E Street Band/Former Long Players Bassist Garry Tallent: The Cream Interview


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Garry Tallent
  • Garry Tallent
In preparing this week's print feature on The Long Players — who celebrate covering their 50th album, The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St., with a two-night bash at Mercy Lounge this weekend — I got the opportunity to chat it up with former Long Player, long-standing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band bassist and former Nashvillian Garry Tallent. Check out the Q&A below to learn about what Tallent got out of studying John Entwistle and Rick Danko, how he got involved in The Long Players and how playing Mercy Lounge differs from playing Giants Stadium.

Nashville Cream: If you wouldn't mind telling me just a little about your history in Nashville. What brought you were, and what it was like during that years that you lived here.

Garry Tallent: I moved to Nashville in February of ’89 from New Jersey. I had a studio up in New Jersey and worked with a few people from Nashville, and met several people who had just moved to Nashville. At that point I had produced a record with Steve Forbert who was living in Nashville at the time. And I had done some work and met Steve Earle, and met Bill Lloyd when they were putting Foster and Lloyd together and we had even talked about me producing that record, but I was touring at the time and all that. So anyways, I was just a little curious, I just liked a lot of what was going on and came down in late ‘88 and ended up moving there. And at that point, I was just starting to do session work and producing and ended up opening a studio and eventually a record company. Just really getting involved in the whole Nashville scene, and hanging out with a lot of cool musicians I had a lot in common with. I really enjoyed my time there, and I think from getting to know people that had similar interests in old records and music and we’d get together and play old records for one another and eventually that's where the idea of doing something like The Long Players came about, just going and doing live albums beginning to end and using the pool of talent that was in Nashville.

NC: How many records did you guys do while you were a part of The Long Players?

GT: I think we were probably somewhere around 20 or 25. I’ve been gone for about four years now so I’m guessing they've probably done another 25 since I’ve had to relinquish my seat.

NC: Yeah, because they're doing their 50th record. Are you going to come in and join for those festivities?

GT: Well, I’m going to miss the Friday night, that's my daughter’s birthday ... But, I’ll definitely be there the following nights for the 50th, whatever goes on there. I’m not really sure what’s going on, but I’ll be there for that.

NC: What was the most difficult LP to tackle for you as a Long Player?

GT: They were all very different. My problem was that I had really never done cover songs past about 1969, [when] I started playing with an original band, and so I really didn't cover albums. So when we went to do something like The Who and I had to emulate John Entwistle’s playing, or even McCartney’s playing on Sgt. Pepper's, It was all very challenging, but it was all very great, because you could really delve into the styles of the various players. I have to admit that I don't think I played everything note-for-note, but I think what I tried to do was get a feel for the way the individual played and kind of do my version of it and try to emulate it. More than getting every note right, I really tried to study Rick Danko and they way he placed notes, and the substitutions that he would use. The same with all of the [bass] players — Entwistle and all. I never claimed to have every note that they played, but I loved getting into the different styles and different approaches of each player.

NC: Did that process have an influence on your playing later on?

GT: I don't know. I think I got something out of all of it, it was certainly just a good reason to practice your bass, which I don't necessarily do all the time. So it was good in that, and I certainly learned something from every one of them. I don't know if it really changed (my playing), I’m so set in my ways with what I do — I’m sure it did. I honestly have to tell you too, that all those 25 or so albums that we did, that I learned, if I had to play them tomorrow the short-term memory just isn’t what it was. I would really have to go back and learn it all over again. And that was kind of the beauty in doing what we were doing. We were sure of ourselves in it, and then never do it again. It would disappear. Certain aspects of it would be ingrained, but for the most part you just kind of went on and continued on what you did before. And I thought that was a great thing about the performance art aspect of The Long Players — we would do our thing and work really, really hard at it until we made sure we had it, perform it, then let it go and never do it again. 

NC: How does the feeling of playing on stage in a club with a cover band differ from playing, say, Giants Stadium?

GT: I have always gotten more nervous in small clubs than in a stadium.

NC: How come?

GT: I couldn’t tell you that. I think it is basically something to do with the fact that people in a small club are all in your face and watching and paying close attention to what you’re doing, where in a stadium everyone is going up for a beer and it just doesn't seem as crucial (laughs). For The Long Players thing, it was so fresh and so new that it really wasn’t ingrained in my DNA, what was going on, so I really had to have my focus about me. I would be still listening to the record on the way to the club, to make sure I got it. Where when I’m playing in a band I’d been in for forty years, a lot of the stuff I’d been doing for at least 20 of those 40 years, and it's just a whole different thing. If anything, the whole experience with The Long Players just puts you on your toes a little more.

AG: Before you go, I really — as a fan — just wanted to tell you how sorry I was to hear about Clarence Clemons' passing.

GT: Thank you. I appreciate that. Everybody is still a little stunned be that, but we'll figure out where it goes from there.

AG: Well, I look forward to hearing and seeing whatever ends up happening.

GT: I appreciate it. ... I’ll be back in Nashville and look forward to seeing everybody and I guess a lot of the usual suspects will be out. I really enjoy the social aspect of The Long Players, it’s just a great party and a great hang for everyone to come out and be there and participate. It’s going to be terrific. 


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