The Greg Poulos Interview – Sarasota’s Homegrown Master Guitarist
Greg Poulos has played guitar both locally and nationally, from playing with Sarasota’s Kettle of Fish to blues giant, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, Freddie King. He has played with many local musicians at events like “Giving Hunger the Blues” with the Fogt All-Stars and the “Sarasota Blues Festival”.
He also gives guitar lessons to up and coming musicians as well as seasoned professionals. Twinkle & RockSoulRadio’s guitarist Lenny Brooks has this to say about Greg, “He’s what you’d call a ‘Guitarists, Guitarist’. I try to steal everything I can from him. That’s why I take lessons from him. He’s also a sweetheart. I like him a lot!”. Greg has some new projects in the works and talked to The Sarasota Post about the past and future.
SP: Greg, what is your current “go to” guitar that you are playing?
GP: Right now, it is a homemade Telecaster, it is not a Fender. I put it together about 15 years ago and I have been playing it almost constantly. My second favorite is a Les Paul.
SP: What was the first guitar you owned?
GP: It was a 1963 Gibson ES 345, which is very similar to what BB King and Freddie King played. I got that guitar when I was 12 years old. I bought it at a little music store called “Tom Berry Music” in Sarasota. I paid $225.00 for it and it is worth probably $25,000 – $30,000 today! Of course, I don’t have it anymore.
SP: I read that you played a private party for Paul McCartney, is that true?
GP: It is probably the highlight of my career! We were managed by the same company Showco out of Dallas and was a big monster back in the 70’s. The had many artists on their roster including Wings, Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton to name a few. They were the biggest light & sound company in the world at the time. It was just monstrous – their buildings took up two blocks! I don’t know if Freddie was on the same record label, we were on RSO and so was Clapton.
We were on the road and he hands us our schedules and a private party was listed with details coming later. We knew Paul was in Dallas rehearsing for 2-3 weeks, we knew he was at Showco. What we didn’t know is that Paul had hired Freddie to play a party at Willie Nelson’s club, “Whiskey River”. It was strictly for Showco people, Wings and their families and other invited guests. One of the rules was no cameras were allowed. This was in 1976 during the “Wings Over America” tour. I happened to know the Wings drummer Joe English, he had been around Macon and played some with Gregg Allman. I knew him enough to say hello and I got to talk to him some. He won the gig with over 100 drummers auditioning. Paul and Linda came over, shook our hands and telling us how great it was. It was one of those moments you will never forget! We asked Paul to come up on stage with us but he declined. It would have been great but it was an incredible night!
SP: You have a lot of history of playing with guitarist Chris Anderson over the years. What is your relationship?
GP: I like Chris a lot and have a lot of respect for him. We have had a lot of fun playing together over the years. Sometimes, we have had a little friendly competition. I thought we might get back together to play but he is living in Nashville. We have a lot of history together. It’s all good, I consider him like a brother in some ways.
SP: Who is your favorite guitar player?
GP: I don’t really have a favorite, there are too many great ones. Early Duane Allman, Clapton, Muddy Waters and all the Kings, I got to meet and play with my heroes when I was with Freddie. My second highlight of my career was meeting Muddy. I got to meet just about everybody I ever wanted to meet. I met Clapton on my second night with Freddie, which was amazing because I was basically a homeless musician right before joining the band.
SP: How did you get in the Freddie King band?
GP: I had this friend Bobby Winters who knew Freddie’s guitar player who was leaving and he told me I should audition. At the time our band was falling apart. It was a tough time. I was living in Boulder in the winter. Freddie was holding auditions. I was introduced to Freddie and at first Freddie said, “No Way”. I said, “Just give me a shot.” I was brought out onstage, plugged into an amp and started playing. Freddie came out and we started trading licks and he smiled and I got the gig.
SP: I heard Freddie was in Sarasota once, is that true?
GP: Yes, we were supposed to play a gig in Tampa two days before Christmas that didn’t happen. I said I am going home to Florida. Freddie said, “Let’s go” and the band drove to Florida. We drove to my parent’s house behind Jungle Gardens on the bay and had dinner. Freddie picked up my brother’s acoustic guitar and there was a piano in the house and we started jammin’. It was magical! John Lambie called and he says, “Let’s have a party!” John Lambie has a lot of musical history in Sarasota with the Allman Brothers and Neil Larsen and he is still around the area. He had a place called “Mildew Manor”. People flocked there that night and still remember the legendary Freddie King coming to Sarasota!
SP: You played with Kettle of Fish for six years – how was that experience?
GP: It was a great experience and I learned a lot. I played with some great players and fun festivals over the six years. I learned a lot about harmony singing.
SP: Since this is Allman Brothers land around here, did you play with any of these guys?
GP: Yes, Danny Toler was the closest thing I had to a mentor. I cried so hard when he passed, he had so much charisma on stage and was such a great player. I have been told by other people that Dickey Betts has said I am his favorite local player. I don’t know about this but that is what Pedro (Arevalo) said to me. That is very nice and I know there are a lot of great guitar players around here. There are guys who are incredibly fast. Duane Allman would put notes together slowly which was great and I got to meet Duane Allman a couple times and hang out.
SP: What do you think of the new generation of Allman Betts Band?
GP: I think it’s great! I think Duane has really come into himself and he is not trying to be his dad. I respect him for that. He has come a long way and is doing great. Berry (Oakley) is great and has a great voice. Devon is a good vocalist for them.
SP: What is happening next for you?
GP: I am doing some solo gigs and have been putting together a new band to do some jamming! There are some great players around town who are going to be joining for a fun time! I am pretty stoked about playing some blues and old rock & roll with these guys! The BIG news is I have found a main gig! I will be playing with The Billy Rice Band starting in September! Looking forward to working with Billy and his band!
Photos from Vicky Sullivan / The Sarasota Post