Guitarist Buddy Whittington (center) speaks origins, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Texas Scratch’s new self-titled album.
MRM: Where are you “calling” from?
Buddy: I am situated about 15 minutes west of DFW airport in a town called Hurst.
MRM: How has winter been treating you all down in Texas?
Buddy: A cold front with a ‘wintry mix’ of sleet, snow and temps below freezing is scheduled to arrive this coming Sunday, it’s a little early for us, it usually comes in February. We call it ‘Stock Show Weather’ as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo begin tonight. It has more recently been down in the ‘teens’ and purty dawggone chilly for these parts. I’ll take 109 over 9 any day of the week!
MRM: Let’s start from the beginning…Growing up, who were your influences?
Buddy: Some kind of music was always playing in our house, my sis had a fantastic record collection made up of everything from Elvis, Buddy Holly and the Crickets to ‘The Temps and The Tops’, Gary ‘US’ Bonds, ALL the British Invasion bands (including my future boss John Mayall), Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo and dozens of other influential recordings. Our folks were country music and Western Swing fans. There were two locally produced TV shows, the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, and the Cowtown Jamboree in Fort Worth, which I would tune in to just to see what guitars and amps those guys played. Lotsa Telecasters and Twin Reverbs!
MRM: What was your first concert as a spectator?
Buddy: Grand Funk with local openers Bloodrock, and Led Zep in…’70 I think.
MRM: How did you start in the music business?
Buddy: I wrestled with an old Kay upright bass for a couple of years in a restaurant with another kid maybe a year or two older than me, a local police officer/singer, and a volunteer fireman/singer/songwriter/guitarist. My dad figured that with a cop and a fireman in the band, they would keep us young ‘un’s out of trouble and ‘mostly’ they did. I was playing some pretty colorful honky-tonks at 15 or so. I finally admitted that I was the WORST bass player that had ever lived so I switched back to my guitar, which I knew a LITTLE more about, and I have been trying to become proficient on it ever since.
MRM: How was Texas Scratch formed?
Buddy: My good friend and co-guitarist Jim Suhler lives in Dallas, about 30 miles east of me. Jim and drummer Jeff Simon have been members of George Thorogood’s band for many years, and I had been with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers from 1993 to 2008. I was aware of Vince Converse and his band Sunset Heights but had never met Vince until Jim and I jumped into his van in Dallas and drove to Dover, New Jersey to Showplace Studio at the invitation of our New York friend Arnie Goodman, who had invited us up to record some tunes together and see what would come of it. We each went into the project with 3 original tunes each (myself with two originals and a cover of John Nitzinger’s “Louisiana Cock Fight” from John’s 1972 debut album NITZINGER on Capitol Records) and had the basic tracks down in four days, and had a lot of laughs in the meantime.
MRM: What can you tell us about the music featured on the new self-titled Texas Scratch album? (I’ve had “Trip Hammer” on repeat!)
Buddy: ‘Trip Hammer’ is a great tune written by Jim Suhler and featuring his great slide guitar and his Johnny Winter influence.
I contributed two original tunes. ‘Texas Trios’, which I wrote for the Texas Scratch project is mostly a testament to all the great combos comprised of guitar, bass and drums and hailing from Texas that mentions everybody from Buddy Holly and the Crickets to ZZ Top, Los Lonely Boys, Bugs Henderson, John Nitzinger and Johnny Winter and all points in between, as the old song goes.
MRM: I heard you all recorded it in 2009. What took so long for it to be released?
Buddy: I really can’t give you a concrete answer on that because we really don’t know. The project was initially funded by our New York pal Arnie Goodman, and after the basics were cut, we somehow lost impetus and were shelved for the next fourteen years until it was recovered, revived and ultimately released on Quarto Valley Records in September of 2023. I personally would like to thank all involved for putting a good stout promo push behind it.
MRM: How was it recording at the legendary Showplace Studios with producer Ben Elliott?
Buddy: Jim and I drove up to Jersey and met up with Vince Converse, drummer Jeff Simon and bass man Nathaniel Peterson who were already at work on a couple of tunes with the amazing Ben Elliott who was a recording NATURAL and really helped us with getting great guitar sounds right off the bat. We all loved working with him and were shocked and saddened to learn of both his and Nathaniel’s passing before the record came out.
An interesting but lesser known fact is that Showplace Studio shares building space with ‘Showplace Go-Go Bar’, a real throwback to the 60’s. There is literally a door leading from the studio directly into the strip bar (not that we spent valuable recording time hanging out in there ;^) There was a poster of the late great Leslie West on the wall that he had autographed “To Showplace–Best sounding room, worst looking girls.”
MRM: For the gearheads out there, what gear are you using these days?
Buddy: A beat up ’63 mutt strat that I have been playing since the 80’s, a 335 and a Scott Lentz HSL and my usual assortment of Dr Z amps, mostly a Z Lux, an EZG50 head and a 2X10 cabinet, and a MAZ 18 single 12 combo with a little dimed KT45 for texture, and a Carmen Ghia single 10 combo for the smaller rooms.
MRM: Are you going on tour in 2024 with Texas Scratch or with any of your other projects?
Buddy: Jim and Jeff are very busy touring with George Thorogood and Vince has relocated from Houston to Denver, but hopefully we can pull a string of dates together at some point just to get out and play the tunes.
MRM: Thanks for the interview. Anything else you would like to add?
Buddy: Thanks for your interest! I would just like to thank all our friends, fans and family for supporting LIVE MUSIC.