Rock Around The World July 1977   27


Les Is More

by Dusti Rhodes

A year and a few months back, after serving an impressive apprenticeship

recording and touring with the likes of the Allman Brothers, Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs, Les Dudek released his self-titled debut solo album. The album jacket’s front-cover photo of Les (long, streaming hair and full length cape, racing into the wind with a gleefully hell-raising look on his face and a parrot perched on the neck of his guitar) was, in retrospect, just a small visual hint of Les’s solo capabilities as an explosive, hell-raising guitarist, racing headlong into a constantly shifting breeze of musical styles.

In spite of the degree of success that Les enjoyed as a result of radio airplay of “City Magic” and the scathing instrumental, “Don’t Stop Now,” both from that first solo effort, his reputation as a “musician’s musician” (or a guitarist’s guitarist, to be more specific specific) was not immediately equaled in terms of mass acceptance as a, solo artist.

But Les is hack, and the release of his second solo album, “Say No More,” is further proof that “Les is more.” Currently on a promotional tour of the States. I caught up with Les in Cleveland, where I found that the newest pledge to the elite fraternity of real guitar whiz-kids is quiet and amiable, and talks freely about his life and ambitions:

RATW: Imagine for a moment that you aren’t a rock and roller–what do you think you’d be doing?

LD: I really don’t know what else I’d like to do … one of the only things that really keeps me going is music, as far as just livin’ on this world … I quit school in the tenth grade, ’cause I already knew what I wanted to do … I didn’t need an English teacher telling me not to say “man,” or flunking me because I did … the football coaches were after me to play football; they had the team after me, and it got to be a burden to go to school … so I joined a motorcycle gang to counteract that … it was just a really crazy life, and at the same time I was playing in bands to support my motorcycle habit…

RATW: Which artists and styles were you getting into then?

LD: I always dug Elvis … I remember my parents bought me a Roy Rogers guitar for . Christmas, and I used to sneak into the closet when they were gone, pull out the guitar and play along with Elvis Presley records, then I’d stash the guitar again before they got home so they wouldn’t think I knew about it. I was also gettin’

into stuff like the Ventures, and Chet Atkins and the country swing style . . . then I started getting into blues like Albert King and Muddy Waters.

RATW: What then prompted the move to Macon?

LD: There was nothin’ left to do in Florida … I was always interested in what was going on in Macon, then one weekend I went up to jam with Dickie Betts … I didn’t really know him at the time, but we had crossed paths several times around the South, so we knew of each other … he was trying to put together a band to maybe do a

solo album, and work in between his Allman Brothers tours and recording … but it got to be a conflict for him trying to keep it together with two bands, so the whole thing never really happened … but at the time, the Allman Brothers were doing the “Brothers and Sisters” album, so I got to do some work on that…

RATW: How did you happen to get hooked up with Boz Scaggs?

LD: After the “Brothers and Sisters” album was finished, I used to knock on my

manager Phil Walden’s door, sayin’ “Hey! Gimme some work!” … at the time, Boz Scaggs was looking for a guitar player … he was on tour in Akron, Ohio, and wanted me fly in for a couple of days to audition for him … the night I flew in, we got into a jam of old blues stuff—that was three years ago, and we’ve been working together ever since. RATW: Will you continue to work with Boz, or are you concentrating on your solo career now?

LD: At this point my plan is to go on the road with him for his next tour … I’ll be playing in his band, and I’ll be doing some of my own tunes…

RATW: When is that tour supposed to start? LD: It’s supposed to start in June, but Boz’s wife just gave birth to a baby … little “Oz” —short for Oscar … also there’s a few other

little things to be straightened out first . but Boz likes to meet as many schedules as he can, and he’s almost finished with his album, so when that’s done, we’ll start rehearsing right away. ..

RATW: Are you making any plans for a tour with your own band?

LD: The way things are happening right now, I’d like to tour with Boz this summer, take a little time off after that, then go right into the studio to start a third album … if my current album kicks up, then I’ll probably tour in the fall, and still try to get the third album finished by the end of the year … and I might do a thing with Bob Dylan … he called and said that he was thinking about working on a new album this fall, and he didn’t want to lose touch with

MC. . .

RATW: Given full choice, who would you have, ideally, in your own band?

LD: It’s important to me to get people who think about playing more than they think about money . . . there’s a few cats I’ve been thinking about, like Cary Brown, a twenty-two year old black drummer from New Orleans … or Jeff Porcaro, who worked on my album … if I couldn’t have Jeff, I’d like Bernard Purdie or Tony Williams … on bass, either Gerald Johnson, George “Pops” Popwell, or Chuck Rainey … as for

keyboards, let’s say a choice between the new guy I used on my record, Alan Feingold, who plays a great piano; or maybe Chuck Leavell or David Paitch … there are so many good cats I’d like to work with .. . I’d really like to play with Dickie Betts . . when I played with him at his Roxy gig, we had sparks flyin’ off each other …

RATW: Your new album explores even more musical territory than your first … do you want to continue that trend, or do you hope to find one style that “clicks” for you and stick to it?

LD: I’ve been looking for a manager over the past few months, and some of the managers that I’ve talked to have mentioned the same thing … they’re kind of afraid of what I’m doing because of the fact that I’m not

getting tuned into one thing .   I think it’s great to be able to identify an artist with one style, but at this stage of the game, I don’t really want that kind of identity . . I’m still growing with what I want to do, and the kind of music I want to acheive . . . being stylized is,-in a way, like condeming yourself

. the basis of my career is that I would like to be an institution, not just somebody who. comes and goes real quick.

With the release of “Say No More,” Les has set another cornerstone firmly on the foundation of that goal … Les wrote all of the material for the album: produced by Bruce Botnik (whose credits include Buffalo Springfield and the Stones), and featuring the talents of drummer Jeff Porcaro, bassist Gerald Johnson. and keyboardistjarranger David Paitch. Additional musical contributions come from jazzmen David Sanctious and Tony Williams, keyboardists Ted Stratton and Alan Feingold, and percussionist Kevin Calhoun.

The array of musical styles and varying artist combinations on this vinyl delight make it at once stunning and unpretentious. From soulful sizzlers like “Jailbamboozle,” “Old Judge Jones,” and “What’s it Gonna Be?”; to jazz-rockers both racy (“Zorro Rides Again”) and refined (“One to Beam Up”); to the lowdown blues of “Lady You’re Nasty” and the bruisin’ gospel-blues of “Baby, Sweet Baby,” Les rides the musical range gracefully, demonstrating an alarming ability for ,..7.ombining uncluttered, solid riffs and runs with uncomplicated lyrical sense. Further proof of Dudek’s versatility lies in the country smoked, Fahrenheit-rising drama of “Avatar,” which builds carefully to a well tended boogie-fire that’s unleashed in the tune’s powerful refrain; and for a glimpse of the opposite extreme of his musical range, Les closes the album with a tenderly erotic ballad, “I Remember,” that is bound to bring a chill to even the most heartless.

With his music firmly planted in the rock and roll soil that so often sprouts rock and roll dandelions that dry up and blow away in the wind, Les Dudek continues to blossom and grow, each time stronger and more colorful than before. It can only be a matter of time before the seeds of his solo efforts are planted in the ears of discriminating rock fans everywhere.•