RIYL: The Eagles, James Gang
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- Jam Session: "Joe Walsh: Saving the World, One Monk at a Time" · Jan. 20, 2012
Influences: Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, Django Reinhart, Les Paul
Joe Walsh joined the James Gang in Cleveland, the first of three bands he would belong to in his lifetime, in 1968.
Walsh identifies the main weapons of rock, namely the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul, both of which Pete Townshend and virtually every other rock guitar idol worth his salt has in addition to actually playing, set fire to, mock humped, tongued, spanked, ran over, stomped, kicked, chucked from hotel windows, or smashed into walls of costly amplifiers.
“But there’s another one, the Gretsch 6120, and it is as important as the other two. I had a beauty, and I gave it to Pete, and I had an old Fender amp (a ’59 Fender Bandmaster) that I gave to him. He used both to write and record Who’s Next.”
The guitar in question was a bright orange ’57 Gretsch Chet Atkins model, a big fat hollow-body with rich tone but prone to feedback at big volume, which would become part of Townshend’s signature sound. In keeping with his persona the Brit guitarist smashed up the 6120 during a show. Later, he had the bits re-assembled and is said to still own it.
“There’s songs in that guitar,” says Walsh. “You sit down with it, and stuff just comes out of you.”
He also gave Jimmy Page a Les Paul, a Walsh-modified burst, the one that would be used on much of Led Zeppelin’s recorded material and in concert. Page named the guitar Number 1 and at various times called it his wife or his mistress. The black Les Paul, the one Page called Black Beauty? It was stolen in 1970, but Number 1 is said to remain in his possession. “I gave it to him,” Walsh says, “because he needed one.”
When Walsh joined the Eagles, the band already had its brilliant documentarians of party life and pop culture during the ‘70s-‘80s. “Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry? Boy,” says Walsh, “did he call that one?”
In 1980, along with being a deejay and an Eagle, Walsh ran for President of the United States. If elected, “Life’s Been Good” was to be the new national anthem. His platform was simple: free gas for all. A publicity stunt? Well, you make the call, but remember that Walsh also ran for vice president a dozen years later.
The house where Walsh used to live in Encinitas in now owned by his ex-wife. “I have two sons, Aldon and Emerson, 16, and 12, I think that’s right,” he told the Reader in early 2012. “I have an ex-wife. They’re in San Diego. I spent five years or something like that down there. That was in Encinitas. I know a lot of people down there. I have a lot of friends there.”
These days Walsh lives in L.A., calls being there a job requirement. “It’s headquarters for the Eagles,” a band he mentions having been a member of going on 40 years. This causes the talk to turn to age in general. It’s what older guys do: we talk about how mature we’ve gotten.
“I’m kind of a senior spokesperson at this point,” he says.