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