Marty Walsh has plied his trade for decades, though relatively few may be familiar with his efforts.
A Los Angeles native, the guitarist gravitated to his father’s old Martin when he was 15. The first guitar he called his own was a Gibson ES-1403/4 he bought from his brother and eventually traded (and $10) for a ’61 Les Paul SG.
“Being a kid. I decided to strip the paint and make it white… Ouch!” he said. “I later sold it to buy a 335.”
The young guitarist garnered knowledge and inspiration via lessons from Barney Kessel, and later, Jay Graydon. Working his way into the L.A. scene, he toured with Eddie Kendricks, Seals and Crofts, John Fogerty, John Denver, and Supertramp (including recording the band’s final hit single, “Cannonball”). With Denver, he shared the stage with James Burton.
“I’ll never forget being at Red Rocks, in Colorado, playing rhythm when James played a solo that was so incredible I just stopped to watch and listen!”
Walsh and his family moved to Massachusetts in 1996.
“My wife is from there and we decided to get the kids out of L.A.,” he recounted. “I left my studio gear in L.A., and was flying to do sessions, but then I realized that Berklee [College of Music] is really the hub of the Boston music community, so I decided to pursue a job teaching there.”
Walsh now teaches in the ensemble and music production departments, and the experience inspired him to craft an instrumental album.
“My approach s quite different from other guitarists who taught there. I thought it would be good to do an actual guitar album, since I was teaching there, and felt I could make a unique record.”
Walsh recruited players from L.A., Boston, New York, and Nashville to record The Total Plan, which touches a lot of ground with songs composed with more than simply guitar solos in mind – saxophone, organ, piano, and bass take melodies up front.
“Conceptually, I wanted to feature many incredibly talented people. Each song came together by e-mailing files for the other musicians to put parts on. “I’d get a drum track, then figure out who I wanted to play bass on it.”
Walsh used a Fender Stratocaster with Lace Sensor pickups, a ’70s Gibson SG with EMGs (set up for slide in Open E), a ’79 Gibson Les Paul, a ’59 Fender Esquire with Gibson mini-humbuckers, and a Valley Arts he calls his “secret weapon,” with a midrange boost made by James Tyler. “I also used it on the Supertramp and John Fogerty tours. It has a wonderful neck, and I do most of my solos with it.”
Acoustics included a steel-string played by Steve Kercher on “Coast to Coast” (the only track with a second guitarist; Walsh played a nylon-string Alvarez-Yairi), and an old Silvertone used for a buzzing slide sound on “The Road.”
Walsh is thrilled with the album. “One of the other things I was also trying to do was make an album that would be interesting to the masses. I wanted to make instrumental music that non-musicians could relate to. Hopefully, I achieved that.”
This article originally appeared in VG January 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.