Hi Robert... It was good to see and talk with you at the Mural Event in Dothan earlier this week...
It was also good to visit with some old friends I haven't seen in many years... I thought the mural looked great and everyone seemed to enjoy the presentation... It was a good day...
You're so right about that old age thing not being for sissies... My short term memory is for she-it... You're looking fit Robert... Hang in there buddy...
FRANK TANTON http://myspace.com/thebopcats
image by Frank Tanton http://myspace.com/thebopcats
left to right: Chips Moman, J.R. Cobb, Robertoreg, Paul "The Old Man" Cochran, Bama Queen
image by Frank Tanton
You can see Goldsboro and Justo up on stage behind me
from the Champagne Jam Yahoo Group:
The Atlanta Rhythm Section's BARRY BAILEY
Adding Funk to Southern Rock And Roll
Stories by Jack McDonough
Photos by Neil Zlowzower
SOUTHERN FRIED rock and roll has been churning out of Dixie and riding high on the charts for years, and Barry Bailey, the lead guitarist with the Atlanta Rhythm Section, is one of its foremost exponents. Although he has recorded seven albums and several hit singles, including "So Into You" [from A Rock And Roll
Alternative] , over the past seven years, Bailey has been paying his musical dues for nearly two decades.
Barry had just turned 12 years old when his parents gave him his first guitar-a twenty-dollar Sears Silvertone-for his birthday. "They thought I'd give it up in six months, so they gave me a cheapie," he remembers. "But I kept on with it, maybe because I've been exposed to music for as long as I can remember.
My father has a very extensive record collection. It was old big band and bebop stuff; I wasn't too fond of it, but it influenced me."
Before long the aspiring guitarist began taking lessons. "They were okay for developing technique," Barry recalls, "but as for reading, I forgot more than I remembered. I'm still a very slow reader - and I regret that - but American Bandstand was happening, and the excitement of the whole Elvis thing made me want to get into playing." A year after being given his Silvertone, Barry bought a Gibson Les Paul Junior - he believes it be a '56 - for $85.00
from a missionary who was leaving the country. That instrument, which was in perfect condition, is easily worth $300.00 or more today.
As Bailey's skills on the guitar grew more polished, his musical influences began to diversify. My taste was more white-oriented at first," he explains. "You had to search for the blues stuff. But white rock and roll began to bore me more and more. When the Beatles came along I thought they were a joke at first. I was listening to jazz and blues players by then, like B.B., Albert, and Freddie King on the radio. I also listened to a jazz show; that's where I
started noticing guitarists like Kenny Burrell and Grant Green.
"All this time I was in different kinds of bands, usually bad ones," he continues. "I had this little Premier amp in those days; I wish I had it now. If you turned it up just enough you could get good sustain with no distortion. I think I'd get a good sound out of it now. Then around 1963 or '64 I got a Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar-I was listening to Chet Atkins a lot-and I also got a bigger amplifier. I didn't care what kind it was; I just wanted a bigger
one, and it had two 12-inch speakers."
Barry was aware of the fact that George Harrison was also playing a Country Gentleman then. "After the Beatles had been popular for a year I decided there was more to them than I'd seen at first," he admits. "In fact the whole Atlanta Rhythm Section has been very much influenced by that British thing. That's one difference between us and other bands from the South. We use more melody, and we
have more frequent and nicer chord changes. Even on a tune like "Boogie Smoogie"[from The Atlanta Rhythm Section] we worked in some pretty nice changes. And lyrically, we have more going for us. I've finally gotten to recognize good lyrics; before it made no difference to me what they were."
After working with a series of high school groups, including one called the Vons which Barry remembers as a typical outfit of that genre, the guitarist enrolled as a music major at DeKalb Community College in Atlanta. The main reasons why he decided to continue his schooling were his aversion to military conscription and his parents' urgings that he go on to college in case his musical ambitions failed to pan out. But even while pursuing his studies, Bailey managed to play six nights a week with St. John And The Cardinals at a local club, Kitten's Korner. Predictably, the lure of music spelled a quick end to his classroom career.
Between 1966 and 1971 Barry began finding steady performing work. He played on a number of tours headed by such popular rock and roll acts as Roy Orbison, the Yardbirds, and even Paul Revere And The Raiders. The studio gigs became more plentiful too, thanks to his association with bassist Emory Gordy-known lately for his work on tour with singer Emmylou Harris-and guitarist/singer Joe South. Bailey, who played on a number of Joe South's albums, now states, "It was Joe who introduced me to recording techniques."
There were other sessions as well, including work on Mylon LeFevre's first album, Weak At The Knees [Warner Bros., B-3070]. That record brought Bailey together with producer Allen Toussaint. "Allen just destroyed me." Barry says. "He still remains one of the people in the music business I respect most." Later Toussaint would call on Bailey to work on the first American album by singer Frankie Miller, High Life (now out of print). In addition to his performances on all the other records listed in the discography at the end of this article, he also played behind singers Taj Mahal and Maggie Bell on some tracks that have never been released.
By 1971 Bailey had finally begun developing "whatever it is that I can call my style. But then" he adds, "I've never really accepted any style as my own. I try all kinds of different things." Thanks in part to this attitude-and to the versatility that resulted from it-he had also established himself by that time as one of the principal session players at Atlanta's Studio One, the center of that musical town's recording industry. His guitar work is highlighted on a number of hits that have emanated from that location, including Lobo's "I Want You To Want Me" (out of print), and he also supplied the bass line on Joe South's "Birds Of A Feather" [Joe South's Greatest Hits, Capitol, SM-450], another Studio One product.
The roots of the Atlanta Rhythm Section grew from the community of musicians who, like Barry, had worked with some of the top performers in southern pop music before becoming affiliated with Studio One. Two of the three founders of the Studio would later be involved with the ARS: Buddy Buie, who is now the group's manager, and J.R. Cobb, its rhythm guitarist.
(The third, Bill Lowery, was the former president of the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences.) The other members of the band are bassist Paul Goddard, drummer Robert Nix, pianist Dean Daughtry, and vocalist Ronnie Hammond, who joined the lineup after the first ARS album. According to Bailey, "Any commercial release that came out of Atlanta in those years probably had at least one of us playing on it."
"The Rhythm Section is the first band I've been in where I was not the only guitarist," Barry notes. "Before then I had always played with only horns or a keyboard. We weren't trying to copy other southern bands by having J.R. and myself on guitar; it was just the natural way to do it. Now I've gotten dependent on the arrangement, and because of it I would now feel more comfortable sitting in with other players. J.R. and I stick to the lead/rhythm concept. He plays great rhythm and very, very good slide. Most of his leads consist of swapping his slide licks with my lead lines. On "Outside Woman Blues," from A Rock And Roll Alternative [Polydor, 1-6080],
he plays a great solo."
Bailey now has nine guitars; "I still have every one I've ever bought," he points out. Onstage he almost always plays a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe with stock pickups, given to him by Cobb in 1971. Recently he acquired another Deluxe, but only uses it for backup, because "it's not set up quite right, and it's not broken in." He sometimes uses his Gibson in the studio, but more often relies on his two Fender Telecasters, one of which has Gibson humbuckers on it. "And I'm looking for a good Strat," he confides, "but I've
got to find one that's comfortable, and that I can depend on. For what I do onstage, though, nothing is as good as the Les Paul. It's got the ballsy sound, and it's easy to play. I've never even bothered to try to adjust to anything else, like a Strat, which is the only other thing I'd ever consider using in concert."
Back in the late '60s, when Barry began playing the Les Paul Junior he had previously consigned to his closet, he was using the lightest strings he could find. He also included an unwound third and banjo strings for the first and second. "Then I found out that there were strings like that already," he says. "They were Ernie Balls." He continues to use very light strings which are made by Metro Music [3100 Roswell Rd. N.W., Atlanta, GA
30305]. These are gauged .009, .011, .014, .024, .032, and .042.
From his vantage point as a veteran of the music business and a
seasoned guitar stylist, Bailey is able to trace the evolution of his style, describing four characteristic traits: the way he combines the use of his bare fingers with the flatpick, the controlled vibrato and the way he uses his left hand, his technique with harmonics, and his manner of utilizing the amplifiers.
Barry's use of his fingernails dates back to an early inspiration acquired while playing with a band called the Kommotions, which toured with, and opened shows for, the Yardbirds. Jeff Beck [see GP, Nov. '75] was then the Yardbirds' lead guitarist, and the source of that inspiration. "I was quite impressed, to say the least," Bailey recounts. "He was playing very loud but taking advantage of it, using fuzztone distortion and various effects. And I noticed that he had long fingernails; I've had them ever
since. If I break a nail now, it's panic for two days. I use my fingertip if I have to, but it gets tender." In combining the pick and fingers, Barry generally concentrates his fingerwork on the first three strings and sometimes the fourth.
As for his left-hand technique, Bailey says, "It's as much a part of my style as my right hand. I bear down a lot with my left, Most everyone does that, I guess-Beck, Steve Cropper [see GP, May '78], Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page were the first players I saw who did-but I've seen many guitarists abuse the left-hand vibrato. They'll wiggle a note just for the sake of shaking the strings. Maybe they have something I'm missing, but to me it looks overdone."
Barry came across his own method chime effects more or less by
accident. "I was just striking the notes in a different way, and then trying to figure out what I had done. Then I'd hear Jimi Hendrix [see GP, Sept. '75] doing it all over the instrument. I'm still wondering how he did everything he did. Roy Buchanan [see GP, Oct. '76] also has the effect down; I hear him doing it quite a bit."
Bailey runs his instrument through two Marshalls, one a 50-watt amp and the other a 100-watt. His interest in Marshalls dates back to when he was with St. John And The Cardinals, the first band in which he and bassist Paul Goddard played together. This outfit worked for Roy Orbison on a Canadian tour. The popular rock singer enjoyed a close association with Marshall; his regular band, the Candymen (which included some future ARS members)
introduced the brand to the United States after their British tour in 1967.
Part of the deal offered to St. John And The Cardinals for their stint with Orbison involved giving Bailey and Goddard some new Marshall equipment, and the 100-watt amp that Barry uses today was what he received.
Two years ago the guitarist picked up the smaller Marshall, which has been modified. "My roadies worked on that one," he explains. "I don't know what they did; I take my equipment manager's word for a lot of things."
Currently, the only effects device between Barry and his Marshalls is a Maestro Echoplex unit feeding into both amps. Bailey has an interesting approach to using the amplifiers: "Most other players who use Marshalls run their instruments through the first channel,
but there's a lot of difference between the two channels. The second one is pretty bassy. I go through the first inputs of the second channels on both amps, so I don't have that much of a high end, but I add a lot of high from the treble control. I keep the bass turned up on the guitar but down on the amp. I'm not sure that's so unorthodox, but I think most players would turn the controls in the opposite way."
He adds that he keeps the treble control on the guitar between 7 and 10, and sets the volume between 6 and 10, "though usually wide open." Bailey also uses the back (treble) pickup almost exclusively. "If I do need more low end, I would change to a different pickup position, but that's rare," he says.
Of course Barry's style cannot be completely analyzed in terms of these four categories. His guitar lines provide the perfect complimentary feeling for the overall sound of the ARS. As long as southern rock continues to sell and most likely for some time after that, Bailey's work will be a fixture in contemporary music.