Lucero: The Takeover Week
Lucero have long been one of my favorite bands. Ben Nichols’ voice and song-writing tug at my heart strings like no other, and the band’s willingness to deviate from “the path” (both musically and career-wise) have earned them my deepest respect and loyalty. I’ve had the pleasure of attending many a Lucero show over the years, and I can’t say I’ve ever been disappointed. If you can get to one on their current tour, go. You won’t regret it. Till then, welcome to TVD’s Lucero Takeover Week.
Keyboardist Rick Steff is not only one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting but also one of the nicest. We caught up and talked about both his and his father’s extensive musical accomplishments, life with Lucero, and the craziness that was the ’80s. Humility, charm, and manners go a long with me, and Rick’s got ‘em in spades. I hope he’s with Lucero for a long, long time.
I find your musical background incredibly impressive and interesting. Tell me all about it!
My dad was one of the most recorded trumpet player of the sixties and seventies. He was a part of the “The Memphis Horns.” He played on Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” and hundreds of other great records…so I grew up in a very musical environment.
I played around a lot and moved to England when I was 20 to join Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I was a “Memphis organist”, which is the main reason I got the job…recording with them was just crazy. We recorded for a little over a year, but never played live. I came back to America and joined up with Hank Williams Jr.’s band.
Recently I played on the newest Huey Lewis, did Cat Power’s “The Greatest” and hundreds of other records. I’m an all around session guy. I’m especially proud of latest Amy LaVere record which was a great record I did. It’s gotten four and five star reviews in Q and Mojo and places like that. I tried to bring a copy with me on the road but my wife wouldn’t let me, because she wants to listen to it all the time!
Probably the coolest record I did was with Klaus Voormann, I got to play on his record, and actually ended up playing a decent role on it. Klaus played bass with [John] Lennon and played with George Harrison and Ringo [Starr], too…it was really amazing.
Your father worked with folks like Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Isaac Hayes, and Rufus Thomas. Got any interesting stories or memories?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. I mean, I can remember real well going to the Stax sessions. But growing up in that environment it just seemed normal, as a kid you don’t think of it in those terms. I remember meeting all kinds of guys, but you’re a kid…there’s some nice Dad and Elvis stories, but they’re too long and odd for this kind of environment…
One of my favorite things about your bio and discography is your involvement with Dexy’s Midnight Runners? Love. It. I have always wished I were just a tad older in the ‘80s, so I could have seen more of the music back then live. Tell me, were they as fun as they sound?
Ha! Not at all…no, they’re the ones that deported me! But I had it coming! They had all these great players…it was just crazy people everywhere, it was the eighties…
Ben Nichols has said you’re “good for Lucero” and that your “musical skills are just light years ahead of us.” That has to give you the warm-n-fuzzies. How do you feel when people say things like that?
Humbled….humbled. Because…see, to me, it’s the other way around. At 48, to be in a band with guys who are considerably younger and be able to contribute in a way they find meaningful…that’s just… well, let’s just say that anything I do good in Lucero is a reflection of what was already good in Lucero when it was just four of them.
I try to bring the keyboard to the band but honor the integrity of who they were before I joined. Ben’s just as great a writer as anyone I have ever worked with, so I’m humbled to be a part of that. But to play with a drummer who’s as colorful and rich as Roy, or watch Brian rippin’ a lead on his guitar and hearing John C. (who brought me into this) playing like he does….to be in Lucero is a tremendous honor.