Interview FREDDIE SALEM
Good morning Freddie!
Thanks to granting us this interview for my French webzine Road to Jacksonville dedicated to the Southern Rock.
RTJ: Where and when are you born?
Freddie Salem: Akron ,Ohio 1954
RTJ: Do you come from a musician family?
Freddie Salem: Not so much. My parents loved music but none were musicians. My father owned a bar. I learned much from Jukebox he had at the place. Great selection and variation of music.
RTJ: When did you start playing the guitar and what appealed you in that instrument? What were your musical influences?
Freddie Salem: I picked up the guitar at the age of 15 years of age. I started with the drums At 12 years old My main influences were all of the above from British Invasion to American roots, B.B. King, Albert King. Carlos Santana, Clapton, Jeff Beck ,Roots R&B ,Country and etc.
RTJ: In what group did you play while teenager?
Freddie Salem: Several local bands . Smile , STOP, Mantissa Just to name a few.
RTJ: When did you join the Chambers Brothers Band?
Freddie Salem: I joined the Chambers Brothers in Los Angeles in 1973 after an audition at S.I.R studios. I was 19 years old at the time. I recorded and toured with the Brothers for a year and a half. Great learning experience at a young age.
RTJ: When and how did you join the Outlaws?
Freddie Salem: I joined the Outlaws in 1977. I had met the band a year earlier in Los Angeles. They asked me to fly down to Tampa and jam. I wasn’t aware at the time they were going through a personal change at the time. We rehearsed for one week and hit the road . First gig was Boston Gardens in Massachusetts. We continued from there. I was 23 years old at the time.
RTJ: You started out with the group with a double live and one of your composition (« I hope you don’t mind »). Hughie Thomasson seemed to have a great faith on you, isn’t it?
Freddie Salem: Billy, Hughie wanted to take it to the next step musically and direction of the group on all fronts including the live performances. It all seemed to click upon my arrival.
RTJ: In October 1977, how Hughie reacted at the announcement of the aircraft accident that carried Lynyrd Skynyrd?
Freddie Salem: Of course he was devastated as many were. The Outlaws and Skynyrd were on the forefront of the Florida Southern Rock genre. They were good friends.
RTJ: Within the Outlaws, you composed handsome songs (such as the gorgeous « White horses ») but also heavy tracks « Long gone », « Devil’s road », « Don’t stop »). Do you think that you influenced on the band's harder rock direction? Did Hughie want to harden the Outlaws’ music?
Freddie Salem: I definitely brought a harder rock edge to the band. At the time. I believe they were ready for the change. I never forgot the Billy and Hughie were the nucleus of the Outlaws. We couldn’t change that but just enhance it with a more aggressive approach. It paid off. Indeed. Hughies influences were vast. He loved the heavier bands that toured with us such as UFO, Thin Lizzy, Pat Travers and etc. We would always jam on Hendrix tunes at sound check. He was very diverse in his playing. Loved also loved Mark Knopflr guitar work as well. He and Billy were very unique in their musical tastes.
RTJ: What memory do you keep in mind of the Outlaws’ tour with the Rolling Stones?
Freddie Salem: Well. No other band in the world tours like the Stones. Its similar to a traveling Circus. Always something going on. The Stones treated the Outlaws very well. The experience was incomparable to anything I had ever experienced, till this day. Even though we had performed with the Grateful Dead and other stadium shows but nothing even came close to the Stones. Brilliant experience indeed.
RTJ: On the sleeve of « In the eye of the storm », we see all members of the Outlaws wearing a mustache.
Was it a bet?
LOL. Don’t think that was planned. Sign of the times, I would assume. Lol.
RTJ: It is often considered that « Ghost riders » is the best album of the Outlaws. Do you agree?
Freddie Salem: I believe it was one of the best efforts for the band. We had a brilliant Rock producer, Ron Nevison in Los Angeles, leading the way. He had produced The Who, UFO, Zeppelin and many more. He added another dimension to the Outlaws. It was his and Hughies idea to record and reshape Ghost Riders. Twas not a bad move. It became a huge selling album.
RTJ: The sound of « Los hombres malo » is not exactly great. In your opinion,
is it because of the recording or the mixing?
Freddie Salem: That album was the beginning of the end for the band. Producer was inept, Billy had left, Monte was gone and things began to unravel before our eyes. We were too numb to identify what was taking place. Horrible situation.
RTJ: The Outlaws have frequently turned with Molly Hatchet. Apparently, both bands were good friends. Do you have any anecdotes about that time? Did you attend some disagreements between Molly Hatchet’s members?
Freddie Salem: The Outlaws basically gave Molly Hatchet their start by placing them on tour with us. We had already been out and about for years before their arrival. We,I believe created a springboard for their band although they were very good and overshadowed us at times but that was our fault for becoming complacent and too comfortable with our success. Not a good place to be for a band to be.
RTJ: Southern Rock bands had the reputation of doing huge parties. Was it the case of the Outlaws? It seems that Billy Jones often hanged out with members of Doc Holliday known for their insane parties. Do you confirm that?
Freddie Salem: Oh yes there were parties . Not sure about the Billy situation.
RTJ: With Hughie and Billy how did you share the solos?
Freddie Salem: Carefully. With three guitar players blazing away, you must pay attention to the other players. Its called “musical educate “.
RTJ: What kind of man was Billy Jones? Do you have any anecdotes about him?
Freddie Salem: Billy was the consummate musician and person. He was a fragile individual personally but his playing was always right on target. Very precise soloist and composer. Wonderful guy.
RTJ: Do you know why Billy left the Outlaws?
Freddie Salem: After touring three hundred days a year and recording along with all the other things involved, things do catch up with you . He got tired and needed a rest.
RTJ: Did you have any explanations about the circumstances of his suicide?
Freddie Salem: Not much to say except for it being a devastating and heart breaking situation. Truly a shame.
RTJ: I saw you on 14th March 1983 in Paris when the Outlaws came to France with Molly Hatchet. How your short stay went in our country, did you come back to France afterwards?
Freddie Salem: That was our last European tour with that lineup. France, always wonderful along with
Germany as well.
RTJ: That night, your Les Paul was a perfect complement to Hughie's Stratocaster. With the Outlaws, you played on a Gibson Les Paul. Have you still those guitars? On what amps did you plug them in at the time? Did you play with other guitar brands?
Freddie Salem: Strat’s and Pauls always mesh well together due to the vast difference in tonality. Strat is high, Paul is low to mid, creating a nice spread in sound. My touring amps were Hiwatt 100s through 6-JBL 2×12 Cabaret series cabs. Nice full range of sound and projection , onstage and so to project and move air offstage.
RTJ: What is your best and worst memory with the Outlaws?
Freddie Salem: Most memories of my tenure with the Outlaws were the best of times. We became a magnificent recording and live headling Band selling out major arenas and coliseum’s worldwide. It was an exciting time to build the visibility and success of the band. As far as regrets, None.
RTJ: When and how did you leave the Outlaws?
Freddie Salem: Things had unraveled after 7 years of touring and recording. Our record label had dropped the band, Billy, Harvey, Monte were gone, And things deteriorated from there. I did not want to see the band go backwards, So, the decision was made Between Hughie and myself.
RTJ: Your solo album « Cat dance » was very well, less southern rock but more hard FM.
How did it perform in the charts?
Freddie Salem: Wildcats did better overseas. It has been issued on Rock Candy Records UK.
RTJ: What did you do afterwards? You played with The Godz. Do you still love hard rock? Does it Rick Cua who asked you to play on his record?
Freddie Salem: I produced two Godz albums and played live with With the group for 6 months. Yes. Rick asked me to play on his project.
RTJ: You played the guitar on some Barbara Streisand’s songs. Did you meet her?
Freddie Salem: Played acoustic guitar on one track. Never met her.
RTJ: You shared the stage and work with many artists. Which ones affected you the most?
Freddie Salem: Muddy Waters . Pittsburg Civic Arena.
RTJ: Which guitarists do you admire the most?
Freddie Salem: Albert King, B.B King, Hendrix, Van Halen, Steve Vai, Duane Allman, to name a few.
RTJ: In your opinion, what is the best combination guitar/ amp/string gauge.
Freddie Salem: Definitely a matter of taste and opinion.
RTJ: Do you like to play with slide technique?
Freddie Salem: Yes. I have played slide for years.
RTJ: You made an improvisation with Joe Bonamassa? How did you meet him?
Freddie Salem: I’d met Joe a few times over the years. He invited me to jam one evening.
RTJ: In 2007, you played on the Motorcycle Club of Oakland birthday. Was Sonny Barger there? Do you remember that the Hells Angels went to see Hughie Thomasson because they were mistaken about the song "Angels hide"?
Freddie Salem: Yes, he was there. Monumental event. Great time. Yes there was confusion regarding the song, but it was rectified .
RTJ: How was your meeting with the actor Danny Trejo in the Music Awards in 2014?.
Freddie Salem: Tremendous guy and actor.
RTJ: Are you still in business with the House Of Rock of Santa Rosa?
Freddie Salem: All venues have been closed for the past year due to the Pandemic. Unfortunate.
RTJ: Do you still live in Los Angeles? Do you have musical projects?
Freddie Salem: Yes. Los Angeles and New York City. I still remain active in production and session work as well as working on my new project, Freddie Salem & Lonewolf.
RTJ: What advices would you give today for a young guitarist wishing to become a professional?
Freddie Salem: Go to medical or law school. Lol. It’s a tuff road out there. I see it daily.
RTJ: Last and traditional question, if you must stay on a desert island, what would be the five records that you would bring with you?
Jimi Hendrix “Axis Bold as Love.
BB King “Live at the Regal"
Albert King “Born Under a Bad Sign "
Mahavishnu Orchestra “Inner Mounting Flame"
Robin Trower “Bridge of Sighs"