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Neil’s guitar style is so idiosyncratic. How did you go about working out your guitar parts to compliment what he did?
“Well, mostly he wanted me on piano for things like Southern Man and Cripple Creek Ferry… Only Love Can Break Your Heart and Don’t Let It Bring You Down. On Tell Me Why he moved me over to guitar. I didn’t own one, so he loaned me a great old Martin of his that he eventually gave me. On Till The Morning Comes, he was on piano and I played guitar. I sang on most of it with Ralphy [Molina]. It was just a natural thing. I was a very simple piano player, but because of my accordion background, Neil and Briggs felt that I could figure out some simple parts. You’ve got a very colorful Greg Reeves playing some solid James Jamerson bass parts, then Neil on top and me and Ralphy being very simple in the middle – it had a nice vibe to it.”
You've played with Neil a couple of times after going solo. Has there always been an open-door policy with him?
“No, but I wish there was – I’d be with him a lot more. I’d go see him play, and I’d stay in touch with all the guys – still do. We did the Trans album and then the tour, six weeks of stadiums in Europe. Then in the mid-‘90s we did MTV Unplugged. Last year, we did MusicCares, where as an alumni I played Born In the USA on keyboards as Crazy Horse performed. We were honoring Bruce. I think that’s out now on DVD – I’ve gotta get it. But yeah, if there were an open-door policy, I’d show up a lot more.”
The “Fat Man” circus painting behind you on your 1975 solo debut is now an iconic album cover. How did that come about?
“It was a beautiful accident. [Photographer] Ed Caraeff had planned a 10am session. I don’t like photo sessions – I’m just not good at them. I headed off with this colorful outfit on, but I had no idea what we were going to do. I showed up at Ed's door with this outfit on and a bottle of Grand Marnier. He looked at me and said, 'Oh, my God, these colors remind me of something.' In his backyard he had this giant antique poster from the ‘20s of what was at the time the fattest man alive. It matched my outfit, so I stood in front of it. Just like that, it had a cool vibe. I sipped from the bottle, and we got a great cover.”