inadvertently taken his life by preventing his need for hip replacement surgery and thus perpetuating his subsequent opioids abuse, but I digress) and his endless and misguided war against the internet set him adrift from some of his fans in recent years. I regret letting him go a little. These ended up being his last years. I’m sure his much fabled vault is full of treasures and I hope they find a way to cobble together an estate and a plan to release all of it. But back to last Thursday April 21st.
I was doing a podcast interview with Dan Miles. Dan did a great job researching my catalog. I sometimes kid that I’m gonna be the first artist who when they finally get signed by a major, will have a boxed set released as their first album. Anyway, Dan was brave enough to dive in and he was struck by a couple tracks on my first two records. We discussed how heavily influenced by Prince these records were. How Prince had inspired me to finally take control and play most of the instruments on these albums. Then as we wrapped up Dan’s engineer broke in to tell us that in fact Prince was gone. I had to pull my shit together to play Bar Chord that night in Brooklyn with my band. I really wanted to cancel. Instead I gave the fellas heads up that we were doing a “Funk Funeral” for Prince. I called my buddy Sean Dixon (my partner from The Chesterfields) right away. We had a Prince obsession that dated back to high school. We learned to write music together because of Prince. We are both from the rust belt and live for that Minneapolis brand of old school funk. Sean came down that night. As did a lot of good friends. We jammed not only Prince tunes but Parliament, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown…we played some Blues, we explored some free jazz. Everyone was worked up. Me perhaps the most. We ended with “Purple Rain” and it was like the whole room exploded. This one was such a catharsis for everyone there. It was like the whole club was performing it for him. I’ve rarely experienced such an atmosphere at any gig anywhere. The closest vibe I could match it to was the Allman Brothers last show.
There was such a human rush that night. Prince music pouring from every bar. And my band, thrashing out with funk fury in a tiny bar in Brooklyn with about 100 or so mourners and musicians. Working it out together. It was our Prince “after show party”. I like to think if he had been there he would have jumped up and jammed with us all night. I think he would have appreciated what we have taken and learned from him. To be musicians, to push the boundaries and to take bold steps forward against all odds. Prince is way more than high heels, squeals and posing. He’s one of the most outstanding musical artists who ever lived. He transcended race and musical genre. Like Picasso, Miles, Bach and Shakespeare, he is forever. I hope wherever he is now he is free of the pain and adversity that this world deals in blow after blow. I also selfishly hope he left behind a little of himself for all of us, we need more than his music. We need his guiding spirit along with that of all the innovators. It will take another generation or two before we even try to get another one. In the meantime, lets protect the music and try to create that atmosphere from the 70’s that got someone like him his musical patronage. And above that, let’s let the music speak. In every note, with a handful of legends, we shall forever hear his name.
"On August 23rd, 2008 I auditioned for Gregg Allman's band at an Allman Brothers concert in Camden, NJ. Taking the stage with that band for the first time was one of the most thrilling and intimidating moments of my life. Luckily I passed the test and after many miles on the road, a live album and so many internal band changes, I now find myself getting ready to fly to Muscle Shoals today to begin work on Gregg's first studio album with his own band since the 1980's...Searching for Simplicity and Low Country Blues were done with mostly studio sidemen instead of Gregg's touring band. Not only that, but we are recording at Fame studios, the Rosetta Stone of soul music. We are also lucky enough to have Don Was at the helm as Producer, who has already proved himself to be the down to earth maestro that we had all hoped for. I've been hearing Gregg sing the songs we wrote together as well as the new cover he's doing of my song 'Love Like Kerosene' for a couple years now. I couldn't hope for a better setting or band to realize these tunes as well as the cover song ideas that Don, Gregg and I and the band have come up with. Of course my solo band will be on pause for the month but we are coming back strong in April and through the summer. We are getting asked to play a lot of festivals, of course my touring schedule with Gregg is going to be busy but we have at least managed to lock down a slot in our own backyard in Upstate NY at Mountain Jam. Many more gig announcements for Gregg and my group to come. And I will be putting out that new live album of my own this summer, stay tuned for that as well. I feel like music in general is getting better and I hope I can play some part in helping to protect it with all these projects. One thing for certain is that I will continue to work hard and be thankful for this incredible journey that its been. It's a job that I truly love and Ill be a fan for life. Onwards."
VIDEO Gregg Allman Band Live, Back To Macon DVD: "Whipping Post"
"This was an incredible week in Macon Georgia with Gregg and the band. First off, the band is just playing better and better, this may have been our best string of gigs yet. Since we were here for a week this year I took this opportunity to really dive into Macon and the Abros history. Visiting Duanes grave and spending time at the big house pulls a lot of energy out of you. Then you eat at H&H and experience the soul food that kept these musical visionaries alive, where they ate on Mama Louise's credit (Mama was with us at the gigs all week), you can feel that the town sustained and revived them in between epic road battles and further musical explorations. They had all left other lucrative and safe musical pursuits and bands to design their own revolutionary sound in music. Duane was their leader. Macon was the staging ground that he chose. Of course everyone wants to know what it's like to play Duanes Gold Top dubbed "Layla" as it was used on the first two Allman Bros albums and Claptons "Layla" album. Well Thanks to Richard Brent and Rob Schneck at the Big House I was able to play the guitar all week. The guitar has an enormous tone. It makes every other guitar sound like a toy. The pick ups were heavily modded by Duane at one time (he took the originals whe he traded away the axe but they have been recently replaced with exacting copies), the wood is that rare '50's Gibson wood made from an extinct breed of trees, the guitar howls with a low end resonance that just goes on and on. Duane left a piece of his soul in the bridge pickup. Playing that instrument that was used on the original recordings and playing those songs onstage with Gregg for some of his biggest fans in Macon...it's as special as it sounds and I'm truly honored. I won't lie, I had chills the whole time. Richard also brought me a slide that belonged to Duane and was passed down to Dickey and Warren. Playing those call and response exchanges with Gregg's vocal and that slide on that guitar was too much...My main take away other than just being so thankful that Duane graced this planet and lead the charge for his vision, is that we need to carry this music and whatever lies next further. Music has been adrift for a while now. But I feel it coming back. It has too. Never forget what the Abros did. They literally starved and battled for their music. It was everything to them. Now it's everything to us. That's what it takes. Let's all do our best this year and as musicians and as music lovers let's help each other to be better and protect and push the music. And no matter what you play or listen to don't forget at some point to come to Macon and pay your respects. Some of these men gave all in the course of giving us the eternal joy of their music. This is the real shit that matters. Onwards."
"Back in 2011, Glide called Scott Sharrard, 'Gregg Allman’s Secret Weapon.' But that anonymity didn’t last long. Joining the band in 2008, by 2011 the guitar player was feeling right at home within the rhythms and harmony of Allman’s solo band; so much so, that he has done nothing but soar ever since."