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Interview: Blues Keyboardist Rick Melick

Blues keyboardist Rick Melick is coming to Adelaide for a series of shows. He talks to Glam about his stellar career, and what we can expect from his show The Roots of the Blues

Australian musician Rick Melick has had a stellar career, with both his own band, Rick Melick & the Self Made Men, and a host of other renowned musicians, mostly within the blues arena. Luckily for Adelaide he will be here next Thursday to play the first of four gigs. This week he sat down with Glam for a chat.

Although he began playing piano as a child, in his earliest days as a muso Melick began playing guitar and bass. His final choice of keys came about gradually.

“To be a bass player you have to be really, really, focused. For me the bass player leads the band. They’ve got rhythm; they can define what the chord is; they can change the root of the chord; and they have to be really on top of every change in the song. And I was just lazy! Guitar? Guitar’s hard, man! And then Rhodes pianos came along so it seemed like a logical choice for me once portable organs and Rhodes pianos were in the mix.”

An incredibly versatile, peripatetic, keyboardist, he is perhaps best known for his Hammond work.

“I do love to play the Hammond live although it’s impossible to move unless you’ve got a road crew. But that’s my favourite. That and acoustic piano. I have a beautiful 1969 B3 Hammond which I absolutely adore. I bought it in the US and had it on the road. Then I brought the Leslie and the Hammond back to Australia. “

Melick has played with artists such as BB King, Eric Clapton, and most regularly, Joe Bonamassa, with whom he toured for seven years. His astonishingly broad repertoire is only matched by his wide collection of influences.

“Greg Allman was a big influence. I love the Allman Brothers. Chuck Leavell was a huge influence and as well I was into a lot of the jazz stuff which I don’t play very well. Oscar Peterson was always in my house. Billy Payne from Little Feat. Payne playing stuff like that in his 20s, he was doing stuff that I can just get around NOW! And more recently I acquired an appreciation for New Orleans piano players: Professor Longhair, Dr. John, John Cleary, Allen Toussaint. I get as close as I can to those authentic New Orleans grooves and I just love them.”

And what about Hammond “god “Joey DeFrancesco?

“DeFrancesco does my head in! He is monstrous! He’s got so much to say musically I can only listen to a couple of tracks of Joey and then my head goes boom! And I’m out of there!!”

Playing with his own band, and then playing in other people’s each have their unique challenges for Melick.

“No matter what you’re doing you’ve got to serve the song so I try to be as simple as I can in all situations, including my own band. If I’ve got a pick-up band and I want to drive things in a certain direction, I tend to play a little more than I would normally. [With Bonamassa] we were playing five nights a week, all around the world, you really get inside the songs. It’s a very different thing to being in someone else’s band casually.”

So what delights has he got planned for his Adelaide audiences?

“I’m going to be doing one of the gigs with Mark Meyer’s band The Fallen Saints. The other three gigs are going to be solo. I’ll be telling some stories that I’ve collected along the way. I’ve been lucky enough to meet several key players in the blues: Hubert Sumlin, BB King, Paul Rogers, John Hiatt and Clapton of course. So there’s stories that come out and a little research on people going back to Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Willie Johnson. I sit there with my piano and play some songs and hit the stomp-box. It would be my wish that people enjoy it as much as I do.”

So if Rick Melick could have written any song, which one would it?

Fat Man in the Bathtub, Little Feat!  It was the first international band I ever saw. To see Lowell George up there playing slide guitar off the fret-board, over the pick-ups, I didn’t know you could do that! I also think Wish You Were Here is a fantastic song. And The Allman Brothers Jessica.”

After this extraordinary career we wondered is there anyone left that he hasn’t performed with, and wants to?

“Bonnie Raitt. Every sound and every performance is just stellar from that woman.”

Bonnie, are you reading this?

Rick Melick performs his solo show The Roots of the Blues at The Wheatsheaf on Thursday June 16th. On Friday June 17th he plays Semaphore Worker’s Club with The Fallen Saints. On Saturday the 18th of June he performs his solo show at The Gov, upstairs in the Balcony Bar, and on Sunday 19th June in the afternoon he is the bar at The Three Brothers Arms.

To book tickets, click on the links below

The Wheatsheaf

Semaphore Workers Club

The Gov

The Three Brothers Arms

To read more about Rick Melick, click here.

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