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    Vito, Rick (13 October 1949 – Present)

    Guitarist and singer-songwriter from Darby, Pennsylvania, whose mother played an Oahu acoustic Hawaiian lap guitar, which he picked up on at a very young age.  He made his screen debut—sort of—doing a mean Elvis impersonation on his parents’ 8mm home movies. 

     

    He flirted with formal studies but elected to try to imitate his favourite licks on his own.  His dad ran his grandma’s tavern and it housed a jukebox which meant free records!  These became his learning tools and he soon developed a keen ear to emulate the guitar heroes of the day. 

     

    In 1959, his mother treated him to his first rock concert, The Everly Brothers at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier.  Four years later, Rick made his stage debut with a group called Johnny & the Inspirations.  Then he co-founded The Vito-Valenti Blue Band with Rick Valenti and performed at colleges throughout his home state. 

     

    The two Ricks moved to The Big Apple and in 1972, appeared on Todd Rundgren’s ambitious album, Something/Anything?.  Todd also included their song, “Takin’ Care of Business”, on a James Cotton LP that he produced. 

     

    Rick—Vito, that is—was enamoured with the sound of Delaney & Bonnie and became acquainted with them, giving them some tapes he had recorded.  Delaney told him the place to be was L.A. and so he relocated to Hollywood Hills and began performing live with the duo. 

     

    In 1974, John Mayall asked him to join his band, and in 1975, he appeared on their ironically titled album, New Year, New Band, New Company.  This was followed by Notice to Appear, A Banquet of Blues and No More Interviews, which found him multi-tasking on rhythm, slide, and twelve-string guitar. 

     

    Somehow, he found time to co-found the Angel City Rhythm Band, a group which backed some of the top blues musicians of the time, including Albert Collins, Lowell Fulson, George “Harmonica” Smith, and Big Joe Turner.  Another group he worked with was Thunderbyrd, the brainchild of former Byrds member, Roger McGuinn.  They went on a tour of England and released an album, but it fared poorly, thanks in part to the lack of promotion from the very company that issued it.  He also toured with Bonnie Raitt and appeared on her 1982 album, Green Light. 

     

    In the 1980s, he went on tour with Jackson Browne and played guitar on Lawyers in Love and Lives in the Balance.  Bob Seger recruited him to overdub the slide guitar part on “Like a Rock”, which has become one of the most recognizable riffs thanks to its usage in those ubiquitous Chevy truck ads.  They have continued to work together to this day. 

     

    In 1987, he got the phone call of his life:  Mick Fleetwood asked him to join Fleetwood Mac, which just so happened to be one of his favourite bands.  He jumped at the chance and they went on an international tour that was captured on the 1988 concert film, Tango in the Night.  In 1990, they released Behind the Mask, which featured four of his compositions, including “Love is Dangerous” and “When the Sun Goes Down”. 

     

    Stevie Nicks was instrumental—pun intended—in launching Rick’s solo career by making sure his demos got into the hands of Doug Morris, the president of Atlantic Records.  She also appeared on his solo debut album, 1992’s King of Hearts, duetting with him on “Desiree”.  Likewise, he appeared on three original tracks on the 1992 boxed set, Fleetwood Mac:  25 Years – The Chain, and toured with Stevie in 1994.  He relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, and recorded his sophomore album, Blues Town. 

     

    In the mid-‘90s he took some time off to attend to familial matters and re-emerged in 1997 on The Killens’ debut, A Voice Like Yours.  In 1998, Blues Town was finally released, but with new material, and with a new name, Pink and Black.  He supported the album with appearances at the Eric Clapton European Tour and the Lilith Fair Tour, and on several television shows, including The Tonight Show and VH1 Storytellers.  There may have been some cross-promotion going on, as he was concomitantly touring with Bonnie Raitt again, this time to move copies of her album, Fundamental. 

     

    In the new millennium, he inked a deal with Hypertension Music, a German label, and unveiled his third album, Lucky Devils.  He toured in support of the album in Germany and Switzerland and was so popular in Germany that he returned for a follow-up tour in November of 2000.  Much of his European tour is available on the DVD, Rick Vito in Concert. 

     

    Tireless on the road, he then hooked up with John Fogerty for an international tour which featured the former CCR front man opening for Tina Turner.  In 2001, Rick released his fourth solo album, Crazy Cool, and won the W.C. Handy Blues Song of the Year award for “It’s 2 a.m.”, which was recorded by Shemekia Copeland.  He donned the producer’s hat for Rosie Flores’s 2002 CD, Speed of Sound, on the Eminent label.  It joined other Rick projects on the shelves, such as Delbert McClinton’s Nothing Personal and The Tractors’ Fast Girl, both of which featured his fancy fretwork. 

     

    In 2003, he fused jump blues, Latin, rock and roll and swing, complete with sax section, on Band Box Boogie.  He also made the cut on the DVD compilation, Guitar Heroes in Concert, which featured many of his idols, such as Gatemouth Brown, Albert Collins, and Curtis Mayfield.  In 2005, he unveiled his very own guitar, the Reverend Rick Vito Signature Slingshot, manufactured by Reverend Guitars.  It is featured on the cover of his album, Rattlesnake Shake.  In 2006, he issued the instructional DVD, Complete Guide to Slide Guitar, and one of his songs, “She’s So Crazy”, was featured in the Harrison Ford film, Firewall. 

     

    He reunited with Mick Fleetwood in 2007 and they started not one, but two bands, the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band and the Island Rumours Band.  Rick has returned to familiar territory in the latter, which concentrates on Hawaiian music.  The Mick Fleetwood Band released a CD entitled Blue Again and went on a tour of Europe that included a stop at the Nottoden Blues Festival in Norway, where they were the headlining band. 

     

    For a snapshot of Rick’s solo work, check out the 2009 compilation, Lucky in Love:  The Best of Rick Vito.

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.rickvito.com/home.htm
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Vito
    3. http://www.fmlegacy.com/Bios/biorick.html
    4. http://www.fleetwoodmac.net/penguin/rick.htm
    5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOTPSxEDThU
    6. http://www.amazon.com/Rick-Vito-Complete-Guide-Guitar/dp/B000FKO3DA
    7. http://www.mickfleetwoodblues.com/

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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