Garth Webber

By Brian Scherzer

Webber and his Fender Robben Ford guitar
Webber and his Fender Robben Ford guitar

Garth’s story has to start with his guitar playing. He has a long history that includes playing with such notables as Miles Davis, George Thorogood, John Lee Hooker, Greg Allman, Merl Saunders, Kingfish with Bob Weir, Robben Ford, Mark and Patrick Ford. Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, and Bill Champlin, among others! His career has swung from serious jazz when with Miles Davis, to rock and pop, and to blues. When I met Garth a few years ago at a club in the Bay area, he had already evolved into a blues player with hints of his jazz background shining through. This is no surprise given his involvement with Robben, Mark and Patrick Ford. Hearing him will evoke a familiarity among fans of Robben Ford, yet his style is his own.

I did a review of one of Garth’s CDs (“Man On A Mission) for the now defunct Blues Forum back in 2000, which has been redone and can be found at this link. That CD remains one of my favorites, and it brings me to one of the other facets that Mr. Webber shows exceptional talent in…….he was the engineer and producer! I tend to be a bit of an audiophile, so it is always a pleasure to listen to a CD that has both an incredible musical AND engineering (overall sound) impact on me. This was the case with “Man On A Mission”. I got in touch with him and began asking the kinds of questions that could have easily made him stop answering my calls and emails! I asked about the mics and recording gear he used, how he set things up in his studio, and how to get “this” or “that” sound. What I got was a set of answers that helped me to better define my own recording efforts. He was sincerely happy to help out!

Garth in his studio
Garth in his studio

Garth owns Red Rooster Studio in Berkely, California and is known to offer consultations to musicians who are trying to set up their own home or professional studios. His studio is built around 48 tracks of Radar 24, a Soundcraft Ghost 32 mixing console, numerous microphones and preamps, 24 tracks of compression, and some wonderful instruments to choose from. Suffice it to say that the gear means nothing without the right “ears”…..and Garth has some serious skills at summing the various parts into a nicely blended sonic recording! Some of his engineering credits include:

The Ford Blues Band:The Ford Blues Band, 1999, Hotshots, Luther Tucker and the Ford Blues Band, Fords and Friends, A Tribute to Paul Butterfield, Got Harp If You Want It Mark Ford: With the Robben Ford Band, And the Blue Line featuring Robben Ford Chris Cain: Unscheduled Flight, Cain Does King Anthony Paule: Big Guitar, Hiding In Plain Sight Larry Dunn: The Rhythm Sheiks, Migration Of The Groove, The Rhythm Sheiks: The Hounds Of Music, Got It Workin’ Chris Cobb: CC’s Blues David Raitt: Take A Chance David Raitt and Jimmy Thackery: That’s It Andy Just: Don’t Cry Micheal Osborn: A Case For the Blues, A Background In the Blues Joes Goldmark: All Over the Road, Steelin’ the Beatles, All Hat No Cattle, Strong Like Bull Terry Hiatt: Big Science David Garibaldi: Future Sounds Kathy N Right: The Long Way Around, Nancy Wenstrom Mike Henderson: Only Time Will Tell Candy Planet: Deeper Than Fluff Edward Dee: Choices Jake Sampson: Three Shades of the Blues Mumble Finger: Nasty Bits of Funk Meg Mackay: Legally Blonde Joey Curtin: River of Life, Dance of the Porcupines, Bella’s Curve Max Cabello: Livin’ on the Edge David Quinby:Outbound Garth Webber: Get A Grip On the Blues, Webber and Ford On the Edge, Man On A Mission.

Garth and His Gear

Garth has an established list of gear that he prefers to use. It starts with his #1 guitar, a Fender Robben Ford model, that was given to him by Robben Ford as a gift. His comment on this guitar on his website is “I may well never find a guitar I like this much”. He does have a second Robben Ford model that is black and has the action set very high for slide work. When he played with Miles Davis, Garth used an ’84 Standard Strat that has a bridge that doesn’t do string-through-body. Other guitars used at times include a G&L “tele” and a Yamaha AES 1500 hollowbody. All guitars use his string preference, which are GHS 010-046 Boomers. The guitars are usually played through a Fender Concert amp, although a 1969 Fender Super Reverb is also going to be used when more bottom end is needed. Garth’s comments on his website about the Concert amp are, “The Fender Concert Amp has been my mainstay for about 10 years and I have found nothing that I like better for live work. I frequently record with it too and it can be heard on Man On A Mission, my most recent blues release. The Twin (red knob) is amazing for a completely clean rhythm tone. Nothing I have heard stays as clean as this amp even at very loud levels.” More about the gear can be found in the interview portion of the Garth Webber feature article. However, of note, two pedals, in particular seem to get a lot of use. His guitar goes straight into a Peterson Stomp II strobe tuner and then into a Zendrive. Sometimes a Carl Martin compressor is added. There are other pieces of gear that get used from time to time, but this is the mainstay of what Garth uses more often than not.

To get a true sense of Webber’s guitar capabilities I found an video of him playing with Miles Davis in 1986 at a venue in Hamburg, Germany. His solo begins at the 2:50 mark of the video and gives a taste of what could be expected of him in the future as the intensity of the solo slowly builds until the end of the song.

A more recent video of Garth playing illustrates his evolution and his training under Robben Ford:   Video

Continue to Part II for the interview with Garth Webber>>>>>