MARCH 2020: It’s a cold winter Sunday morning in Nashville, Tennessee. We stopped next to the big black idling tour bus parked outside the studio. Joe Bonamassa climbed down grinning, wearing his trademark baseball cap and hoodie, carrying his Les Paul and a small vintage Fender Deluxe amp.
He had just driven in from Florida. He was on his way to do a show in Chicago, when Kevin (Shirley, his producer) called him in the night to tell him that he’d left off the solo on the title track of his new album Royal Tea, which they had just finished recording in London, at Abbey Road Studios. Laidback and laconic, he sipped his coffee, plugged in, and played a blistering solo to the track. The studio we were in was in a converted church, filled with vintage analogue gear, and we were set up recording my new album with the band Joe used on his own projects. As he laid down his vintage 59 Teaburst Les Paul and reached for his coffee, Kevin hit play and the song we were working on “Wind in Your Hair” came through the speakers. ”Play along to this track of Steve’s,“ said Kevin grinning. Joe’s lovely, lyrical guitar licks and a blazing solo filled the room. Everyone was stoked, Joe smiled, stretched back, swigged down his coffee, and headed for Chicago.
The full moon shone in through the split windscreen of my old VW bus, lighting up the narrow road through the mountains better than the six-volt headlights. I was heading to a small theatre venue in the middle of a town square in Stellenbosch, to play a set of new songs and a few blues covers. I had decided to do what I thought was a Led Zeppelin cover, Gallows Pole.
It was 1976, and I had recently met two phenomenal musicians Rob Nagel who played bass and blues harp, and an electrifying guitarist, Willem Moller. We were doing separate sets on the same bill at the Stellenbosch Folk Club. Also on the bill were David Kramer and Lesley Rae Dowling.
As I pulled in, I flipped the cassette and Rodriguez’ “Sugar Man” filled the van from the big wooden speakers lying in back. I had my 12-string Ibanez guitar which I had bought in 1969, (it’s on the intro of “Waiting For The Dawn“) and my 20-year-old self was psyched up for the gig. Steeped in Zeppelin, Muddy, Little Walter, Hendrix, Duane Eddy and Dylan, I was ready. The future seemed a long way off….. right now felt good.
Steve Louw is a South African singer-songwriter and rock musician. Winner of Best South African Rock Act, and a member of the SA Rock Hall of Fame, Steve is one of SA rock’s most talented and unassuming singer-songwriters. He and his band Big Sky appeared on stage with Rodriguez on the sold-out South African tour in 1998.