I had the honor of asking Redd Volkaert a few questions. Now I must admit that I discussed these questions ahead of time with both Jordan Shapiro and Rontrose. All three of us are fans so it only made sense to make it a group effort. I can remember seeing Redd with the both of them at the Continental Club in Austin, TX. If you ever find yourself in Austin, Redd is a must see. In fact, when I get back to Austin he’s second on my list right after Guero’s Mexican Grill. Enjoy!
Q: You’ve played with Brad Paisley, George Jones, Ray Price and lots of other musicians. But the musician I always associate you with is Merle Haggard. Do you have a favorite Merle Haggard story?
A: Well my favorite Merle story is probably not so cool for normal people, and more for musicians. Merle had given me a guitar, a MH model from Fender, when they first came out. I played the guitar on tour right away and the next tour I had my old ‘58 back in tow, Merle asked “what’s wrong with the new one?” I said, nothing really, he says “come on now what don’t you like about it?” After some coaxing I caved and said, the pickups don’t sound all that great to me. They’re just stock and nondescript with no character. He said “it’s your guitar, go ahead and change them if you want, do whatever you have to, to it, to make you happy enough to play it.”
So I changed the pickups and brought it on the next tour, into the second song of the first night on the road, while in the middle of my solo he comes right beside me and says “WTF did you do to that thing? It sounds fantastic.”
I thought he was like a lot of singers and musicians that didn’t give shit, nor care about something as trivial as altering a guitar to make it sound better. But he was genuinely interested in what I did and especially what kind of pickups I had put in it. Of course he pestered me to change his in his guitar for a couple of months til’ I did. The reason it took so long is, I had had special ones hand made for me, so then, had to order another set for his guitar.
I just think that a guy, that was at that time 62 years old, still has the ears and interest in sound, must be a hell of a dedicated soul to his life as a craft. But then again he’s the great Merle Haggard
Q: Have you ever turned down a gig because, stylistically, you thought it wouldn’t be a good fit? If so, care to say who?
A: Yes I have, but I don’t think its right to name any names, kind of like saying, their music to me, is shit.
Q: What artist, living or dead, would you most like to sit down and jam with and any particular reason?
A: Jimmy Bryant. I think he was the most innovative, creative, free spirited player I’ve ever heard. Of course that’s just my opinion.
Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I would say musically, it would have to be Merle Haggard, because of his musical achievements, impressive body of work, longevity in his career, his songwriting and singing talent, and the balls to keep going.