Some of the places I've played:
New York City
The Town Hall
The Beacon Theater
Alvin Ailey Dance Theater
Central Park Summerstage
South Street Seaport
The Bottom Line
The City Winery
The Cutting Room
The Bitter End
The Mercury Lounge
The Living Room, versions one and two
Rockwood Music Hall
The Bowery Electric
The Waldorf Hotel
World Financial Center
and the subway platform at Lincoln Center, where I busked, playing the ukulele...
Royal Albert Hall
Shepherd's Bush Empire
The Half Moon, Putney
The Green Note
BBC London and Shepherd's Bush
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
Town Hall, Birmingham
7 Arts Theater, Birmingham
Cambridge Corn Exchange
The Dome, Brighton
Olympia theater, Dublin
The Helix, Dublin
The Tonight Show
The Coffee Gallery
Austin City Limits
La Zona Rosa
Waterloo Ice House
Willie Nelson's Ranch
The Kennedy Center Concert Hall and Opera House
The Kennedy Center Millenium Stage (artist in residence)
Wolf Trap Filene Center
Wolf Trap Barns
Merriwether Post Pavilion
The National Theater
The National Gallery of Art
The Cellar Door
The Childe Harold
Bill Clinton's two inaugurations
The Bluebird Cafe
The Exit Inn
The Far Inn
The Ryman Auditorium
The Grand Ole Opry
Sanders Theater, Harvard
The Somerville Theater
The Folk Circuit
Godfrey Daniels, Bethlehem PA
The Turning Point, Piermont NY
Caffe' Lena, Saratoga Springs NY
The Iron Horse, Northampton MA
The Tin Angel, Philadelphia
The Point, Philadelphia
World Cafe Live, Philadelphia
The Sellersville Theater, PA
Sloppy Joe's, Key West FLA
Tipitina's, New Orleans, LA
The Vic, Chicago
Park West, Chicago
The City Winery, Chicago
Freight and Salvage, Berkeley
Warfield Theater, San Francisco
Slim's, San Francisco
Los Alamos Nuclear Lab, NM
Kerrville Folk Festival
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival
Philadelphia Folk Festival
Telluride Bluegrass Festival
World Festival, Grass Valley CA
Calgary Folk Festival
Edmonton Folk Festival
Cambridge UK Folk Festival
Southwell UK Folk Festival
Newport Folk Festival
Boston Folk Festival
New Bedford Folk Festival
Green River Festival, MA
Kate Wolf Festival, CA
Clearwater Festival, New York
South Florida Folk Festival
Bethlehem Musikfest, PA
Turtle Hill Festival, Rochester NY
Summer Lights, Nashville
South by Southwest
Ann Arbor Folk Festival
And some of the people I've played with;
As a longtime freelancer, I did many one-night shows, variety shows with multiple acts, recording sessions and so forth, that might involve playing one set or even just one song with an artist. I played in "house band" situations at The Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, The National Theater, Ford's Theater, Bias Recording Studio, The Birchmere etc, and on similar types of shows and sessions in New York, Nashville and Los Angeles, and all over the US during Nanci Griffith's "Other Voices, Other Rooms" tour. I'll try to describe some of the more interesting situations as I go along:
Nanci Griffith (played in her band touring the US and England in 1991 through 1993, and then again, with Maura, in 2010 through 2013.
Bob Dylan (he played harmonica on Nanci's version of "Boots of Spanish Leather" which we cut at Jack's Tracks in Nashville. He dubbed his part in later, so I didn't meet him, and perhaps that's for the best; I don't want to interrupt his ongoing songwriting process).
Emmylou Harris (sang on "Other Voices, and sang her harmony parts with us live at Carnegie Hall and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. She also sang with us on "Other Voices, Too" and we sat in with her in Ann Arbor Michigan) I had met her years before when we both joined the DC Musician's Union on the same day. We sat on a swayback couch in the basement of the Union hall and watched a slide show about Union matters. Afterwards, I asked what she had going on, and she said "I've got a show in Austin, and then I'm heading West. I've got my fingers crossed, because it looks like I might have a record deal".
Leonard Bernstein (I played his 60th birthday gala as an extra with the National Symphony. They don't have a regular guitarist! Played excerpts from the "Mass", "West Side Story" etc.)
Aaron Copland (he was music director on another National Symphony gig, where he presented David Del Tredici conducting his piece "The Lobster Quadrille". A mandolinist, me, was added to the orchestra.)
Andrew Lloyd Weber (he supervised an orchestra rehearsal for "Evita" at The National Theater in DC while I was playing in the pit)
Gunther Schuller (I played Duke Ellington's "Daybreak Express" with Mr Schuller conducting, again with the National Symphony
David Amram (we jam with him in various locations around the country, and he always has great stories about Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, et al.)
Nelson Riddle (Tommy Tedesco was mentoring me on studio skills in Los Angeles, and he took me to a session as "page turner". The orchestra was conducted by Mr. Riddle)
Burt Bacharach (one of the performers on the "That's What Friends Are For" benefit show at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall. I was playing in the house orchestra onstage. More on that gig later)
Marvin Hamlisch (I did a couple of shows with him at The Kennedy Center, one with Maureen McGovern singing.)
How about some pop singers?
Frank Sinatra. (I did two shows with Old Blue Eyes, about ten years apart. the first show, he blew the doors off the place with singing, cool, and charisma. The second date, he refused to go on and got in his limo when they called him onstage. On a Sinatra gig, you didn't play guitar. You sat next to Joe Viola, his guitarist who traveled everywhere with him, and listened to stories and jokes. Another "page turning gig", but a great experience...
Stevie Wonder (the "That's What Friends Are For" show at The Kenedy Center had a remarkable lineup. I already mention Burt Bacharach, no slouch on the piano, so Stevie held down the harmonica position and sang the roof off. At the end of the show, all the principals lined up across the front of the stage and sang while we vamped on some funky riffs behind them)
Elton John (he was not in the program for the aforementioned gig, but when they hit the big vocal finale, a white stretch limo pulled up to the stage door, Elton jumped out in full regalia, ran directly to the stage and launched into a friendly battle of vocal riffs with Stevie Wonder. To sit right behind those two was like being in close proximity to a massive double force of nature. That was fun.
Dionne Warwick (she actually organized the benefit show, and I was onstage during a break, studying my charts, when she and Bacharach walked out and over to the piano. They didn't see me sitting there, and I held my breathe while they quietly ran over all those songs; you know the ones. to hear the two of them, with their long history, do those songs with just voice and piano was an amazing fly on the wall moment...
Gladys Knight (also on that show. I played "Midnight Train to Georgia" with her, but I didn't get to sing the Pips' parts.)
Luther Vandross (sang like a bird at that show.)
Barry Manilow (it's not hip to appreciate his music, but he was an excellent pianist, singer and conductor, and I would do his gig again any time.)
Eartha Kitt (I played her one-woman show at The National Theater, and it's the only time I've actually seen a genuine show-stopper. She sang a very intense flamenco song, and at the end, the entire show stopped for about twenty minutes while the audience, in tears, streamed down the aisles to kiss her hand. Never seen anything quite like. before or since.
Bob Hope (I played his show a couple of times, and musicians love him because the band only plays for the few seconds it takes him to walk rom the wings to the microphone, and then again at the end when he walks off. He always paid the band full scale for the gig, just as an act of generosity.)
Ginger Rogers (Nancy Reagan was her guest backstage. Two tiny ladies)
Other pop singers included Joel Gray, Jane Oliver and Englebert Humperdink.
The Fifth Dimension (they may not be considered hip, but they were great singers, dancers, and totally professional, plus I got to play "The Age of Aquarius" with them!)
Martha and the Vandellas (I was music director on an East Coast tour for them. Marths was soulful, as you might expect, and she signed her picture, "To Pete; you thrilled my heart".
Also on the pop side, I played in the pit for lots of Broadway shows when they did their DC runs.
Cats (I was a sub, which was good. It ran for years, I think)
Evita (I also went on the road to Pittsburgh with the show)
Godspell (I played this eight shows a week for nine months at Ford's Theater, where Lincoln was shot)
Zorba (with Anthony Quinn, at The Kennedy Center. One night his guest backstage was Michael Jackson)
Man of La Mancha (with the original star, Richard Kiley. there wasn't a dry eye in the house when he sang "The Impossible Dream")
Timbuktu (with Earth Kitt, who did her trademark feline growl on her entrance every night)
42nd Street. (My favorite theater show that I played, because Harry Warren's songs are great and it's a classic Broadway show in every way)
I also played the Helen Hayes drama awards, in the pit band, a couple of times, and the Kennedy Center Awards one year, as well. One year, the Helen Hayes how went overtime, as awards shows usually do, and as the five hundred or so patrons descended on the ballroom for the after-party, the dance band was, incredibly, packing up to leave. The organizers freaked, of course, but the band leader stood his ground. "We were booked until ten, and it's ten now, so we're out of here". As a parting shot, he added "We're union, you know". I'm union too, but I don't leave a gig before it starts! Everyone was dismayed, and I got an audacious notion. I grabbed my guitar and amp and went on stage, plugged in, and started playing the Nile Rodgers riff to "Good Times". E minor to E minor 7 to A suspended to A 6. After eight bars, everyone in the place was dancing. I didn't dare stop, so I just played that riff, over and over, for about fifteen minutes. When I finally stopped, the Blind Boys of Alabama, who had done a scene from Greek tragedy at the show, were at the edge of the stage, laughing and high-fiving each other. They knew, from back in Alabama, the sound of one guitar hitting a groove so hard that it gets the crowd on the dance floor. John Jackson had described the same kind of one-guitar house parties to me. They embraced me warmly, still laughing, and took me back to their hotel suite, where we jammed on gospel tunes all night long. Great, great guys.
That's pretty much the highlights of the pop gigs, although there was a firehall benefit where a magician did seem to saw a lady in half, but of course she emerged unscathed.
I also played the Gridiron Club show. which is a private party for the President and First Lady. the VP, cabinet members, etc. given by the White House Press Corps. The journalists put on skits and the President does a standup routine. Ronald Reagan was in office when I did it.
Enough of the pop stuff. Let's move on to some roots music:
I knew that I could pay the rent playing at theaters, but it wasn't my natural element. The great thing was that I was always the weakest player on the gig, so I was learning all the time, but I suppose that was great for me, but not for everybody else! So I was looking to play more roots music. To me, that encompasses rock'n'roll, folk-rock, blues, Appalachian style folk, gospel, rockabilly etc. and also jazz from befor the fusion era, when musicians like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker really did come to New York from the hinterlands and do genius things. I was willing to play any and all of that, so when I got a call from Tom Principato to put together a swing guitar duo, i jumped at the chance. Living in DC, I had been exposed to every ind of Southern music, because at the outbreak of World War Two, the Defense Department hastily built the world's largest office building, the Pentagon, and they needed the world's largest staff to work there, so people converged from all over the South, and they brought roots music with them. Roy Buchanan, Link Wray and Danny Gatton were our local bar band guitarists, and they embodied that spirit of ecumenism when it came to music. Come to think of it, Duke Ellington, who also rejected categories, was a Washingtonian as well.
Tom's idea was to do a sort of Chester and Lester format. Two guitars playing swing stuff by Charlie Christian et al. We put it together, and act happened to coincide with Danny Gatton putting together an all star band with Buddy Emmons and Lenny Breau. He called it the Redneck Jazz Explosion, and Tom and I were the logical opening act for the explosion. We opened a number of shows, including a series of "guitar genius" nights, as they were billed, at the legendary Cellar Door in Georgetown. The house was packed with guitar fans every night, and we had a blast, despite the nerves at seeing Gatton, Emmons and Breau in the front row for our opening set. That spun off into gigs with most of the local original club bands, including Bill Holland and Rent's Due, The Rosslyn Mountain Boys, The Catfish Hodge Band, and the Nighthawks, with whom I toured the Deep South, playing Southern Rock roadhouses, including one night when a young kid, Butch Trucks' son Derek, stood by the stage and soaked up the music.
I was playing electric in these bands, and now the one night shows were with artists like Dr. John and Sunnyland Slim. When the Twist and Shout club opened, i did pickup gigs there backing Hank Thompson and Sleepy LaBeef. There were other country music legends still touring and picking up local bands, which led to gigs with Patsy Montana, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Ola Belle Reed, Delia Belle, Hazel Dickens, Freddy Fender, and legends in the making Cathy Fink and Marcie Marxer, as well as the Smith Sisters, who were tied in with Doc Watson.
One afternoon, I got a call from Gary Oelze, the owner of the Birchmere. "Do you wanna play with Kate Wolf tonight?" "Sure! And by the way, who's Kate Wolf?" The gig was packed and great. With no rehearsal Kate, dobro ace Mike Auldridge and I sounded like we had been playing together for years. She became a fast friend, and as I started picking up more and more folk gigs, I found that most of the artists became fast friends. They were genuinely good people, trying to make the world a better place. As a house musician at The Birchmere, and a trustee of folk impresario Dick Cerri, I played with Tom Paxton, Bob Gibson, John Stewart, John Starling, Keith Whitley, Steve Goodman, Peter Rowan, Jonathan Edwards, Cephas and Wiggins, Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and whoever else came through town, as well as being the opening act for Steve Earle and the Dukes on their first tour, and opening for the Desert Rose Band, Leo Kottke, and Doc Watson. I would alternate or share the sideman gigs with John Jennings on guitar, plus Jon Carroll on piano, Robbie Magruder on drums and Rico Petrocelli on bass. Mary-Chapin Carpenter was in the audience many nights, and years later when she signed with Columbia Records, we all became her early-incarnation road musicians.
When Keith Whitley was in town singing bluegrass, Gary would bid the audience farewell after the show, then lock the doors while we all set up electric guitars, drums, and Mike Auldridge's pedal steel, and we would jam on old George Jones and Lefty Frizzell tunes until daylight.
There were also a number of guitar-oriented shows and recording sessions, with other guitarists or violin, mandolin, banjo, dobro and steel players, and in that context I always had gigs going on with a rotating cast including Mike Auldridge, Buddy Emmons, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, Al Petteway, Akira Outska, Michael Hedges, Johnny Gimbel, David Bromberg, John Jackson, Steuart Smith, Bill Kirchen, Wayne Henderson, Steve Kaufman, and the great and hilarious mandolinist Jethro Burns, who would sit up after the gig at The Birchmere, drinking and telling tall tales with my Dad. In a way, I was putting myself back in the situation of feeling like the weakest player, and thus the one learning the most, but it was music that I understood and loved, and I could grow in a direction that madejust felt right. Besides the numerous jam gigs; most of these instrumental gigs involved no rehearsal at all, just calling tunes onstage, I did take lessons, but I always resisted the formal once-a-week format. I took classical lessons from a Segovia protege', Larry Snitzler, after going out to Sophocles Papas' house in Virginia. You sort of went through him if you wanted to enter the classical guitar world. He owned one of the great guitar shops, where Segovia or Barney Kessel would be hanging out any time you went in. Sophocles handed me a Ramirez and said "Play". I started the Bouree in E minor and he waved me to stop. "No, no, not Bach!" I think he was Bach'ed out after so many years. I played the first few notes of "Recuardos de la Alhambra" and he stopped me again. "Okay, now I will give you a phone number". So he hooked me up with Larry and classical lessons, in a little garret above Dupont Circle. I liked Larry and the lessons, but when John Marlowe, the head of the American University classical guitar program, told me he would accept me, on the condition that I played no music other than classical guitar for four years, I thanked him and moved on. I decided to just approach great guitarists when they came through town, on the reasoning that they could always use an extra fifty bucks on the road. I was right. Chuck Wayne, the top jazz teacher in New York, gave me a lesson after a Blues Alley show in DC, and Larry Coryell wrote out a little exercise called "Stiff Neck". Doc Watson taught me the history of Ernest Tubb's brilliant band, The Texas Troubadours, and Tony Rice told me, "Pete, you're never more than one fret away from a right note!". I learned a lot hanging around in Danny Gatton's garage while he worked on guitars and cars, enough to join his band later on, and I played in a band with jazz great Charlie Byrd, where I watched his right hand and learned how Bossa Nova ryhthms were generated. I traveled to New Jersey for an inspiring week with Johnny Smith, who was on an entirely different level than any musician I had heard, and I had a great relationship with Joe Pass, who was sort of a cigar chomping uncle figure who became a transcendent artist the moment he picked up a guitar. He once said to me, "I will play a chord, and you play some lead stuff over it". He played an E7 with a raised 9, the "Hendrix" chord. I had seen Hendrix play, close up, in the years when I also saw Cream, Jeff Beck, The Who (they were opening for Herman's Hermits), the early Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield, and Beatles as well, so I figured I knew what to do with an E7 raised 9. I showered the fretboard with notes in the primitive pentatonic scale, beloved of blues-rock guitarists. As my scintillating arabesques died out, Pass said, "That sounds great, man!", and then he talked, without playing, for about ten minutes. Then he said, "You remember that chord I played? I'm gonna play it again, and you play the exact same thing you played before". I couldn't do it. I could play more scintillating arabesques, but not the same ones. Joe said, "Before you play, think of a melody in here" he tapped over his heart, "and then play that". That ten minute lesson completely turned my concept of guitar upside down, from playing patterns as fast as possible, to playing melodies at whatever speed felt right, in other words, singing through the instrument. I use that lesson every time I play, and I do miss Joe's gruff pronouncements. His highest compliment was , "Yeah man, you play real good..."
Mary-Chapin had a trunk full of excellent songs, and she got signed to Columbia. I have not doubt that they pressured her to hire an all-Nashville band and crew, but in an act of great generosity, she went up against the powers that be and insisted on using a DC based band and crew, to pay back the people who came up with her. So John Jennings, her mentor and producer, bacame a member of her road band, just long enough to realize that that meant he couldn't be in his natural environment, the studio. I was sounded about taking his place for a while, and I said yes. To me, it was a great break, because, having played with both Leonard Berstein and the lady-sawing magician, I felt that I had run the gamut of gigs in DC and I wanted to hit the road. The feeling of stepping on a tour bus for the first time, at midnight, knowing that you will spend the summer traversing the entire country from coast to coast, with a bunch of your friends, is just great. That summer took me to the Rockies, and Texas, and the West Coast, and it was all great. As the tour wound down, the handwriting was on the wall for me, because operations would switch for the winter back to the studio, Jenning's rightful domain, and I didn't want to wind up playing weddings at the Congressional Country Club. I was hoping for another bus gig, and on my last show with Mary-Chapin, I found one. The gig was a fly out, just Mary-Chapin and myself, to Texas to play Austin City Limits. the Indigo Girls, Jule Gold and Nanci Griffith were on the show, in a round-robin format, everyone on stage. I was sitting next to Nanci, whom I had never met. My guitar acted up, and Nanci handed me her iconic Taylor. "Just use mine". I was knocked out that she would just hand it off to a stranger. Oddly enough, her lead guitarist had suddenly quit a week earlier, so I played with Mary-Chapin, as usual, and when Nanci played, I played with her too, hearing the songs for the first time as we performed them on national TV. I guess it went all right, though, because after the show, Ken Levitan, Nanci's manager, told me that she wanted me to join the band. Could I learn her repertoire in ten days and be ready to leave for a month in England? I didn't have to ponder that for too long, so the segue was perfectly timed.
When the Blue Moon orchestra returned from England, we had a show in New York City. Nanci and I were sitting in a hotel bar, talking about folk music. It turned out that we had both been friends with the late Kate Wolf, and Nanci declared that shw was going to record a Kate Wolf song, and mabye an entire album of great folk songs that needed to be heard by the world at large. Looking back later, I can see that this was the beginning of "Other Voices, Other Rooms". She felt that pop producers where taking her too far from her roots, and this would be a strong statement. Over the next year, the recording of the record, in Nashville and Dublin, and the subsequent tour, throughout the US, England, Scotland and Ireland, was like a master's degree in folk music, because, at every turn, there was an artist, some contemporary and some classic, who wanted to contribute. During this period, I met and played at least a few songs with John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, Guy Clark, Tom Russell, Odetta, Tom Rush, Townes Van Zandt, Alison Krause, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Carolyn Hester, Janis Ian, Iris Dement, and Nanci's producer, Jim Rooney. The album went gold and won a Grammy, proving that Nanci's instinct was spot on.
I was on my way out West to join up with the Blue Moon Orchestra in Telluride, and I booked myself in the Continental Club in South Austin.