Greg V.’s Tailgate Troubadour is an outstanding album that crawls under your skin and sticks with you. But it wasn’t really meant to be.
“It was basically a deluxe business card. It wasn’t really to establish me as a solo artist,” says the Virginia native, now in L.A. And it may do just that, even if Greg V. (real surname Vorobiov, “It’s been slaughtered since kindergarten!” he says) has to take time off to play for some lucky singer/songwriter
The road to Tailgate Troubadour has been one of many moves (hence the clever title), and many gigs. In fact, Greg might be the only guy who served as guitarist for the former rhythm sections of both Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan! Vorobiov started playing guitar at about 13, loving the Beatles and old Elton John. “I realized early on I just didn’t want to listen to music, I wanted to be a participant.” He practiced six hours a day, laughingly noting, “All I had was school and guitar. No girlfriend.” His earliest influences include Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ted Nugent, followed by a flirtation with fusion.
“I liked Al DiMeola and Alan Holdsworth, and tried to get into that world,” he says. “But ended up splitting the difference with the Dixie Dregs and Steve Morse.” Pat Benatar’s guitarist and husband Neil Geraldo was also a favorite. “He played with such fire. He has that real on-the-edge feel that I love.”
Those influences melded with Greg’s work ethic to make him the player he is now. “I just applied myself in a very intense manner, and never really tried to copy anyone. I learned solos, but as stepping stones. I just wanted to get the emotion from the playing into my soul and playing.”
His first gig was at a Moose Lodge at age 15, subbing for the guitarist in his buddy’s dad’s band. “I showed up with my Peavey Mace, a 2×12, and a 4×12,” he recalled. “As you can imagine, they looked at me like I was crazy!”
In the 11th grade, his parents bought a farm in the Florida panhandle. The move was a turning point. “I hooked up with players 10 years older than me and was gigging every weekend,” he said. “When I graduated from high school, I packed my bags and moved to San Francisco.”
In the early ’80s, he was invited to play in a guitar contest held by Mike Varney, founder of Shrapnel records. “I was fortunate enough to win, and Chris Hayes, Huey Lewis’ lead guitarist, was one of the judges. He ended up getting me a gig with his sister, who wrote songs for Bonnie Raitt. That gig cracked open the Bay area for me.” Calls came in to do jingles and TV work like “Max Headroom” and “Baywatch.” He was eventually referred to Ronnie Montrose.
“I was kind of blown away – I was just a kid from Virginia. But Ronnie was great, and we’re good friends to this day.” Next was a gig with Buddy Miles that lasted three years. “Buddy is probably the most incredible musician I’ve ever worked with. If all he had was coconuts, he’d be the baddest coconut player in the world!”
After playing with Miles, Greg toured Europe with David Halliday, son of famous French rocker Johnny Halliday. He says the gig was great because of the music, and the chance to see the world. A while later, he moved to Hawaii when his wife was transferred. There, he “got lucky” when one of the island’s big acts, the Swingin’ Johnsons, needed a guitarist. He signed on and played about 250 dates each year for the next three. He then caught a case of “island fever,” and he and his wife moved to Austin, Texas. “I didn’t know anybody there, so I started slugging it out.”
There, he caught the ear of vocalist Malford Milligan and producer Derek O’Brien, who passed his name to Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. “They had just released Been a Long Time, and needed a band to tour.”
That gig lasted six months before Greg’s wife was transferred to L.A., where he got a gig with former Men At Work lead singer Colin Hay. It was fun, but because anyone who read his resume considered him a “Texas blues” guitarist, he had an idea for a solo record.
Tailgate Troubador was the result, and it carried more than its share of challenges.
“The record was made in the worst year of my life; my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks before I was going to start. I was going to call it quits, but she said ‘No’.”
He hired Kevin McCormick to play bass and Jim Christie on drums, and after his wife started recovery, Greg took the basic tracks and started playing. The result was a very strong album, with great tones and sounds.
Today, Greg is still a Tele guy and has two favorites from the Fender Custom Shop. “I also used a Gretsch Corvette,” he noted. “They’re inexpensive, with big necks, and I love big necks.” On the album, he also played lap steel, baritone, dobro, and mando guitar on the record through three main amps – ’66 Fender Pro Reverb, ’65 Super Reverb, and a Victoria Double Deluxe. Greg says he’d like to play with a singer/songwriter and points to Mark Goldenberg (with Jackson Browne), Buddy Miller, David Rawlings (Gillian Welch), and Bill Frisell as folks he admires as players.
For a look at Greg’s guitars, cars, or to get some info on him, check out gregv.us
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.