How the heck did I wind up in a Santana Tribute Band?

Part 1: In the beginning

A number of years ago, if you had told me that I would spend 15 years (so far) in not just a tribute band, but a Santana Tribute band, I would have said you were crazy.

And yet not only is this the longest time I’ve ever spent in one band, but in many ways, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing in a group. The reasons are several, but to explain it, I better start at the beginning.

PRS Santana Signature model guitar

Phase two: picking up the guitar after a long absence

For reasons that aren’t important here, I didn’t play electric guitar at all during the time from my late ‘20s to my late ‘30s. Before that, although I had played, and enjoyed, a wide variety of musical styles (from folk to hard rock), my instinct as a guitar player ran more toward hard-core progressive jazz-rock than anything else.

Some of my favorite players were virtuosos such as John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Al DiMeola, Jeff Beck, and the like.

So when I did begin playing electric again, that is the musical style to which I gravitated. All-instrumental, melodic, guitar-based progressive rock. I spent several years writing, playing, and recording with a trio: guitar, bass drums. It was challenging and fun at the same time. One of the things that I grew especially deft at was using the guitar to create a melodic line rather than just riffing aimlessly.

Walking on the Latin side

For many years, I have been attracted to Latin music and musicians. All the way from Latin jazz to traditional styles like salsa and samba. Having always been fascinated by complex and intricate rhythms, I was especially moved by that facet of Latin music.

These two aspects — progressive, guitar-based instrumental music, and Latin rhythms — Inspired me to begin writing Latin-style instrumental guitar rock. But there was an obstacle: something was missing. It turned out that you need a number of percussion instruments to create the tapestry that is the basis for Latin music; one drummer just cannot do it.

I began the process of putting together another band; one that could play the ideas I was coming up with. But it was difficult to get commitments from that many musicians. One day I was talking to one, and he suggested that I start a Santana Tribute band. What? But the more I considered it the more it made sense. Having the musicians in place needed to create Santana’s music would give me the exact instrumentation I would need for my music. Easy, right? Stay tuned . . .