SM: I'm sitting here in Amsterdam, Holland, with the rockin' guitar man Eddie Angel, that guitar pickin' devil (laughing).Eddie you're known around the world, especially in America and on the European scene as a rockin' guitar man. When did you start playing?
EA: Let's see. I think it was 1966 and I was twelve years old.
SM: What was your first guitar?
EA: It was a red "Airline" that I got at Hackstrom, with three pick ups and lots of gadgets on it you know. Toggle switches and stuff. That's what appealed to me: looking the guitar-shop window and wanting the guitar with the most stuff on it.
SM: Did U have a Bigsby tail-piece or anything?
EA: Oh yeah, just all kinds of switches and knobs on it - double cutaway.
SM: When you first started, what made you want to get a guitar?
EA: Well I can remember in the early stages just liking music.
SM: Did you play any other instruments?
EA: I started on clarinet in the fifth grade. That was when you could join the school band. For some reason that was the grade when they let you join the school band, but It was a real poor school. They had to ration out the instruments they had. So they gave everyone a musical aptitude test to weed out the real nitwits. You can imagine: I failed it! I couldn't join the school band. I was devastated as I wanted to join the school band and play the clarinet or do anything so I went home and made my mother buy me a clarinet and started taking lessons. Then I got in the band.
SM: What grade was it when you got your guitar and when did you switch from clarinet?
EA: Real soon, right after that, man. Right then the Beatles came out or something and the clarinet had to go (laughing). Guitars were cool. I had a banjo too. When I was like ten years old I had a banjo because there was a guy in our neighbourhood or something that I saw play a banjo and I was mesmerised by it. I couldn't make head nor tail of it though and couldn't work out how to play it. Anyway, by the time I was in fifth grade and twelve years old I had my guitar. I remember the first songs I heard. My brother's friend came by the house and he thought he was a real hot shot. He showed me "Peter Gunn" (Eddie plays the riff). And he thought he showed me "Louie, Louie" but it was something real stupid (plays very simplified version of "Louie, Louie" riff). Something like that, you know. But I thought the "Peter Gunn" riff was real cool and it's funny to me that all these years later I'm still using it.
SM: Oh yeah, Henry Mancini (writer). You can't get much better than that. So you started on an electric.
EA: Actually, you're right. My very first guitar was an acoustic that my mother bought me for Christmas. I don't know what the hell that was, but I had that one for five or six months before I got an electric.
SM: After you got your electric did you get into a band pretty quick with some local guys?
EA: Oh yeah, right off the bat. We were the Kreases; with a 'K'.
SM: Doing the popular stuff?
EA: Yeah, it was the mid '60s you know so popular stuff ofthe day we did was like "Louie, Louie", "Hang On Sloopy" and all that mid-60s type stuff really; before pshychedelic stuff.
SM: Now I remember the first time I saw you playing was in Washington DC. I guess it would be 1980. You were playing electric lead with the great Tex Rubinowitz. How did you get up to that point?
EA: I played in bands right through high school and college.l dropped out of college to play in a band and that kinda shit. All through he '70s I was playing in bands. One of the bands I was playing in then was called The Star Spangled Washboard Band, who were kind of a jug band y'know, with bluegrass; but with a lot of comedy thrown in. I was just a back-up lead guitarist but we travelled all over.
SM: What quitar did you play at that time?
EA: A Gretsch Tennessean, which I later sold for $250. Anyway, we were real popular up in colleges and up and down the Eastern Seaboard. So Tex knew me from that band. I didn't know Tex, but my reputation had got around. He thought that I was good, he hadn't heard me play but...
SM: Let me interject here. For those readers who don't know who Tex Rubinowitz is, if there are any that don't, he was an extremely influential Washington DC rockabilly singer and songwriter. He first had The Castle-Loma Cowboys, kind of a western swing tex-mex style combo. Then it was Tex Rubinowitz and the Bad Boys. He wrote many great songs like "Hot Rod Man", "Ain't It Wrong", "When You Don't Do Right", "Feeling Right Tonight" and some with you Eddie, but we'll talk about that.
EA: So anyway, the drummer from the washboard band moved to play with this bluegrass guy Eddie Adcock. I went to visit some relatives in Washington. I talked to Scotty Flowers, the drummer. He said, "You've got to meet this guy Tex Rubinowitz. He's qreat. A really rock'n'roll guy". Anyway, I just called Tex up out of the blue and said, "Scotty says we should get together and meet".
SM: So you obiously had a leaning towards rockabilly or else Scatty wouldn't suggest it.
EA: Yeah, that was always in my style, always. I picked up the guitar and that's what I played. I didn't consciously set out to play rockabilly guitar. I played like Carl Perkins and I think that was for a couple of things. The records that I first heard were my sisters rock'n'roll records which were Elvis, Carl Perkins doing "Blue Suede Shoes", Jerry Lee, Little Richard's along with a bunch of other stuff too. Anyway, when pecked up a guitar, that was with the Beatles thing going on, but George Harrison played a lot like Carl Perkins. My style was always like Carl Perkins or Chuck Berry so I played naturally. I didn't know at the time that I might end up in Tex's band. I just thought I'd get together and have a beer with this guy. I wasn't thinking about being in a band or anything. So I called up Tex and we had a beer. We met at a strip joint in Springfield, Virginia (laughing). Tex drank beer faster than anybody I ever saw in my life. He's like guzzling these beers down really fast and talking about his new record coming out, which was "Hot Rod Man".
SM: Was that his first single?
EA: Maybe "Bad Boy", I don't know which was his first single (it was but recorded at the same session as "Hot Rod Man" - Ed.) He had them on tape. He was just recording them.
SM: At Bias Studios in Springfield, Virginia.
EA: So he took me out to his car and played them, I was like, "Yeah, this is great man". Then he said, "I don't have anything to offer you, but if I do I'll call you". I wasn't even thinking about being in his band. It was just a friendly thing to go out and have a beer. Anyway, about six months later Scotty (the drummer from The Star Spangled Washboard Band) called me and said, "Hey, Tex is putting a band together. He wants to know if you want to join him". I said, "Yeah man, you bet. I'm there". I was playing in some stinko band at the time, a lounge band. Anyway, I got on a Greyhound bus to Washington; man, I'll never forget it 'cause it was January 3rd and there was snow everywhere and it took like forever to get there. That night I was supposed to be at the gig. The first gig was that night. So I got in real late and someone picked me up and took me straight to the tavern. They were already on stage as it was about 11 or 12.
SM: What year was that?
EA: January 1980. That was my first night man, just walked on stage. We'd never played together before. That's how Tex was. He just went by instinct and didn't care whether you were a great musician. When I got to DC I got this band. I was there about a week and went to see Billy Hancock with Danny Gatton on guitar...
SM: Was Evan Johns there then?
EA: I don't think so. It was the Fat Boys or something.
SM: Yeah, Hancock played bass and Dave Elliott played drums.
EA: But I went to see these boys somewhere in Georgetown and I was blown away.
SM: Yeah, I remember seeig him down there and man, I heard, man... it was an electric bass. I mean you saw an electric bass, electric guitar and drums and I heard Danny (Gatton) playing counter bass lines, steel lines, banjo, everything in there man! It was a complete guitar barrage.
EA: I was like, "Why did Tex Rubinowitz invite me to join his band when this guy's in town?" I knew they were buddies as Tex had talked about how they'd made guitars together. So I asked Tex why he'd called me down, as Danny Gatton was amazing. He said, "I don't want Danny Gatton in my band. I don't want any musicians in my band". (laughs) I didn't understand what he meant right then. He wanted guys with rock'n'roll spirit. That's what mattered to him, not technicians.
SM: Not that Danny's a technician.
EA: Well, he's not gonna want to be in anybody else's band. (Sadly Danny Gatton had taken his own life the same month of this interview; no-one knew yet though - Ed.)
SM: That's right. He's his own man. Was Ripsaw (the label Tex was on) out of DC?
EA: Well, it was Easton, Pennsylvania at that time but now it's DC.
SM: At that time in the States this was a pretty unusual style of music Tex was championing. The only guys getting together then were Buzz & The Flyers, Rockats and those guys. Did they used to come to check Tex out?
EA: Yeah, we did gigs with Buzz & The Flyers when they came and put up a show together and they'd reciprocate when we went to New York and put us up. Buzz & The Flyers, the Rockats, the Zantees.
SM: Now Tex had pretty stringent requirements to being in the band. He wanted a certain guitar sound and had a strong commmitment to quality and making rockabilly played correctly.
EA: Yeah, he had a whole kind of vision of the way it should be, but he could give you a whole lot of leeway within that.
SM: At that time he had a definite... he was really comparing it to the way Elvis did it.
EA: Elvis was definitely the paradine. Not that he wanted to sound like Elvis but that to him was the model, the guide book to follow. That was kind of the downfall for Tex, He didn't understand that things had totally changed and that there wasn't going to be another Elvis. He wasn't interested in being a cult or a bar band. He wanted to be a pop star.
SM: Pop in it's true sense of "popular music".
EA: Yeah, not just for rockabilly but for everybody from all walks of life to dig it.
SM: So, how long were you in the Bad Boys?
EA: From'80 up to '86 when I moved up to Nashville. The main time was '80, '81, '82 I guess, but the whole first half of the decade I was doing stuff with Tex. Finally I just decided to strike out on my own.
SM: You've co-written some great songs with Tex. I particularly like "Lone Wolf". You also wrote "Rock'n'Roll Ivy" with Tex. How did those come about? Have you written others with Tex that I'm unaware of?
EA: Not that he recorded. There were a couple of others that Bob E. Rock recorded. Tex had the idea for the Lone Wolf riff, I just helped him with the lyric so that was basically his idea.
SM: The one thing that struck me about Tex's songs is that they're great songs lyrically. Every song had a great story. A lot of bands play down the importance of that and I think that can harm the genre as a whole.
EA: Tex was a perfectionist. He'd say that every line had to be perfect.
SM: But I think that's why he's gotten so many covers. Man, they stand.
EA: Exactly. They weren't just thrown together.
SM: So Tex began to focus on his family and more or less moved out of the music business and you moved to Nashville. Why Nashville?
EA: Good question. In the mid 80s I moved back to upstate New York. I was playing in a band with this drummer and this girl singer, Jeannie, he was married to and we put it together real good. Everybody in New York said we should go to Nashville and we got kinda a connection with 'Bug Music' so we felt a bit of an 'in' and packed up and went.
(Sonny George enters the room)
SG: What've you been telling him about?
EA: "The World According To Garp".
SM: This is good timing for Sonny. I mean, here you are together in Amsterdam. How did you two guys meet in Nashville?
SG: Strip bars.
SM: (laughing) That's how he met Tex. He meets everybody in strip bars.
EA: Through Mike Smyth. I was playing in Nastiville whh the band. He moved from Monument to open up a record store. We got to be good buddies, so when the band broke up I went to see him and I was ready to quit the biz. He inspired me to keep going by playing these records; he has a world class callection, and finally re-ignited the flame. So I said to him I wanted to start a band and if anyone came in the store, you know...
SM: Enter Sonny George. How did you know Mike Sonny?
SG: Through the store.
SM: Were you in any bands before the Planet Rockers?
SG: No, not really. At first I was real green.
SM: Did you guys have to practice a lot to get it together?
EA: Well for a while it was just me and Sonny at my house. It took us months to find a rhythm section in Nashville as you can imagine. I finally found Bill and Mark. We couldn't believe it, it was like made from heaven.
SM: What was the first song you guys did?
EA: "Thunder Road". I remember doing "No More Crying The Blues". That was an early one we did. We used to pick from Mike's collection.
SM: So how did you hook up with Barney Koumis (No Hit) and the European scene?
EA: Mike and Barney were old buddies. What actually happened was we'd all been together about two weeks and never played a gig. We wanted to play out of Nashville where no-one would be watching with a critical eye, so we played in Franklin, about 25 miles out of Nashville, in a little bar. Mike brought Paul (Kennerley) in. He's a big Nashville songwriter.
SM: Isn't he linked with Emmy Lou Harris?
EA: Right. So he went ape shit. He wanted to take us into the studio and record our stuff.
SM: At his home studio.
SG: Yeah, he produced it ("Coming in Person" LP).
SM: And so he sent the tapes over to Barney and that's how it was released. Then when did you first come to England? You must have done some promotion for the record.
EA: We went there with Ronnie Dawson and Mac Curtis.
SM: That must have been a great show.
EA: It was pretty cool.We were scared shitless. We didn't do really well either.
SG: They weren't used to the kind of stuff we do.
EA: But then we had a good time and started coming over a couple of times a year.
SM: Are you writing some more songs for the Planet Rockers?
EA: Yeah, thats what we're doin while we're here. We need some new stuff for an album.
SM: So you've got a fairly new album now and you're gonna get ready to record another one and see what bappens with this one. Well, all I can say is that's great and keep "Rockin' The Planet" fellas!
Amsterdam, Holland - October 1994