FAQ

When did you start playing guitar, and do you play anything else?

I started fooling around with my mom's old Oahu Hawaiian acoustic guitar when I was around 7 or 8 after seeing Elvis and also Ricky Nelson with James Burton on TV. The next Christmas I found a little Stella acoustic of my own under the tree. Guitar was a natural instrument for me and I've never put it down since. I don't read music but I also play a little bass, ukulele, drums, harmonica, and some very bad keyboards.

How did you get started in the music business?

I joined the Musician's Union when I was 16 and was playing semi-professionally through high school and college at clubs and fraternity parties etc. Two things happened around the time I turned 21. First, I was invited to come to New York City to record some demos with Todd Rundgren along with my friend Rick Valenti. The result was that a song we wrote, "Can't Live Without Love," made it on a James Cotton Blues Band record that Todd produced. At the same time, one night I got backstage and introduced myself to the great rock duo, Delaney & Bonnie and played them the songs from the sessions I'd done. They invited me to sit in with them at Lehigh University and it was just one of those magic shows that brought down the house. I guess they were impressed and invited me to go out to Los Angeles and said that they wanted to help me. As it turned out, I did go to L.A. and before long they took me on tour with them. From that point I began meeting people and working continually as a professional.]

 

Do you collect old guitars, and how many do you have?

Yes, I've been a collector since I bought my first old 1960 Telecaster at 15. At one time or another I've owned every guitar I've ever wanted; Fender, Gibson, National, Gretsch, Martin and so on. The fact is though, that I should have kept them all instead of selling or trading them away. My collection would be astounding if had. I still do have my little arsenal of about 40 great guitars, new and old.

How did you get into designing guitars? How many have you done?

I started by doodling in my school books when I should have been paying attention to my teachers. I've always wanted to have a few guitars that no one else had, so when I was on tour with Bob Seger in 1986 I came up with a couple of designs that I eventually made into full scale models and had built for me by Toru Nittono in Los Angeles. They are pretty art deco influenced shapes which I always wanted to have in a full size standard electric guitar. I've had three different original pieces built, and have collaborated with Joe Naylor and Ken Haas at Reverend Guitars on two more designs that have been offered commercially. The Rick Vito Signature is currently their number one seller, which pleases me a lot.

What have been some of your favorite gigs?

Most of the gigs I've done have all been great for one reason or another. I get the most satisfaction from doing my own shows and playing my own material. I also really enjoyed playing with blues artists like Albert Collins and Lowell Fulson because they were such real, deep bluesmen. On the more rocking blues side of things I liked working on the big stages with John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger and also singer-songwriter, Jackson Browne. All of these experiences made me grow as a musician and performer because you can learn from everybody. Then there are the life-changing gigs that rarely come along. For me the most amazing stroke of good fortune was being asked to join Fleetwood Mac.

How did that happen and what was it like to be a member of a supergroup?

I had met and worked with Mick a couple of times. One night he came into a club I was playing with Billy Burnette and Kenny Gradney and sat in. I guess my playing reminded him a bit of Peter Green, and so coincidentally, when Lindsey Buckingham left on the eve of the Tango In the Night tour, he called me. I had just finished with Seger's tour and was really primed and ready to go. I met and played with the band, and at the end of the day they said, "if you want it, you're in!" All of a sudden we were doing press conferences, photo shoots, interviews on MTV, etc. and in two weeks I was famous all around the world! We played Europe, Australia, Japan, the USA, and it was done first-class all the way. The fans were amazingly receptive and accepting of me as a new member and we got amazing reviews everywhere we played. I kept them all. I participated in the live "Tango" video and on new songs for their "Greatest Hits" CD. Later I wrote and sang lead on four songs on the CD, "Behind the Mask," and another, "Paper Doll," for the box CD set, "The Chain." It has been one of the musical highlights of my life, and although varied personal band circumstances came about eventually that brought it to a close, I'll always be grateful for those four years.

Do you still do recording session work?

Yes, I love balancing live gigs with time spent creating in the studio. These days most of what I do there is at home on my own recordings, but in recent times I've also worked on the projects I started with Mick Fleetwood. We have the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band and the Island Rumours Band, and both have recorded extensively in the studio as well as live. Recently I've also played on sessions with Bob Seger Maria Muldaur, Carl Verheyen, and Boz Scaggs. My favorite session thing is playing swing-blues and slide guitar on blues and roots songs. I think that may be what I do best.