Gary Pihl, Long Time Boston Guitarist for Boston, Give Some Insights
Interview Conducted on July 06 2017 by Anita Maree Brodersen
Anita: Hi Gary, thanks so much for taking time out to speak with Unrated Magazine.
Gary Pihl: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.
Welcome back to the Chicago area.
Gary: Thanks! I was born in the suburb of Park Ridge, IL then my family moved to Mount Prospect, IL for several years.
I want to circle back with you to look at your early musical life. When you moved to California I read you took guitar lessons from Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead). Any stories you share on this meeting?
Gary: I was in a high school rock band at the time and one of my bandmates told of a certain guy giving guitar lessons in the next town over. We should all take lessons from him. So we went over to meet him and it was Jerry Garcia and he was a great teacher which is not always the same as a great player. As a good teacher you have to understand what your students need and what will help them.
We even went to see his band play. His band at the time was called “The Warlocks’ and he was playing at a pizza parlor and then a few months later they changed their band name to “The Grateful Dead” and at that point the lessons stopped. So I was at the right place at the right time to get lessons from Jerry.
Your big leap into the music business was guitarist with Sammy Hagar. How did your meeting with him take place?
Gary: So, I was in a band in CA just north of San Francisco and we had a good band but did not have a real good singer and in fact I later took over as the lead singer of the band. My band heard that Sammy Hagar just left his band “Montrose”. Our manager got a hold of Sammy who was living in the area and asked him to join my band.
Sammy declined and got his own band together and his band was the opening act before my band took stage. Some months later my band was breaking up and Sammy bands needed a guitarist. So I spoke to Sammy and I thought he was a nice guy. I went down to audition and jam with Sammy and his band. While I was there Sammy’s manager called and said there were two gigs coming up, one with the band Queen and one with the band Thin Lizzy and if we can get our act together and if I can learn all the songs in two days we could be the opening act. No pressure! Sure!
After the second show I thought that was the end of it but I was officially now a member of the Sammy Hagar band. One of the first tours we went out on was to open up was for the end of Boston’s first tour. Sammy’s manager knew Boston’s manager and we opened up for them about a dozen times during the year of 1977.
We all got along so well we were asked to open up for them on their entire next tour from 1978-79. We went all across the country and this is where I got to know Tom Scholz. He and I were the electronic geeks of our respective bands. Tom showed me how he made all those cool sounds and we kept in touch over the years. Then in 1985 Sammy got the call to join Van Halen, Tom called me and said “Hey, I hear you are out of a gig.” Why don’t you come back and help me with the third album – one more song to be recorded”. I went to Boston, MA to help him as this was all he was offering. I said absolutely yes. I left from Farm Aid One – directly from the Sammy Hagar show right to Boston, MA to work with Tom. After a couple of weeks of working with him he asked me to move to Boston and to officially join him. I wasn’t out of work for a day! All about the timing yet again.
What was it like working with Brad Delp? He is considered one of the best rock vocalists of all time.
Gary: Actually Sammy coined the phrase about Brad – “The nicest guy in rock-n roll”. Very conscientious about the musical integrity but it was so natural to him. He never seemed to work at it and that is probably what I noticed about great musicians. That is how I remember about Brad. Everything he did was just perfect. He had it all.
What can fans expect this Friday from Boston? Any new songs or are you digging thru your vaults pulling out some songs perhaps you have not performed for a few years.
Gary: Certainly we will be playing all the hit songs that fans can sing along with. And we will also play some deep cuts we have not played in sometime and we will include songs off our latest album “Life, Love, & Hope”. Tom Scholz has invented some wild visual effects that we will be using and he wrote some music to go along with that so people will hear and see stuff at a Boston show that they have never seen before.
The Cyber Space tour launched in April. Right now you have completed about ¾ of the tour. What is it like working with Joan Jett this leg of the tour?
Gary: Oh Joan is great. The whole band is great. I am always talking with Dougie her guitarist about guitars and amps. The crowd just goes crazy for her. She sounds terrific and has not lost a step.
Gary, you also put together a band called “December People’ for charity.
Gary: Yes, a friend of mine Robert Barry ( worked with Keith Emerson & Carl Palmer), put together a charity band called “December People” and the concept is playing traditional holiday songs but in style of classic rock bands. Example we play “White Christmas” in the style of Billy Idol doing “White Wedding”. The audience loves it. Everyone knows the songs but we play it in the tune of a popular classic rock band song. The band usually performs late November until Christmas. We always have guest musicians filling in each year.
Thanks so much Gary for taking time out of your day! See you at the show in Tinley Park!