Savoy Brown guitarist Kim Simmonds always comes back to the Les Paul

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photo by Markus Hagner

Savoy Brown was one of the top British blues-rock acts of the early seventies, making a mark with such albums as Raw Sienna (1970), Looking In (’70), Street Corner Talking (’71), and Hellbound Train (’72).

For some reason the band was off my radar back then, as I was too busy listening to Sabbath, T. Rex, Alice Cooper, and Johnny Winter, I guess.

I do recall being quite fond of the 1971 boogie track “Tell Mama”, though. And a couple years later I definitely went nuts for the group formed by ex-Savoy Brown members, Foghat.

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Savoy Brown’s legacy, though, and especially the talent and resilience of original guitarist Kim Simmonds.

In advance of his show at the Electric Owl in Vancouver this Thursday (March 19) I called him up at his home outside of Syracuse, New York, and we talked about guitars and stuff for half-an-hour or so.

Of course, the topic of his favourite gitbox came up, because I always need to know that kinda thing. And, fortunately, Simmonds is a talkative sort.

“Well, I always come back to the Les Paul,” he said, “but it wasn’t my first guitar. My first professional guitar was a Fender Telecaster, back in that ’65 time period, and I wish I still had that guitar. But on the other hand I don’t have many guitars from those days, at all.

“But even back in those days I had an early ’60s SG, and that was like a Les Paul. And then I had the Flying V, of course. I was popular with that guitar, one of the first guys to use that in England. But even in the Flying V days I’d have a Les Paul as well. Some people used to say to me back then, ‘Oh, you sound better with a Les Paul.’ But I stayed with the Flying V because I didn’t want to be like everybody else–everybody was playing a Les Paul in the ’60s.

“Now I’m going through a period where I play a Les Paul,  but it’s very important to me, right now, to take out all the heavy Les Paul sound, because you can sound like everybody else if you’re not careful. So what I’ve got now is a Fender Deville with four 10s, and I have a ’70s combo Marshall that I play together. And I don’t use the distortion or anything on the Deville, I use a small tube screamer to get a little bit of grit out of that sound. And then I just use a wah-wah pedal, and that’s the only thing I use. I try to be as pure as possible with the sound, and try to keep it unprocessed.

“In fact somebody reviewed our show last weekend and said they couldn’t believe it because they were listening to a guitar that was unprocessed. So it was nice because one thing I’ve deliberately done is to stay away from that processed sound, and I think that it’s helped me retain my own personality.

“And let me tell you: nothing makes me feel better than being on that stage with a guitar sound I know is expressing what I feel. There’s no better feeling than that. And believe me, I’ve had lots of times where that wasn’t the case. So you work and work and work at it, so that when you’re on that stage you’re not just being a person, you’re in that moment, with something fresh, that is expressing yourself and connecting with people. There’s nothing like it, you know.”

Stay tuned to earofnewt.com for more on Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown in the next few days

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