Brett Tuggle - Keyboards and Guitar
Trouble In Shangri-La Tour 2001
Comments by Brett Tuggle
Brett Tuggle Autobiography:
Music started at a young age for me. I grew up in Denver Colorado and I remember being in the first grade or about six years old when my mom bought a piano for the house. She could play a little bit because her mother had played but when the piano arrived my life’s journey into the world of music had begun. I remember my brother Kent and I taking the weekly classical piano lessons from this nice elderly lady at her house and going home and practicing every week for our lessons. A lot of people think, oh man, classical piano lessons, wasn’t that a drag? But really it was quite the opposite for me I loved it. The lessons gave me a great foundation for music and a real appreciation for the instrument so it didn’t really bother me that the other kids in the neighborhood where playing football or baseball while I was practicing my lessons. By sixth grade I had started listening to the radio and buying a few records. I think the first album I bought was a Surf record. In Denver we were really into the “surf sound” even the though the closest beach was over a thousand miles away. But then the following year I heard a band and a sound that would forever change my life, that band was The Beatles. They were really the ones that made me realize I wanted to play in a band and sing and write songs so that was it I had to get a guitar. My first guitar and amp were pretty inexpensive but luckily for me my grandfather gave into to my begging and bought them for me. I would sit at home with records I had gotten and figure out the chords to the songs by ear. Because of my piano background I could hear the music and pick up stuff with out too much trouble but I didn’t have a guitar teacher so I had to teach myself. I remember after playing the guitar for about a year or so I heard a song on the radio with a really cool organ part and then it hit me, I can play that! So that was it I had to get an organ. The small portable organ’s bands used in those days were around eight hundred dollars, which was out of this world expensive for a young boy of thirteen. So to earn money I drove a tractor for my grandfather on his farm in Kansas one summer vacation to earn half the money for the organ and my mom then came up with the other half bless her heart or I would have never been able to buy it. Finally with a real organ I could add something to a band and so I was always getting asked to play with different local Denver bands through high school. It was great learning experience for me. I ended up staying in Denver and playing in various bands playing a Hammond B3 organ by that time and rhythm guitar and singing and was able to keep myself working and playing music pretty much full time. I discovered I could make a living doing what I loved most, playing music. We actually used to play Fleetwood Mac songs from the Peter Green era in our club bands. When I was nineteen a band I was in opened up for the group Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels which at that time had lost one of it’s guitar players. One of their road crew at the time heard us play our set and watched us and went to Mitch’s band and said, “hey you should hear the kid on guitar and organ in the opening band” so they came back the next night to hear us. Somehow fate would have it that they were on their way to Vancouver to play a gig and work with their producer Bob Ezrin so they asked me to join the band and off I went with my first real touring band to make a real record.
Years of touring would follow. I moved to Texas for a couple of years and met some incredible players there. I lived in the Fort Worth-Dallas area and was introduced to the Texas blues shuffles and other styles that were a big influence on me. But I eventually went back to Colorado where I started a band with some old friends I had known for a long time in Denver. The band was called “Head First”. We would play in Colorado and Texas doing club gigs. Then 1979 producer Keith Olsen saw our band and advised me to come out to Los Angeles and meet a guitar player he just heard who needed a singer/keyboardist. So I drove out to California in my van with all my keyboards and about two thousand dollars and have lived in LA ever since. The 80’s were a lot of fun for me. I spent about four years playing with Rick Springfield after he hit it big with Jessie’s girl and did a lot of touring with Rick and his band. We had such a great time out there. He always put on such a great show, tons of energy and plenty of female fans. Those were fun years for sure.
I then auditioned and got the gig with David Lee Roth after he had split from Van Halen. Roth’s band at the time was amazing to say the least it included Steve Vai on guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass and Gregg Bissonette on drums. That was one band that could really throw it down so to speak. It was cool for me to work with a solo artist who actually wanted to write music with his band. I would go into my home studio and write these music tracks and give Dave a tape. If he liked the track he would put lyrics to it and presto, a song was born. I actually had a top ten single in 1988 with Dave called “Just Like Paradise.” I look back on those years as quite an amazing musical and learning experience.
I met Mick Fleetwood in 1992 when he was putting another version of his band “The Zoo” together. I heard they were looking for a keyboard player and so I made a phone call to Billy Thorpe the main singer/songwriter who said come on down and lets play. I ended up joining the band and we put out the album “Shankin’ The Cage” which did OK but never really broke through. The band was very powerful live but it just couldn’t seem to get off the ground commercially. Still I had made a new friend in Mick playing with The Zoo which would later be a key factor for me doing the Fleetwood Mac Dance project.
I got a call from David Coverdale in 1993 about playing with Coverdale/Page which was really a gas. We did only one tour of Japan and that was it. But I have to say it was a real thrill to get to play with Jimmy Page and do a few Led Zeppelin songs onstage with him. The crowds in Japan went crazy for both Jimmy and David. It seemed the band had just started to get rolling and then it was over. Unfortunately Coverdale/Page did only one album and then Jimmy was back with Robert Plant and David was putting Whitesnake back together so that was it, wish it could have lasted longer. I did end up playing on the next Whitesnake album “Restless Heart” and did enjoy working with David and his band a lot.
I spent the next couple of years in my studio just working on music for computer interactive projects. That may sound weird but it was really a great learning experience. I acquired an education on how to digitize audio and video and got to write music for a few different CD ROM games which was a completely different experience from anything I had ever done before.
I then hooked up with Steve Lukather from Toto and toured Europe and Japan in his solo band. Steve’s band was definitely a fun musical experience for me. Luke (Steve’s nickname) is an incredible guitar player singer and can play pretty good keyboards too. His son Trevor and my son Matt have a band. They’re both thirteen going on 30. These two are really into it as far as the band thing goes. They rehearse in the garage and really do sound pretty good and have a bunch of original songs already. They’re hooked for life I’m afraid.
Getting to play with Fleetwood Mac in 1997 and doing the whole Dance record and video is still to this day one the highlights for me as far as a musical experience. It was just a great time with the most amazing group of people I have ever met. I had gotten a message in the Dallas airport that Mick was trying to reach me so I phoned him up from the airport and he said “we’re putting the Mac back together would you be interested in being one of the musicians we need to augment the band”? Of course I said yes and we started rehearsals the next month. What can I say, that record and tour was the best. The band really got tight as a unit again and I think the Stevie, Lindsey, Christine, Mick and John were all ready to put away all of their differences get together again just do what they do best, play great music. The band sounded amazing the crowds were incredible and the reunion was a big success. That will be a hard one to top. I just hope it happens again someday.
After doing the Fleetwood Mac tour Stevie asked me to be in her band and I am still playing with her. She is such an inspiration to work with. Her songs are so cool and her voice is just awesome. She has so much charisma it’s just amazing how people are so drawn to her. Every night she goes out there and just gives it her all. She really is “the Queen”. I have so much respect and love for her, I hope I can play in her band for years to come.
Chris Isaak has also been a big part of the last couple of years for me. I met Chris at a Stevie show. He is a really nice guy, incredibly funny and has a beautiful voice. He is one of the best performers live I have ever seen. He makes the audience feel like such a part of the show. He’s hysterical. I have been doing gigs with him and Stevie both so I am truly very fortunate to work with these two great talents.
As I look back I have played with some truly amazingly talented people and feel so lucky to be able to have been a part of some great bands and projects. I hope to be able to play music god willing for the rest of my life. I’m also very glad my mom got that piano for us so long ago.