In honor of Pete’s 82nd birthday on October 8, here’s an interview with Jerry Kennedy, one of Pete’s best friends, session-mate and producer on Smash records. The interview is conducted by Julie Henry. Enjoy!
If you’ve spent any time on our website, then you know the story of how Pete Drake introduced Peter Frampton to the talk box.
Listen to Peter tell his firsthand account in this article and video from Ultimate Classic Rock.
Click here to see the complete interview from Guitar World:
In the current March 2013 issue of Guitar World, guitar legend Peter Frampton gives GW readers the full “Dear Guitar Hero” treatment, answering 12 questions about everything from Pensa Suhr guitars to the status of his long-lost (and recently recovered) 1954 Gibson Les Paul.
As is usually the case, there was some leftover material from that interview, and you can check out the extra information here and below.
In this portion of the interview, Frampton discusses his talk-box usage and his involvement in recording sessions featuring two former Beatles — George Harrison and Ringo Starr — during the ’70s.
Remember to check out the new issue of Guitar World (with Stevie Ray Vaughan on the cover),which is available now at the Guitar World Online Store, for the bulk of this interview with Frampton.
GUITAR WORLD: Where’d you get the idea for the talk box? Did it take a long time to learn how to use it correctly?
When I was living at home with my parents in the ’60s, there was a radio station called Radio Luxembourg. They used this gadget to do their call letters. Also, I think Alvino Rey started using something approaching the sound of a talk box in 1939. But the guy who showed me the talk box was pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake. So I moved to America and found that Bob Heil was starting to make them because Joe Walsh had asked him to. Pete lent Joe the talk box he used on “Rocky Mountain Way.” I verified this the other day when I spoke with Joe at a Ringo Starr show. Pete’s wife, I think, sent it up to Joe to use on that song.
Head over to Guitar World to read the complete interview.
Ever wonder how Peter Frampton came up with his talking guitar sound?
Here is the story.
“He was setting up his pedal steel right in front of me and got out this little box. I didn’t know what was doing,” Frampton recalls. “He had a pipe and plugged this in here and that in there, stuck the pipe in his mouth, started playing the pedal steel and it started coming out of his mouth. The pedal steel was singing to me, talking to me. That’s when my jaw dropped, and I said, ‘There it is. I’ve got to get that.'”
After meeting during the sessions, Pete and Peter remained friends throughout the rest of Drake’s life.
Read more about Peter Frampton discovering this sound in the article on Spinner.com: Peter Frampton Explores the Origins of His Talking Guitar.
It is early 1970 on Music Row in Nashville. Pete Drake is in his office.
His assistant buzzes in, “George Harrison wants you on the phone.”
Pete says, “Well, where’s he from?”
Pete: “Well, what company’s he with?”
Assistant: “The Beatles.”
Pete Drake recounted this story with laughter in an interview he did for Guitar Player Magazine. “His name, you know, just didn’t ring any bells-well, I’m just a hillbilly, you know (laughter). Anyway, I ended up going to London for a week where we did the album All Things Must Pass.”
Photo (Left to Right): Ringo Starr, Pete Drake, Phil Spector and George Harrrison.
Recorded between May and August 1970 at Abbey Road Studios and produced by Harrison and Phil Spector, All Things Must Pass, became one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” selling more than six million copies. Musicians appearing on the triple album included Ringo Starr, members of Badfinger, Eric Clapton and the other members of Derek and the Dominos, future Yes drummer Alan White, keyboard players Billy Preston, Gary Brooker and Gary Wright, and Pete Drake on steel guitar. A young, pre-Genesis Phil Collins played bongos on “Art of Dying.”
It was during the recording sessions that Pete met Ringo Starr, who later asked Pete to produce his solo album. It was recorded in Nashville in June of 1970.
In 2000, George Harrison personally oversaw the remastering of All Things Must Pass, the beginning of a re-issue project that was to see all his albums refurbished. For this 30th anniversary reissue, Harrison added the song “I Live For You,” left off the original version of the album. When asked about the song in an interview for the re-issue, Harrison said he felt the original recording wasn’t good enough, except for Pete Drake’s steel guitar which he kept. He re-recorded several of the other parts and included the song on the reissue.
Harrison lived long enough only to witness the 30th Anniversary reissue of All Things Must Pass in January 2001 on his own GN Records imprint, distributed by EMI. After George’s passing in November 2001, the album once again topped the Billboard charts.
Download the album from iTunes:
Pete Drake recorded with Dolly Parton many times during his four decade career. His steel guitars can be heard on some of Dolly’s biggest hits “Jolene” and “Coat of Many Colors.”
In 2009, the first-ever multi-label, career-spanning box set Dolly was released. The four CD, 100 song collection features many of Pete’s performances with Parton such as the early duets with Porter Wagoner and her first number one single.
The box set has received great critical praise and is a must-have for Dolly Parton fans.
Learn more about it here:
In the mid-1960s at the height of the psychedelic era, Tracy Nelson was the lead singer of San Francisco band, Mother Earth, performing at the Fillmore with the likes of Janice Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix. Tracy came with Mother Earth to Nashville in 1969 to record a country side project. She had learned about a great producer and steel player named Pete Drake from her work with Bob Dylan and asked Pete to produce her album. Elvis Presley’s original Sun-era guitarist, Scotty Moore, engineered and co-produced the album, which was cut at Music City Recorders. Tracy Nelson was the first of the female rock ‘n roll artists Pete produced. The album Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country was released on Mercury Records in 1969. Tracy liked Nashville so much she decided to relocate and has lived here ever since.
Pete Drake’s longtime business partner and wife, Rose Drake, shares her recollections from the project: “Tracy was fun and a bit of fresh air for everyone during those sessions. She came to the studio and to our office with several of her very well-behaved dogs every day. Tracy found out she could embarrass Pete by saying her famous “four letter word,” so she decided to use it often. Before press meetings and recording sessions, Pete would remind her, ‘In the south, ladies don’t use that language.’ That was a real big mistake,” Rose laughs, “because Tracy would get him in front of someone and let the expletives fly! You could see Pete and Scotty Moore just want to go under the console with their red faces. I remember the musicians would just scatter and start laughing saying, ‘She did it again!’ All the musicians loved working with Tracy. This was always one of Pete’s favorite projects because she was such a professional, a great talent and a beautiful person.”
Later when Ringo Starr came to Nashville to record his solo album, Pete took him out to visit Tracy’s farm in Burns, Tennessee to spend some time in the Tennessee country with Mother Earth. In fact the album cover and promo shots for Ringo’s Beaucoups of Blues were photographed at Tracy’s farm.
Today Tracy Nelson still records and tours as a solo artist. You can learn more about her and find her upcoming shows on her website www.tracynelson.com.
Download Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country produced by Pete Drake from iTunes:
On September 11, 2010, Pete Drake was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame during the 32nd Annual Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards Show. Other inductees in the class of 2010 include India.Arie, The Black Crowes, and Jennifer Larmore. Held at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in North Atlanta, the ceremony was televised live on Georgia Public Television.
The awards were hosted by the Friends of Georgia Music Festival, a non-profit organization that honors the many achievements of Georgia musicians, songwriters, composers, conductors, publishers and agents. Each year, Friends of Georgia Music nominates, elects, and inducts honorees into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, celebrating individuals who have made a significant contribution to Georgia’s musical traditions.
Pete Drake was honored posthumously for his amazing career spanning four decades as an artist, producer and studio musician. Pete Drake recorded with hundreds of artists, including Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynetteand Waylon Jennings, just to name a few. He produced Ringo Starr‘s first solo album Beaucoups of Blues, as well as projects with Ernest Tubb, The Oak Ridge Boys and Charlie Louvin.
Pete’s wife and longtime business partner, Rose Drake, attended the ceremony and accepted the award in Pete’s honor.
“Pete was very proud of his Georgia roots, so it is really an honor for our family to have him recognized as a member of the Hall of Fame. If he could have been here to attend the ceremony, I know he would have been thrilled,” said Rose Drake.
The complete list of 2010 honorees are as follows: Performer- Multi-GRAMMY® winning R&B Soulstress India.Arie; Group- Multi Platinum Rock and Roll Band The Black Crowes; Non-Performer- Industry leader in Artist Management Charlie Brusco; Classical outstanding American mezzo-soprano and GRAMMY® winner Jennifer Larmore; Pioneer- Virtuoso Classical Pianist Charles Wadsworth; Singer/Songwriter Paul Davis (posthumous); Steel Guitarist Pete Drake (posthumous); Blues Musician Rev. Pearly Brown; and renowned legendary songwriter John Jarrard.
The evening included live performances by The Black Crowes, Jennifer Larmore, legendary rock band Styx and the year’s Horizon Award recipient Spanish/Engish singer Tyna Q. The distinguished Horizon Award is given to an up-and-coming performing artist or songwriter, either individual or group, with significant ties to the State of Georgia, and who is expected to make a significant future contribution to the world of music.