Former Ted Nugent vocalist/guitarist Derek St. Holmes recently reunited with long time friend and Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford. Their jam sessions eventually turned into a full collaboration and the duo is set to release their long-awaited followup to 1981’s Whitford/St. Holmes LP. The new Whitford/St. Holmes album is aptly titled Reunion, and is scheduled to be released on June 3rd. This is a rockin’ new album and fans of both men will be very happy with the result.
The duo along with their band are touring this summer, opening for Whitesnake as well as playing a few select headlining shows.
Derek called NEO Music Scene, while Brad and he were driving around Nashville to discuss his career, the new album and their appearance on June 11th at the Hard Rock Rocksino.
Derek St. Holmes: Hey Greg! How are you?
GD: I’m great; how are you?
DS: I’m good! What’s shakin’? Are you in Ohio?
GD: Yep, I’m right outside of Cleveland.
DS: So you are a good Midwestern boy like me!
GD: Right! I’m not too far from Detroit.
DS: Yeah, I don’t live there anymore and haven’t since 1975; but you know you can take the boy out of Cleveland, but you can’t take Cleveland out of the boy.
GD: You got that right, brother!
DS: I apologize, we’re driving in Brad’s Mustang and it might get a little loud. I’ll do the best I can for you.
GD: That’s not a problem; I can handle that. Thanks for taking the time and talking with me today.
GD: Going back to your youth, what made you want to be a musician?
DS: I saw Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show. I saw this crowd reaction to this entertainer and I saw quite a few entertainers even at the age of 10 or 11; but never did I see anybody get this crazy that they had to film him from the waist up. At that time, I was just figuring out that I had private parts, let alone that here’s this guy on TV gyrating and I was like “Wow, what a cool gig that is!” I thought, look at the girls going crazy over this guy. So I thought I might like to hold a guitar and strum it and sing.
GD: Right! Who wouldn’t? Who were some of your musical influences growing up besides Elvis?
DS: I would say a lot of early blues stuff and saxophone players. Guys like B.B. King and Chuck Berry. A lot of surf music. My parents were the ones on the weekend; they would have parties in the basement and everyone would come over and dance. It was just my sister and I growing up and we would watch these adults drinking alcohol and dancing and listening to all this music. So it seemed very normal.
GD: Do you remember the first record that you bought with your own money?
DS: Wow, I guess it would be “My Generation” by The Who. I know that my dad would bring 45s home. The very first 45 that he brought home and he would do this every Friday evening when he came home from work. I remember him coming home and saying “Hey, I’ve got this 45 for you.” I said “What is it?” He said “It’s the Rolling Stones and it’s a song called ‘Satisfaction’”. So here’s my dad, turning me on to “Satisfaction” because he listened to it to and from work. That’s how cool my parents were.
GD: Those are awesome parents. How old were you when they took you to your first concert and who did you see?
DS: I know my first concert was The Supremes, and it was by happenstance. We went to the Michigan State Fair, and you buy admission and do the whole thing and there is also music going on. We were there the whole day, and I’m on my dad’s shoulders headed back to the car and we stop by the band shell. We were way in the back, but I’m on my dad’s shoulders and I’m watching the frickin’ Supremes! I thought that was pretty wild, because I have seen artists on American Bandstand and on TV but to actually see it live. I guess I was about 11 years old.
Another early on was Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. But they weren’t called that, they were called Billy Lee and the Rivieras. I was at the Detroit Auto Show. I’m standing there watching this band with my dad and this guy was just laying it down! He was making the whole crowd go crazy. So that was one of the first shows that I saw like that.
GD: Wow, those are two great shows. How did you end up meeting Ted Nugent; I know that you are both from Detroit but how did that collaboration happen?
DS: I had a high school band and our band would open up for Ted’s band. He saw me play live and he knew that I could sing and play guitar. He probably didn’t care for me back then either. In Nugent’s voice “That guy sings better than me, I don’t like him!” (laughs)
GD: How did you decide which songs you were going to sing and which songs Ted would sing when you got together?
DS: Yeah, generally I would sing everything. Honestly, then his ego took over when he saw that I was getting a lot more accolades. He thought “Man, I better start singing, that’s what I need to do is sing.” That’s why I got the gig in the first place was because he couldn’t sing. Then all of a sudden, his ego comes in and he forced himself to become what I call is a “stylist.” I call Mick Jagger a “stylist” because you aren’t going to hear Mick Jagger croon. Nor are you going to hear Ted Nugent croon; they’re stylists.
GD: You joined Ted’s band a fairly young age; what was it like touring back then being a young guy in your early twenties going all over the world?
DS: It was total, total chaos and wildness! (laughs) Here we are, a couple of years out of high school; going to these other countries, drinking and doing whatever we pleased. It was radical! You know what’s funny? Nobody remembers, even Ted forgets; that all those shows we played together it was: Rob Grange, Derek St. Holmes, Ted Nugent and Brian Staffeld. Nobody knows who Brian is, but Brian is the drummer on the back of the Stranglehold album. He was the one that went on stage live. That was the band, that everyone seems to forget, that played every shithole there was. That’s the band that put Ted on the map. It was because the three of us worked our asses off! And so did Ted, Ted worked his ass off too. We were all on that big ship, and when that ship was ready to be christened, the record label guy walked over to one guy with the bottle of champagne and that guy was Ted.
We played everywhere! We would sleep on top of each other; throw some water on our face, strap on a guitar and go play. Some people don’t know this but we get paid to travel. Sometimes it would take all day long to get there. And when we get there, we play for 90 minutes, or 60 or 40. Or in this case with Whitesnake we may only be doing 30! We are going 23 hours a day, just for that one hour. But that’s how much we love it. When we do get there, our stuff is set up thanks to our fabulous road crew; and we get to sit up there and play guitar and pretend to be rock and rollers!
GD: Well, you are not pretending; I’ve seen you before!
DS: (laughs) Well, thank you!
GD: When did you first meet up with Brad Whitford; did you guys open for Aerosmith?
DS: My high school band opened up for Aerosmith, who was opening up for a blues guitarist. They needed another act for the show to kill 30 minutes, so that was my high school band. I heard the Aerosmith record, and there were some similarities with the band that I was putting together. I thought it was cool that the singer and the guitar players were coming from the same vibe. So we played and then we watched them and I thought “Man, they are pretty good.” I was paying attention to the guitar player on the left who was playing the guitar that I wanted which was a Goldtop Les Paul. Gosh, that must have been ‘72. Then I didn’t see them again until ‘75 when we both had the same management and started playing shows together.
GD: The stars seemed to have aligned after you left Ted and Brad was out of Aerosmith for a bit. Did you guys tour with your first album, or was it just a studio release?
DS: Yeah, we did tour with that album. Our first tour was with Blue Oyster Cult and we toured the United States with that.
GD: After a 35-year hiatus from Brad, how did you manage to get back into touch with him or did you kind of stay in contact with him?
DS: We did stay in contact. Whenever Aerosmith would come to Atlanta; I was living in Atlanta for thirty-some odd years. When they would come to Atlanta, he would call me. Or if I was in Boston, I would call him. So we always stayed in touch.
Then I saw him in Atlanta and a couple of months later he called me and said something about moving. I said “Are you moving from Charlotte?” He said yeah and I said “Well, I’m moving to Nashville.” At the time he said “Really? Maybe I should come check it out.” But before that, I was driving down from Annapolis to Atlanta and I was going to drive right through Charlotte so I called Brad and asked if he was going to be home after dinner that night because I was driving through. He said ‘Yeah, the wife and kids are gone somewhere.” So we meet up at the exit, I follow him back to his place, we play guitars and I ended up spending the night. Playing that night with acoustics, after not seeing each other in quite a while, let us know that “Yep, we still got it!” Whenever we get together “we got it.”
Then when he got here and I would go over and visit him in his new house and there are guitars around. So we would start playing guitars and we would always start off by saying “Hey, I got this, check this out.” Then he would go “Hey, I’ve been working on this, what do you think?” So that’s where it starts and that’s how this album came about.
GD: That’s great! I had the chance to hear the new Reunion album and I think that it’s a great, straight-up rock and roll record. Was that your intent; to get back to the classic rock sound? To me, I think that’s been missing.
DS: Yeah! I think it’s been missing; I know I’ve been missing it! I haven’t heard anybody get the chance to do it. I’m always hopeful when I hear when Tom Petty gets back together to do something, but I haven’t heard it yet. With Brad, it’s just part of our heritage to be able to play this stuff and we love it. So let’s write a bunch of stuff and play big guitars and big drums and let’s sing really loud too! Let’s have some fun so that’s what we did!
GD: I think you guys hit it out of the park. What is your favorite track on the album? I really like “Gotta Keep On Movin.”
DS: Yeah, that’s a good one.
GD: You guys are hitting the road pretty soon opening up for Whitesnake, have you ever played with David Coverdale before?
DS: Yeah, we did some Ted Nugent/Deep Purple shows and I remember him being in that form of Deep Purple. But I’ve never been introduced to him so I think this will be a lot of fun to meet him and get the chance to see him sing every night. He’s fabulous and I’m a huge fan.
GD: David just got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Deep Purple, which was long overdue. Besides the Ted Nugent band, who would you like to see get in the Hall of Fame?
DS: Well of course Ted Nugent and myself. It’s long overdue. They’ve got Patti Smith in there before us? Are you kidding me? Don’t get me going on that one. I know that it’s a committee or some board that decides. If it was real there would be a lot of people in there a long time ago!
GD: I think they have righted some wrongs by inducting Steve Miller and Cheap Trick and Deep Purple this year.
DS: Well I hope so, because they’re so delinquent in getting us in there. Top five bands in the world, in the 70s, we would have been one of them. How can you forget that, especially when somebody says “rock and roll?”
GD: Right! Like Grand Funk Railroad, people forget how big they were in the 70s.
DS: Exactly! They were huge!
GD: Have you ever been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
DS: Probably seven times. I love it. I always go and bring everyone. You know you’re not supposed to touch stuff and you aren’t supposed to take pictures of certain stuff. Well I’m a huge Duane Allman fan. To have that guitar three feet from me and not touch it. So I’m with one of the curators there and I said “Can I pick it up?” He’s like “Yeah, hurry up.” Then I said “Can I take a picture with it?” He’s like “Yeah, take a picture.” (laughs).
GD: I would have done the exact same thing!
DS: Absolutely! I just have a good time when we go there, it’s fun!
GD: What can we expect from this tour, how many songs will you be playing? Is it going to be just Whitford/St.Holmes or are you going to throw in a little “Stranglehold”?
DS: Well we have compiled a nice little medley of “Last Child, Hey Baby, Train Kept a Rollin’ and Stranglehold” so we are probably going to bestow that on the audience. We don’t have much time, so we really want to get to as many songs as we can on the album; so we are going to stick to the peppier tracks. Then we will try to get some of that nostalgia stuff in there. We won’t do every Aerosmith song “pound for pound” because we are not those bands. But we will certainly take you on a nice roller coaster ride to where you heard those songs for the first time. We do all that stuff justice and it’s pretty cool.
GD: Well thank you so much Derek, I’m looking forward to the show and you will be playing Cleveland on June 11.
DS: Yeah, I’m looking forward to that one!
GD: Cleveland is too! All of my friends are classic rock junkies and we were all excited when they announced that Whitford/St. Holmes was opening up for Whitesnake.
DS: Thank you! See you soon.
Whitford/St. Holmes new album Reunion is being released on June 3rd. For more information go to http://www.whitfordstholmes.com
You can catch them opening up for Whitesnake on June 11th at the Hard Rock Rocksino. Pick up your tickets at http://www.ticketmaster.com Ticketmaster location or the Hard Rock Rocksino Box Office. This is going to be a great night of classic rock.