RUST BELT Troubadour
Guitar Player|January 2022
After making his mark with Gregg Allman and members of the Band’s camp, Scott Sharrard now takes his place in Little Feat while dropping a solo album infused with his Midwest roots.
MARTIN McQUADE
SCOTT SHARRARD HAS no shortage of talents. The acclaimed guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader likewise has no dearth of providence. He was born on the very day his future lodestar, blues virtuoso Freddie King, died. Sharrard’s father, himself a guitarist, guided his son, exposing him to the Allman Brothers Band, the Band and Little Feat. Sharrard would describe these experiences as “Big Bang moments.

In the years ahead, he built generational bridges to his triumvirate of top groups, and they beckoned to him. After studying music in Milwaukee and developing his chops, Sharrard formed a band with Gregg Allman’s saxophonist Jay Collins, resulting in his becoming lead guitarist from 2008 to 2017 with the Gregg Allman Band. Thus, the first plank was set. Sharrard formed the second plank by establishing the CKS Band with keyboardist Bruce Katz of Allman’s band and drummer Randy Ciarlante of the Band. He had the honor of playing at Levon Helm’s farewell concert, and Helm’s daughter Amy has regularly sung with Sharrard, especially his Brickyard Band.

He has now laid the third plank by joining Little Feat while forging a bridge to his Midwest roots with his new album Rustbelt, an Immediate Family Records release. Sharrard spoke with Guitar Player to trace out his journey and discuss the road up ahead.

What prompted your passion for Little Feat?

It was my dad playing their songs at home. Their album Waiting for Columbus grabbed me when I was eight. In 1988, I saw them during their Let It Roll tour and on Saturday Night Live. I admired their flawless blend of different styles of American music, their unique mix of heartfelt ballads and gonzo, Mad Magazine–type boogie stuff. They also had big Band influences, especially with how co-founder Bill Payne innovatively used synthesizers. Songwriting was crucial for them. Their lyrics hit me where it counts.

Now you’re branching out to another band in your pantheon. How did this occur?

I met Bill sitting in with the Doobie Brothers while touring with Gregg. Eventually they adopted many people from Gregg’s camp: our tour manager, sound guy and percussionist Marc Quinones. Little Feat’s singer/songwriter/bandleader Paul Barrere became ill in 2019 and couldn’t do a couple of tours. Larry Campbell, formerly musical director of the Levon Helm Band, and his wife, singer Teresa Williams, were booked to open for the band but couldn’t perform the last two gigs. Bill asked around the Doobie Brothers camp; Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons and Marc recommended me. I did the first show the day Paul died. That was tough. I rose to the challenge and gave a worthy performance on their behalf. Afterward, they said, “You’re in the band now.” It was Paul passing me the baton from beyond.

I’ve already played six gigs with Little Feat. I haven’t wiped the smile off my face. We’re about to tour, celebrating the legacy along with a fresh lineup. We’ve been writing a lot and preparing a new album.

Is there a bridge between the Brickyard Band and Little Feat?

I assembled the Brickyard Band as a modern Little Feat, just as diverse and cohesive. Singer/songwriter Moses Patrou was my inspiration. We became friends playing with Jay Collins, who also played with Little Feat and Gregg. I always wanted to be in a band with another singer/songwriter in it. Moses is also a percussionist, drummer and keyboard player. The Brickyard Band was five guys sounding like eight. Little Feat was my template when making [2012’s] Scott Sharrard and the Brickyard Band.

Which guitars do you use with Little Feat?

Little Feat requires its own scenario. I’m trying to complement guitarist/trumpet player Fred Tackett, who has been with the band since the ’80s. Fred has a remarkable guitar style, not only evident with Little Feat but also on records with Rickie Lee Jones, Bob Seger and Tom Waits, to name a few. I also need the sound of Barrere and Lowell George, the band’s other co-founder. To achieve this, I got a couple of Stratocasters for slide. Formerly I played slide in standard tuning. With Little Feat, I’m playing mostly in open A, like Lowell, and a couple of songs in open G. I got my new Heritage H137 guitar, made in the original Gibson factory in Kalamazoo. It’s like a Les Paul Junior with two pickups. I’m using that for standard tuning. I have my Custom Shop standard tuning Gibson CS-336 circa 2002 with Ox 4 Pickups, the guitar that I’m mostly associated with, the one I played live with Gregg.

What are your gear preferences?

To achieve Little Feat’s slide sound, you need a unity gain compressor. Origin Effects makes a pedal called a Slide Rig designed to recreate that sound. I have that on my board. I’ve started working with Orange Amplifiers. I’m overwhelmed by their AD30 amplifier, which I have with two 12s. I got my trusty 1966 Fender Vibrolux Reverb. I’m running both in parallel simultaneously. I also use a Heptode phaser, because Paul often used one in the ’70s.

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