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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Guitarist's Success Is Almost Unheard Of

Carl Verheyen has played for 31 years--including for TV and films--but he's still not a household name.

July 11, 1996|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In a recent issue of Guitar magazine, Carl Verheyen was named one of the "Ten Best Guitar Players in the World . . . You've Never Heard Of," which is probably better than being the Healthiest Guy on Death Row, the Best Swimmer on the Titanic or the Prettiest Girl in the Braille Institute. With hope, Verheyen and his band will have the crowd inventing some new descriptions tonight at Joe Daddy's in Ventura as they play selections off their new CD, "Slang Justice."

Verheyen, a Pasadena local, started playing in 1965 after hearing the Beatles and the Byrds on the radio. He studied music at Pasadena Community College and then headed east to attend the University of Massachusetts and Boston's Berklee College of Music. These days, Verheyen is an accomplished studio musician, having played on countless commercials, TV shows, movie soundtracks, albums and gigs with musicians everyone has heard of. The guitarist discussed what's what during a recent phone chat.

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What do you think when you get put on a top 10 list of unknown guitarists?

It's great that somebody's heard of me, and they've lumped me with guys that I've heard of; then again, I've been playing for 31 years, and you'd think someone should've heard of me.

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What's the difference between working in the studio and playing live?

I kind of make my living in the studio. The only thing is, when you take off you lose your butt. I can make more money staying than going out on tour. Basically, the studio gig is what pays the bills.

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You went on tour with Supertramp in 1985. Whose place did you take?

Roger Hodgson quit and moved to Nevada City in Northern California. I think he bought a big ranch or something and is just hanging out being groovy. Anyway, Rick Davies decided he wanted to go on tour without Roger, so he hired me. We rehearsed for six months, and I remember our first gig was in Newfoundland--which is a lot like nowhere--and I forgot the words to the first three songs. But I was OK after that. We had huge crowds all over Europe. I've been working with Hodgson on a solo album for the last year and a half--he's still got the material. But those guys don't need any money; they're making more off their catalog now than they ever did when they were together.

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I understand you got to meet Prince Charles and Princess Diana? Did they get up and dance?

No, they didn't get up and dance. It was on the Supertramp tour, and I remember we had an etiquette lesson before they arrived. They told us: "Don't touch them. Don't ask them any questions." Anyway, we were all standing in this line when these limos drove up. Now Diana had done her homework because she asked me, "Carl, what was it like growing up in Pasadena?" All my idols were there--David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey--just standing around. I was cracking a few jokes with Prince Charles. But he wouldn't leave, and I couldn't just dog him, but finally, I did get to meet Daltrey and the other guys.

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Tell me a Little Richard story.

He shouldn't really be on my credits. I played with him three times when he was in town, but I never toured with him. We did those McDonald's commercials--remember those? Last time I saw him I asked him if he remembered me and he said, "Honey, I don't remember anything."

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You're giving John Fogerty lessons. What's up with that?

He's a great guy, and he just wants to learn some country licks for his next album. But I think, man, you're John Fogerty. It's interesting to me to see how these famous guys live their lives. I know I'd go nuts if I didn't have anything to do, and I also know it's an artistic person's dream to be able to get up in the morning and work on their music. It doesn't pay to be too analytical. I do know Fogerty wrote "Lookin' Out My Back Door" in one morning.

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What do you think "Slang Justice" sounds like and how did you happen to choose "Two Trains Running" for the album?

It's a blues crossover album. There's some different styles on it, but the playing is blues-based. I've had that song since I was a kid on that Paul Butterfield record, and I just love it. I thought it was time for a serious update. I know that some artists get that fear-of-finishing disease, but we finished the album in just nine days.

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What's the secret of being a working musician?

Learn everything you enjoy, and then some. Rock guys are afraid of country, jazz, fusion or whatever because they're afraid it'll ruin their rock thing. But everything you learn makes you more valuable and more versatile and you'll get more work, and that's what it's all about. And don't let anyone tell you you don't have to know how to read music.

* A fiver will get you through the door at Joe Daddy's, a place that has real root beer barrels at the front desk, at 211 W. Santa Clara St. in Ventura. Call them at 643-3264 to find out more about this 8:30 p.m. show.

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