Written By: Chad Berndtson
:: Interview - Jimmy Herring :: Part One ::
If it’s true that Jimmy Herring is one of the scene’s greatest and most
guitar players, it’s also true
that he’s one of its nicest, most affable presences: a disarming, gregarious, easy-to-
chuckle North Carolinian who’s
gained respect the world over as both a musician and a person.
[Photo by Joshua Timmermans]
Here’s what’s harder to believe: he’s been lead guitarist with Widespread
seven (!) years now, and
he’s the busiest he’s ever been in his long, multifarious career. As Widespread Panic
prepares to kick off the
October/November leg of its fall tour this week, Herring opened up to us about the current
state of all things Panic,
from how he’s settled in behind the legacy of Michael Houser to the audiophile choices
that make acoustic tours fun,
Check out his comments below, and stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview, in which he
delves into the Phil Lesh
Quintet reunion, the Aquarium Rescue Unit, the Ringers and what he simply won’t do now
that he’s an “older guy.”
JAMBASE: So you guys came back from hiatus and I know hiatus always
sounds like a
dirty word, especially
if there’s tension or some weirdness in the band. But it really doesn’t sound like that
was the case for Panic.
JH: No, man, not at all. Everyone’s got a family. People just…I mean,
it’s a luxury
afforded to a band as
lucky as we are. The band, these guys built this thing and it’s been going on 27 years or
something like that. They’ve
been together long enough that it’s important to take time. There wasn’t anyone who felt
like, oh, you know, this is a
drag, or something. People need time to spend time with their kids and go to the doctor
and have check-ups and
whatever. I can’t think of the last time I’d gone to the doctor [laughs].
JAMBASE: Ah, so it’s you going for the check-ups.
JH: [My wife] was all over me, man! She was right, and I still haven’t
full-blown colonoscopy or
what you’re supposed to get done. [Yells into the next room] Hey we’re going to skip
music, let’s talk about assholes!
JAMBASE: [laughs] We can take this any which way you want, but I do have
mindful of our readers…
JH: I’m just teasing, man, I’m saying it loud enough so she could hear
yeah, everyone just wanted
to do some other musical projects. Dave did. I did. Todd had all kinds of things he wanted
to work on, you know?
That’s what the time was about.
JAMBASE: You guys came back and sounded strong and it seems like it’s
been a real
solid year of touring.
Any particular shows from the last six months stand out?
JH: Oh yeah, the John Fogerty show. That was fun. Vegas stands out. You
it was about Vegas?
We’d just played a bunch of high-altitude gigs and I’m not talking about Red Rocks so much
as places like Grand
Targhee. We did a whole string of those and, you know, we’re not young guys, most of us
are over or near 50, and
for whatever reason, you just don’t feel good and it just doesn’t always sound good up
that high altitude. So we’d
done several high-altitude gigs in a row and then going to Vegas after that it was like,
wow, oh yeah, this is what
we’re supposed to sound like.
And playing at that place the Joint, one of our really dear friends, John Rogan was there.
He was our bus driver for a
long time and during the off year he did some other stuff and got another really great
gig, so we don’t have him full
time anymore. It was great to see him and for him to be there on a night when we were on.
And then the John Fogerty gig, man, it was great and it wasn’t just that. The [Lockn']
festival had Derek and Susan
with us the next night, and I sat in with Furthur, and it was like old home week. The
Black Crowes were there, Phil
and Bobby, Bruce Hampton, Jeff Sipe - it was so many old friends. And I didn’t know
but I felt like I made a
really good new friend of someone I always admired and loved.
JAMBASE: Did you rehearse much with Fogerty before that show?
JH: No, just a little bit. The day before, we rented this theater in
Charlottesville for the day and we played
with John then. He was so much fun to work with. He was super cool, laid back, and so was
his guitar tech.
JAMBASE: How did he communicate what songs you guys were going to do
JH: He and JB had been staying in contact over e-mail and JB had been
contact with us saying,
"here’s what I think he wants to do." That was a dream come true for me because I got to
learn the songs before the
day of the show – that happens all the time – so I got to pay special attention to his
If you listen to the Creedence records, what’s interesting is that John is playing all
this syncopated stuff and there’s
of course another guitar. Well we had three guitars up there with him, JB and me so I
wasn’t sure what my role was
going to be and I figured, I’ll learn it both ways – I’m down with whatever Mr. Fogerty
wants to do. He was so
generous with the space in his music. It was fun. I haven’t heard any of it yet and I’m
not sure I want to. Sometimes
you remember it one way and then you hear it and it’s not as good as you thought [laughs].
But I think it went pretty