For casual music listeners, Barry Goudreau probably isn’t a name that immediately stands out in the history of rock-n-roll.
Yet, his guitar playing is heard on classic rock radio stations hundreds of times a day across the country. His face appears on one of the top 10 best selling albums of all time. And whether they realize it or not, even the most casual of radio consumer has more than likely heard a song that can be linked to Goudreau.
Barry Goudreau has not been a member of the band Boston for more than three decades. But for some, all it takes is a brief moment in time to establish a legacy that will be remembered forever.
For Goudreau, that moment was in 1976 when Boston released their self-titled debut album. It was the best selling debut album by any act in the history of music for more than 20 years until Guns N Roses released Appetite for Destruction. The album became a greatest hits record of sorts. All 8 tracks are still in constant rotation on radio stations across the nation, including the classic rock staples, “More Than a Feeling,” “Peace of Mind,” and “Foreplay/Long Time.”
In 1978, Boston followed it’s debut album with Don’t Look Back. The album was certified platinum seven times and again produced songs that are still in regular rotation on the radio today, including the classic title track.
Recently, I saw that a group called the American Vinyl All Star Band was going to be playing a charity event in Park City. Curiously, I clicked to see who was in the band, and quickly discovered it was a who’s who of ’70s and ’80 rock, soul and even reggae.
The band consists of Goudreau and Fran Sheehan, both formerly of Boston. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter of Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers fame. Leroy “LSR” Romans of The Wailers. Robert Mousey Thompson, drummer for James Brown. In addition to the youngster of the group, Danny Beissel.
Goudreau was the first of the original five members of Boston to depart from the band (get fired) in 1980 or 1981, depending on who’s timeline you believe. For more than 20 years, a deep rift between Boston co-founder Tom Scholz and Goudreau resulted in the two not talking to each other. They reconnected in 2006 and even appeared on stage together after the death of legendary Boston lead singer Brad Delp during a tribute concert in 2007. But the reunion was short lived and soon declined to an even worse animosity than before. Scholz has sued Goudreau three times claiming trademark infringement.
I reached out to Barry through his website recently (http://barrygoudreau.com/) and he was generous enough to get back with me. He spoke on the phone recently from his home in the New England area about all stages of his career, including his years in Boston and the current on-going legal battle between himself and Scholz.
“If you could refer to me as ‘formerly of Boston,’ that would save me a lot of trouble,” Goudreau requested, referring to his current litigation situation. “And you can mention that I told you to do that.”
Talk to me first about the American Vinyl All Star Band. How long have you been doing this?
We’ve actually be doing it for 7, 8 years now. We do only a handful of shows a year. All of them have a charity component to them. There’s been members that have come and gone, but the last couple of years we’ve been using the same lineup. And it’s really a great group of guys, we really have a great time together. Musically, it’s just outstanding. It’s been a lot of fun and we get to hang out with our friends and do some great work at the same time.
We do a little of everything. Obviously we do some Boston tunes since Fran Sheehan and I are in the band. We do some Doobies and Steely Dan for Skunk. We also do James Brown, Mousey was in James Brown. And we even do some Wailers songs for Leroy, our keyboard player. So yeah, we’re kind of all over the map musically. But there’s something for everybody, I think that’s the feeling of it.
I was surprised to see Fran was part of the lineup. I read he had retired from playing professionally because of a hand injury suffered in a bike accident.
He does have problems with his hands. Normally we have some other guest bass players sit in for Fran so he doesn’t have to do the whole show himself, cause it’s kind of a struggle for him. His hand is kind of messed up and he has arthritis. But he’s good for part of the show. We’ve got a show coming up in Florida before the show in Utah with Cliff Williams of AC/DC. He will be coming out. And also the bass player for Bon Jovi (Utah resident Hugh McDonald) will be joining us. We have kind of a revolving cast of guest stars come out too.
Has there been any thought of taking this on a full summer tour, or not?
Well, I don’t see that could happen. Obviously Skunk Baxter has a day job. I don’t know if you’re familiar but he works for the Defense Department and music is kind of a side thing for him now. We would like to do more shows but I don’t think we’d ever get to the point where we’d be touring. (Note: Baxter is a Defense Department consultant on counter-terrorism and chairs a Congressional committee on missile defense).
On Saturday, March 8, the American Vinyl All Star Band plays in Park City at the Red, White and Snow Gala Dinner and Auction. The black tie optional event (tickets are $400 per person) benefits the National Ability Center, a non-profit, tax exempt organization that helps mainly disabled children in year-round events that they might not normally get to participate in, such as horseback riding, skiing and snowboarding.
We’ve done this charity before. We didn’t do it last year but we did do it the year before. And it’s just a tremendous program. We got to meet a lot of the people who run it and some of the people who take advantage of the program. It’s just outstanding. It’s something we want to continue to be involved with.
We sat with a little girl who had no hands. They had taken her out riding horses and skiing and all of that sort of thing. And you know, that can change somebody’s life. You can’t put a value on that.
I’ve heard you ski. Coming out here should also give you a chance to do some of that, yes?
I’ve been skiing since I was a kid. Yeah, the chance to come out west there, to conditions we only can dream about back here in the east is a lot of fun as well. I’m the only skier in the whole band.
In 1991, Goudreau, along with Delp on vocals released the self-titled debut album from their new group, RTZ (Return to Zero). The album was recently re-released on iTunes.
How exciting was it to finally get the RTZ album re-released?
I’ve been trying to get the re-released for years. We did the RTZ record, and after we did the tour for the record we asked to be released from the label. And they did. And when they did that, the album went out of print. So I tried for years to get it re-released and was finally able to do it, I think it was last year. And we got it up on iTunes. We don’t actually have a physical CD available, but you can get the music on iTunes. It was a struggle to get it up. I mean, for me, that’s my favorite record that I’ve done outside of Boston. I’m really proud of it. There’s some really great songs on there. And of course Brad just gives some outstanding performances on it.
Goudreau also released an album after Boston in 1984 called Orion the Hunter, which was re-released in England last year. In 2009, he formed a new group called Ernie and the Automatics along with original Boston drummer Sib Hashian and Ernie Boch, Jr., CEO of Boch Enterprises, an estimated $1 billion company.
Are you still doing Ernie and the Automatics?
That’s over with at this point. We went out on a tour in 2011 opening up for Deep Purple, which was just a tremendous tour, great time. They were great guys who treated us really well. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Ernie and the Automatics, but Ernie is basically runs a billion dollar car empire here in the east. He had a gone to Berklee studying music when he was younger. And we started hanging out with Ernie and we started doing some shows, and some shows went to a bunch of shows. And then we started recording original material, and then eventually the record. And then we put that tour together to promote the record. For Ernie…Ernie is used to flying around in a private jet and being in the back of a limo and so forth. So being out on a bus tour, bouncing around in the back of a bus wasn’t something that he could see himself doing for any period of time. I think we kind of took that whole thing about as far as we could have taken it. It stopped after that.
Ernie couldn’t use his private jet for shows? You’d have been the only opening band in America traveling by private jet.
He actually brought his private jet out for some of the longer treks, which obviously cost more than what the band was earning. So it got to the sense where it really wasn’t making a lot of sense anymore.
Boston’s original lineup consisted of Scholz, Delp, Goudreau, Hashian and Sheehan (Jim Masdea also played on early demo tapes). Scholz is the undeniable leader of Boston and played a big part in putting together the band’s first album in his own hand-built studio. His layered guitars and Delp’s undeniable vocals combined to form the Boston “sound.” But to sell it to a record label and take it on the road, he needed a full band. Goudreau had previously worked with Scholz in a band before Boston and worked on those early demo tapes that would later become the first album. Scholz has been the only constant member of Boston. There have been approximately 20 members of Boston throughout the band’s history.
The original five members played on the first two albums, Boston, and Don’t Look Back. They are still the band’s highest selling albums to date. Although the third album, Third Stage, found success with the hit “Amanda,” it’s the songs off the first two albums that most listeners identify as being “Boston” when they think of the band.
You’ll always be associated with those first two albums, which to me speaks to the legacy of those releases.
I feel lucky to have been involved. Tom, Brad and I worked on demos for years and years and years before the band finally got signed. I think the best way to describe it, it was the perfect storm of circumstances that happened for success of that first record. Obviously the great songs and production was the most important part. But also, we had a manager come across the tapes and bring it to the record label’s attention. We had another manager who was a successful radio promotion guy and managed to convince radio it was a hit before they had even heard it. And of course, it was a really strong band to go out and tour on hundreds of dates to establish the band. You know, the image of the band is basically the picture on the back of the first record. Honestly, I’m very happy that I was a part of it.
There are very few videos in existence of the original band playing live. Back then, it wasn’t like today where every kid in the audience has a cell phone and is posting clips from a concert on You Tube before it’s even over. But last year, a rare re-mastered video from a full Boston show in 1979 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey with the original band, found it’s way onto the Internet. The video is rough in spots, and has “ME-94” written in the middle of the screen for the whole show with a time code running at the top.
It’s too bad there’s that number in the middle of the screen. What that actually was, there was some big video screens, and they were projecting the band onto the screens for the people in the back of the stadium. And that was the footage that was up on the video screens. That was a really great show. And I think people watch that and realize how strong that original band was and how that went a long way into establishing the band.
There’s very little footage. We did two videos for the first record, “More Than a Feeling” and Long Time. Of course, that was before MTV and that footage was used to promote the band overseas. And we did do a couple of videos for the second record. But other than that, there’s really no live footage of the band. And there’s never been a live album either. Yes, very very happy to have that (Giants Stadium) video up. I just wish that the quality was a little better and it didn’t have those numbers in the middle.
In 2006 you reconnected with Tom after many years of not speaking. Was there ever any hope on your part at that time that you might be able to rejoin Boston?
In 2006, that was the 30th anniversary of the first record. It was at that point that Tom contacted me because he was remastering the first two records. And he had decided to change the credits on the record. And he contacted me over that. And we started going back and forth with emails and starting to reconnect a little bit. Brad and I actually wrote a song over that period called “Rockin’ Away” which was basically he and I reflecting over the 30 years, kind of a nod to our fans. And we delivered that song to Tom, which he seemed to have liked at the time, and talked about the possibility of me doing something with them. And then this show came up, it was a benefit (hosted by) Doug Flutie, the football quarterback, who has an autism charity that Sib, Brad and I had done shows with for several years. And there was a dispute over that show. And Tom ended up cutting off relations with me, and eventually descended into lawsuits. He’s sued me three times since then for trademark infringement. In fact I just saw him on Wednesday.
You saw Tom on Wednesday?
Yes, at a deposition. He didn’t speak to me.
Band feuds and lawsuits are nothing new. But Boston seems to have become known as much for its lawsuits as its music. Do you believe all of the civil action will taint the legacy of the band?
I think the legacy of the band is already tainted, unfortunately. After Brad’s suicide, I think things kind of spiraled down. It was after Brad’s suicide that most of the lawsuits started happening. Tom sued my wife and Brad’s widow for slander. Then he sued the Boston newspaper for slander. And then the trademark cases against me started. It was really at that point that things started to spiral down. It’s too bad really. You look at a band like Aerosmith, they managed to keep through all their troubles and drug problems and manager problems and everything else, they managed to keep it together. And I think people really appreciate that. They want to go out and see the original guys. I think a band like U2 or The Rolling Stones, they want to see the original guys. They don’t want to see it diluted.
In his current lawsuit, Scholz claims that Goudreau is harming the reputation of the band by consistently mis-representing himself as a member of Boston during his appearances. The lawsuit also attempts to diminish Goudreau’s contributions to the band during his tenure.
That’s got to hurt?
Yeah, it does. I’ve got a deposition on Monday and I’m sure that’s going to be the focus of it.
Do you believe Boston should have called it quits after Brad’s death?
In my mind, without Brad there is no Boston. Tom has had the rights to the name since the ’80s. He’s free to do whatever he wants with it. He tours most years. But every time he goes out it’s a different lineup. And, you know, people get confused. They go see the band one year and they go out and see the band the next year and it’s a different band. It’s like, ‘Where are the original guys? Where are the guys from the picture on the back of the first record?’
At this point, would you ever consider rejoining Boston if for some reason you were invited back?
No. Not after everything that’s happened over the last 6, 7 years.
What else is going on in Barry Goudreau’s world?
I also have a friend who is a blues man, big regionally here, and I do several shows a year with him playing blues material. I still keep my hand in it. I’m still in good shape. I’m playing well. People seem to still want to here my play. So as long as they do, I’ll be out there.