Wishbone Ash is an ingrained rock and roll phenomenon, and since the bands induction in 1969, they’ve continued to captivate ardent followers as well as contemporary fans. The band’s latest release is entitled Elegant Stealth, and like a fine wine, their music seems to improve with age.
The British progressive rock group was originally led by the commanding guitar-duo of Andy Powell and Ted Turner. Wishbone Ash are pioneers for spotlighting two lead guitarists and immortalizing the Gibson Flying V guitar. The Flying V became the bands trademark and would instantly identify the group.
In 1970, the group opened for Deep Purple. While Purple’s guitarist Ritchie Blackmore warmed up on stage during a sound check, Andy Powell walked onstage and began jamming with Blackmore. Blackmore suggested the band to producer Derek Lawrence, who later helped the band score their first record deal with Decca/MCA Records. Their debut album Wishbone Ash was released in December that very same year.
The band’s most commercially successful release came in 1972 with Argus (Named “Best British Album of the Year” by Melody Maker). The early, original, and most successful line-up of Wishbone Ash featured Andy Powell (guitars/vocals), Ted Turner (guitars/vocals), Martin Turner (bass/vocals) and Steve Upton (drums).
Wishbone Ash became one of England’s most popular hard rock acts during the early to mid 70’s under the management of Miles Copeland III.
Despite numerous personnel changes throughout the decades, Wishbone Ash has managed to churn out 23 quality albums. The band has remained in the limelight despite erratic changes in the music industry, perhaps due to remaining close to its roots while recording and touring extensively.
Andy Powell has also worked on sessions with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Kashif, Stewart Copeland, Renaissance and many other legendary artists.
In 1988, Andy joined Ted Turner on the “Night of the Guitar” tour featuring Randy California (Spirit), Steve Howe (Yes), Leslie West (Mountain), Alvin Lee (Ten Years After), Robbie Krieger (The Doors), Jan Akkerman, Peter Haycock(Climax Blues Band) and Steve Hunter(Mitch Ryder, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper).
The current line-up of Wishbone Ash features original lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter Andy Powell, Bob Skeat on Bass, Muddy Manninen on guitars and Joe Crabtree on drums. Their latest release Elegant Stealth will transport you to the band’s glory days of the 1970s.
Elegant Stealth is a superlative mix of progressive rock virtuosity.
Andy Powell defined his career with Wishbone Ash by disclosing …”We love the life, we live the life, and the life has been good to us.”
I caught up with Andy Powell between gigs. Wishbone Ash had just played Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland the night before and the band was headed for their next show in Sellersville, PA.
Here’s my interview with original Wishbone Ash guitar virtuoso/singer/songwriter/ Andy Powell.
Ray Shasho:Andy thank you for being on the call today, are you living in the states these days?
Andy Powell: “I live in Connecticut and have been here for twenty five years. I know your area pretty well, use to vacation down there and of course did at least three or four albums in Florida.”
Ray Shasho: You guys played at the Rams Head in Annapolis last night. I worked at WNAV as a deejay there back in the late 70’s. The Baltimore/Washington DC area has always been a hub for Wishbone Ash fans. What was the audience reaction to the new album?
Andy Powell: “It was great, they loved it. They wouldn’t let us off the stage. We had people coming in from California, the UK, and one lady sailed to the show. (Laughing) So it was a great night.”
Ray Shasho: You mentioned the Florida connections …. What about AshFest?
Andy Powell: “Yea, we did that down in Port St Lucie at the Sandpiper Club Med a couple of years ago. We’ve also done them on cruise ships, and we have one every year in the UK… and yea that was a fun time.”
“We’re looking to do another one if we can. We actually did a poll on Facebook to see how many folks would actually like to do it again. If you go to our homepage, it’s linked to our Facebook page and you’ll see the poll.”
Ray Shasho: So what goes on at AshFest?
Andy Powell: “Typically it’s an opportunity for fans from all over the world to meet, that’s first and foremost. We usually have a couple of Ash tribute bands which is fun, and we actually have fans with their own bands playing our music. We sometimes have workshops, guitar lessons, and last time had mint guitars by Lucio who made guitars and displayed all his great pieces there. But yea, it can be anything; it’s like a festival really. But the website is always the first Port of Call to see what’s going on.”
Ray Shasho: What I admire the most about Wishbone Ash is that the band has stuck to its roots throughout the years and hasn’t “sold-out” commercially. Another band that comes to mind that also stuck to its roots is Savoy Brown, and I had this same conversation with Kim Simmonds.
Andy Powell: “Yea it’s true … I don’t want to say we haven’t gone off the rail from time to time in a forty two-forty three year career. But one of the pieces of advice that I always thought is to be true to your instincts. We’ve tried singles but realized we’re really a live band … an album band, and we basically play to our strengths now and that’s what we do. I think if you listen to our new album ‘Elegant Stealth’ you’ll hear the format … the sound intact and plenty of scope for us to flex our muscles and be who we are.”
Ray Shasho: Wishbone Ash distinguished itself by spotlighting dual lead guitarists and of course the notorious Flying V.
Andy Powell: “In the early 70s all bands needed their own individual standards sort of experimentation and each band had its own star, whether it was ‘Yes’ or ‘Jethro Tull,’ and for us it was the twin lead guitars and it stuck with us and served us well. It added a real melodic threat to the sound… a lead guitar/rhythm guitar format wouldn’t be so melodic. The twin lead guitar really gives identity to our sound.”
Ray Shasho: What sparked the idea for having two lead guitarists in the band?
Andy Powell: “Well strange enough I use to play solo in R&B bands and would work with horn sections. The idea was we’d sit around and try to think about using the guitars like a horn section punctuating a song. One of the first songs we wrote was “Blind Eye” and you can hear very definitely those guitar parts in the song sounding like a horn section. So really that’s where it came out of … those teenage Australian bands, Hammond organ, horns, and ear training actually. I never realized there was ear training, and that lent itself to working out the guitar parts when we formed Wishbone Ash.”
Ray Shasho: Another British band that comes to mind with twin lead guitarist is Status Quo.
Andy Powell: “There are a few bands that use a two guitar line-up and they use them in different ways, Quo is one of them. But certainly in this country The Allman Brothers were a premium example of a twin lead guitar band.”
Ray Shasho: Status Quo is such a great band, but never seem to make it happen here in the states for some reason.
Andy Powell: “Yes and they’re huge in Europe.”
Ray Shasho: Another band huge in other parts of the world but unfortunately not in the states is Golden Earring. I did a piece on them for their 50th anniversary, and not many people in the U.S. realize the longevity of that great band.
Andy Powell: “I know… they have such depth, I mean they go back to the early 60s. That’s a good comparison to us. They are a band that definitely had a similar type of mystique.”
Ray Shasho: Do you have any regrets for not scoring huge commercially?
Andy Powell: “Not really, everyone would like more fame and fortune, but we’re all passionate about music and enjoy what we do and overall we love the life, we live the life, and the life has been good to us. If you can function financially on the way … then that’s a nice bonus for a musician. I’ve been fortunate and music has been good to me.”
Ray Shasho: Some of your influences are Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac founder), Django (Jean) Reinhardt (Founder of Jazz guitar), and The Shadows.
Andy Powell: “Yea, it’s all the stuff you grow up with and get use to. It’s all good for me and still inspires me.”
Ray Shasho: Did you also grow up listening to American Blues and artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters?
Andy Powell: “Absolutely, my favorite blues player was probably Albert King. I love Albert King’s playing and writing, it’s fantastic. Of course I’m familiar with all of the King’s …Freddie King, B.B. King, and all those players that influenced British guitar players back in the day …big time!”
Ray Shasho: Kim Simmonds(Savoy Brown) told me that it was virtually impossible to find American Blues recordings in England; someone had to share their knowledge of the genre with you.
Andy Powell: “It was very much an underground thing. I like to think that the Brits in some way re-educated the public because it was endangered of getting overlooked. They would get the records off from New York and bring them back on cruise ships and liners, and there was an underground club of people and enthusiasts that were sharing this stuff around … and there was really nothing on the radio.”
Ray Shasho: The Brits were huge proponents for rejuvenating American Blues.
Andy Powell: “And the rest is history. It’s been along torturous ride for the blues but it’s got prominence now.”
Ray Shasho: You did some session work with George Harrison?
Andy Powell: “I played with George and played with Ringo … fun times in the early 70s.”
Ray Shasho: What was your perception of George Harrison?
Andy Powell: “Just a really humble guy and modest, kind of cool sense of humor and a very gentle man.”
Ray Shasho: Talk about the connection between you, the band, and Ritchie Blackmore.
Andy Powell: “Ritchie was one of the first guys to give us a break. We opened on a show with Deep Purple and I started jamming with him on stage during the sound check. He saw our show and asked if we had a record deal and I said actually we don’t. So he made a recommendation to a producer friend and before we knew it we were being signed by MCA/Universal and we were on our way …it was great. So I owe a big debt to Ritchie to be honest.”
Ray Shasho: Do you still talk with Ritchie?
Andy Powell: “Funny enough, I moved to a town in Connecticut and it turned out that he lived there also. I hooked up with him again in the late 70s and I think he moved on to Long Island. But there was a brief reconnect there.”
Ray Shasho: The band’s latest release Elegant Stealth is a terrific album and reminiscent to the 70s glory days of Wishbone Ash.
Andy Powell: “Thank you so much. Like I said earlier the sound is intact and it’s a very honest way of recording the album. We’re getting great reaction from it … the fans love it and say we’re still productive and creative … so it’s all good!”
Ray Shasho: Some of my favorite songs on the CD are “Man With No Name” a powerful tune with Beatlelistic overtones and I also really like “Heavy Weather.” The selections are an incredible mix of music and I can actually hear other classic bands in many of the songs.
Andy Powell: “There’s a lot of variety on this album and we’re fans of music too, we don’t want to be copyist, but you can’t avoid a little bit of influence coming here and there.”
Ray Shasho: I feel it’s one of the best albums Wishbone Ash has put out in quite a awhile.
Andy Powell: “I think you’re probably right and we appreciate it. We feel it too …you know?”
Ray Shasho: Andy, talk About the Road Works series.
Andy Powell: “Fans love to hear live recordings and what we try to do is record stuff on the go and offer that service to fans. So we’re recording every show so our fans can relive the concerts and actually hear something played live. We’ve got (2) in the series so far and planning to do another one. So it will just be an ongoing thing. You can pick up Road Works directly from our website. “This is Wishbone Ash- A Rocumentary DVD” will also be available later this year in the states.”
Ray Shasho: No confirmed Florida concert dates yet Andy?
Andy Powell: “I would love it. We don’t get too many invites down there but we’re certainly looking to get something going in November.”
Ray Shasho: Andy, thank you so much for being on the call today, but more importantly for all the great music throughout your brilliant music career.
Andy Powell: “Beautiful, I enjoyed the interview, keep in touch Ray!”
Wishbone Ash official website http://wishboneash.com/
Purchase Elegant Stealth –The latest release by Wishbone Ash at Amazon.com
Order Road Works at http://wishboneash.bigcartel.com/
Special thanks to the great Billy James of Glass Onyon PR for this interview.
Official website http://glassonyonpublicity.wordpress.com/
*Coming up next my interview with Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush
Contact columnist/author Ray Shasho at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Ray Shasho has quite a memory, especially when it comes to what songs played on the radio during important times throughout his youth. Combining his nostalgic recant of Billboard’s Top 100, like some infomercial for a Time-Life Oldies CD collector’s set, along with his detailed whimsical recollections while growing up, and you have the “soundtrack ” for a truly enjoyable story called Check the Gs: The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business. ~~Pacific Book Review
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