12 QUESTIONS WITH RICK VITO

Can you give us a brief history of your playing career?

I’ve been playing since Elvis and rock & roll started in the fifties. I realized I could play by ear around 1960 or so by listening to records and the radio.I played semi-professionally in high school and college, then moved to Los Angeles in 1971 and turned pro.

What inspired you to start playing?

Initially as I mentioned, it was Elvis, but then rock & roll was everywhere and I loved the guitars and the guys who played them. My mom had played acoustic lap Hawaiian guitar for a while as a girl and we had her old Oahu guitar. I would try to play it but the strings were too high, so finally they got me a Stella and some lessons. I watched American Bandstand every day and also The Adventure of Ozzie & Harriet with Rick Nelson and James Burton guitar. The guitar has been pivotal in my life for 60 years now!

What was your first electric guitar?

A Gibson ES 125 with one neck P-90 and the thick body, no cutaway. It came with a birch wood Alamo amplifier that sounded amazing. I sold the 125 to get a red Gretsch “Peppermint Twist” model with one bridge pickup around 1962.

What are your top 5 favorite records?

“I Need Your Loving” by Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford

“The Twist” by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters

“The Jam,” by Bobby Gregg & Friends (with young Roy Buchanan)

“Electric Ladyland,” by Jimi

“Aftermath,” by the Stones.

What was the proudest moment and/or performance of your playing career?

Playing in front of thousands of people at Wembley Stadium in London with Fleetwood Mac. The lights, the sound, the giant video screens, the roar of the crowd, Ringo, the Royal Family…I could go on.

How did you hear about Reverend?

Through my old friend Jeff Ross, a great player in Los Angeles. He was playing one with the lipstick tube pickups and I liked it. Jeff introduced me to Joe Naylor who gave me a guitar like Jeff’s, which I took it on tour with Bonnie Raitt opening for Eric Clapton.

What Reverend guitar(s)/basses are you using?

Well, my Rick Vito Signature model is number one. I also play my old Rick Vito Signature Slingshots, my Hawaiian motif guitar, and a custom Pink & Black Slingshot. I own a Pete Anderson hollow body with P-90s, but have not used it live yet. I have also designed a double-neck guitar (one for slide, one for standard) that uses Reverend necks and P-90s. It’s a semi-Reverend, I guess.

What do you like about your Reverend guitar?

I like that I was able to put so much of my design ideas into my signature models, so they look, sound and feel very comfortable to me. Reverends just are easy to play, they’re real workhorses that always get a great sound live and in the studio.

What amps and pedals do you currently use?

I have several of the old Reverend amps that I love; the Kingsnake and the Goblin. These amps sound completely unique and are in my opinion, one of the great undiscovered, underrated amps of all time. I also have a Dumble Overdrive Special clone, a ’59 Fender Bassman, a 63 Fender Deluxe Reverb, a vintage Ampeg Rocket, and several vintage Valco-made amps. Currently I’m endorsing the new line of Supro amps, which also are terrific. I have a Titan, a Royal Reverb, and will soon be touring Europe with a pair of Tremo-verbs.

Do you have any unusual hobbies, skills, or pastimes you’d like to share with us?

I paint guitar-themed cubist art and mow the grass regularly. I’m a better bass player than most bass players I hear. I like to swing on the front porch.

Do you have any advice for up and coming players?

Never quit, learn to play great rhythm guitar first, don’t compare yourself to other players, write your own songs no matter how simple, do ONE thing well, dig deep for the real roots, and keep going, no matter what.

Please tell us about any of your current projects, tours, cds, etc. we should know about?

I am currently doing a solo tour in Europe in May, 2016, and selected festivals in 2016 here and there. I also am the singer-guitarist-frontman for “The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band featuring Rick Vito.” I go to Maui often to play at Mick’s venue there, and we will also be doing various dates at festivals coming later. I have a small studio and record my work in there, which is an ongoing project. My current solo CD is called “Mojo On My Side,” on the Delta Groove label, and is a mix of blues and roots held together with slide guitar and my latest passion, “fretless” guitar. Then there is King Paris, my persona created to explore the worlds of Exotica, Indian, and World-Beat music. I’m putting out his CD soon. When you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ve earned the right do whatever you want and make no excuses for it!