Ry Cooder – My 1970 Interview with the Guitar Wizard

[Click for Part 2]

Ry Cooder with Fender Sunburst

Ry Cooder, circa 1970

Ry Cooder, was in New York, on tour with Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. He had just put out his first record (see below), and from the moment I heard it, I was hooked on whatever he was doing. I wasn’t even sure what it was, but I wanted to do it, too.

As a producer at WBAI-FM New York, I grabbed the opportunity to set up an interview, at a Holiday Inn in on 57th Street.

Bill Henderson at WBAI, 1970

Me at WBAI, 1970. One my right is Caryl Ratner, below me is Paul Schaffer.

I’d always assumed any trace of the the interview had vanished in the mist of history. But thanks to my old musician pal Rooster Van Dyke, a CD of the entire 45-plus minutes arrived in the mail one day. The quality of the original tape sounds surprisingly good for 1970: I didn’t use anything fancy, just my Sony stereo cassette field recorder.

Ry Cooder's first record

Ry Cooder's first record

Listening to it after all these years, I realize the interview has taken on the patina of history. Ry Cooder has not only made great music, but also affected ths history of American popular music by popularizing obscure roots virtuosos like Joseph Spence, the Bahamian guitar genius, and the brilliant, forgotten Cuban musicians featured in the movie, The Buena Vista Social Club, on which he collaborated with German director Wim Wenders.

Students of rock history will be particularly interested in the steady flow of specifics about the emergence of roots music, the LA recording scene of that time, and his account of the making of his record––which still amazes me.

Here is Ry Cooder at age 23. (Note: this is Part 1 of 2. It lasts about 20 minutes. Part 2 will be coming in a few days.

Ry Cooder 1970 Interview, Part 1:

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