INTERVIEW: Chauncey, Danny (Jul 2000)
From Mistress, to Billy Satellite, to 38 Special...
DANNY CHAUNCEY - FROM CALIFORNIA TO GEORGIA
Interview With Danny Chauncey (July 2000)
If you're a regular visitor to this site, chances are you've heard or seen Danny Chauncey's name mentioned somewhere along the way. As you will read further down, Danny has been involved with many artists and bands over the years. Starting off in his home state of California, and more recently domiciled in Atlanta Georgia. You might also recall his more recent work with the band 38 Special and also his stints with Gregg Allman. But if we go back a few years before, we will unveil a rich treasure chest of histories and memories that only the avid classic rock fan will truly appreciate. Gdazegod gets to lift the lid on those barrel load of goodies with hot-shot guitar slinger Danny Chauncey..
Thanks for spending some time with us Danny. It's awesome to have a guy on the site who's been involved with so many great acts over the years.
Thanks for asking me.
First off, lets start with your rise to prominence as a guitarist. But more the fact that your style is what I would call a 'cool hand luke' style. Stylish, smooth, and yeah.. lets say it again, cool. Definitely different to your pal Brad Gillis for example?
I started out with the blues as a soloist.. I never really was attracted to the flashier players as much. A Clapton or a Beck solo for example was much more to my liking. David Gilmour....BB King etc.
You've been in the industry so long now. What one thing has had the biggest impact on your career through the years? Having the contacts? Changing face of technology for instance?
I was really lucky to be exposed to some really great players throughout my career. Pat Thrall was a bud who taught me a few things early on and got me pointed in the right direction. He is such a great player and was generous to me when I was 16 or so and gave me some techniques that still serve me well today.
I won't go over old ground and ask you about your influences. I'm sure there are many. But what specific guitarists through your high school years caught your fancy?
Mick Ralphs of Bad Company really did a lot to show me how the blues and really simple playing could be so powerful. I made it a point to see them whenever they were around then.
From school you went straight into the band Mistress. I have that Mistress album in my collection somewhere. Goodness, that must seem like a million miles away now. What do you remember from that brief period during 1978-80 that you were together?
I have really great memories of that time....my first album...my first tour....I was also broke all the time then.. ha ha!
What was RSO's initial intention with the band? Considering the stigma of the Saturday Night Fever phenomenon which of course was an RSO flagship album, though a few years earlier?
They were a great bunch of people at that company....young and energetic....I remember signing Andy Gibbs name to a few posters there when I was visiting....don't remember why exactly. I think that RSO really believed in Mistress but we didn't give them any good material for the second album so we got dropped....we were crushed of course..
Did you ever get to meet Mr Stigwood by the way (ha ha)?
TAXXI - SPEAKING IN FOREIGN TONGUE'S
You also spent a few years participating with the trio Taxxi, who to me had a cross of English influences mixed in with Billy Squier. How different then was it playing with predominantly English guys who had this modern type of sound?
That was a great experience doing those albums....I learned a lot about the studio. They really wanted the American blues gunslinger vibe on their music as a counterpoint to the Euro thing they were doing...It worked well I thought.
By all accounts you enjoyed your time on those sessions. Was that because of your buddy Phil Kaffel's involvement as the producer?
Phil was a huge part of it and the other guys were just really cool people to be around. Great vibe in the studio and really creative sessions too...lots of experimenting with sounds etc.
BILLY SATELLITE - I WANNA GO BACK...
Of course everyone remembers you from your time with Billy Satellite. Still described today as perhaps one of the best melodic rock albums ever released. It's certainly in my Top 10 albums of all time, and part of the reason why we're interviewing you. There must be fond memories playing with Monty, Ira and Tom?
Being in that band was a big turning point for me (no pun intended)...They were already a good band and good songwriters before I joined and I learned lots about the craft of songwriting right away. Also, BS is a great live band, and the vocals.. guitars.. energy.. groove, it was all there. We do reunion gigs now and then and they are a blast...I'd still like to do a project with them again....maybe an EP or something
would be fun.
You won't get much complaint from us that's for sure! Was it true that Monty Byrom was hell bent on having you in the band during that 1981-82 period?
He had seen me play with Mistress and really liked my style... He's an excellent guitarist too and he stole a bunch of my stuff... ha ha!
An old Guitar Player magazine article indicated that Billy Satellite also won a Battle Of the Bands type competition in 'Frisco. Was this true or is it an urban myth?
Yeah it was true... It was called Guitar Wars and Night Ranger won it the year before so we figured we should give it a try. I still have a Flying V that I won in that thing. It's a great studio guitar....we use it a lot in 38.
Capitol were a great label to have onside when you were signed? What about Don Gehman's production?
It was exciting to be on Capitol Records....to ride in the same elevators as the Beatles did when they visited there was pretty cool. We actually did some recording at their studios in Hollywood.. the solo I did on 'Bye Bye Baby' was recorded in that studio. Working with Don Gehman was a good experience too. Everything was really laid back on that project. Don's a very centered guy and was really patient with us.
I have to say, I still prefer BS's version of 'I Wanna Go Back' than I do Eddie Money's. A fairly flawless set of ten songs on the album, chosen with great care?
Well thanks! We tried to pick the best of what we had at the time although we had to leave a lot of good stuff out. Maybe it will surface some day.
Just last year Volker Kurze from ATM Records in Germany made a great contribution to the melodic rock community in ensuring the album finally got a CD release. This was a great moment for many long suffering fans such as myself who couldn't wait for the thing to be released.. A big relief all round then that it finally made it to CD?
Yes it was a good thing....I just heard it the other day at home and it brings back lots of memories.
There are two additional tracks on that CD called 'Pokerface' and 'Ready To Rock n Roll', but I understand there are many more Billy Satellite tracks which never made it to the cutting room floor. In fact, I've seen several unreleased songs converted to MP3 on Napster, but wasn't able to obtain any myself. Just how many were there that you recall?
'Pokerface' was the first demo I did with the band and the other one was done before I joined....the recordings are pretty rough but are an interesting look at early BS. We have lots of unreleased stuff....alternate versions of the first and second records plus much better demos recorded by Phil Kaffel.
There was comment in the liner notes which stated '..and who knows, we may still have a few surprises coming.. Billy Satellite May 2000'. What can we take from that comment then, in regards to any future product coming from Billy Satellite?
Well, it probably refers to the second album, produced by Keith Olsen which is unreleased to this day that we are hoping to get out at some point... killer record! (note: Editor is breathing raggedly now!!)
THE HIRED GUN!
You also played on another rather spectacular album by the band Witness (reviewed elsewhere on the site). Most of this was recorded at Berkeley's Fantasy Studios. Some of the best Bay Area guitarists played on this one.. Great album, what do you remember of this one?
That was a session that Brad got me on.. he couldn't finish so he recommended me to the producer, Kevin Elson. It was during that project or shortly thereafter that 38 called Kevin and asked him if he could recommend a guitarist for 38. He gave them my number and fourteen years later I'm still with 38.
I notice on this album's liner notes there were some references to both Kevin Elson and Jeff Carlisi. Both would prove to be influential in your future move to hook up with 38 Special?
It was Jeff who called me and invited me to Atlanta to consider joining the band. I think he may have played on that record too...
GOOD OL SOUTHERN BOYS! - 38 SPECIAL/GREGG ALLMAN
How was it then for a California boy to move out to the Southeast and hook up with southern rockers 38 Special?
It was a great opportunity for me. 38 had a record deal and a track record and I benefited from that. At the time, Satellite had lost our deal, Monty had quit, the Night Ranger guys were too busy for the All Stars obviously, so I feel fortunate that the 38 offer came when it did. I joined in 87 and moved to Atlanta in 90.
I suppose for many years, 38 Special were playing what could be best described as safe radio oriented radio rock. With your introduction, were the guys looking to you to add a bit of fire and brimstone guitar wise, in much the same way that John Sykes did with Thin Lizzy?
I'm not sure they knew what they wanted actually. They had just been dealing with Don's departure (Don Barnes) and they were a little nervous about the future I think. I played a lot of solo's from the beginning and I think that the guys were relieved when 'Second Chance' became a big hit. I played all over that track so they knew that things were gonna be alright.
How much did their sound change with your introduction, as well as Max Carl's?
I think the sound loosened up a little. The playing was a little less thought out and maybe less restricted. That eighth-note signature 38 thing suffered as a result of my joining too.. ha ha! Although you can only do that so much anyway. The sound of the band has changed though and even with Don back in the band, it doesn't sound much like '81.
For what it's worth 'Rock n Roll Strategy' is a pretty cool record. Your songs 'Never Be Lonely' and 'Innocent Eyes' are among the best ones there IMHO... Donnie sounds like a cross between Steve Perry and Bob Carlisle on 'Never Be Lonely' (ha ha!)
That is Max on that actually but thanks. Those were songs from the All-star, Satellite days.
Oops! My mistake. But it's hard to imagine that you've been with them nigh on fourteen years. the magic and the buzz is still there obviously?
I'm honestly having more fun now than ever. We just scored a movie, finished a xmas CD and after this tour, are starting a new 38 Special studio CD.
Do you think the artists coming out of the Nashville/new country scene where exposure for them is quite high, has helped the profile of older southern rock bands such as 38 Special, where the music could be described as being similar?
Definitely...we are actually doing a lot of country festivals as the token rock band these days. There are a lot of country fans that grew up on 38 Special rock and roll.
Also with Monty Byrom now in this environment, has he shared any observations with you during his time with his Nashville based band Big House?
We talked about the similarities a little sure. He came from a big country town so it was always in his blood anyway.. Satellite used to knock off a country tune now and then.
How about working with Gregg Allman? You've been together a few years now too, in between 38 Special commitments..
Gregg and I have played together for almost six or seven years now. Its good for me to do a blues gig to keep in touch with my roots...so to speak. Also, some of the All-Star guys are on those tours too so its nice to hang with old friends too.
LET'S TALK GUITARS!
While we're on the subject of guitars, just about every picture I've seen of you is with a Strat in hand. A Fender love affair from way back I take it?
Yeah, for sure. I bought my first strat in '75 or so and still play that one with Gregg. I've never even owned a Les Paul! I'd like to get one but never seem to get around to getting one. My first good electric was a Gibson SG and moved on to Strats and never looked back.
I recall seeing the effects deck for both Gary Moore and Frank Marino many moons ago, both be-decked with all sorts of pedals and effects. How simple, or complex is your guitar rack and amplification these days?
Fairly simple actually....with Gregg I use a Dual Rectifier Trem-o-Verb 2 x 12 combo with a simple delay/chorus effect pedal. And with 38 I have a couple of Boogie Mark 3's, but lately I have been using a POD for just about everything live.
Just for the sake of the readers. I read a band/album lineup for 'Bone Against Steel' which read .. 'Danny Chauncey - Stealth Guitar'. What on earth is a Stealth Guitar?
Just a little nonsense....ha ha!
SOME OTHER STUFF..
You live in Atlanta now, which seems to be a haven for many good rock musicians nowadays. Do you still pine for good ol' California?
I do....my family is still there and I'll be going back for Thanksgiving this year actually. We play there every year so I still get to see everyone a bit.
Do you still get to catch up with the Alameda Allstars? (again for the sake of the reader, this was a band featuring Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy)
Funny you should mention it....they are opening the show for us tonight. Night Ranger that is. Kelly came up and sat in with us the other night in Minneapolis and Brad has sat in before when we were in Calif. It will be fun to see those guys...I saw Night Ranger in Atlanta and got to hang out and catch up last June. The other All-Stars play with Gregg so we get to hang out a lot on that tour.
From those Fantasy Studio days, we could imply that you're a bit of a studio rat. But now I understand you have your own studio/production facility. How are you finding that? Does the family get to see you more of you now?
My daughter Olivia would rather me be home working than on the road for sure... We did the movie score there and are doing the Xmas CD too and it does make things a bit easier, working at home.
Perhaps on a slightly offbeat way to finish up Danny, perhaps you can tell the readers what your 5 favourite albums of all time are, and why?
I'll try but I'm sure I'll leave something out....
Manassas - Steve Stills. Very dense music and some great blues too!
Revolver - The Beatles. Just an amazing growth curve to make this record just three years after 'She Loves You'.
Desperado - The Eagles. Great Songs, Production and concept.
Exile On Main Street - The Stones. Superb rock and roll, good blues and a mix that really lets you hear the band at its best.
Bridge Of Sighs - Robin Trower. Brilliant guitar record with lots of cool songs, solos, dynamics from one of the best, at his best.
Thanks ever so much for contributing to this article Danny. I am sure there's a lot of good reading in here for all those classic rockers out there.
It's been my pleasure George!
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