Steve Hunter has truly left his stamp on some of the most beloved rock and roll tracks of the 1970s and beyond.
Not only did Hunter play on five Alice Cooper albums, but he also performed on Peter Gabriel’s debut solo album that included the classic “Solsbury Hill” and was featured on two of Lou Reed’s live albums (Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal and Lou Reed Live).
As one of the top session artists in the game, Hunter has also worked with David Lee Roth, Dr. John, Julian Lennon, Glenn Campbell and several other luminaries.
Last but certainly not least, Hunter, a.k.a. the Deacon, also boasts several solo albums, including 2013’s The Manhattan Blues Project, which featured cameos from Johnny Depp, Joe Perry, Joe Satriani and Marty Friedman.
Hunter’s latest initiative Tone Poems Live is a live CD/DVD that was recorded in the studio in Los Angeles. Interestingly enough, Hunter wasn’t even sure he wanted to move forward with Tone Poems Live.
“It wasn’t really my idea,” he explained. “One of the guys that had contacted us when I was doing the Kickstarter for The Manhattan Blues Project came to us later with the idea of doing a live video. When we first started talking about it, I wasn’t crazy about the idea. But it evolved into something where we could record it live, kind of like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.”
Hunter recruited a veteran list of musicians to help with the sessions in bassist Tony Levin, pianist Phil Aaberg and drummer Alvino Bennett.
“I’ve worked with these guys before, and they’re all brilliant artists,” said Hunter. “That made things move quickly once we rehearsed for a couple of days.”
Tone Poems Live was actually filmed in a single day, as the collective ran through each song twice, with the best version landing on the compilation.
“That’s the way they used to be done,” Hunter said. “I remember reading about groups like the Animals recording their entire album in a day for like $35. That’s the way things were done back then. As much fun as technology is to play with, sometimes it’s good just to get guys in the room and record it. It’s a different ballgame.”
For the session, Hunter used a trio of Gretsch Custom Shop CVTs built by longtime Gretsch Master Builder Stephen Stern.
“He’s a true master,” Hunter said of Stern. “They are absolutely superb guitars. His craftsmanship is a real art; it’s almost scary. You can inspect those guitars with a magnifying glass, and they’re perfect – all three of them.”
The trio of Custom Shop guitars have mahogany bodies and necks and rosewood fingerboards. One boasts a Black finish, one is in Lake Placid Blue and the other is in Sea Foam Green. Hunter said he is still making adjustments to some of the pickups, however, and he even asked Stern to put a Kahler tremolo on the Sea Foam Green CVT.
“I know there are Gretsch players out there who get all annoyed when you change something on a guitar, like you’ve committed the ultimate sin, but I’ve always personalized my guitars,” Hunter said with a laugh. “Brian Setzer did that, so have many others, whether it’s the pickups or knobs or whatever. That’s kind of what I did with the three that Steve made me. I’m still experimenting with pickups, but the ultimate piece of wood that Steve put together is just beyond words.”
Click here to preview or purchase Hunter’s latest offering, and check out a promo video below.