The number one issue interviewing a rock-legend like Bobby Whitlock is where to begin. Whitlock was an important player with such noted groups and musicians as Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Derek And The Dominos during the ’60s and ’70s.
Whitlock is still going strong at 67. He’ll hit the road in September with wife CoCo Carmel on their “The Just Us Tour 2015,” featuring 11 all-acoustic shows.
The set list will include such Derek & The Dominos gems as “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Tell The Truth,” “Keep On Growing,” “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad,” and “I Looked Away,”
They will also play songs from their current CD Carnival, such as “John The Revelator,” “Devil Blues,” “Nobody Knows,” and “River of Life” in addition to new material from an upcoming album.
IM spoke to the musician at his Austin, Tx., home about his career and his upcoming tour.
THE IMPROPER: In going over my notes and some past interviews, the names Steve Cropper (legendary guitar-player for Booker T and the MGs) and drummer Jim Gordon keep coming up. Tell me about your relationship with Steve and Jim?
Whitlock: Steve Cropper was a mentor; I taught Steve’s son how to swim; he knew of me from Hip Records, and set me up with Delaney & Bonnie and he had me call Eric Clapton when I left them as I was at something of a crossroads. We were at a truck stop and he said I should call Eric. Next day, Steve had a one-way ticket to England for me. But when I pulled up at Eric’s house, Eric came out and said what are you are doing here?
Eric and I wrote a lot; one night we were up very late writing a song and finally Eric said he was going to bed. I continued working and in the morning Eric came downstairs and said he had the rest of the song written. His bedroom was right over where I was and he heard exactly what I was doing. Jim is just the best drummer out there and I’ve wanted him for everything I’ve done. Eric actually thought I had come to put a new band together when I got to England; so, we got Jim, Carl Radle and the new band was born.
IM: I’ve got to ask you about Layla; which I listened to right before this talk and still stands up today like it did when it came out (November 1970). Why?
Whitlock: Well, Layla’s become like the Holy Grail. I’m glad it was me and as far as why it worked as well as it did, was the fact that we were all dialed in. The alcohol and drugs couldn’t stop us. The flow of the vehicles just worked so well.
IM: What do you recall most from George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass?
Whitlock: I was living in Eric’s house during that recording, and if Layla was indeed about Eric’s feelings about George’s wife Patti; then All Things could be called a response. I was actually with Patti’s sister Paula during those days and was right there … I mean, right there. Great music, a great moment for sure.
IM: You had two solo albums (Bobby Whitlock and Raw Velvet) which were tremendous (both have been re-released).
Whitlock: On the first album, the tracks “Where’s There’s A Will” and “A Day Without Jesus,” I had Jim, Eric, George Harrison and Klaus Voorman playing, and it was just a great, great time. I actually had a deal with Atlantic for Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler to produce me, but that fell apart and I signed with Dunhill.
IM: I’ve got to ask you about the legendary story where while you were recording Layla you went to see the Allman Brothers.
Whitlock: We all went, Tom Dowd too, and there were only about 200 people there. But we crawled up to the front of the stage and watched them play. When Duane saw Eric, he just stopped playing and stared. Duane came and played with us and the whole thing really took off in a new direction.
IM: I’ve got to ask you about the new tour; with Coco. Tell me about Coco.
Whitlock: CoCo’s performed with Dr. John, Phoebe Snow, Jon Bon Jovi, Albert Lee and Billy Preston, to name a few. She has also produced and co-produced several albums, including her own release First Fruit, which was originally produced by her husband Delaney Bramlett, and unearthed 20 years later, after his passing. We also did the Carnival album in 2013.
For this tour we just decided to ask a different guitarist in each town to appear with us; over the years, so many have been recommended to us, it made perfect sense. In New York, we’ll have Godfrey Townsend and in Somerville, MA, we’ll have Andy Argondizza and Luke Johnson in Sellersville , PA.
IM: Been a pleasure Bobby. Thank you