Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Earl Slick & Dayna Steele talk David Bowie and John Lennon

In first ever rock talk “Sets, Frets & Cigarettes," KLOL icon Dayna Steele interviews John Lennon and David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick

This past weekend in downtown Houston’s time-warping Majestic Metro Theatre, the past and present collided as rock royalty took the stage.

In Dayna Steele’s new music talk series “Sets, Frets & Cigarettes,” the former 101 KLOL icon took the stage with guitarist Earl Slick, best known as the axeman for John Lennon and David Bowie.

What followed was conversation on stage about rock stars, music, success, failure, drugs and a lot more. It was a very casual, no holds barred conversation, because the two have been friends since Steele was 19 years old. They first met when she was was a young jock at 104.1 KRBE.

With acoustic and electric guitars at the ready, Slick played some legendary riffs in the middle of the conversation.

It was in the early 1970's when Slick joined David Bowie's world.

"I used to call him boss, but that wasn’t the case, we worked together," Slick told the audience.

Slick replaced Mick Ronson on the Diamond Dogs tour in 1974. He stayed to play on David Live, Young Americans (1975) and Station to Station (1976).

Years later, when Slick rejoined Bowie on the road in 2000, the guitarist says he got tired of playing "Let's Dance" and got The White Duke to pull the song from the set list. He noticed there were no complaints from Bowie at the time thinking the singer was probably sick of the song too after so many performances.

The hits didn't stop for Slick. Later on, he got a call from acclaimed music producer Jack Douglas. Douglas, famous for working on albums by Aerosmith, told him on the phone it was an artist, not a band, who was looking for a guitarist. That ruled out Steven Tyler and "The Bad Boys from Boston." The artist Douglas was working with was none other than former Beatle John Lennon.

That call led Slick to play lead guitar on Lennon's final studio album Double Fantasy (1980). The record was a collaboration between Lennon and wife, Yoko Ono.

"[Ono] is a wonderful lady," Slick told us.

Lennon had his songs and Ono had her songs on the album. But as harmonious and peace loving as the couple appeared in the media, Slick said when Oko would try to tell Lennon how to write his songs, the entire studio would hear the former Beatle say, "Mother...shut up. It will be your turn later."

Slick told the audience he was in Los Angeles when he heard the news of Lennon's murder. He got a call minutes before the media onslaught. Lennon would have turned 76 on October 9, 2016.

Now what we just covered were the highest of the highs for Slick. It wasn't all bright lights and legendary gigs for the guitarist. There were the bands he started that didn't end up working. Slick says he'd rather be broke than living a lie and learned from the failures.

And even in the high times there were other factors getting him even higher. Slick says in his line of work drugs are accepted. In fact, when Bowie would take a break and talk to the audience for a moment during concerts, Slick says he would walk behind his amps where lines would be cut and ready for him to snort.

Then there was the time he lost his greatest love of all - music.

"I promised myself if I lost the passion I was done," Slick admitted.

Lennon famously had his lost weekend which actually lasted more than a year. Steele joked Slick had his "lost weekend" where Slick left the stage and tried to go corporate. The musician said he needed help fixing up his resume by translating his rock skills to the real world.

"What was I gonna put on there? Former bosses, David Bowie and John Lennon," an amused Slick asked.

But instead of recording and partying like Lennon, Slick's "lost weekend" involved the less glamorous task of selling time shares at Lake Tahoe.

Luckily for Slick, Bowie came calling once again, and the guitarist rejoined with the man behind Ziggy Stardust.

In the Q&A portion of the talk, Slick's advice (in the middle of playing a great acoustic blues jam, which the audience begged for an encore) for young musicians is to play, play, and play. Slick says he plays his guitar seven days a week and revolves his world around music.

"Never had a plan B, still don't," Slick admitted. "Kind of speaks for itself."

Dayna Steele is a Houston rock icon in her own right. In her post-KLOL life, the successful entrepreneur has written books such as Rock to the Top: What I Learned about Success from the World’s Greatest Rock Stars and has become a sought-after speaker.

Her hope is to take “Sets, Frets & Cigarettes” to professional conferences, college campuses and ultimately around the world.

"Slick would like to take it to the Cavern Club in Liverpool (The Beatles played the original club) which if I do this in the Cavern Club in Liverpool my life is done," Steele told "I don't need to do it anywhere else."

Houston's so-called "First Lady of Rock ‘n Roll" has interviewed everyone from Mick Jagger to David Crosby. In her KLOL days, she loved the music, but interviewing was her favorite part of the job.

"I've spent ten years telling their stories and I want them to come tell their stories with me," Steele told me. "So Slick was brave enough to say, 'yeah I'll do it," and he's always been there for me."

Up next for the rock interview series, Steele is hoping to interview former Sammy Hagar and Boston guitarist Gary Pihl. In fact you can watch a YouTube series with Pihl and Steele below.

Also in her future sights are Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson and Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis.

The production was orchestrated by former KLOL promotions director Doug Harris through Ovation Speakers and Talent, benefiting and its efforts to establish the Texas Music Hall of Fame program in Houston.

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Dayna Steele and Earl Slick talking “Sets, Frets & Cigarettes" in downtown Houston. 

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