Greg Douglass was born on October 11, 1949, in Oakland, California. He spent his formative years in Walnut Creek, California, a bucolic little suburban burg near Berkeley. Inspired by the British Invasion, surf music, and his rampaging hormones, he took up guitar at thirteen. After working in several local bands, Greg finally settled into The Virtues, a top 40 cover band that wore matching gold suits and played Beatles songs.
In 1967, the Summer of Love, The Virtues traded in their matching suits… Show more for long hair and Levis and became Country Weather. Armed with original material and an attitude, they became an irregular opening act at the Fillmore West and the Avalon Ballroom, opening for acts like Ten Years After, Sly and the Family Stone, and Greg's No. 1 personal guitar hero, Jeff Beck.
Douglass remembers: "Here I was, learning how to play guitar in front of huge crowds, and having to follow Jeff Beck to boot. It wasn't tough being humble."
Country Weather dissipated in 1972, and drummer Bill Baron and Greg formed Mistress, a power trio that also included Brian Kilcourse on bass, vocals, and songwriting. It was the first time Greg acted as the frontman for a group, and word began to spread about this hotshot from the East Bay. (Greg's long-time association with Terry & the Pirates and the late, great guitarist John Cipollina also blossomed during this period.)
The band performed a string of still-legendary live shows and recorded an album at Wally Heider's Studio in San Francisco, produced by the late, great Mallory Earl. The completed album was passed on by every record label it was presented to. (The same album was recently released on the German label, Taxim, as Greg Douglass and Mistress: Free Flyte, and is garnering great reviews and sales twenty-three years after its creation.)
Disappointed and restless, and feeling uncomfortable as a frontman, Greg dissolved Mistress. He began looking for an experienced singer/songwriter to work with as a sideman. He found Van Morrison.
Actually, Van Morrison found Greg. Soundhole, a group of young musicians from Marin County, had been chosen as Van's backup band. But their guitarist wasn't filling the bill. John Cipollina's brother, Mario, played bass in the band, and Greg was suggested for the role. (Most of Soundhole later became the core of Huey Lewis and the News.) Greg did several tours with Van, his first time on the road nationally. During this time period of 1974, Greg also married his first wife, Wendy.
Things began to happen quickly. Greg did an album with legendary guitarist Link Wray. For most of 1975, Gregg played second guitar for Hot Tuna, the spin-off from Jefferson Airplane featuring guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. He co-formed Raven, a band with John Cipollina, in 1976. He gigged or recorded with Charlie Musselwhite, Bo Diddley, Kathi MacDonald, Andy Warhol chanteuse UltraViolet, and anyone else who'd pay him.
1976 also marked Greg's meeting Lonnie Turner. Lonnie played bass for two groups, Terry and the Pirates and The Steve Miller Band. The Miller group was riding high on their Fly Like an Eagle album and was just finishing Book of Dreams.
Greg recalls: "I had this riff that had been used before. It was the backing for Paul, a song on the Mistress LP, and Jorma and I had used it, none too successfully, for a tune called I Ain't Holding or something like that. Lonnie had some words he'd put together for Dave Mason about papayas and blood and all this strange stuff. We put the words and the riff together, did a little rearranging, and did a crude cassette demo at a Terry & the Pirates rehearsal. Next thing I knew, I got a call to come down to a Miller recording session in Sausalito. Jungle Love was going on Book of Dreams, and Steve couldn't figure out the guitar part. I had written it using this weird, esoteric open A tuning."
Greg was then called to Los Angeles to film a music video of Jungle Love for European release, ultimately playing on all three tunes filmed that day: Jungle Love; Jet Airliner; and Rock'N' Me, which had just become the No. 1 song in the country on that same date. That evening, buzzing and already exhilirated in his room at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, Douglass was invited to become an official, full member of the Miller group.
The next three years were a whirlwind of touring and recording. For a time, Greg tried to balance working with Steve and being in a revamped Mistress that featured former Savoy Brown/Fleetwood Mac vocalist David Walker, with Miller ending up the number one priority.
Greg continues to receive royalties from Steve Miller to this day. Aside from Jungle Love, Greg also wrote Maelstrom, a guitar instrumental that was featured on the Living in the 20th Century LP and on Steve's recent boxed set, and co-wrote Goodbye Love and Something Special, both from the Abracadabra album.
In the midst of all this luck, tragedy struck: Greg fell through a plateglass window in 1977, nearly severing his right hand. Thanks to some amazing microsurgery, willpower, and the invention of a new type of pick, Greg was back in the studio in two months. (Greg's road to recovery became a cover story in the November 1979 issue of Guitar Player magazine.)
In late 1978, the Miller juggernaut slowed, then stopped. Miller took an extended break. Greg joined forces with ex-Doobie Brother Tom Johnston in Johnston's solo band, touring and recording with Johnston for the next two or three years. (He obviously spent some time at home -- his son, Spencer, was born April 29, 1981.) During this time, Douglass also worked with blues harmonica great Paul Butterfield, Country Joe MacDonald, ex-Byrd Gene Clark, country/bluegrass giant Peter Rowan, ex-Creedence guitarist/singer Tom Fogerty, and co-wrote and recorded Trinidad for Eddie Money, a tune that is about to be included for the third time on a Money album, an upcoming live "greatest hits" collection.
In 1982, Douglass stopped freelancing altogether and joined the Greg Kihn Band. The first tune he cut with these well-known Beserkleyites was Jeopardy. Talk about beginner's luck — the song became a worldwide smash and precipitated three years of non-stop touring and three albums with Kihn, appearances on American Bandstand, Solid Gold, and Saturday Night Live.
By 1985, the rigors and craziness of the road and the music business in general had caught up with Greg. He and the Kihn band parted company, and for the first time in twenty years, music was put on the back burner.
Douglass went through a divorce. He did a complete one-eighty-degree turn, going to work at AT&T selling network services. He didn't touch a guitar for two years. In 1992, he left AT&T, packed up his guitar and left San Francisco, and moved to the San Diego, California, area.
Greg recorded his first solo album, Maelstrom, for the German label, Taxim Records, featuring primarily acoustic guitar. Gradually, he wrote a new repertoire of acoustic-oriented material for solo guitar and began incorporating electronic effects in his music. He presently performs in the Southern California area, primarily as a solo artist, and has just released his second solo collection, The Natives Are Restless.
Reaction to both his live and recorded work has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Michael Stein, publisher of Filmfax and Outre' magazines and a highly regarded writer and critic, commented in his review of Natives: "Notes flash from his fingers like electrons dancing inside the eye of a storm. One hand plays like two, sometimes sounding like three, creating multiple melodies on both the top and the bottom of the six-string register."
Greg lives in Escondido, California, with his lovely wife, Jerilyn, their two cats, Bugnuts and Biddy, and Greg's growing collection of vintage horror and science fiction movie posters.
Greg also writes and is a frequent contributor to Outre'. He recently completed pieces on Edie Adams, the widow of early TV genius Ernie Kovacs, surf guitar giant Dick Dale (Dick liked Greg's writing so much that he asked Greg to do the liner notes for his recent Rhino boxed set, Better Shred than Dead), The Ventures, The Chantays,and fuzz guitar monster Davie Allan. He is also writing an instructional book for guitar and teaching as many as seventy guitar students weekly at Dusty's Music in Oceanside, California, and Scotty's Guitar in Escondido, California. He is shopping The Natives Are Restless for wider distribution. "I've turned some corners in the last couple of years," says Greg. "I'm as happy as I've ever been, and it's reflected in the music. I'm prouder of this last album than anything I've ever done, and I've done a hell of a lot!"
After thirty years in the business, seventy-five albums, five platinum records, and a career most people just dream about, Greg Douglass is just hitting his stride. Find out why he considers The Natives Are Restless his creative pinnacle.
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