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Pat Buchanan

A Conversation with Pat Buchanan

Puremusic: Does it just sound that way, or were you indeed born with a guitar in your hand?

Pat Buchanan: [laughs] My parents were musicians, jazz musicians. My dad played bass. My mom sings. So there was always music in the house. I think my earliest recollection might be of a little plastic guitar, playing on the floor in front of the hi-fi. And "Mr. Lucky" was on the hi-fi, or maybe the "Theme From Exodus"--or there was something. Yeah, I think both of those records were stacked up in front of the hi-fi, and I kind of tried to pick the melody out on that little plastic guitar.

PM: [laughs] Oh, wow...

PB: And very soon after that--that was like elementary school--very soon after that, the Beatles hit.

PM: Right. When did your folks buy you your first guitar?

PB: It was Christmas, probably by the second or third grade.

PM: Wow!

PB: And he always felt like he couldn't find a good guitar player and a drummer. So one year my brother got a snare drum, and I got a guitar. And I kept that guitar for a long time.

PM: What was it?

PB: It was like a cheap Kay electric with one pickup.

PM: Nice.

PB: And then later on, in junior high, I actually threw it out of a second story window with a long curly chord to see what kind of noise it would make.


PB: Because by then we were into The Who and Hendrix, and I was just curious.

PM: That's fantastic. And did it survive the fall?

PB: I think it did.

PM: Wow.

PB: But I wish I was one of those guys who kind of kept everything he had.

PM: Oh the guitars we'd have today if we'd have hung onto them.

PB: Yeah. It kind of went the way of the one that got away.

PM: Yeah.

PB: But pretty early on--my brother was always two years my senior, and always my musical guru as far as rock went. And my parents loved jazz. So there was always music in the house.

PM: Now, was your dad a good bassist, would you say?

PB: Yeah, he was great. He wasn't necessarily like a super chops, technically accomplished cat.

PM: Right.

PB: But even better than that--Ray Brown was his idol.

PM: You ever see Ray Brown's hands?

PB: Yes. I've seen pictures.

PM: Yo.

PB: My dad met him later. But I think the deal was, what was so cool, was that it was like Oscar Peterson Trio jazz. And my dad played with a trio actually called The Trio. My dad was a totally cool classy guy. Drove a '65 Impala, among other cars, which I luckily own now. So there is one--

PM: Oh, that's where your Impala comes from, it was your dad's?

PB: Yeah. Oh, yeah, he used to put a bass in that thing and go to gigs.

PM: Oh, my God!

PB: And actually, they would jam after the gigs and stuff. And I remember waking up on the couch--just sleeping on the couch and waking up and seeing--they played until his hands bled. And I have his bass, too. But man, I mean, he had gut strings, high action, and would hit it really hard and play very basic. And he could get such a great tone out of that thing.

PM: Wow, he had high action for the tone.

PB: I play it now, "Ouch!"

PM: Right.

PB: He had high action with gut strings and hit it really hard. And I mean, they played basically graduated blues. They played standards and stuff, but nothing that was too "out."

PM: Right.

PB: And my dad just absolutely loved music and the lifestyle of the musician, and getting together after the gig, and jamming. And I still have that today.

PM: And did your mom sing in bands with him?

PB: Yeah. And she was a great singer, in the Ella, Sarah Vaughn mode, and still sings. She and my brother and myself, we jammed last summer.

PM: So your brother still plays.

PB: Yeah, my brother plays drums.

PM: Wow.

PB: So it was kind of a musical thing. I mean, don't think there were any outside interests, or any doubt what I was going to be. I mean, this is even before the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan, you know? But all that happened so fast that it all kind of--it was at the beginning of that in my life.

PM: And things seemed to start going faster after the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Then it starts to get blurry.

PB: Oh, yeah. Well, actually, I think we played out in the fourth grade, and my brother was in the sixth grade. And I think we played for the school assembly, and kind of got out of school one day. [laughs]

PM: And saw the light.

PB: Yeah. [laughs] And we practiced, kind of auditioned back in the little science department of the classroom, where they had the little sink and the little area, and played "Twist & Shout." And when it got to the crazy part, the "Ahh, ahh"--

PM: Yeah. [laughs]

PB: --"ahh, [screams] owww!" that was a bit much for the fourth grade science teacher. And she 86'd that song. But I think we did "I Saw Her Standing There."


PB: But I mean, we got out of school one day. I think the dye was cast pretty early.

PM: Wow. So you were already censored, at a young age?

PB: Yeah. That's funny. I think I might have taken cello for one day, and I think I might have been able to figure out the line to "Day Tripper" on it--

PM: [laughs] A mighty good line.

PB: --and played it the second day, and all of a sudden I wasn't taking cello anymore.


PB: It was kind of a quick... But I remember just kind of there always being a guitar around.

PM: And so did that begin an endless succession of bands from those days forward?

PB: Yeah, yeah, pretty much. I mean, we grew up in Jacksonville and Tallahassee, and Lake City, Florida in the '60s. And it was the Beatles, and then the British Invasion.

PM: Right.

PB: I mean, we would get together and pretend that we were going to be the Beatles, in some guy’s little playhouse behind his house, or whatever. And we weren't even playing yet. We were just kind of like mocking. And my brother already pushing the envelope would say, "Well, let's be the Kinks, or the Yardbirds."

PM: [laughs] Wow.

PB: I mean, like all the other British Invasion bands we got into, and the Stones. But it was pretty early on. And there was this guy down the street--he was probably in high school--and it was the folk thing, too, because it was--

PM: Oh, did the folk thing take a hold of you as well?

PB: Well, not as much. But he was into the folk thing. So he showed me how to fingerpick a D chord. His name was Richard Whittaker. And I'll never forget it, because he actually showed me something.

PM: A revelation, yeah, an actual technique.

PB: Yeah. And I think he showed me a couple of songs, or he was singing a couple of songs, like Peter Paul and Mary type things, or Kingston Trio type things. That was his bag. But it seemed like he had a good Gibson guitar, and showed me how to fingerpick.

PM: Wow. Because some rockers never learned to fingerpick, or they don't learn it very early, so it doesn't become part of their guitar approach.

PB: Yeah. They have to go back and relearn it or something.

PM: Right. Or they learn to do it with a pick, or something like that.

PB: Yeah.

PM: But it became part of your arsenal pretty much right away.

PB: Yeah. Somebody just showed me it. But yeah, then it was your succession of always trying to get other kids to play, and teaching them how to play, borrowing an instrument, borrowing an amp, borrowing the PA. Except for my brother, who was always there on drums. And then people would--it was interesting--go out for football or something.

PM: But you were the kids in the neighborhood that could always play the best, and would try and drag your buddies along with you.

PB: Yeah. And I was the one who was like dead set, totally committed.

PM: Yeah. I knew that about you before I ever asked the question.

PB: And it would kill me--I would be devastated if somebody didn't want to play, and they would rather play football. I was like, "What?!"

PM: What a waste. [laughs]

PB: And so a lot of times my brother and I would just play. But then we had several bands, kind of elementary school, one or two, and then junior high. Played for the full choir.

PM: Of course, if you do that today, just electric guitar and drums, you can be a very big band, as--

PB: Yeah!


PB: Actually, me and Jeff Finlin went to England and played with bass and drums and went down a storm. [laughs]  [Finlin is actually reviewed in this issue.]

PM: So how long did you hang around Florida?

PB: Well, I was there until like the late-'70s. And then it was kind of like always in bands that were trying to get signed, or whatever.

PM: Yeah. And it was not a hotbed for getting signed.

PB: Well, actually, in north Florida and stuff, a musician can always kind of just be construed as wallpaper. You actually have to leave there, or it's pretty tough. You have to bond together--I mean, in order to get out of there, just play your way out of there. But in order to be taken seriously, and perhaps a little bit more than just a Top 40 band, or the jukebox providing the music, and get to the point where you can write your own music, you had to leave. And so I did, mid-'70s or so, I went and did a succession of gigs, like one in D.C., and one even in New York City. continue

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