Transcript: Transcript Pat Travers: Guitar Maverick Redefining Rock and Blues

Breath of Fresh Air Seg 1

Welcome to A Breath of Freshh Air with Sandy Kaye. It’s a beautiful day.

Beautiful day. Oh, I bet any day that you’re going away. It’s a beautiful day.

Hello to you. Great to have you company. I hope all well in your world.

Something a little bit different this week because I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard my next guest’s name. I must confess I had no idea who he was until the request to speak with him came in from Tim in Toronto in Canada. Tim asked if I could track down his favourite rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Pat Travers.

So I did, and quickly discovered that when Pat broke out in 1979, he was an instant sensation. His greatest influence, like so many of his contemporaries, it was the Fab Four. My interest was sparked by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, but I was very young then.

I kind of realised even then that that was what I wanted to do. Whatever they were doing, I wanted to do. Well, shake it up baby now.

Shake it up baby. Twist that child. Twist that child.

Come on, come on, come on, come on baby now. Come on baby. Come on and work it on out.

Work it on out. Yeah, work it on out. Work it on out.

You know you look so good. Look so good. You know you got me going now.

Got me going. Just like I knew you would. I really started playing when I was 12 and had my first band and I’ve been playing ever since.

I was born in Toronto, but we moved to Ottawa when I was 12. So I spent my teenage years in Ottawa and that’s where I started playing. What was it like growing up there? Well, my teenage years were considerably different than most, because I started playing nightclubs when I was 15.

So I was up till four in the morning every night and playing five sets of music. And I did that for a long, long time. Then I moved to England.

I went to London and that’s when I started recording. You got me feeling right. When I hold you close at night There’s something I wanna let you know I ain’t gonna let you go I ain’t gonna let you go Yeah I remember the first time I saw an electric guitar up close was my uncle.

He had a 1954 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop and it was so beautiful and sexy, even though I didn’t know what sexy was, you know. But I was very passionate about music. You were noticed by Ronnie Hawkins, weren’t you? Yeah, it’s funny.

I was thinking about him the other day. He had done this before where he allowed someone to step up from somewhere, another player, and I was playing in a bar in Quebec. Ronnie and his entourage came in one night and he goes, Kid, you’re really good.

You should give me a call and we’ll see if we can’t do something, right? So maybe a week or two later, I called him and he said, Well, I don’t really have a position for you right now. So, you know, I went, Well, thanks. It was great meeting you, etc.

So I joined another band for about two weeks. And then Ronnie called and said, Kid, you gotta get down here to Toronto right now. So I quit that band, moved back to Toronto, and played with Ronnie for about a year.

And it was kind of like going to music college, especially for rock and roll, rockabilly, and learning how to really play those rhythms. Mary Lou, Mary Lou She took my diamond ring Mary Lou, Mary Lou She took my watch and chain Mary Lou She took the keys to my Cadillac car Jumped in my kitty and she drove her far Left me stranded in a Kalamazoo Making her a fortune off of food like you She got her rich, Manhattan dozen kids Drove that cat until he flipped his lid Mary Lou, Mary Lou She took my diamond ring Mary Lou, Mary Lou She took my watch and chain Mary Lou She took the keys to my Cadillac car Jumped in my kitty and she drove her far The late Ronnie Hawkins was an American rock and roll singer who based himself in Canada and found a great deal of success there. He was a talent scout and mentor of the musicians he recruited for his band, The Hawks.

The most successful of his students were those who left to form the band. When I first joined him, I went over to his house and he gave me a stack of 45s old songs from the 50s and 60s like Chuck Berry or Roy Orbison or people like that and he told me, I want you to learn these songs and I want you to play exactly like the guitar player plays including the sound which to me was like, I don’t know because I’m into Hendrix and Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana with all these guys got these beautiful overdriven tones but nobody did that in the late 50s, early 60s it was all pretty clean and twangy but I did it and it was worth it because it taught me where the drive for that aggressive rock and roll comes from It’s funny because a band like ACDC Malcolm learned that same lesson real early a lot of down strokes and stuck with it so there’s something to that Did that become your preferred style too? I definitely clung to some of that initially when I started recording because I did a cover of Chuck Berry’s Maybelline on my first album, you know Oh Maybelline, why can’t you be true Oh Maybelline, why can’t you be true Oh Maybelline, why can’t you be true And I started back doing the things that you used to do I was motivated over the hill Saw Maybelline in a cooper bill Had it like I’m rolling down a open road With nothing else on my PA4 Oh Maybelline, why can’t you be true Oh God, how do I do it all I tooted my horn for a few tunes I made some progress pretty quickly but I had such bad anxiety that I couldn’t appreciate anything Nothing was ever good enough Before you move on, how did that anxiety impact you? Well, first of all, you don’t know you have it It took me a long time to realise what anxiety was and what it does to you You second guess yourself You get indecisive You lose your confidence and you can’t let anybody see that So, yeah, so What took you to London? Well, I had a friend and it was basically his idea My mum was English and my dad was Irish and I guess Hendrix had done it, right? And we ended up being on the same wave I couldn’t believe it Foxy Foxy You know you are Cute little heartbreaker Foxy Yeah And you know you are Sweet little lovemaker Foxy I’m gonna take you home Yeah I won’t do you no harm No Foxy lady Yeah Was it difficult getting that first deal with Polygo? It didn’t seem like it What happened was I basically made a demo and I made appointments with all the A&R guys people that would make appointments because usually they would just say Well, just mail in or drop off your tape And I wasn’t gonna do that I needed to be there to sell it So I got rejected at a bunch of places but Phonogram, they showed some interest and I got a little record deal with them and actually Mutt Lane produced my first recording which was a total disaster Wow He produced ACDC’s Back in Black album He’s a big producer but he can be a big pain in the ass too and at that time it was drum sounds He would work on the same drum Having the drummer hit it over and over and over for an hour For what reason, I don’t know But when he got it the way he liked it it sounded fantastic but it just took too long to get there So paint me the picture of that When you’re micing you generally work on the drums first and it’s not required to be there I was there because it was my first session But these days, I won’t go anywhere near the studio when they’re doing drum sounds because it’s just the same thing over and over and over So anyway, that deal didn’t really work out for me and I subsequently got a manager and he took me to Polydor and we were signed by the managing director who also managed Golden Earring I’m driving all night, my hands wet on the wheel There’s a voice in my head that drives my gear It’s my baby calling, says I need you here I pass four and I’m shifting gear When she’s lonely and the longing gets too much She spends her cable coming in from above Red Alert We were very lucky to have that kind of connection at the top of the column And how did that first album do for you? Well, in those days, they didn’t expect you to have a hit on your first release or your second release for that matter By number three, they wanted to see something So we did okay and we had a following But my bad luck was to come to London at the start of the punk scene So it rapidly changed the whole landscape and punk was in and rock was out But fortunately for me, we were getting a lot of airplay in the States and all over So we were selling some records as imports because my record wasn’t released in the U.S. officially It was a European release So then we just all moved to the United States We were getting airplay, which we weren’t getting There were no radio stations to play music in the U.K. at that time or in Europe for that matter It was barren But in the U.S., every major town had at least two or maybe three hard rock stations and everything was going great Do you remember what you were feeling at the time punk was coming in and you were sitting in London with your hard rock album wondering what to do next? Yeah, it was a little frustrating for sure But we had the U.S. and Canada and I was ready to leave the U.K. at that point Right, you moved to the States What happens then? We just started touring It was beginning of 1978 and we got a tour with opening for Rush and they weren’t at mega status at that point but they had a great following and they sold out every place they went to So we played The Sheds which was about 5,000 to 15,000 every night all across the country We were always jumping on some great tour We were a smoking hot band Had the revolving door of band members started by that point? Drummers, yeah I had a lot of drummers My very, very first drummer who I did that disastrous session with, Mutt Lang He was the drummer for The Clash I couldn’t believe it I mean, one day he was like a long-haired hippie from Dover and the next day he was a punk in The Clash It was awesome He was a real chameleon Oh yeah, exactly Yeah, he morphed quickly But they were very successful that day They were punk up until a point Once they got a little money, things changed London calling To the faraway towns Now war is declared And battle calmed down London calling To the underworld Come out of the coven You boys and girls London calling Now don’t look to us Phony Beatlemania Has bitten the dust London calling See, we ain’t got no swing Except for the rain And the crunch of day The ice age is coming The sun’s zooming in Meltdown expected The week is perfect Angels stop running But I have no fear Cos London is clouding out Live by the river London calling To the imitation zone Forget it brother You should go it alone London calling To the zombies of death Quit holding out And draw another breath London calling And I don’t want to shout But while we were talking I saw you nodding out London calling See, we ain’t got no hide Except for that one With the yellowy eyes The ice age is coming The sun’s zooming in Angels stop running The week is perfect A nuclear error But I have no fear Cos London is clouding out Live by the river.


Breath of Fresh Air Seg 2

This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kaye. It’s a beautiful day. It was 1978 and the Pat Travers Band was out touring all over the place with the likes of Rush and Foghat.

All of a sudden though, and very unexpectedly, they found themselves with a hit on the Top 40. We recorded an album in Miami and then we were going to take a break and I was going to get to work on a new album. So we recorded the last five shows we did on that tour and came up with a live album.

And we had this one song called Boom Boom, Echo of the Lights, which was an audience participation thing. It just got airplay like crazy. It was in heavy rotation across the nation, you know, so we had to go back out and tour.

This is an old… All right. Now there’s an opportunity in this song for us all to do a little shouting out here, okay? When I say boom boom, I want you all to answer me back with Echo of the Lights, right? Boom boom when you sing Echo of the Lights. Let me see those hands up above your head.

Way up high, way up… All the way to the back, come on now, let’s see it. Looking for my baby Boom Boom was originally a Little Walter song, wasn’t it? That’s correct, yeah, from about 51. Wow, what made you choose that? I had seen a blues band from Hamilton, Ontario, when I was 13, play an outdoor concert and they did that song, but not like I did.

I’d never heard it again, but I was 13 then when I was 21 recording my first album. I’d written a few songs, but I wasn’t a very strong composer at that point. I was just getting started.

So we needed one more song for the album and I remembered that song. And we were able to find an album with it on there and we learned it and covered it and recorded it. But as we started to play it live, it kind of got more and more dramatic and one night I got cocky enough to see if the audience might answer me back and they did and it worked.

So that was a cool thing. We also have a band here called The Angels that do an audience participation song that everybody just goes crazy for. Audiences really love to take part in it, don’t they? They do, yeah, they do.

But Crash and Burn, you said, was a great album. It certainly was because… It had Snortin’ Whiskey. Yeah, that was that.

Snortin’ whiskey And drinkin’ cocaine Been snortin’ whiskey And drinkin’ cocaine Got this feelin’ I’m gonna drive that girl insane Like a bad rumor, baby We all over town Like a bad rumor, baby We all over town Snortin’ Whiskey also became an American radio hit. Yeah, we got real lucky that after Boom Boom we had something that sounded different that was a progression from what we’d done before but everybody liked it as well so that worked out great. Were you always determined to keep the hard rock sound? Was there any softer side of you as well, Pat Travis? Oh, definitely.

Well, even on Crash and Burn, I covered a Bob Marley song, It’s This Love, and it’s a real poppy kind of a reggae thing. And I played a lot of keyboards on that album. I like all sorts of music.

I wanna love you And treat you right I wanna love you Every day and every night We’ll be together With the roof right over our heads We’ll share the shelter On my single bed We’ll share the same room A jumper lined in red It’s this love, it’s this love It’s this love that I’m feeling It’s this love, it’s this love It’s this love that I’m feeling There are a lot of shades to Pat Travis. Yeah, to actually tell you the truth, my desire to do different types of musical things kind of annoyed my management and stuff because the stuff that we were successful with, I was kind of walking away from. Which was the hard rock, right? Yeah, if I’d stayed a little more two-dimensional, maybe I would have been more successful.

I don’t know. Well, you were certainly very successful at the time. That was your era, wasn’t it? Right through the late 70s and 80s.

Yeah, we did all right. But then things caught up. The wages of sin.

If we talk about 1982 with the release of Black Pearl, that one also featured some more mainstream music, didn’t it? Black Pearl was really, really good, I think. The songs were strong, the performances and the production were all really good. But, you know, it took us a while because I had split up with my management.

So we had to go through some legal hoops for about a year. So that slowed down the release of that album. And unfortunately, things had changed at the record company.

Somebody new comes in and they want to push what they like. They don’t want that guy’s artist, you know. So we started to get some resistance to try to get promotion.

I mean, we did a tour with Aerosmith. So everything should have worked. It just didn’t seem to properly.

It was a pretty frustrating time for you. It was for me, yeah. So did you have… You know, I was happy to be touring with Aerosmith and see Tyler and I go along really well.

But he was kind of a big mess at the time. Sweet guy, great singer, great musician. A big mess in terms of drugs.

Yeah, yeah. You know, that whole era. But I had to go through all the rest of the 80s.

But I’m fine now. Did you question yourself at the time as to what am I doing here? Maybe I should be doing something else. Did you ever have thoughts about changing gears? Yeah, but, you know, you kind of get trapped because if you don’t do the next album, you’re not going to get any money in.

Production advances was how I lived in between touring and stuff. I couldn’t stop, you know. I had no way else to support myself.

I had people depending on me too. In a world of my bad luck Bad luck and trouble Since I was 10 Oh, and I’m rough inside I had acquired a lot of encumbrances, you know. Just people that worked for me.

I was married and yikes. So how did you deal with yourself? Plug, plug, plug. I’m Irish.

We drink when we’re happy and we drink when we’re sad. Did that ease the pain or made it even worse? No, made it even worse, yeah. Obviously you got out of that cycle.

I met my wife, Monica, in 88. And we’ve been together ever since. She saved you.

Yeah, I was lonely. I didn’t know I was that lonely. Not lonely anymore.

Just stepping back a minute though. What was the result of one of your songs featuring on the 1983 film Valley Girl? Did that give it a big kick? That’s right. It did.

I never saw the movie. I still haven’t seen the movie. But funnily enough, my wife was pretty young at the time but she really liked Nicolas Cage.

So she thought that was super cool. Once I tell you that I love you, baby Don’t you know that I’m talking from my heart Looking for my heart Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh I can never find another like you You come very slow Right in front of my heart I, I, I, I love you Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh Pat says despite the song featuring in the hit movie, he never saw a penny of the fee. Management took it all.

I don’t know one big artist that I know that hasn’t had that same story. I mean, even the Beatles got screwed and still are bound by the original publishing contract that John and Paul signed in 1962. And they gave half of their publishing to Dick James and Brian Epstein, their manager, took 25%.

And John and Paul split 25%. So they got 12 and a half percent and that’s what their estates get to this day. Wow, I didn’t know that.

Crazy, yeah. Yeah. And do you think that’s because the artist generally is so young and inexperienced and naive and trusting? That’s it.

And because you don’t want to put up too much of a fuss because now people are paying attention to you and they might just go away if you ask too many questions. It’s an age old problem because when you’re, you’re usually in your early twenties, late teens when you’re getting into these relationships and you sure don’t have the savvy to understand the ramifications of what it is you’re doing and you just want to get on with it. Pat, tell me a little bit about that crazy 30-minute home video that you made after the album Hot Shot came out.

What was that all about? That was a ready-made situation. My manager at the time, because we needed video to promote our new album, it was a gal who had directed a video for Prince, Little Red Corvette. It’s a great video.

That makes it all right You say, what have I got to lose? And honey, I say Little Red Corvette Baby, you’re much too fast Little Red Corvette You need a love that’s gonna last Guess I should’ve closed my eyes When you drove me to the place Where your horses run free Guess I felt a little ill When I saw all the pictures Of the jockeys that were there before me Believe it or not I started to worry I wondered if I had enough class But it was Saturday night I guess that makes it all right You say, baby, I ain’t got no gas Oh yeah Little Red Corvette Baby, you’re much too fast She was involved with some other people and they were making a campy sci-fi sexy space aliens babes By that time you already knew what sexy meant, right? Well, yeah, by then, yeah What that did was allow us to get three performance videos out of it that we could put on MTV and whatever That was kind of fun So everything had changed again with the advent of MTV and the demand for video You couldn’t just release an album and hope it’d fly And a lot more expensive too Shooting a video back then was at least $30,000, $50,000 It’s not like now where you can make one on your iPhone Pat, tell me a little bit about Jerry Riggs because when he joined the Pat Travis Band it was said that you and he created a guitar team that fans considered difficult to rival The two of you had a real magic together, didn’t you? Jerry Riggs came in after Pat Thrall had left It just never really happened the way that I would have liked it So we had to do a couple of shows just three piece All of a sudden, oh man, I could hear myself So I decided to go back to just a trio live I’ve been that way now for 15 years The trio was hot but unbeknown to Pat he was in for yet another struggle as the 80s wore on.

Breath of Fresh Air Seg 3

This is a breath of fresh air, with Sandy Kaye. It’s a beautiful day. The Pat Travis trio flew high for a while with songs like this one in 84.

I think she treats you right. That’s so tough. Wanna fight? Can’t be sure what you see.

She can turn you to ice. Even if you’re not within a hundred and three. She’s a killer.

The Welcome Hot Shot was Pat’s last major label release of original music, and was a return to a harder-edge style of rock than his previous albums. After that, the latter half of the 80s were quite grueling for him. He’d entered a decade at the top of the music game, but found himself in 86 being forced to again earn a living playing nightclubs.

Although he’s never been able to regain the level of commercial success he once had, he has managed to hang on to a league of fans who call themselves Hammerheads. These guys are all still firmly in his corner. It’s true, and we’re about to go and see them again here.

We’ve got bunches of shows. We’ve got almost 40 dates, I think. Pat’s comeback has been evolving for some time.

In 2004, he started a project with veteran drummer Carmine Apice, ex-Vanilla Fudge, where the pair recorded cover tunes from bands like Queen and Led Zeppelin under the album name P.T. Power Trio 2. I recorded our latest album, which I think is pretty good, The Art of Time Travel. And what’s your favorite track from that one? All of them. I like them all.

Well, I like the title track. I think the title track is great. It’s fun to play live.

And I have my missus sing backing vocals on it. She sounds awesome. Did you meet her as part of the music industry? No, but our connection was she’s a vocalist.

When I first met her, she was only—I thought she was 70, but she was 80. And she needed a demo, and I had a studio. And on my part, absolutely nothing.

You know, she’s too young. But she would come over to my studio, and I worked on some demos for her, tried to find some material. One thing led to another.

Well, I was trying to find somebody to go to a Little Feet concert, an outdoor in the afternoon, and I couldn’t find anybody. So I called her, and she said, Oh, sure. So we just had such a good time.

I just felt happy. The chemistry was just great. So that blossomed and bloomed and is still going strong 35 years later.

It’s lovely to hear. Right here and right now. It’s all about time anyway.

The track The Art of Time Travel suggests that Pat would have changed things if he’d had his past to relive. I guess we’d all probably change some things if we could, but Pat Travers just expresses them better. Too many times I get trapped in a future where every last thing goes wrong.

And what that means is I’m thinking about next week, something that hasn’t even happened, but it’s all going to fall apart. You know what I mean? It’s going to be bad news. That’s in the future.

And then you start thinking about some bonehead thing you did 20 years ago, and you beat yourself up for that. You’ve got to be right here in the moment, wrestling with what’s behind you, wrestling with stuff you don’t even know that’s going to come. It’s just a waste of time.

It’s easy to say, but hard to do. I was five and you were six We rode on horses made of steel I wore black and you wore white I’d always make you win the fight Bang, bang, you shot me down Bang, bang, I hit the ground Bang, bang, that awful sound Bang, bang, my baby shot me down Oh Seasons came and changed the time When I grew up I called you mine You would always laugh and say Remember when we used to play Bang, bang, you shot me down Bang, bang, I hit the ground Bang, bang, that awful sound Bang, bang, my baby shot me down Bang, bang, oh you shot me down Bang, bang, I’m in on the ground Bang, bang, my baby shot me down Travis, give me your lowest moment ever. Where were you? And what’s coming next is what your highest is So I want to finish on high Yeah What would you say was your lowest moment ever? Oh, I remember sort of having About 1981 or 82 Just having some real dark five o’clock in the morning Just a bottle of Jack Daniels Smoking cigarette after cigarette Just feeling pretty low Asking what am I going to do? Where can I go from here? Just so unhappy For a while I had a bad marriage Of course I broke up with my manager too So it was all happening all at once But now, you know, I’m fine And the pandemic’s over We’ve got a new album to promote Lots of shows So everything’s good And your highest moment that you can recall? One of the best shows we ever did Was at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California Where they played football It was Bill Graham presents Bill Graham, the famous promoter And ACDC opened They were on first It was 1978 And then Van Halen Then my band Then Foreigner And Aerosmith Blues And it was a beautiful, perfect day 65,000 people We were on at the best time of the day Because it wasn’t too hot And it was just a perfect day Everything went right that day And how did you feel? I felt fantastic I was doing what, you know, I had always wanted to do And was successful at it So it was fun Oh, Black Betty Bam-ba-lam She gets me high Bam-ba-lam I said, that’s no lie Bam-ba-lam She’s so rock steady Bam-ba-lam And she’s always ready Bam-ba-lam Oh, Black Betty Bam-ba-lam Oh, Black Betty Bam-ba-lam Hey! Pat Travers was inducted into the Rock Gods Hall of Fame in Nashville in 2023 He feels he’s finally received the recognition he deserves And while he’s still passionate about making music and playing for his fans He’s the first to admit that these days it’s all getting a little more difficult I don’t like sitting in hotel rooms That’s where a lot of the trouble starts You know, if you have to fly nowadays It’s going to be a big pain in the ass And I happen to like hanging with my wife As long as it sounds good Then I’ll play anywhere And with the two guys I’m playing with now They’re just incredible The motor is really tuned up and running We worked really hard on the last album And I was very happy with how that turned out Pat Travers, thank you so much for your time today What a joy to chat with you And so glad that you’re back on the road and doing what you love to do Well, thanks so much, Sandy I really enjoyed chatting with you And I look forward to our next conversation Me too Try and head out this way We’d love to see you here Oh, I would love to come to Australia That was another thing we missed out I was prepping to get my chance to go to Australia I even covered a song by an Australian band The Easybeats The Young Brothers, Older Brothers Which song? It’s called Evie Oh, I love that song, yeah Oh yeah, we did just a burning version of it At my 50th birthday, the band that I had playing Changed the lyrics of Evie to Sandy And they sang Sandy Oh, that was awesome It was That’s incredible Well, you’ll have to see if you can find that tune By me and my band And I think you’ll like it Very high-end Thank you That’s awesome Pat Travers, I really appreciate your time And I’m really glad to see you in such a good space now Awesome OK, Sandy All the best Cheers, bye Bye Isn’t it refreshing when artists are happy to chat about the downtimes As well as the up ones We all have to navigate that rollercoaster that’s called life, don’t we Thanks again for your company today I hope you’ve enjoyed the show Don’t forget, if you’d like to request a guest You know how to find me Through the website I’m looking forward to being back in your company again Same time next week Do have fun meantime, right you Bye now