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Eric Gales: the 10 records that changed my life

Eric Gales
(Image credit: Katrena Wize)

“If you like me and what I do, there ain't no way you're not going to like the people who influenced me,” says Eric Gales. “Because they're part of who I am.” 

Thirty years on from his major label debut as a 16-year old prodigy, Gales remains a true triple threat – virtuoso guitarist, fiery singer, adventurous songwriter. And his latest album Crown may be his strongest work yet, a tour de force of six-string mastery and soulful, socially conscious song-craft. “I put pure heart and pure emotion into everything I do,” Gales says. 

In the 10 Albums that influenced him most, you can see that he's drawn to music that has that same deep feeling. “I hope that these are not in any order, because they're all significant to me,” Gales says. 

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Jimi Hendrix – Band Of Gypsies

“That record was insane. You've got a three-piece power trio that was insane. I don't know too much to say beyond that one word, insane (laughs). Jimi always had freedom in his playing, but this was a different kind of freedom. Funkier. It had to do with the rhythm section of Buddy Miles and Billy Cox. If it's safe for me to say, I think it was more of a connection with his black audience."


Robin Trower – Bridge of Sighs

“That record touched me really deeply. The tone, the overall vibe of it was pretty strong. And pound for pound, James Dewar had to have been one of the most powerful rock and blues-influenced vocalists of all-time. This dude's voice sounded to me like Robin Trower's vibrato on his guitar. Haunting. It was a perfect match. That was part of what drew me to a lifetime relationship with that record.”


Eric Johnson – Tones and Ah Via Musicom

“Two albums by Eric. He could be in all ten slots on this list (laughs). If you're even remotely involved in music, there's no way that the articulation, the tone, the technicality, the songwriting, everything involved with this guy doesn't make the top of your head just fall clean off. And that was there from the early days. I got turned on to him at six or seven years old, and it completely changed my life. He was definitely one of the artists who inspired me the most, and he's one of my good friends.”


Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood

“One of the hardest-playing guys I've ever seen in my lifetime. The tone, where he came from, what he fought through. He left way too soon. But man, he's right next door to Eric Johnson as a life-changing artist for me. I met Stevie Ray when I was fifteen. We were in the studio. I was cutting my first record, and he was in there cutting Family Style with the Vaughan Brothers. We connected. I said, 'I'm Eric Gales,' and he said, 'I know exactly who you are. The industry has been buzzing about you.'

"We sat down and played two acoustic guitars together and we talked. Before I left, I asked if I could get his autograph and he said, 'There's only one way I'm going to give you my autograph, and that's if you give me yours first.' I'll never forget that.”


Albert King – I'll Play The Blues For You

“No one on this list is higher up than the others. They are all very integral ingredients in the pot of gumbo that I dip my spoon into every time that I play. They are all significant in shaping who I am. But everyone I've named so far, all of them, were influenced by Albert King. There's no way to get around that tree. His last name is a good representation of who he is.”


Muddy Waters – All of his Chess Albums

“You pick any album, any song, Mannish Boy, Hoochie Coochie Man, all of it is incredible. What a writer and singer. Muddy is one of the founders of everything.”


John Lee Hooker – All of his albums 

“His voice and playing sounds exactly like a big old piece of wood, you know what I mean? (laughs). It was the simplest shit ever, but it worked for what he was doing. Everyone that had ever played with John Lee knew that there was no chart that would tell you when he would decide to change to the two or go to the four or the five. You just got to be with it. If you missed it, you fucked up, not him (laughs). 

"All of that is what I liked about him. I think my band would probably tell you that Eric is kind of the same goddamned way. When I decide to change on something, you got to be watching. You flow with the water in the stream, you've got to ride it. It adds to the excitement of never knowing what's going to happen.” 


Gospel music 

“There are so many gospel artists that I can't pinpoint just one. Traditional gospel, traditional blues – the music is the same exact thing. One's got worldly words, the other's got Christian words. That's the only difference. The meaning, emotion, feeling, sensation, groove is exactly the same. Gospel music is what built my house. That has been the floor, and it hasn't failed yet. 

"In the midst of a tsunami, in the midst of a tornado, in the midst of thirty years of addiction, in the midst of family members passing away, in the midst of Covid, in the midst of being broke, in the midst of being homeless. That has never gone away. It's always been a safe haven for me. So really, if we were putting this list in order, gospel is number one. It's the first thing that moved me as a kid before I was even eating apple sauce. 

"And it could be any artist in the history of gospel that would be a good representation for who I am and how I was raised as an artist. I think listeners are aware when somebody has a bit more oil that has been poured onto them before they came into their calling of playing music. And you always know that somewhere in there, gospel is a part of their genetic makeup, music-wise.” 


Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush – Live  

“I was six or seven when I heard that, and it's another one that changed my life. It introduced me to all kinds of things, tone, phrasing, song choice. 

"I want to say though, we're talking about ten records, but that doesn't mean there aren't a hundred and fifty million others that I consider to be Top 10. We could be talking this all the way to next week. Time won't permit, but I left out Wes Montgomery, D'Angelo, Albert Lee, Chet Atkins, Kenny Burrell, Roy Clark, Danny Gatton, Marcus King, Robert Randolph, Derek Trucks.... there's a whole world out there that has influenced me."


Bill DeMain
Bill DeMain

Bill DeMain is a correspondent for BBC Glasgow, a regular contributor to MOJO, Classic Rock and Mental Floss, and the author of six books, including the best-selling Sgt. Pepper At 50. He is also an acclaimed musician and songwriter who's written for artists including Marshall Crenshaw, Teddy Thompson and Kim Richey. His songs have appeared in TV shows such as Private Practice and Sons of Anarchy. In 2013, he started Walkin' Nashville, a music history tour that's been the #1 rated activity on Trip Advisor. An avid bird-watcher, he also makes bird cards and prints.