Guitarist Rick Vito was born in Darby, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. Though very young, Rick distinctly remembers the impact of the early years of Rock & Roll and the effect it had on his interest in playing the guitar. “Everyone, of course, was crazy about ELVIS and I was too. Also, I was a faithful watcher of the “BANDSTAND” TV show which was broadcast every day from Philadelphia. This started even before DICK CLARK hosted it. Bandstand was the center of the universe as far as Rock & Roll went for me. Most of the classic rockers made their debut on this show before they got to Ed Sullivan, and I remember being fascinated with guys like JERRY LEE LEWIS, FATS DOMINO, and LITTLE RICHARD. But it was the guys with the guitars that really got to me. My mom had played Hawaiian lap guitar as a young girl and we still had her old Oahu acoustic. We have a videotape (transferred from 8mm film)
of me about six years old going nuts with that guitar doing my Elvis bit in the living room. It’s proof that I’m a bona-fide 50’s rocker!”
Rick tried lessons a few times around this time but soon abandoned them preferring instead to work things out by ear. Another weekly TV show had a great impact on the young Vito. “THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET” usually featured the teen-age RICKY NELSON with his band every week at the close of each episode performd. I didn’t realize it at first, but it was the Blues influence in their music that I really felt. That and the Chuck Berry thing that I’d already been trying to learn. Through the Stones I learned about different kinds of R&B and Blues, and about artists like MUDDY WATERS, JIMMY REED, and HOWLING WOLF, and so on. I forgot about sports and whatever and devoted my time to becoming as good a guitarist as KEITH RICHARDS. Over time I mastered every lick from every Stones record every day after school. After awhile I started to sound pretty good. At least I thought I did. I knew I was getting somewhere at least.ing one of his hit Rockabilly tunes. Playing in Nelson’s band at the time was lead guitarist JAMES BURTON, who most often would be given the spotlight to flash out a dazzling solo on his vintage Telecaster, an impression which mesmerized Vito. “I couldn’t wait to see that show. Everybody called me Ricky at the time, so naturally I imagined myself as Ricky Nelson up there on the stage. Except I also wanted to be James Burton too! To me, along with SCOTTY MOORE, these were the first real Rock & Roll lead guitarists, the fir
st ones to mix Blues and C & W together. James probably influenced the electric guitar more than anyone ever realized back then, and you can still hear his style in many, many players tod
From this point, Rick picked up bits and pieces from the likes of DUANE EDDY, CHUCK BERRY, THE VENTURES, and whatever else could be seen and heard on radio and TV. He found that his father’s business also contributed to his interest in music in a unique way.
“My father managed my grandmother’s corner bar in Wildwood NJ during the summer months, and it had an old Seeburg jukebox. At the end of the season we got to keep all the records, so we had a great collection of Rock & Roll, many of which I still have on my own Seeburg at home. I learned a lot from those.”
Sometime during the summer of 1959 Rick’s mom took him to see his first live Rock & Roll show at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. He remembers:
“At the time, you paid one price and got to see the World Famous Diving Horse, take a ride in the Underwater Bell, see a movie (I saw “Ma and Pa Kettle”) and finally, see a live show. We saw the EVERLY BROTHERS, an experience which I can never forget. It was loud and cool and I loved it! There was this guy with them, JERRY COLE, who danced around playing this little white Supro electric. I knew then, I had to have an electric guitar. My fate became sealed.”
Rick’s first stage performance came about in 1963 appearing with some friends at a local teen dance. The lone guitarist with five guys in long black leather trenchcoats, slick-backed hair and cuban heels, Rick was the accompanist to doo-wop singers, “JOHNNY AND THE INSPIRATIONS”. Although Rick remembers the group as sounding “terrible”, the combination of terror and exhilaration from being onstage in front of an audience left it’s indelible mark on Rick. Later in the year saw the coming of the British Invasion, and for Rick that meant the ROLLING STONES.
“For some reason I was immediately drawn to their music and the rebellious image they projecte
Rick, at this point, became immersed in learning to perfect his Blues playing by studying the styles of the great Blues masters. At the top of this list was the great B.B. KING, and also included such stellar musicians as ELMORE JAMES, MAGIC SAM, SLIM HARPO, OTIS RUSH, FREDDIE and ALBERT KING, EARL HOOKER and many others. Vito also took much inspiration from second generation interpreters of the music, such as JOHN HAMMOND, PAUL BUTTERFIELD with MIKE BLOOMFIELD, TAJ MAHAL with JESSE ED DAVIS, and PETER GREEN. Rick recalls: “I went to see the original FLEETWOOD MAC with Peter Green at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia around 1968, and thirty years later, I’m still in awe of his performance that night. Peter was a master of taste and tone, sang great songs amazingly well, and was obviously the guiding force behind his band. He was just about everything I wanted to be as a musician. I’m still working on it!”
Through his college years Rick continued to perform in the eastern Pennsylvania area in a variety of bands which included stints with the MATRIX, THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, and the VITO- VALENTI BLUES BAND. V
ito and singer-harmonicist RICK VALENTI made their way to New York city and their first professional recording date, produced by fellow Philadelphian, TODD RUNDGREN. This resulted in the placing of one of their songs with Chicago harp-man JAMES COTTON on his Bearsville Records album, “TAKIN’ CARE OF BUSINESS”, also produced by Todd.
Soon after this, Rick had an experience that was to change the course of his professional life. Having heard and loving their first two records, Rick decided to introduce himself to the musical duo DELANEY and BONNIE BRAMLETT, and play them the tapes he had made in New York. The three hit it off and Rick was invited to sit in at their show. This experience both blew the roof off the joint, and left Rick with the undeniable realization that there would be no other course in life for him other than music. He decided then to take Delaney’s advice and move to the heart of the music business, Los Angeles, California.
Moving to the Hollywood Hills in the summer of 1971, Rick did his first pro work on tour with Delaney & Bonnie. Soon after, he began to establish himself as a respected recording session player first appearing on Todd Rundgren’s classic album, “SOMETHING ANYTHING”. At this time Rick also worked with such artists as LITTLE RICHARD, BOBBY WHITLOCK, JOHN PRINE, and DOBIE GRAY among many others.
“…a master of the instrument, at last getting the attention he deserves as bandleader/bluesman that is long overdue.” – JOHN MAYALL
Late in 1974 Rick received an invitation to join a new band being formed by British Blues pioneer, JOHN MAYALL, with whom Rick worked with subsequently on four albums. In the following years, Rick was a member of ex-BYRD ROGER MCGUINN‘s group, THUNDERBYRD, and also a founding member of Los Angeles club favorites, the ANGEL CITY RHYTHM BAND. With the ACRB, Rick had a unique opportunity to back many of the Blues greats he had been influenced by. Performing regularly at the Topanga Canyon Corral club on Monday Blues nights, they regularly held court with ALBERT COLLINS, LOWELL FULSON, BIG JOE TURNER, and GEORGE ‘HARMONICA’ SMITH, among many others.
By 1980 Rick had recorded two albums worth of material and was starting to place more songs with other artists such as MCGUINN CLARK & HILLMAN, and DAVID SOUL. At the same time he began a long association with slide-guitar queen, BONNIE RAITT, appearing on her rocking LP, “GREEN LIGHT”, and as a member of her touring band. Rick spent most of 1982-83 working with LA- based singer/songwriter, JACKSON BROWNE. He appears on Jackson’s single’ “SOMEBODY’S BABY”, and on his albums, “LAWYERS IN LOVE”, and “LIVES IN THE BALANCE”.
In between solo recording and live shows in the LA area, Rick continued session dates with many artists including RITA COOLIDGE, MARIA MULDAUR, and DOLLY PARTON, when he came to the attention of legendary rocker, BOB SEGER. Looking for a rootsy guitar sound to add to his work in progress, Bob enlisted Rick to try his hand at a solo over two long passages in a song entitled, “LIKE A ROCK”. The result of Vito’s efforts is now considered something of a classic in expressive slide guitar bravura. Of the experience Seger says in his “GREATEST HITS” liner notes: “My fondest memory of this recording is of (co-producer) DAVID COLE and I listening to Rick Vito play the slide guitar solo late one night at Rumbo Studios in LA. It was the single most spectacular overdub I’d ever heard!” “Like A Rock” has now been used as the soundtrack and slogan for Chevrolet trucks for over ten years and is one of the longest running TV commercials in history. Rick was an integral part of the hugely successful “AMERICAN STORM” US tour and has been featured on every Bob Seger album release since 1986.
Partly as a result of the high profile attention garnered by the Seger album and tour, Rick soon realized that he had reached another major turning point in his career.
“I got a call one day from MICK FLEETWOOD. We’d played together a couple of times on a BILLY BURNETTE session and at one of my gigs, and he liked the fact that I was a fan of Peter Green. LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM had just been let go and Mick wanted Billy and I to learn some Mac tunes and come over to play with the band. I had been feeling lately that something was brewing with my career anyway, so when I hung up the phone I turned to my wife Aimee and said, “that’s it, I’m going to join FLEETWOOD MAC”!”
Rick did join the band as a member in July, 1987 and began rehearsing for the “TANGO IN THE NIGHT” world tour. The excitement and excellence of Fleetwood Mac during this period was captured live in a lull-length concert video of the same name, released by Warner Brothers in 1988. Vito’s playing and singing is especially well represented in a faithlul version of Peter Green’s “I LOVED ANOTHER WOMAN”. Soon after, the group released it’s “GREATEST HITS” album which featured two new cuts on which feature Rick. In 1989 Fleetwood Mac began work on what would become “BEHIND THE MASK”, a solid collection of songs by CHRISTINE MCVIE, STEVIE NICKS, and Billy Burnette, as well as four original tunes written and performed by Rick Vito. Again the Mac followed with an incredible world tour.
Work tapes of Rick’s songs had found their way to ATLANTIC RECORDS president, Doug Morris through bandmate Stevie Nicks, and as a result, Rick was signed to his first solo recording deal. In 1992 his CD, “KING OF HEARTS” was praised in GUITAR PLAYER magazine for it’s “…dazzling collection of fiery, slide guitar-driven songs…”, and featured the single, “DESIREE”, a smoldering duet with Stevie Nicks.
In 1994 Rick accompanied Stevie on her “STREET ANGEL” tour, and during this time, made a decision to relocate from Los Angeles to the Nashville area.
“I’d been wanting to live somewhere green again. When we visited Nashville, I realized that not only was it a music town, but it was also some of the prettiest country I’d seen, so eventually I found some land, moved the family, and we built our own house. It turned out to be a dream come true in many ways.”
Rick devoted much of 1995-96 to family interests, but in 1997 he began recording his second solo CD, this time one firmly rooted in a Blues vein. Recorded both in LA and Nashville, the CD, entitled “PINK AND BLACK“, features nine Vito original songs plus solid treatments of others by OTIS RUSH, EDDIE CLEARWATER, and PETER GREEN. “PINK AND BLACK” is both a reference to Rick’s personally designed Art Deco guitar, and also to a style of an era in music where Blues and Rock& Roll made a passionate connection. Originally released in Summer 1998 on the STREAMLINER RECORDS label, “PINK AND BLACK” was soon picked up by the LA based WILDCAT RECORDS, receiving worldwide distribution in 1999.
“Rick Vito’s guitar playing just slays me! His style is as cool and sharp as a ’59 Cadillac tailfin.” – Bonnie Raitt
During 1998 and 1999, Rick also participated in a highly visible world tour with singer/guitarist BONNIE RAITT in support of her CD, “FUNDAMENTAL”. During this time he appeared on “OPRAH”, “DAVID LETTERMAN”, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”, “ROSIE O’DONNEL”, “CONAN O’BRIEN”, VHI STORYTELLERS, as well as the LILLITH FAIR TOUR and the ERIC CLAPTON EUROPEAN TOUR. Rick was featured both in duet with Bonnie and also performing songs from “PINK AND BLACK”.
In 2001 Rick’s CD, “LUCKY DEVILS” was released in Europe on the German-based HYPERTENSION MUSIC label. Containing eleven original cuts, “Lucky Devils” picked up where his previous CDs left off. Reviewers found it it to be “an exciting and innovative continuation of Rick’s devotion to his blues dominated stylings” (Hamburg Music Review). “Lucky Devils” (also the name of his new band) then kicked off with a critically acclaimed solo tour of Germany and Switzerland where he also appeared on the much heralded “OHNE FILTER” TV concert series. Rick managed to squeeze in yet another tour during 2001 with rock icon, John Fogerty, appearing on TINA TURNER’s epic Farewell Tour.
2002 saw Rick in the producer’s chair, this time for ‘rockabilly filly’, ROSIE FLORES. The result was the much heralded “SPEED OF SOUND” on Eminent Records. Also released in 2002 were several cds featuring Rick’s guitar work including “FAST GIRL” by the TRACTORS, and DELBERT MCCLINTON bluesy “NOTHING PERSONAL,”
A new DREAMWORKS film, “THE LAST CASTLE“, starring ROBERT REDFORD featured Rick as a captain of a commando team leading a mission to capture a U.S. Army general. Rick also was the recipient of the W.C. HANDY award for “BLUES SONG OF THE YEAR 2001” for his composition, “IT’S 2 A.M.”, as performed by the incredible blues shouter, SHEMEKIA COPELAND.
Rick’s next cd, “CRAZY COOL“, was released in September 2002 in Europe, again on Hypertension Music. Including a reworking of “LOVE IS DANGEROUS,” (cowritten with Stevie Nicks) and a tribute to JOHN LEE HOOKER (“MR. LUCKY”), Crazy Cool showcased Rick’s slide guitar work and songs with a fresh excitement, with perhaps just a little more emphasis on rocking out.
Rick’s fifth solo CD, “BAND BOX BOOGIE,” marked a turning point in style for him. Accompanied this time by a small saxophone section, Band Box Boogie mixed together elements of Swing, Latin, and Jump-Blues with Rock & Roll to create what some refer to as Rick’s crowning recording achievment to date. Former Mac bandmate MICK FLEETWOOD, who lists this CD among his all-time favorites, has said of it, “…absolutely incredible, soulful, and impeccable. I love this album!”
In the Fall of 2003 a new DVD featuring Rick’s performance on the aforementioned Ohne Filter TV concert series appeared as, “RICK VITO IN CONCERT.” Featuring twelve cuts, this DVD captures much of the energy and excitement of Rick’s live shows and showcases especially well his talent and versatility on the guitar. A second DVD, “GUITAR HEROES IN CONCERT,” features one cut from Rick’s DVD along with performances by many of his personal heroes such as ALBERT COLLINS, GATEMOUTH BROWN, and CURTIS MAYFIELD.
Rick recently teamed up in 2005 with JOE NAYLOR from REVEREND GUITARS to co-produce the new REVEREND “RICK VITO SIGNAURE SLINGSHOT” electric guitar. The guitar features sandblasted images from Rick’s designs from the coat he wore on the cover of his “LUCKY DEVILS” CD, and is modified to his own specs with high-output P-90 style pickups, and many other great Reverend appointments.
You can also see this guitar on the cover of Rick’s 2006 CD release, “RATTLESNAKE SHAKE!” Besides the Peter Green penned title track, RS contains eight new Vito original songs plus a masterful slide guitar instrumental arrangement on SAM COOKE’S, “A CHANGE IS GONNA COME” that is not to be missed! This recording is currently available through Rick’s website. Another European solo CD on Hypertension Music followed in 2007, “TALK THAT TALK,” essentially a blues recording with a bit more of an accent on acoustic guitar and strong lyrics. Highlights include the title track, and the reflective “TOWN THAT TIME FORGOT,” and “EASY DOES IT.”
In 2007 and 2008 Rick began forging new ground with old friend and bandmate MICK FLEETWOOD. The two have partnered in two ensembles, the ISLAND RUMOURS BAND, and the MICK FLEETWOOD BLUES BAND. IRB focuses primarily in Hawaii and is an exciting blend of music from Fleetwood Mac, Rick Vito, and contemporary and traditional Hawaiian music featuring also the talents of Raiatea Helm, Willie K, Lopaka Colon and others (see the IRB’s exciting promo video HERE). The powerful MFBB celebrates the original music of Fleetwood Mac’s blues years, blending classic tunes like “Black Magic Woman” and “Shake Your Moneymaker” with great new Vito originals. A new 2-disc “live and studio” CD from the band, “BLUE AGAIN,” ( featuring Lenny Castellanos on bass, and Mark Johnstone on keys) showcases the vitality and timelessness of this music as performed flawlessly by seasoned veterans on the genre.
“Soulful singer, brilliant guitar player, you got to check out Rick Vito, for sure!” – Keb Mo’
In 2009-2010, “Blue Again,” the live DVD from the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band featuring Rick Vito was released in the US, Europe and Australia. This exciting video was captured on the band’s European tour in Canterbury, England, and features seven Vito compositions. Shortly after its release, it was honored by being nominated for a 2010 Grammy Award in the “Best Traditional Blues” category. Also released in the same year was “Lucky In Love: The Bestof Rick Vito,” a solid overview collection of Rick’s finest recordings to date.
Rick’s most recent activities have included a much heralded live appearances at the NAMM Show where he demonstrated the latest Rick Vito Signature guitar (now the best-selling model in the Reverend Guitars lineup), and a show-stealing set at Deke Dickerson’s Annual Guitar Fest in Anaheim, CA. Rick also appears on “Memphis,” a new blues/roots recording from the great Boz Scaggs. Early 2013 saw Rick center stage in a jaw-dropping show at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center with the MFBB, Steven Tyler and a surprise appearance by the legendary Christine McVie, her first in 14 years! He is featured in two new “Best Seller” guitar-oriented books, “Burst Believers,” by Vic Da Pra and “The Strat in the Attic,” by Deke Dickerson. More touring and recording plans are now underway.