Masters of The Tele Promises Guitar Lover’s Heaven

The Masters of Tele concert at Cohoes Music Hall Saturday night (September 21) is likely to go down as one of the best concerts of the year. Jim Weider, G. E. Smith, and Duke Levine promise to take their fans on a way back machine tour that includes material by The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl, instrumentals by the Ventures, Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and will conclude with one of my all-time favorites, Roy Buchanan’s “The Messiah Will Come Again.”

This is the intimate yin to the yang of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival. Sure, there are six-string six guns who have bigger recognition by a mass audience, but if you look at who these guys have played extensively with, (The Band, Dylan, J. Geils, and Roger Waters to name just a few) you begin to understand that together these three masters of the Tele can match riffs with almost anyone on the Rolling Stone list of 100 greatest guitarists. And their repertoire is a living jukebox from heaven.

G.E. Smith

The genesis of this program happened six years ago when Weider first got together with fellow Telecaster guitarist G. E. Smith. “It was for Roy Buchanan’s birthday,” Weider recalls. “I wanted to celebrate. I didn’t want him to be forgotten. So, I put a show together at The Iridium. It was with Tom Principato and Arlen Ross. It was packed and I said, ‘This is a blast. Let me get ahold of G.E.’ and I started doing shows with G.E.  Then him and I started just always doing these Telecaster shows and adding on a third person. We did it out of fun playing Telecasters. We bring out our old ’50s Telecasters, and we bring our old Black Face amps.”

Jim Weider replaced Robbie Robertson in the Band in 1985, and currently fronts The Weight that for all intents and purposes is a 21st-century update of The Band. Weider, always a favorite of mine, outdid himself in December when The Weight played The Cohoes Music Hall. In my Nippertown review of Weider’s performance, I said that his guitar “rivals Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks for both dexterity and emotive power. Weider’s a chameleon on both guitar and mandolin and a grandmaster of tone and perfect control.”

Jim Weider

Weider met G. E. Smith in 1992 when they both played at Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Celebration in Madison Square Garden. “He was the bandleader, and The Band appeared on that show at Madison Square Garden. I’d met him in a guitar show before. I’ve kind of known him over the years, but always loved his playing on Saturday Night Live, and I just called him up and we clicked. We’re both Tele players.”

This is Duke Levine’s first run with Weider and G. E. Smith. The Boston Herald describes the Beantown native as the go-to guitarist for Peter Wolf and the J. Geils Band.   “When I was younger, I played Strats and Les Pauls,” Levine told The Herald, “but now my go-to is my ’53 Tele. I like it because it is so versatile. A Les Paul tends to sound like Les Paul, but a Tele can go in a lot of directions.”

Duke Levine

The Stratocaster may be the guitar of choice of rock stars, but Weider says the Tele is the shit. “The Stratocaster has a different thinner sound to me especially on the back pickup, and that’s where Tele players come in. The Stratocaster just doesn’t have that bite. A lot of rock players like the Strat because the rhythm picks up the sound from the middle pickup. To me, they’re a little wimpy.”

“To get tone out of it, you gotta work really hard. The rhythm pickup’s kind of dark, and you just gotta really work to sustain it. It’s a lotta work. But what happens is you play a little harder. You play a little different, and it makes you play and sound differently, too. That’s what makes you a little different player. Even Clapton played a Telecaster. That was the important guitar back in the ’60s. and that’s all I wanted to play was a Tele, and everybody played them.”

All three guitarists share vocals, Tony Leone plays drums, and Lincoln Schliefer is on bass.

The Cohoes Music Hall show is at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The theater is located at 58 Remsen St. in Cohoes, New York. Call 518-953-0630.

Other stops on this tour include:

Date: September 18, 2019
Time: 8:00pm
1650 Broadway
Tickets: (212) 582-2121

Date: September 20, 2019
Time: 7:00pm
2384 James Street
Syracuse, NY 13206

Date: September 22, 2019
Time: 7:00pm
130 Route 22
Pawling, NY 12564
Tickets: 845-289-0185

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