Danny Gochnour, lead guitarist for Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, talks about his influences, his return to teaching and of course, his stage time with, "The Boss".
How long have you been playing guitar?
Danny: 50 years? Picked it up after seeing the Monkees on TV. I was 9.
lol... I loved that show. Do you play any other instruments?
Danny: I play drums, a little piano/keys, and recently learned the mandolin.
It seems most guitarists want to be drummers and vice versa. Who are some of your musical heroes?
Danny: Growing up it was the usual guys: Eric Clapton, Hendrix, Page, Beck. Bands like Humble Pie, Cactus, Zeppelin. Steely Dan came around and with Aja and my musical world opened up. I got turned on to Larry Carlton, who totally transformed the way I approached guitar. Now it's guys like Eric Johnson, Pat Metheny, Robben Ford, Dave Grissom. I like Miles Davis a lot, too.
Have you seen any younger, up and coming players out there who impressed you in your travels?
Danny: I hear a lot about and check out kids on YouTube. No one I can mention off the top of my head. There's so many great players.
You play professionally of course, but you also teach. I'm curious if you teach kids and if so, have any of them surprised you?
Danny: Honestly, I haven't taught in years. I enjoyed it and learned a lot from my students. I haven't run into any of my old students. I'm anxious to get back into it again.
When I interviewed Joe Satriani, he talked about how it felt seeing a former student like Steve Vai make it big. Does that aspect motivate you?
Danny: That would certainly be a thrill, for sure. I just like seeing kids getting excited about music. Hopefully that excitement drives them.
You've been the lead guitarist for Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers for a while now. How did that come about?
Danny: I've known Joe in passing since the 80s. Around 2000-2001, I was freelancing and fell into gigs through my playing regularly with Hermie Granati and with Pittsburgh's elite like Donnie Iris and BE Taylor. Joe would sometimes stop by. Hermie and I did the Monday Night jam at Carhops in Beechview for about 8 years. One night Joe stopped in and jammed. I gave him a note with my phone number that said 'hire me'.I quit Carhops in 2004. Early 2006 Joe called and asked if I was still playing. I said yea. He asked if I wanted to take Bill Tom's place, explaining that Billy quit and Ricky Witkowski was filling in on an interim basis. I said, 'yeah'.I met the rest of the Houserockers at the first gig (laughs).
Wow. No rehearsal? You just dove in?
Danny: Joe and I went over the setlist a couple times, I did my homework. Funny thing was when I joined, Joe handed me a stack of like 8 or 9 CDs and said 'learn these'.I said, 'can't you narrow it down to a set list or 2?' 10 years in tbe band and I still havent played half of his songs live yet. Joe's a pretty prolific writer.
He has definitely built quite the catalog over the years. Besides learning the material, what was the biggest challenge you faced when you joined?
Danny: Acceptance from his fans. Billy is a great guitar player and for the longest time there were arguments from the fans over 'who's better'. I still get it occasionally.I think part of the problem was I never tried to emulate Billy. I learned his parts that he played on the records but then added a little bit of me. I thank Joe for giving me the space and freedom to do it.I think the fans at first wanted me to play like Billy.
Well you seem to have won over at least one of his fans as you've shared the stage with longtime fan and friend of Joe, Bruce Springsteen. Not many players can say that they've jammed with, "the Boss".
Danny: Yea. Im really honored and humbled to be a part of that from time to time.
What was that like for you the first time?
Danny: Chaos. Utter chaos.It was at the Starland Ballroom in Sayersville NJ. I took my 9 year old daughter with me who had no idea who he was. Her and I tried a whirlwind Saturday afternoon tour of NYC and my phone never stopped ringing. Sound check. No soundcheck. Soundcheck. No soundcheck. We finally ended up going over a couple things acoustically in the dressing room before the show and then just went for it.Plus, i was new to that level of fan craziness and security.
Have you jammed with any other famous musicians?
Danny: Not at that level. But guys like Gary US Bonds, Pat Travers, Wally Palmer (Romantics), John Cafferty, Willie Nile, Joe D'Urso, Southside Johnny. Lately Jeff Levine has been playing keys on shows with us in Jersey. Jeff played with Jke Cocker and Hall and Oats for years. Got to play a show with Charlie Giordano from the E St Band which was fun.
That's an impressive list. Besides playing live with Joe, are you on any of his recordings?
Danny: Yes. East Carson St., Somewhere East of Eden, Not Dead Yet, and American Babylon Live at the Stone Pony. Working on a new one now. Plus did an instrumental jazz record with Eddie Manion called, Night Life
Do you prefer playing live or recording in the studio?
Danny: They're two totally different entities. I love both equally. Im working on my own record right now and love how a song starts as an idea in your head and then slowly comes to life.
Where are you recording?
Danny: So far Studio Joe with Joe Munroe but hope to include Dana Cannone at the Church Studio as well.
Any other news you'd like to share?
Danny: No man, this was awesome! Thank you for the opportunity and taking the time!!