Gary Myrick on Working With Stevie Ray Vaughan, Wilson Pickett and Big Audio Dynamite
Born and raised in Dallas, Gary Myrick found his greatest success after moving to California and forming The Figures. In 1980, Gary Myrick & The Figures released a self-titled album that featured the new wave hit "She Talks in Stereo." The song, along with another Myrick original, ended up in the movie Valley Girl.
Yet there is a lot more to Myrick than a one-shot single. The guy actually replaced Stevie Ray Vaughan in an Austin band called Kracker Jack and went on to have stints with everyone from Big Audio Dynamite to Wilson Pickett. Speaking from his L.A. home in anticipation of Saturday's gig at the Kessler Theater, Myrick talked about his days in Dallas and why he needed to move on.
How long have you lived in Los Angeles?
I've been out here, on and off, since the mid-'70s. I moved out here in '75.
Ever tempted to move back to Dallas?
I've actually visited Dallas many times over the years. I lived in England for a couple of years. I was working with the bass player for the Clash [Paul Simonon] in a band called Havana 3 A.M. That was in the '90s. I did come down to Texas and I was thinking about moving back after all these years. I still think about quite often. All of my family is in Texas. I left Dallas in 1975, when I was in my early 20s. I went to W.T. White High School and my family is five generations in Texas. We go way back. I am always a Texan, but sometimes you have to get out in the world to make things happen.
When you were growing up in Dallas, what bands were big?
There were a lot of great bands. It was a fantastic time for local music. It was a good place to work on music and learn how to do it. I was really young when I started. I played around Dallas and wrote my own material at an early age. The bands that were playing around at that time were more like cover bands, doing material from the '60s. There were bands like the Chessmen and the Novas. I was not that. I wanted to be like my heroes and do my own thing. I never understood why there wasn't more of that going on in Dallas at that time. What I was doing was wilder and more dangerous. I ended up getting a gig at the Cellar in Dallas. It was an incredible club. I was doing original material five nights a week. I think the place was on Main Street, right across from a radio station called KLIF. It was a wild scene. There were bouncers who had guns on them. I remember a shot going over my head in the middle of my set. It was Texas wild. It was not aimed for me, but I was going, "Fuck, man, what are you doing?"
When did you get invited to join a band in Austin and replace Stevie Ray Vaughan?
John Turner was the leader of this band called Kracker Jack. He came into the Cellar and knew of my playing. For some reason, they were going to fire Stevie. I don't know why. I didn't know what the deal was. This was 1972. There may have been drug and alcohol issues. I went to Austin and took over for Stevie, and ended up knowing him quite well. After I got a record deal in California, we ended up playing some shows together in the Midwest. There were never any hard feelings. We had a nice relationship.
I saw John Waite recently and I know you wrote "Missing You," his biggest hit. Do you talk with him often?
We do stay in touch. We recently started working together again, but it didn't work out for me.
You have also played with Big Audio Dynamite. How did that happen?
Well, I was playing with Havana 3 A.M. and we actually had to go to Tokyo to record our first album. We were working with this guy named Nigel Dickson. We were asked to tour with Big Audio Dynamite. They were real nice guys. We had a great time. We toured England.
The list of artists and bands you have worked with is seemingly endless. Can you talk about your work with The Eagles, Stevie Wonder and Wilson Pickett?
I played some shows with The Eagles, but recorded a whole album playing guitar for Wilson Pickett. It was incredible. I can't say enough about his voice. It is sad that he has passed. Wilson Pickett was so nice and such a gentleman. When he opened his mouth, it was wow. His voice was like no other. He was a real soul man.
Does it say something about your technique that you can play with such a diverse list of artists?
I'm from Texas. I grew up listening to the Yardbirds and a lot of blues. Maybe that made me more diverse, but I was just trying to develop my own style. I think that helped. People seemed to be attracted to my style.
Will the upcoming show be solo?
Yes, but solo electric. I will be playing some old songs, but also some new ones as well. I just finished a live DVD of a solo electric gig. I have a really good time playing solo. I would do some reunion shows with the Figures. We never said we wouldn't do it. When some shows come up, we like getting back together. The band is better than it ever has been.
Your work with the Figures got a lot of attention on radio stations that were playing new wave music. What did you think when you first heard that term?
I think that term has been used since the 1800s. It was just whatever was new. I think there was a new wave of teachers in France in the '50s. I didn't freak out on the term. It was something with a new feeling. Even though I was into the blues, I was also into punk. I wanted to do something that was tough and raw. I just fell into that world. A lot of great songs came out of that period. I never walked away from it thinking it was a weird thing, I surfed on the whole thing as it happened.
Gary Myrick performs with The Gourds on Saturday, June 30, at the Kessler Theater.