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dave gregg

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The White Stripes Minus One?

By Michael Patrick Welch

New Orleans has a rich history of one-man bands. But the ante has been upped considerably by transplant Dave Gregg — or, more to the point, by Gregg’s toes. Gregg can be found weekends along the river or on Royal Street, playing one guitar with his right hand, another guitar with his left hand behind his back, and the bass guitar with his bare feet.

“It developed out of a flashy ’80s guitar technique; playing guitar with two hands during high school,” Gregg admits. “Though I was never one of these metalheads who liked the image. I couldn’t wait for the backlash on all that fancy flash crap. But the techniques were fun. I liked to scorn it and be able to rip it up.”

Gregg then moved on to study Stanley Jordan. “I liked his technique, the fret tapping, but it sounded like elevator music to me. He has to play clean, so that all those notes can be heard and blend together. But with the edgier guitar tones I liked, I just had to separate the instruments.”

Once Gregg mastered the dual guitar technique, “Kurt Cobain came along,” Gregg recalls of the moment when songwriting finally reasserted itself over instrumental technique in popular music. “I didn’t worship the guy, but I was very down with that whole ‘learn three chords and forget about it.’ I quit playing guitar and was just into playing bass and drums for a while.”

When Gregg finally reconciled with guitar, his gaze turned downward: “Learning to play bass with my feet was just like playing Nintendo for me: ‘Well, I conquered this level; what can I do now?’” Tourists on Royal Street often gasp upon seeing Gregg perform flawless versions of Ray Charles’ “Mary Anne,” and his new CD, Sidewalk Obstruction contains multi-limbed versions of Dr. John’s “Qualified,” Professor Longhair’s “She Walk’s Right In,” and, most amazingly, Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” He maintains, “It’s easier than it seems. You just have to be nuts enough to try.

“People say, ‘You’re ambidextrous! You can split your brain up!’ But it’s actually all just one complex motion, very natural. Most guitar songs are just blues scales, boxy patterns you can play with [the first and middle] fingers, and the big and middle toe shadow those fingers pretty easily. You can actually feel the groove better,” Gregg asserts. “The first person to put a pedal on a bass drum might have been considered a nut, but orchestrating the bass and snare at the same time — when one brain puts out the whole thing, there’s this possibility to be tighter, funkier.”
- Offbeat Magazine


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Dave Gregg

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