Wayne Riker Recruits Locals for Decathlon
Photo at left: Robin Henkel
"Embarking on an ambitious CD project, beginning recording in the fall at Studio West," guitarist Wayne Riker tells the Reader. "Ten tracks, ten styles, ten top shelf guest guitarists from the greater San Diego area, all world-class players in their genres. It will be a guitar pickers' delight."
"Each track will be titled after each of the ten Olympic events in the Decathlon."
Every individual song will have a rotating rhythm section for each style, comprising bass, drums & percussion. "[They're] all well known players from the area," says Riker, "albeit my older brother on drums, whom I'm reuniting with after being part of his Heartland Band group thirty-eight years ago. All the tracks will be original compositions, all instrumental, and heavy on trading solos."
Confirmed guest guitarists include:
Laura Chavez -- Jump Blues
Peter Sprague -- Latin
Andy Tirpak -- Funk
Robin Henkel -- Acoustic Blues/Slide
Mike Pfaler -- Hard Rock
Jim Soldi -- Rockabilly
Dan Papaila -- Jazz
Jimmy Patton -- Acoustic Fusion
Chris James -- Urban Blues
Fred Benedetti -- Pop Classical
Since 1967, Riker has played just about every musical style, and in an array of musical settings: house parties, coffeehouses, nightclubs, musical theater, cruise ships, arena rock concerts, and stadium festivals.
As a member of the Guitar Institute of Technology, Riker cohosted workshops around the world with A-list jazz and blues cats such as Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, Marty Friedman, Dave Grissom, and Duke Robillard.
“Nowadays, I’m reinventing myself in the solo acoustic world,” says Riker, “after many decades of primarily electric-guitar gigs and projects. It gets me out of the house more often.”
He’s taken to telling stories between and during his instrumental performances, such as the time he met Jimi Hendrix cohort Randy California of Spirit or how he almost went to Woodstock in 1969 but instead ended up at a jazz fest featuring a brand-new group calling themselves Led Zeppelin.
“You rack up a lot of living when you play music for this long,” says Riker. “Though I may not be as famous as guys like Jimi and Randy, sometimes the best success is just surviving.”
There's also the time in early 1973 when he auditioned to be lead guitarist for a then-new band called Kiss. Though he only recently discovered it WAS Kiss!
“I was watching a Behind the Music special on Kiss, “and [Gene] Simmons is describing their audition for a lead guitarist, the final piece to the quartet, in January 1973. He mentions a Village Voice ad he placed and then shows a picture of a midtown loft where they held auditions.”
On seeing a photo showing guitarists lined up along a steep stairwell, Riker says, “I immediately recognized I was one of the 60 or so guys, recalling vividly the locale, the long line, and the bold-lettered ad in the Voice!”
All these years, Riker says, he never realized he had auditioned for Kiss. “Their ad just read that they were forming a unique show band with serious plans of touring, no mention of a band name or any specific gimmick. Little did anyone know who they’d become. The stairwell led right into the audition room, so you could hear but not see each person playing. I was around the middle of the pack, as many of us waiting were speculating on what type of plans these guys had in mind."
“One by one, they let each of us jam with them, plugging into a huge Marshall stack. Because of the multitude of players auditioning, each person played for about five minutes, consisting of two short jams, in the obligatory keys of A and E, no specific tune, over a straight-ahead rock beat. About two weeks later, I got a phone call thanking me for the audition and saying they had found somebody.”
Ace Frehley made his concert debut with Kiss on January 30, 1973.
Riker’s 2010 album Penumbral Sky was released as the Wayne Riker Quintet, a group that also includes Chris Klich (horns), Fred Lanuza (keys), Steve Araujo (bass), and Tyler Buckley (drums).
Also released in 2010 was his instructional book Putting Chords In Their Place.
In addition, he recently joined the many other local musicians networking on Facebook. “I noticed Gene Simmons on the site and sent him a message telling him that I was one of the 60 guitarists on that infamous day, with a link to my website. He sent me a note back and immediately added me to his friend list; another six-degrees-of-separation moment. Crazy!”