The Vox Bill Wyman Bass Guitar is a hollow-bodied, tear-dropped, two-pickup shipwreck from the 1960s. One of the earliest “signature model” instruments (Wyman is the retired Stones bassist), which infest music catalogs everywhere these days. Largely forgotten as a collector’s piece, it was brought back to life in the ’90s by string master David Lindley. Well, sort of revived, in that Lindley converted the instrument to a working model bouzouki.
No, not an Asian comic, the bouzouki is in fact an eight-string longneck Greek cousin to the bluegrass mandolin. Think Zorba the Greek for your reference point.
Multi-instrumentalist is too tame a description for Lindley’s gig. Since his beginnings as Topanga Canyon Banjo Champion four years running and the prescient eclecticism of Kaleidoscope (best described as Delta blues goes to Damascus with a layover in the Balkans) c. 1967-’68, Lindley’s been the go-to guy for sessions, film score work, and loading a host of unpronounceable instruments for the road. If in the touring bands of Crosby & Nash, James Taylor, Dylan, Dolly, etc., you catch the Syrian Oud, Turkish Saz, or Armenian Cumbus onstage, you’ll find Lindley. He may be best known for his long association with Jackson Browne, from the multimillion-album singer-songwriter’s debut to present-day records. The searing lap steel guitar solo of Browne’s ’77 classic “Running on Empty” is Lindley at his effortless best. If you happen to own the vinyl, you know the photo of Lindley warming up on fiddle that graces the inside sleeve.
Lindley has said he has no idea how many instruments he owns and, unusual for a guitarist, he’s not fussy over names, dates, or serial numbers. Anything from Sears, Roebuck to the pawnshop will do if it feels right. As the old saying goes, “the good guitar finds you.” Check out any of the videos from Lindley’s ’80s seminal band, the El Rayo-X, to watch licks pour forth from a cheap Asian knock-off to a triple-tiered Fender steel simultaneously. As a collector, Lindley does go beyond the call. When he has the time, he’s known for scouting estate sales, searching for old furniture, doors, and fixtures for the aged mahogany or spruce they may give up. With the rain forest depleted, new instrument wood has to come from somewhere.
Lindley tours as a soloist and, at times, with various percussionists including Wally Ingram and Hani Naser. These duo shows spawned a score of releases that jump genre and seamlessly blend world elements that should be nowhere near one another. Take for example the laconic “Cat Food Sandwiches.” Sung in Lindley’s garish falsetto, it’s a vaudevillian take on backstage food that putrefies in the green room or in the artist’s tummy. A straight 12-bar blues over a pulsating reggae thump, embellished by some tasty hula-blues slide guitar on a 1920s-era Weissenborn Hawaiian guitar. You get the picture.
If all this wasn’t enough, you have the chance to see Lindley at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall on Nov. 12, where he shares the stage with another wry soul with chops to burn, Adrian Legg. Legg is technician in every sense of the word. Before he made the stage his home, he worked in R&D for such musical gear firms as Trace Eliot, Marshall Amplification, and Ovation Guitars, all the while perfecting a unique fingerstyle approach that has won praise from heavies like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, with whom he toured as the guitar super group, G3. Vai calls Legg “the best acoustic guitarist I’ve ever heard.” Legg is irresistible in concert for both his superb playing and his famous wit. He spent a few years as a reporter-at-large for NPR’s All Things Considered, roaming America and distilling his experiences on any number topics, from our obsession with mobility to the neglect of the genius of 20th-century composer Paul Hindemith. (look it up).
I, for one, can only imagine the backstage back-and-forth between Lindley and Legg. So somebody needs only poke their head in the door and yell “CAPO!” or “ALTERED TUNING!” and see what happens.