By Trace Keane

Trace: Can you tell me the first time you remember seeing or meeting Tommy Bolin?

Reggie: Yeah, the first time goes back quite a few years so I’ll have to jog my memory a bit. The first time I met Tommy he was auditioning bass players to be in his band. When I went in, Narada Michael Walden was playing drums and Mark Stein was already there playing keyboards. We played through a few songs of Tommy’s. Norma Bell was there, I knew Norma already from Detroit. I think we all met, got introduced and played together for Ahmet Ertegun, President of Atlantic Records. He came down and heard us play at SIR. Narada was playing drums then and he signed Tommy to the label for what would become Private Eyes. We were in the studio soon after that, and Narada couldn’t make it to the studio, he was occupied. Tommy then brought in Bobby Berge to play and that’s when I first met Bobby. We had played a short tour with Narada, at least five gigs. We played New Orleans, Denver, and a couple of other places, I can’t remember exactly where but I know we played Ebbets Field in Denver, I believe we played Red Rocks with Robin Trower. We played a couple of gigs with him, after that we played a couple of nights at Ebbets Field, a smaller venue. We went out to dinner after the shows with his manager Barry Fey and hung out, those were really good times. So we had done some touring before we actually got into recording the record.

Trace: Now previous to this Reggie, had you followed Tommy’s career with any of the bands he had been with, such as Deep Purple or The James Gang?

Reggie: I listened a little bit to Deep Purple, I was familiar with that. I had started listening to them when I was playing bass as a teenager.

Trace: Had you followed Deep Purple before Tommy had joined the band?

Reggie: Very little to be honest, I knew of the popular songs they had out, but I didn’t follow them really that closely at that time.

Trace: Looking over the musical credits of your career, it’s a virtual who’s who. Which recordings stand out as being the most memorable to you?

Reggie: Definitely Stevie Wonder, that was the first session I had ever done with a major artist. We used to play with everybody at The Record Plant in Los Angeles. We were doing Minnie Riperton’s album Perfect Angel, Syreeta Wright’s album. The Jacksons used to come to the studio and I knew all of them because they used to sing background to many of the albums we were recording. Stevie would write songs for everybody, he wrote one for Rufus called Tell Me Something Good, we recorded that. Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, we recorded a song for her. Motown was sort of like a factory, we played with so many outstanding artists. It was when Motown made the move from Detroit out to Los Angeles and it was still very productive. One artist would write for everybody and that was Stevie (Wonder). That was just a great experience for me. A lot of the Rod Stewart songs I did kind of stand out, I never knew I could play acoustic bass until I heard it on the radio with Rod, and I just said “Wow! I’m actually playing acoustic stand up bass!” The Ry Cooder stuff was really great experience for me. I recorded an album with Tom Jones, and the Robbie Krieger of the Doors. Working on his first solo album called Robbie Krieger really stands out to me to this day as well. He did this fusion album with me and Mike Finnigan also played on it. It was this fusion album and I had never played that kind of music before. Fusionistic type of music was really interesting for me as well as a real challenge too. It was all a great learning experience. Recording with Tommy was too, it was my first time playing on a “rock” recording. I wouldn’t call it heavy metal, but it was my first time doing rock and roll. It felt really good to me.

Trace: Of all the great guitarists you’ve played with in your career, where would you rate Tommy’s playing amongst them?

Reggie: I would say definitely at the top. The style, as a guitar player he could actually, musically play the whole gambit, that the electric guitar could actually be the feature instrument, I heard that when he played on Billy Cobham’s record, and I thought to myself “Wow, that’s really amazing!” I would say between Tommy and Jeff Beck, they are the best as far as guitar players are concerned.

Trace: Tell me about your first time playing as a professional, not just the first time you got paid, but the first big gig where you were really a pro?

Reggie: I’d have to say Madison Square Garden with Stevie Wonder, it was sold out, we played two nights.

Trace: How old were you at that time?

Reggie: I was just 17 at the time.

Trace: Most kids are still in high school trying to get beer at 17, how had you made it so far by that age?

Reggie: Well I was playing in clubs at 13 around Detroit, older guys in bands. These older guys would come by the house and ask my mom if I could come out and play with them at these clubs? My mom would be like “No, he’s too young for that scene.” They would tell my mom that I was a good kid and wasn’t into drinking or anything else that was going on in bars and clubs. I used to beg my mother to let me go out and play, I wasn’t into the other stuff, just the music. She would finally relent and make sure that I was home by 2:00 am when the bars closed. So I got a lot of experience that way at an early age. Learning how to play in a small situation first, as opposed to a big situation.

Trace: What was the first bass you purchased as a kid and how much did you pay for it?

Reggie: The first bass I ever purchased was for $20.00, it was a 1970 Fender Precision. The bass I had before it had been stolen. I bought it at Gus Hoppe’s in Detroit, same place James Jamerson bought his bass. I still have that one and still play it the most today.

Trace: Even after all these years you still use that bass?

Reggie: Yeah, I use it a lot today whenever I’m recording, I still use it adamantly on many recordings some thing never go out of style.

Trace: What are you working on these days?

Reggie: These days I’m producing a project called Playing For Change (coming to Spain). It’s a whole movement about playing for peace. I’m working with a friend named Mark Johnson, he went all over the world and filmed street musicians playing the same song. He went to The Congo, India, Israel, almost every country of the world and I’m producing one of the singers. I’ve been touring with Keb’ Mo’ also. I’m also working on a Rod Stewart track and one with Joe Walsh as well. I’m also working on an unnamed solo project, will most likely have Keb’ Mo’ play on it as well.

Reggie McBride played bass in the first lineup of the Tommy Bolin Band and on Tommy’s Private Eyes album. He has a distinguished career and has played with some of the top musicians in the world including Stevie Wonder, Rufus, Ry Cooder and Tom Jones to name just a few. Recently, Reggie has been touring with Keb’ Mo’.