LES DUDEK
The gypsy spirit of rock and roll
by Todd K Smith

Les Dudek is more of a legend than he is famous. Born in Rhode Island and raised in Florida, the leather-clad guitarist gained his chops playing with the Allman Brothers, Boz Scaggs and The Steve Miller Band. Before signing a four record solo deal with Columbia Records in 1975, he was almost persuaded to join Bay area band Journey and later Toto. As a songwriter, he helped pen and played on the Allman’s FM classics ‘Ramblin’ Man’ and ‘Jessica’. He toured as a guitarist for Stevie Nicks and co-wrote her songs ‘Sister Honey’ and ‘Freestyle’. His foray into acting included the blockbuster movie ‘Mask’, the TV movie ‘Streets of Justice’ and Boz Scaggs’ videos ‘Low Down’ and ‘Lido Shuffle’.

In his thirty plus years as a musician, Dudek has shared the stage with some big names in rock history including Pink Floyd, Hall & Oats and the Doobie Brothers, yet at 50 he remains virtually unknown outside his cult following. This year he wants to change all that. With the recent release of his entire back catalog on CD, the guitarist is returning to the road after spending years as a much sought-after session player. Calling from San Diego, CA. Dudek told us that he will be playing everywhere from roadhouse juke joints to posh theaters and casinos. “I call this the first leg of my life-long tour,” he says with a laugh. “I sat in with the Doobie Brothers the other night and I gotta tell ya, it felt real good.”

After a lengthy war with his old record company (Columbia claims he still owes them $500,000) Wounded Bird, a reissue house, gained rights to Dudek’s old records and after a decent polish, has re-released them. Les Dudek (’76), Say No More (‘77), Ghost Town Parade (“78) and Gypsy Ride (‘81) are an interesting progression as the guitarist moves from laid-back, southern-based, pop rock to a more heavy-handed harder edge. “I always wanted to crank up the guitar,” says Dudek. “mix it up like Duane (Allman) or Ted Nugent, but the record label forced me to water it down. ‘Be more like Boz (Scaggs)’ they would say. Funny thing is his next record had him leaning on a motorcycle.”

A student of the blues from an early age, Dudek’s playing was a natural fit for the Allman Brothers’1973 Brothers and Sisters album. His versatility and style on the Les Paul allowed him to step in for the recently departed Duane Allman and aid in composing one of their strongest recordings. He was soon offered the guitar slot with Boz Scaggs, which culminated in the multi-platinum selling Silk Degrees. It was touring with Scaggs that introduced Dudek to Steve Miller. “I was a big fan of Steve’s so working with him was a dream,” says Dudek. “I got to play on ‘The Joker’ tour and write with him on ‘Fly Like An Eagle’, ‘Book of Dreams’ and later ‘Wide River’. In our live show we do a combination of all the bands I’ve been involved with including my solo hits ‘City Magic’ and ‘Old Judge Jones’.”

One of Dudek’s more interesting songwriting partners was Cher. “I was riding the highways with Cher between her relationship with Gene Simmons and David Geffen,” says Dudek. “She had this band called Black Rose and really wanted to jump into the rock and roll circus. I was her guitarist/bandleader and co-wrote a couple songs with her. It was tougher than her early stuff. The record came out pretty good and is worth looking for. We were on the Merv Griffin Show, featured in Rolling Stone and had the highest ratings ever on the Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack. Then Neil Bogart, the president of the record company died suddenly of a heart attack and everything collapsed.”

Dudek continued recording with DFK (Dudek, Finnegan and Krueger) while his relationship with Cher spun him into a brief acting career. “We did ‘Mask’ together with Sam Elliott and Eric Stoltz.  Then I went on to other projects. I’m not really an actor so I always came back to the music.” In the years since, Dudek has released two discs Deeper Shades of Blues and Freestyle. “It’s a different business now,” he says about the music industry. “Record stores are disappearing fast. The road is where you make the money. I can sell CDs at the shows and on my website – I’ll even sign them if people ask. Besides I love connecting with the audience; especially the biker crowd – the free spirited folks who like the wind in their face.”

Website: Les Dudek