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Charlie Souza, a nominee to the FLorida Musicians
Hall of Fame is a bass player, vocalist, performer, writer, producer in
the business over three decades with music released on Columbia Records, Atlantic
Records Los Angeles, Polydor, Fantasy Records Berkley California, Laurie Records
New York, Phoenix Records in Europe, independent Souzaphone Records with a new release on Wounded Bird Records in 2008,
FORTRESS "Hands in the Till". Charlie has recently filmed
and recorded a new DVD and CD with the NEW RASCALS titled "NEW
RASCALS Reloaded" to be distributed world wide.
Currently touring in
the NEW RASCALS with Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame's Dino Danelli and Gene Cornish
and Bill Pascali
(formerly with the Vanilla Fudge), and is also playing dates in Florida with his
band The New Tropics. Charlie with Danny Roberts, both 70's ex Tom Petty-Mudcrutch
members started a new project in '07, "The MUDBREAKERS" and in 2009 Souza has
recorded a live DVD with Rock Legacy Band
and is preparing to tour with band mate Bill Pascali in the new group's
"Legends of Rock Show"
Charlie has also toured, collaborated and recorded with Tom Petty, Bill Champlin
of Chicago, Joe Walsh pianist Rocke Grace, Jim Horn, Greg Allman, Cactus, White
Witch, Gale Force with producer Wayne Henderson of The Jazz Crusaders, "Fortress" on Atlantic Records, Native American actor
Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman, Santana
keyboardist Leon Patillo, and the Darrell Mansfield Christian Band.
In the new millennium, Souza teamed up with former Robin Trower and Sly & The
Family Stone drummer Bill Lordan, with saxophonist
Adrian Tapia of Boz Scaggs and Tropics brother,
Atlantic Records recording artist Eric Turner
of Fortress on albums Live Your Dream and "9 Ball in the Corner Pocket". These two CDs were
recorded in Anahiem and Hollywood, California.
Charlie has just finished recording a new CD "Livin'
in Paradise" in Tampa Bay area recording studios including MCR Studios
Tampa and Big 3 Studios
St. Petersburg . Souza also has a book coming out entitled "Live Your Dream!"
published by Florida Books
& Videos in Orlando and is currently serving on the board for Musicians and Fine Artists for World Peace.
In Charlie's words: I wore out my original '65 Fender Jazz bass sometime during
the eighties when I had the body torched just to bring out the wood grain. It was
cool looking but it lost some of the resonance! duh! Since then and before then
I've played Epiphones,Gibsons, Rickenbackers and had another company in L.A. "Saunders"
build me some cool custom bass guitar designs. But wait! In 1983 I had a custom
Tobias 5 string bass built for me by Michael Tobias in his Hollywood & Vine shop.
It has a Zebra wood top and neck thru body maple neck with purple heart inlaid.At
this point, I try only to use it as one of my recording basses for the studio. I
also have a couple of five string Music Man Sting Rays which I use for my work horses
on the road and I always play them through an Ampeg SVT. I use my 5 string Steinberger
bass mainly for rehearsals. Since my experience with the master luthier Michael
Tobias, I only use GHS super steels with special gauges of 40 - 58 - 80- 102 - 126.
G.H.S. called that particular set the "Tobias" 5 string Bass set. I use the same
strings on all my bass guitars. My own personal amp is a Galleon Kruger 400/800
with an SWR 4 10" & horn and an SWR 15" + 10" + horn stacked.
AGB: I have to ask everyone this same question as it gives an insight on
what brought you to this point in your career. What really made you pick the bass
guitar as your instrument?
Charlie: It was in my junior year in high school that a buddy of mine invited
me into a band that needed a bass player. So I bought an Epiphone bass guitar and
learned how to play it as we rehearsed for the gigs.
AGB: What do you think was the driving force to keep playing? Obviously you
did not know you would be where you are at now and were you ever ready to give it
up and do something else?
Charlie: In 1999 I headed up a 30-year reunion of the Tropics. I was working
a day job in the ‘90s, playing "casual gigs" in L.A. on the weekends. I took the
positive energy from the Tropics reunion and started to record my solo albums. The
first was Live Your Dream then 9 Ball in the Corner Pocket. I also did an "unplugged"
album, The Rose, and in '06 I recorded a few Tropics songs. They were actually songs
of my own that I hadn't recorded yet. And of course I covered a Beatles tune, All
you need is Love. All the music is available through iTunes, Amazon.com and just
about anywhere you can buy music today, including Walmart.com.
AGB: Looking over the list of gear that you use both live and in the studio,
what was it that helped you select the bass and amps that you use?
Charlie: I simply changed gear to upgrade through the years and ended up
with what I think is the best for me, other than using an Ampeg SVT amp on my concert
gigs (which is furnished for me) I am happy with the Galeon Krugar amp and my SWR
speaker cabinets. I still have my Tobias 5 string, wich was custom made for me by
Micheal Tobias in 1982, but have picked up a couple of workhorses one in 1988 and
the newest one in 2006 Music Man Sting Ray basses to take on the road with me.
AGB: I’ve read a few things about your music career, playing with Tom Petty
and the Heartbreakers, The New Rascals, Greg Allman and many others. You’re also
a nominee to the Florida Music Hall of Fame. With all of this you have your band
The New Tropics, producer, writer, vocalist and so many other things that you have
done four decades in the music business could you give a few highlights on some
of the interesting periods over the years?
Charlie: Sure! I was playing in a bar in St. Petersburg, Florida, late one
night with my Bacchus band-mate Eric Turner, and Greg Allman came in to listen.
After the gig, Gregg gave me a ride home in his chauffer-driven limousine! On the
way to my house, he handed me an 18-karat gold Allman Brothers Mushroom pendant
and asked if I'd be interested in playing bass with him. What do you think I said?
A couple weeks later I found myself on a plane heading to Macon, Georgia, and thinking
that since Berry Oakley had passed away in a motorcycle accident, I'd be the next
Allman Brothers bass man. I stayed at Gregg's house and he brought out his tape
recorder and asked me to write something with him. I got a couple of licks on tape
and, next thing I knew, we were both on a plane to New York! In the studio, while
overdubbing the New York Horns on some tracks for his soon-to-be-released solo album,
Laid Back, Jaimoe (Jai Johanny Johanson) and Butch Trucks and a couple of other
guys came in the control room and had some muttered discussions with Gregg. I could
feel the vibes getting a little strange. I would later find out that Jaimoe wanted
his bro to play bass instead of me. Gregg went with Jaimoe’s wishes.
I immediately hopped in a cab and headed to Long Island, where I auditioned to play
bass with a group called Cactus. That’s where I met Carmine (Appice) and Timmy (Bogert),
who were leaving the band to go play with Jeff Beck. I soon found myself as Cactus’
new bass player, touring the East Coast with Bob Seger and Bloodrock. It was as
if I was being led by a higher power. I had no idea how all of that just happened!
Tom Petty is a whole ’nother story! I had done some recording for Capricorn Records
in Miami with Layla producers Ron and Howie Albert for a group called White Witch.
Months went by and we didn't seem to be playing very many concerts. Around the end
of that year, '74, I received a record called Depot Street by a band called Mudcrutch
in the mail and got a call from a Gainesville kid who used to come and watch the
Tropics play when he was a kid. The Tropics played for all the fraternity parties
up in Gainesville for Gator students. He said his name was Tom and he was calling
from California. He asked if I wanted to fly out and play bass on some recordings.
I made the long drive out, with the equipment truck and all of my belongings.
First we headed to Leon Russell's house in Tulsa to record for a while and then
out to Leon's house in Encino for a few more months. Lots of tunes were recorded,
but it got real boring in the studio and the money stopped coming from Shelter Records.
So I found another project and kept right on recording with a new bunch, Gale Force,
who had a deal with Fantasy Records up in Berkley, California. We went there with
the Crusaders’ trombone player, Wayne Henderson, who produced the rock album. Unfortunately,
we were still having no success. Meanwhile, I was hearing my alto sax part on the
radio whenever "Hometown Blues" by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers came
on the radio. All of this will be in more detail in my upcoming book Live Your Dream.
AGB: The music business has changed over the past 10 years, how do you think
that this has affected the industry over all and it's effect on you?
Charlie: Well on a small scale, since the price for a band is more than the
cost of one musician with a computer band box, I'd say there are less local gigs
in the past few years. As far as the national scene being in a 60's group like the
Rascals, the market has definitly changed. Some "oldies" radio stations only play
music dating back to the seventies and most of the corporate radio chains play 80's
up to the present so there is not as much coverage on sixties music. However, there
is still a huge fan base out there for sixties music and plenty of concerts are
put on to appeal to the "baby boomers". Ironicaly, when we do a performance, not
only are the boomers in the audience but a lot of tiimes they are accompanied by
their offsprings as well who also enjoye the music!
AGB: I know that you’re busy touring with the New Rascals and you’ve had
some other projects. Could you tell us any up coming events or projects that you
will working on?
Charlie: I have been asked to serve on the board of directors for the
Florida Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame. It's a very interesting and
challenging role to play as a force for recognition of all the deserving souls who
earned their wings and whose music originated in Florida. You'd be surprised how
many there are including some artists I have played with in Tom Petty and Greg Allman.
AGB: There are many more areas that I know I could ask however you are on
tour and I don't want to take up all of your time so let's make this last question
more of an open ended question, please feel free to give us a little insight on
St. Petersburg Times article use article photo & credit The St. Petersburg
Times. The song can be downloaded at iTunes, Amazon.com, Rhapsody, WalMart.com and
all worldwide MP3 download services!
The story of the song "Carry me Back to St. Petersburg" is this: After leaving town
in the mid seventies and moving to Hollywood California with Tom Petty, I worked
as a studio musician through the years and up until 1994. It was then I experienced
a major earthquake! The Northridge Earthquake, I though I wouldn't make it through
that experience and this is when I regained my passion to return home here to the
white sandy beaches of Saint Petersburg. I finally moved back to St. Petersburg
in 2002. I have re-written some of the lyrics now that I have won the contest and
perform at Ribfest after Gator Country and before Blue Oyster Cult. I plan to go
back in the studio to add the new lines. : http://www.charliesouza.com/carrymebacknew.htm http://www.charliesouza.com/carrymeback4.htm
At this point in my life, if I am not playing and singing music, I'm not really
living life. Anything else is just a walk on the beach where I live now, or watching
the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, anticipating the next concert.
God Bless the people of Haiti and God Bless America!
AGB: Charlie, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today, good luck
with your projects and I hope to see you on one of your tours soon.
"In 1965 The Tropics were the biggest band in Florida - simple as that. I watched
them in awe. Their power was never truly captured on record, but a show beyond belief!
No small part of that was bassist Charlie Souza. When my band in 1975 was looking
for a bass player, as I was switching from bass to guitar, we asked Charlie to join
and he did. Unfortunately, the band folded not long after he arrived. But in that
short time I found him to be a great musician and a nice guy. I'm sure his book
will be an interesting read for anyone looking for rock & roll adventure.
Tom Petty 2011
Live Your Dream ~ The Book by Charlie Souza
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