Working With Chet Atkins – An Interview With Pat Bergeson, Part 2
PB: So we were hanging out that was the whole day, and I think that's when I gave him a demo tape of "Mountains of Illinois" and there was another rock n 'roll melody, that he really liked. After the meeting I went back to Brooklyn where I lived at the time, and he would call me once a week or two. He would just call to chat with me and say, "Hey, you know, I was last night to four clock in the morning to find out that lick you played on thissong. "
Then came back on Thanksgiving weekend, I went out of town and when I gave it a series of messages on my answering machine. Some say by RL: "Hey, call me!" and then the last message on the machine has been said about Chet: "Hey Pat, you want to come down here and play on this record with me and Jerry Reed? Give me a call back."
And so I called him back and I was joking around with him and told him I had a bar mitzvah, and I could not.
So he flew at meNashville a few days later. I had my guitar repair guy to run, because my guitar was completely destroyed, because I played it again and it was pretty much the only guitar I had. The next Monday I was down in his basement studio in the morning with him and Jerry Reed on like eight clock.
At the meeting, I brought my pedal board and connected the old Standel Chet's amp. He gave me hardly any instructions given. He would be behind the window in the control room to stand down in his basement, and he wouldonly with his hand when he wanted me to play. He said: "I'll just wave my hand. When I raised my hand, you play, if I stick my hand down to stop you."
TR: You were doing so, fills in some of the songs like "Summertime"?
PB: "Summertime" and three or four others. Is a admitted that Darryl Dybka said.
PB: When we see that it has entered, I think Jerry should sing in a large part of the songs, but then there were two or three songs, Columbia Records, where onlyshe wanted was as instrumental pieces, so I play more on the plate. Chet said, "we want to play a part, Pat."
TR: Have you received a tape or first something of the songs?
PB: Yes, I got a tape in advance, but not all the graphics, or anything else really did.
I remember being down there in the studio, and I want to hear a play, some great solo on the guitar and I would say, "Who's that?" and Chet would go: "That's Jerry." Then I would hear another great solo, and Iask: "Who's that?" I do not know if it would say Chet or Jerry, who had played the solo, and Chet: "This is Jerry." Finally, after a couple of times, I asked, "Who's that?" and Jerry said, "Who the hell do you think it is? (laughs)
PB: After I Chet, this project, said: "You know, you have a good job, just like I knew you would." And then I went back and I went back to Brooklyn and played the next night. I am the worst gig you have played once in your life. And it kind of put –everything in proper perspective. I had to play me on a record with Chet Atkins on the day before and now I'm playing terrible things, you know, "Wind Beneath My Wings," "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and the theme from "Ice Castles". (laughs)
TR: But then you have more to Chet. I saw American Music Shop, and some of those other TV programs. How did you get that?
PB: Well, that was actually the very next, what happens is that Chet called me and said, "I'm coming to play atCarnegie Hall with the New York Pops, and I would love for you to do it. "I was living in New York and so I walked through the town of Carnegie Hall and the New York Pops played with Chet, and I remember he called me the night before and said," Oh, by the way – I you need to learn to The Claw. "and I want to learn to Jerry's, too." So I had to learn quickly.
TR: You have known with "The Claw" could not play?
PB: I had to do the recording of the sentence of Chet and Jerryit on "Sneakin 'Around." I only had one night to learn it before the Carnegie Hall gig.
TR: You have learned, "The Claw" in one night?
PB: Yes. So we played with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall and that was great, and then after that they me down to do show the American Music Shop. Chet flew me to Nashville, and I stayed for a whole week, and I hung with him every day of the week.
TR: That was a show on TNN had corrrect? What were the Taping from?
PB:Yes, it was show a TNN. Chet took me in the hotel where the Shoney's of Music Row, and he sent me before on the TV studio on the night we observe it, as she had the TV Taping. I met Jim Lauderdale and had several other people, the guests on the show. I met Brent Mason, Mark O'Connor, and all those guys. Then the next day we met in the morning and everything rehearsed and later recorded on the day. Chet and Jerry and I went through a couple of songs in his office thatMorning. It was loose and funny, we do not have to do too many takes.
TR: Was there a studio audience there?
PB: Yes, it was probably a hundred people there.
TR: What happened after that?
PB: Now that we have the American Music Shop and at Carnegie Hall, I have a few other dates with Chet and Paul and Jerry. We went and played on the bottom line in New York. At this point I have not had to move to Nashville. My friends urged me to move toNashville, but I did not think much about it, but when Chet started, where it seemed to me something different. He told me he thought I was good when I down.
TR: You were still teaching in that time, right?
PB: I was teaching in the summer on the guitar camp, and I sometimes had a private student. But mostly I was teaching at the camp in the summer, playing gigs on weekends the rest of the year.
When my lease was up in Brooklyn, I finally got moving. Chethad asked me to come down and the CAAS convention disagreed with him and Jerry, which I did and move down that I am good. Fred Kewley made me a temporary location, Living at songwriter Cathy's Maciejewski. It was an apartment from Percy Priest Lake.
The day I was in the city, Chet took me to the union and then paid my way into the Union. He said: "Well, you know that want to work a right to work state, but if you go with me, you have to be in the union." That's kind of what happened. TheDay I arrived here, he began looking for things to do for me, he was just so helpful.
It did not take long after that we "cut Read My Licks", and we also have a large "Read My Licks" TV special with Eric Johnson, Earl Klugh, and others.
TR: I have a few clips from that special watch on YouTube.
PB: One night I remember Chet called me and said, "Hey, Come On Over, me and Waylon Jennings to do some demos here at the house." And I went to his house and hungwith him and Waylon Jennings throughout the night and sat in his studio and recorded. I do not know what that stuff, but it was really great and it was paid work. He would only find things to do for me. He was really great that way.
He impressed me with Suzy Bogguss and she started me on their plates. I ended up going on the road with Shelby Lynne for a little while, and Wynonna, but I was still working with Chet to do all his concerts.
TR: Can you describeTheir role in the band, especially since he had an existing thumbstyle rhythm guitarist in Paul Yandell. Tell me a little about how the three guitarists would interact.
PB: I played the harmonica and much more in terms of the guitar, Chet not say really what to play, he rather let me do what I wanted to do. He loved the fact that I'm a rock 'n roll guy and I knew about rock' n roll, jazz and other styles that he did not do much. He liked it, my own splashStyle in what he did, as a contrast. He encouraged me to do really.
Paul Yandell was the thumbpicking parts and he was very helpful in encouraging me and always me through the concerts in general. Chet wanted me to do things differently. A lot of times, I played with a volume pedal and a delay to obtain and use the tip of what they did – just with a different color. I have fills and licks and things and rhythm on theHarmonica.
When I asked him for advice of some of Chet playing sometimes say: "Play something that someone else can whistle." That helped me in the right direction.
They asked me how I used to play much better become harmonica. I returned to the game on New Year's Harmonica 1988th I was at a gig in Kalamazoo, when I heard this great drummer from Michigan named Randy Marsh playing some incredible jazz on a regular diatonic harmonica. Since I knew I wanted to learnhow to do it, as he did. He he landed me one of his harps, and I practiced in the car in NYC while he was in traffic. I thought I was pretty good until I stopped playing Howard Levy (Bela Fleck & the Flecktones). Howard Levy playing all 12 notes in all 3 octaves on a regular Hohner diatonic harp. I was determined to learn how to play this technique.
A friend of mine, Rob Paparozzi in New Jersey know how to harps, to make the "overblows and oversubscribed," saidI could play chromatically. I figured it out the next day. Since that time the only place I ever practice is the harp in my car. I love the harmonica, and am currently on a harmonica CD.
TR: I think amateur guitarists often wonder if professional players sit around and jam and being lazy with music, even if the instrument is to play her life. Is it so?
PB: Yes, absolutely. As I said earlier, it was Chet. He was just sitting there andnoodling around on the guitar. We have a lot more than in his office. I often go to his house on Sunday. He had invited me and I would go over to his house on Sunday around noon and spend the day. I would not be there until at eight clock left in the night. We had the whole day there just sitting around, playing fooling around on the guitar and created only through stuff. He would play records of old fiddle player and sit there and tinkering with his guitars, pickups and replaced it.I had checked its records and only those things, and he had to play George Barnes records and other things for me.
And later we were going up and Leona would give us dinner and we would listen to the ham radio, and Paul Yandell, and sometimes he would talk to some of the ham radio.
It's great to be put back together and licks and play. Richard Smith's great that it, too. Richard has come picking parties at his house for men only, and sit around on the stupidAnd play guitar through song. I mean, that's where the real creative things happening a lot.
TR: Tell me a little bit more about your feelings about Chet as a person, not so much as a musician, a sort of behind the scenes look of what he was like. Tell me what you learned from him, one thinks.
PB: I've definitely learned that he was very generous. He was very generous and also very funny. He was wicked good too in a way.
I remember a time when we wereRecording "Read My Licks" I sat there, and I could not work my guitar. I have tried everything. I wanted to cross the amplifier, switch on and off and unplugging it and plugging it in again, with brass buttons, and my guitar goes through all the strings on my pedals, and Chet is just sitting there, grinning the whole time to find me. Then I looked down, and it is my cable lying on the floor.
TR: The line?
PB: I had forgotten the cable to the guitar and plugChet knew it all the time. He just sat there and watched me, grinning jump through hoops for 10 minutes until I figured it out. (laughs)
Chet was patient with people, and cut them slack. I remember one day we went there with the small roundabout in the middle of Music Row, the part with the Elvis-wax museums and tourist stuff, which he jokingly referred to as "Sucker Row" and a man in a car suddenly tried to wedge before him, and Chet says, "You know, I'd better leave that man to go. ILearn to play guitar for a living and I get so lucky to do what I do and this guy is probably crazy and has to work a lousy job all day. "He was very similar.
TR: Pat, thanks so much your time today.
PB: Thank you, Tom.
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