Happy Birthday Walter Becker: Steely Dan On ‘Letterman’ In 1995
Legendary guitarist Walter Becker was born in New York City 70 years ago today. Becker met Donald Fagen at Bard College and the pair went on to form Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame band Steely Dan. While the guitarist died in 2017, JamBase celebrates Walter’s birthday with a look at Steely Dan’s 1995 appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman.
Walter and Donald recruited vocalist David Palmer, drummer Jim Hodder and guitarists Denny Dias and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter to join Steely Dan shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 1971. Becker focused on bass first for 1972’s Can’t Buy A Thrill and 1973’s Countdown To Ecstacy before moving to guitar starting with 1974’s Pretzel Logic. Steely Dan stopped performing live in 1974 after which Becker and Fagen were joined by a variety of musicians for 1975’s Katy Lied, 1976’s The Royal Scam, 1977’s Aja and 1980’s Gaucho.
Steely Dan fused jazz with rock and soul in a way that influenced many bands that followed in their footsteps. While Walter and Donald parted ways in 1981, they re-formed the Dan in 1993 and returned to the road with a new set of musicians. Steely Dan toured frequently in the years that followed. Becker died of esophageal cancer on September 3, 2017.
On October 20, 1995 Steely Dan made their first appearance on late night television in over 20 years. The band served as the musical guest on CBS’ The Late Show With David Letterman. Becker, Fagen and company played “Josie” off Aja. Additionally, the ensemble joined Paul Shaffer and the house band for instrumental renditions of Steely Dan classics during commercial breaks. Watch a video compiling the music from the commercial breaks with “Josie” below: