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January 6, 2022 108 mins

Snuffy Walden was a raving madman of a guitar player with his band Stray Dog, opening for the likes of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and then he sobered up and became a composer for television. Not only did Snuffy write the iconic "thirtysomething" theme, he scored "The West Wing," "The Wonder Years," "Once and Again," "Friday Night Lights" and more. Listen to how a dedicated rocker married his background with the craft of television composing and succeeded!

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:08):
Welcome, Welcome, Welcome back to the Bob Left Sets podcast.
My guest today is Snuffy Wall snuffing. Good dat, nice
to be here, Bob. Thanks. So how does it died
in the world rocker become a TV composer. Wow, that's
a that's an interesting story. Purely providence. Um, you know

I had I've spent a long time playing rock and
roll and then I got sober and was, you know,
just working with people. And somebody asked me, would you
be interested in scoring film and television? Ry Cooter priced
himself out of the business, so I said, sure, why not?
And Uh, I went up for a couple of films

and couldn't get him because I had never written a
queue for music for film. And then I got this
opportunity to go audition for this little show. And you know,
it's a long story, but we'll tell the story. That's
why this is your great day. Well, I got this upper.
This agent approached me. I was playing with Michael Ruff

and friends down at uh a place called at my
Place in the leventhon Wilshire and on New Year's Eve
six and the agent walked up to me and said,
would you be interested in scoring film? And television and
told me about Ray Couter that he priced himself out
of the business, and I said, you know sure. I mean,
at that point, I was envisioning holiday in at age

sixty five, playing for a proud Mary, and it didn't
look very promising for me. I was I was thirty six,
almost thirty seven years old. So I just said yes
to everything, and I went up for a few films
and it didn't really go well because all I had
really recordings were guitar solos. I differ other people's records

because I hadn't done anything since the seventies my own.
So I got a call and they said there's this
TV show and it's a pilot. It probably won't get
picked up, but they want something different, and they talked
to everybody in town. Would you go talk to him
the way I just saw a little bit slower. Is
this the same agent that came up to you at

my place? Absolutely? Same agent that came up to me
at my place. And they sent me over to this
producer and I met with him and I asked him
what he wanted and he told me, and I took
him at his word. I guess everybody else was telling him, No,
here's what you want. But we listened to a record

called Penguin Cafe Orchestra, which was acoustic guitar and cello
and hear and accordion. So I went, okay, I got
to play acoustic guitar. And I didn't own an acoustic guitar,
but I borrowed one and spent two weeks trying to
write some cues. I talked to him out of some film.
Spent about two weeks trying to write some cues, and

then I would go back and work from my garage
studio to my bedroom with the sheets over in my
head because I knew what I was doing was awful,
and I knew nobody had ever listened to it. And
finally I wrote, I wrote these three or four ques,
and I didn't have a studio to record video. So
I called all of my friends who had little recording studios.

They could lay it back into tape, and I said,
if you can help me, i'll split the show with you.
Everyone said no, except for a guy names except for
a guy named Stuart Levin, and he said, yeah, come
over on Thursday and we'll do it. So I took
this film, which was a little show called thirty something,
and I took the film over and we recorded these

cues I had written, and we put them into film
and sent it and I didn't hear a pete for
I don't know a month, and I thought they must
have just hated it. Turns out they only met with
me because they wanted to see what again named Snuffy
looked like. And when they got the video, ah, they
didn't even bother listen to it. So right the day

they were going to sign somebody else up to the
up to for a deal, they popped the audio cassette
in that I had sent along with it, and they went, oh,
that's that's interesting. Then they put in the video cassette
and they really liked what it did with the show.
And they called me and said, would you and and
Stuart because Stewart's name was on it too, at that point,

would you all come down for a meeting. And we
came down from a meeting, Bob, and we spent the
whole time they kept asking can you do this? Do
you know how to do this? And and we kept going, well,
I don't know, you know, I didn't know if I
could do it. I had no clue and Finally ed's
Wick and Marshall Herskovius, who were their creators, left the

room and the producer I met with, Scott Wyreant, said
just tell him you can do it. So we told
him we could do it, and we got the pilot
and the next thing you know, the party got picked
up and it turned into thirty something, and that year
it won the Emmy for Best Drama on Television and
the first time I was doing it, so it was

really I look at it as this, I really think
because in sobriety when I when I quit drinking and using,
I was willing to give up my music to live
and I believe that was just the cosmos giving me
back times a hundred what I was willing to give up.

And that's kind of a metaphysical way to look at it,
but that's really the way I see it. Okay, let's
go back to your deal with Stewart. Okay, thirty something
was on the on TV on ABC for a number
of years, So what do you do about your deal
with Stewart? Well, it's funny Stewart and I got thirty
something out there. People were really responding to it. Then
I got a call from a guy named Neil Marlins

and his wife Carol Black. They said, we're doing this
little show for ABC. It's going to premiere after the
super Bowl. Would you do the music? So I think, gosh.
Stewart and I were doing great. A second show that
was a show called The Wonder Years. We did six

episodes of The Wonder Years that year, and that year
The Wonder Years won the Emmy for Best Comedy. So
the first year I was in television I had. I
was doing the Emmy winning drama and the Emmy winning comedy,
and Stewart and I also took on another one, the
Dick Van Dyke Show, which was a half hour sitcom,

and we did a library for that. And what happened
was over the summer, Stewart didn't like the way I worked.
I worked fourteen hours a day. Stewart liked to work
and I did. To me, we had to it. I
figured I had to work twice this hard to be
half as good. So Stewart and I didn't mesh well

from a work ethic point of view, not that his
was bad or worse, it was just different. And that
summer he went to the producers and said, listen, you
know I'm the only one who really knows how to score,
because he had scored a television before and he said,
I'm the only one who really knows how to score,
and uh, I think I should do the show. I'm

going to break up the partnership. I was actually in
England courting my wife to be, so I didn't know
about it this until I got back from London. And
then when I found that out that he had gone
to the shows, you know, of course I called him
and we had discussions and we decided to each take

a show besides thirty something. He took the Dick Van
Dyke Show. I took The Wonder Years because The Wonder
Years was all acoustic guitar and he was a piano
player and thirtysomethings that producers decided they were going to
alternate episodes with us. For the next four years, we

alternated episodes, and he had a great guitar player who
learned to play just like me. Because Stewart had all
the masters, you know, we were doing on sixteen track,
I think then maybe if but he had all the
masters of me playing, so his guy just played the
way I did and that worked in the beginning for him.

What happened was they didn't grow because they were he
was kind of doing what I did the first year,
and I was forced to grow because I didn't have
a clue what I was doing. Didn't I didn't know
what I was doing. And I ended up getting the
relationship with the executive producers and the creators and have

done every show they've done on television since. So that
worked out well for me. Stewart did me a huge
favor by kicking me out of the nest, so to speak,
because you know, that's what it took for me to
grow and to figure out what this job is. And
I'm still trying to figure out what it is actually
about thirty some five years later. But he really did

me a huge favor, and I didn't feel that way
in the beginning, trust me. Okay, but let's go back
to the beginning. We know what you provided. What did
Stewart provide? Other than the studio to sync to tape?
Student Stewart had done a cop show, so he had acted,
and he worked in the studios as a studio musician

for my Post and other people, so he understood the process.
He also had a recording studio and he was, he
could record live to to film. We had all the
links and everything we needed in those days to lock
it up. So Stewart came in with an understanding of

what the job is. I had no understanding of what
the job was. I was just as guitar player who
wrote a few songs and produced a record and you know,
got got a break. So Stewart and I in the
very beginning, Stewart played piano and I played guitar, and
we did it kind of as a duet. It was
predominantly acoustic guitar because I had written the original cues

to set the style. But you know, keyboards and sometimes
sampled Chelly and different things. You know, we were doing
it that way and using accordion and um percussion, hand
percussion shakers and stuff. It was just really kind of
a real small ensemble thing. And he brought all the
knowledge of what works in film, what doesn't, how to

put it together, how to lock it up, how to
uh not really how to follow a scene. I learned
that from Ed Marshall, but he knew the mechanics of
how to do it. I had no idea. All I
could do sit and turn the film on and play
until something happened emotionally, and then I developed that We

came from two totally different schools. Okay, so now you're separate,
but you're working on thirty something where there's a you know,
a sound that has been employed. Do you then hire
a piano player? How do you get up to speed
doing it alone? Well? That was interesting. I hired a
guy named Jay Gruska. I brought him in to work

with me on my half. Jay was a wonderful piano player.
We knew each other John Williams, son in law, great musician,
and I brought him in and h and we had
a great relationship, you know, for the three or four
years we did it. He did it all the way

through with me for the next four years. It was
a little different because I was predominant in it because
it was my gig. But so Stewart had his guitar
player who had learned how to do me and I
had Jay Gruska, who was very talented in his own right.
So Jay had a record background. He had a background

that was when he came in. He was doing what
Stewart and I did. But because we were both learning
and growing in this film genre, Jay had done it
before too. We were changing and we were growing during
that process, and I believe that's the reason that I
ended up with a relationship with ed Swick and Marshall,

Herskowitz and Stewart didn't uh because I adapted, I learned,
I grew, and those guys really gave me a master
class in scoring. They made me do cues two or
three times every week. You know, I'd have to rewrite
CUsing and they really, although they beat me up, they

taught me so much about the arc of a scene
and the arc of a story, in the arc of
an episode from a writer's point of view, from us,
you know, an actual scriptwriter's point of view. And you know,
I'll always be indebted to them because they broke me
in and taught me what I've really used for the

last thirty years. Okay, obviously they taught you these things.
Tell me how you grew. Are you talking about just
with thirty something or just for just for thirty something?
You were saying you got the gig continually because you
grew doing thirty something. They were constantly morphing and getting
into deeper and deeper story. You know, originally we started

thirty something, it was all about a stroller that was
two seventy, you know, But once we got deeper into it,
we were dealing with cancer, we were dealing with divorce,
we were dealing with all these heavier approaches. And you
just can't play a shaker and accordion an acoustic guitar

bopping along too that. So I was I was faced
with much heavier, dramatic h I guess you'd call it
really uh the canvas really a very much heavier canvas
as we went through the show, growing over the four years,

and I had to learn how to adapt what I
was doing to that. I had to learn much more
about melody and and playing around the moment and not
just underlining it but commenting on something. And I had
to learn how to almost become a like an extra
character and and and I learned that from trial and error.

I also learned it from getting beat up a lot.
And I was just stretching, you know. I was an
electric guitar player who also picked up an acoustic guitar.
And I was doing hammer ons and guitar electric guitar
technique on an acoustic and it hadn't been done on
television before, so I had to adapt and you know,

so I learned a lot more about melody. I learned
about pacing. I learned about timing. I learned about color,
how important it is when you know you don't need
to say. I learned about silence, about silence is so important.
You can be playing a queue and stop and and
make that moment the most dramatic moment of the scene

because you're not playing music. And so all these techniques
I had to develop on my own, and Jay helped
to Jay had a good film since, but I was
developing mine from zero, and so I just kept expanding.
I really thought when I did this that this is

gonna last a couple of years, and they'd find me
out and I'd be out of a job and I
go back to you know, tour and with Shaka or
whatever I was doing. And what happened was I learned
enough in that first five years and doing one to
years on the other side where I was doing it
completely by myself. I just learned enough to start getting

calls for other things. And the next show I got
was a show call I'll Fly Away, And I knew
if I did one more acoustic guitar show, I would
always be the guy who does acoustic guitar scores. So
I bought a piano and I scored off fly Away
from a piano basis. Did you have any history playing

the piano? No, not past it five or six years old.
You know. I could bang out a triad and active
in the base, but no, I wasn't a piano player.
But I had to learn. I had to grow. So
I kept getting in these positions where and and challenging

myself where I had to grow, where I had to learn,
where I had to be a list, where I had
to become something that I wasn't. If you'd have told
me the first year when I was doing thirty something
score West Wing, you know, you could have put a
gun to my head. I couldn't have done it. I
just couldn't have done it. It would have been impossible.
Yet twelve years later I did. So you know it

was a huge uh growth right for me, and a
steep incline really, But I just I dropped everything. I
dropped all the rock and roll. Uh. I got married
and had two kids, and my wife said to sheer time,
just go do it. And I worked fourteen hour days

every day, seven days a week, let's go back to
something you said color. Can you define that? Wow? Color
is hard to define. Or it it can be anything from
using a volume pedal on the guitar, through delays, or
using a some strange synthpad. It's just a way to
create or support an emotion. And for me, color can

be you know, it can be anything from the palette
you're of instruments that you're using, to the way you
approach them, whether you you know, you can use a
string quartet or you can have a piano playing one
note with delays and it will create a feeling. Now,
it may not create the feeling you're looking for, but
that's what you've got to kind of work on. Uh.

You know, color was expanding my palette, expanding myself from
just an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, getting into
other instruments, understanding other instruments. I started working more apt
in the first seven or eight years with Woodwinds. Fellow
named John Clark, who don't know if you know, but
played with Loggins and Messina and the most brilliant double

read player I've ever come across, as far as emotional.
Randy Cerber as a piano player, you know, I used
Randy for years and years and years because he just
approached the instrument with such grace and emotion, and those
are the things that mattered to me. It wasn't the technicality.

And I'm still that way. I can go here somebody
and if they got chops for days, I can listen.
But a couple of minutes in, I'm no longer moved.
I'm impressed, but I'm not moved. And John Clark, Randy Cerber,
Mike Fisher on percussion. These were the guys that I
called into my my little army, my little small ensemble

army that that I was scoring with and really utilized
the or really unique talents. And and for me now
I do it with George Daring. George jarring Is plays
on every episode of every television show I do, even
if there's no guitar in it, because he just brings

such beautiful music and such a musicality to it always
makes it better. Okay, you're talking about the producers of
thirty something teaching you about television, about art, etcetera. Can
tell us some of those lessons. You know, I didn't

understand story. I wasn't a big story guy. I had
never gone to movies and said I want to do that.
I kind of didn't even know it was a job
when I got this offer. So what they taught me
was that you've got to find the arc of a scene.
What is the emotional arc of the scene, So what

is the pinnacle the turning point in the scene, and
you lead You've got to either not do anything and
comment after it, or you've got to lead up to
it and open up for it, or you've got to
do something. Whether you're dealing with action, primarily, I do

small character driven dramas. That's what I really gravitate towards.
That's what I was trained in, That's what feels natural
to me. It's the same with action. I mean, you
have to you have to have a shape, you have
to have a build, you have to have an arc.
But what once I got that, I thought, Okay, well

I've got this thing down. Then they said, no, you know,
you don't understand. You're peaking the episode. Two fit quickly,
there's an arc to this, not only this scene, but
this whole episode. So I had to put on my
thinking cap and go, Okay, how whom I build the
story to a peak? And how do I find the

peak of the story, the pinnacle of the story, and
build to that. And I started figuring out how to
do that, and I would judge everything. I would go
back and look at the whole episode once I'd written
queues to see how it built in the episode. About
the time I got that kind of under under my fingers,

they said, oh, but you're not building an arc of
the series. You know, we're building an arc of the series.
So all of a sudden had to put it on again,
and then I had to stretch it over five years.
And you know, they they were so patient. They never
threatened to fire me. Even though I made every mistake

in the book, they would have me ride it again.
And as much as in the young composer haste to
hear this, it served me greatly. Getting couched and getting
schooled by guys who knew how to tell story is
absolutely the one piece that has been instrumental in all

my work. Okay, let's talk a little bit about process.
So just in general, on a series, what is the
schedule for you? The scheduling of television used to be
a couple of weeks from the time they would lock
the film to the time they would dub the film.

In other words, from the time they quit editing, you
got the picture that was going to stay that way
until it got to the dub stage to be added
with effects and dialogue picture. What slowly has happened as
the advent of technology came across Within twelve fifteen years,
I was getting twenty four hours to make that same

turnaround a show like West Wing h By or three.
I was sometimes getting one day from the time I
saw the film to send them the music. So originally
you would take time. You would you would meet with
the producers and you would watch the episode and decide

where they wanted music and talking about the nature of
the music, and then you go off for a week
and write it, and then you'd hand it to orchestrators
and copyists and you'd go into the studio. That's the
way it was before I came on the scene. When
right when I came on the scene, everything was getting
smaller since we're happening, computers were happening. So I dialed

it down to I write it as I go, I
perform it as I'm as I'm playing it. It never
went to paper, so I missed that whole other step
of getting booking a session and getting twenty five players
and having it copied and orchestrated. So I skipped that
a whole step so I can do it fast stir,

which in some ways was great, but it also gave
them license to give me less and less time. And
over the years with the AD Uh, you know, we
ended up with avid instead of cutting film, and we
ended up with all these technological things. It now is
to the point where you may never not you may

never get locked film. It may never They may still
be adding it on the dub stage and changing it
because you can do it with the push of a button.
So it makes scheduling. Yeah, you've got to be quick
on your feet. And because I was always doing small ensemble,

that was easier for me. When I moved into West
Wing or something like that, where I had a fifty
sixty players, it got a little trickier. But that didn't
last long because they couldn't get me the own fast
enough for me to do those kind of sessions. So
what's that it's compressed over time. I would think now

they'll probably give you five days unless they have a
real big problem. Uh five maybe six days normal, But
they still might ask you to turn half that music
around and in a day and a half. So it
depends upon the production, it really does. It depends upon
the people and how organized they are and how clear

their vision of the story they're telling it. Okay, you
get let's just assume it's locked. You get locked. You
have a brief period of time. Tell me the process
of coming up with the score itself. My process is
pretty much stayed the same, Bob. It's what I did
in the beginning when I was first writing those first

few fews for thirty something, was sitting in front of
the film, running the scene and just playing until something
started happening emotionally, and then I would go back and
play with the idea, develop it a little bit, and
put them film up and then try that against it.
And it was really hit or miss once I started.

Once I got off the acoustic guitar and got on
the piano, even though I was playing acoustic guitar samples,
I was able to lock everything up with MIDDI and
which allowed me to sit down and just play freely
to picture, and then the stunting started to develop it.

I still had the same process. I'd stop and developed
the piece a little bit more and then see how
it fit with the scene. But once we had the computers,
you could move a piece of music two seconds or
make it faster here or there, so you could make
it breathe with the scene, which is I think one

of the things that I did well. I didn't get
in the way a lot because I was so I
was taught so much to let the story unfold rather
than tell people the story before it happens. So that
process still is the same for me. I now I'll
choose a separate palette for each show. In other words,

I'll choose a set of instruments that hopefully I haven't
used before. Because I've done seventies maybe the eight series.
You know, I've used up a lot of my palette,
and I have to find something new that's fresh, that
gives me a fresh take and also doesn't sound like
ten other things I've done. So whatever I start with,

whatever that decided palette is, then I move forward starting
to write with that. And you know, once again, it's
still sitting down and playing to picture and finding something
that touches me. If it's if it'll touch me, it
will probably touch you, and and directors, Bob, they just

want to like their film better. You know, they just
want to love their film more. They want to feel
the places where they felt they missed, and they want
to heighten the places where they tear up. And you know,
Steven Spielberg always says, uh, Stevens that, uh, he said,

I can I can bring a tear to someone's eye.
John makes the tear fall talking about John Williams, And
you know, I think that's a beautiful cinema. Okay, So
do you decide where the music goes? Or when you
get the locked picture, do they say we want music
here there? Boy, we are getting technical. Generally, we do

what's called a spotting session, which is we sit down
with the producers and view the whole film, watch it
as an episode, stopping and starting and saying I think
music should start here, and then we'll go back and
look and scene and we'll go, well, maybe we should
go in a little sooner, maybe a little later. We
decide in that spotting session basically where the music goes

and what is trying to accomplish. Are we trying to
create tension? Are we trying to create drama or are
we trying to have a release, we are we gonna
cry here or and so we would decide the basics
of it. But once I got it in my lap,

you know, it was up to me to decide. Well,
they wanted music to come in here, But I think
what they really mean is melody should start there, and
I should glide into it invisibly so that when I
hit that first note of melody, it creates something. And
and a lot of time that's what happens. They want

an emotion at a certain point, so they say music
should start year And unless they're really astute at doing
it and and really good at it, then a lot
of times that's not the moment you're looking for. You're
looking for a moment to glide in before you're looking
for maybe something after it to start creating. It's and

it's it's totally subjective. A hundred guys can write a
hundred good cues for a scene and they'll all be good. Uh. Also,
a hundred guys can write a bad queue and they'll
still be bad. So okay, let's talk a little bit
about foreshadowing. I mean, people were just watching films think

that it's all hard cuts, But a lot of times
dialogue music starts before the next scene. Can you tell
me about them? You know, sometimes you want to have
music in a scene, but to hit it musically on
the cut isn't always right. Sometimes you want to get
gracefully up in into the music, so it's called a relapse.

Uh A lot of times with small ensemble. I do
that with a pad or electric guitar, volume, pedal, swell
or something to take me into the cut. If I
wanted to go from a bedroom to a busy city,
then I could swell into it and get busy right
on the cut. On the other hand, if you're going

from a bedroom to the baby's room, you want to
ease across that cut and and be invisible. You know,
our job is to suspend disbelief, you know, we want
people to feel the story. If you're listening to the

mute to the music, I probably haven't done my job. Well.
Listen to the music the second time. But my job
is to really propel that story and move it in
the best way possible. And and and Stravinsky wrote amazing music,
but it's not going to fit in a going from
two lovers in the bedroom to a baby's baby monitor

in the baby Room. It's just not gonna work. You know,
it's brilliant music, but it's not right for the moment.
So you know, you you have different everybody's got a
bag of tricks that they use a lot. I have
my style. I like the pre lap a cut and

maybe start some some movement on a cut, depending on
what I'm going into, or start a theme on a cut,
or sometimes you don't want to touch the cut at all.
Sometimes you want to stay as far away from the
actual edit point as possible so it doesn't feel like
we're it's two pointed, than trying to drag you into

the next scene. I I learned from Ed Marshall that
I was way better off commenting on a scene, commenting
on something that was just said, rather than saying it
at the same time. You know that they used to
call that underscoring. AH for me, Ed Marshall taught me

how to comment on a storyline or a scene, and
it made me more of a player, like like an actor.
It made music more I don't know, but you know,
one of the characters that's kind of okay. So let's
go to the process, and you know, I know there's

a learning curve but let's talk today when everything is
relatively compressed, so you essentially write the music in twenty
four hours, what's the process from composing to laying it
down to delivering it. I'll give you an example of
the frightening one when you when you have to turn
it around in twelve hours, you have no choice but

to perform it as you're writing it because you don't
have time to go back. So you've just got to
work your way through the show performing it at the
same time that you're writing it. So although I might
have somebody come in and clean up the MIDI when
I was doing West Wing, that's pretty much what I
was doing. I was writing it except for the first

six episodes that were went to orchestra and the main
title theme. I played every instrument on there. I had
one guitar session on one queue in the whole seven
years we ran. And it was all about performing strings
and brass and percussion and all that stuff on on

the spot in the moment, so that it that's the
way it was going to go to the dub stage.
So I really I learned to do that. I learned
that there's never a demo, you know, the demo is
the master recording. It's just like in doing records, you know,
you try to chase that demo once you've created the idea.

And I found for me writing the performance as the
cue and doing them at the same time was the
most fruitful for me. So that's the way I learned
to do it. Of course, if I'm doing an accoust
the guitar thing, and I'm writing at home, I can

do one or two things. I can play an acoustic
guitar and a mike here in my writing room, which
is matched at my studio. I mean, whatever I play
here into into my sequencer comes up exactly the same
down there. They're totally matched. We have three match studios.
Patrick Rose has one too, and we can move things

around like that. But once I perform it here, if
I have George darn coming, then we'll do it. Have
somebody do a takedown as I'm writing queues and give
me a three line sketch, or if there's actual guitar,
they'll write out the guitar part. So that by the
time I'm done writing and I go to sleep and
I get up and go to the next session, all

the paperwork is prepared and George We've got a three
or four hour date, maybe a five hour date with
George where he stite reading everything and sometimes you stite
reading no guitar, just looking at it a three line sketch,
you know, strings, pads and percussion. But he gets the
idea of it. And and that's a little bastardization of

the process of doing it yourself. But I love having
George on everything, so I always go to you. You know.
Sometimes now on Seal team we have cellist, but cellist
come in. Sometimes we go to a dub stage, we
go to an actual film stage. Although Patrick does that,
I don't do that. Uh So the process can be

varying degrees of of right as you go and perform
as you go. But for me, that's been my process
and that's what I stay with. Okay, So there's one
a civic studio that is not in your house where
you essentially do most of the work. Yes, I have

a writing studio in my home where I write. Now.
A funny story, when when I built the studio, we
lived in the front house in front of the studio
down in Woodland Hills. When I moved up to this house,
I was still working and writing down there. One day,
my son came home with a picture and I said, well,

what's this. He said, well, this is our family picture.
He said, that's mommy, that's me, and that's Connor. I said,
where's daddy. He said, oh, Daddy's at the studio. So
I built a riding room at my house because I
didn't want to be that daddy. And uh. And I've
worked doing the core writing at home ever since. I

go down to the studio if I'm recording live instruments
that I'm doing string ensembles or woodwinds or George or whatever.
But the whole studio is set up for producing television scores.
We're everything's plugged in all the time. You know, if
we need to add drums. George is a great drummer.

By the way, George plays everything. He plays piano, he
plays everything. So if we need some color, George will
play whatever's sitting next to him and he's happy to
play it. So I keep that studio so this all
the music for these shows is made essentially in a
home studio at your old home. Yes, who does the engineering.

George Landrus has been working with me for ten twelve
years now. Before that, it was a fellow named Abby
Kipper who worked for me for fifteen years before that.
I be came on really early on h I guess
I was maybe been scoring four or five years and
Obve came in and started working for me, and we

set the studio episode fit his style. Then when George
started working with us, we set the studio episode. It
works in his style. The actual console, maybe there's still
a writing station down there. If I wanted to, I
could go down there and write just easily. It's home,
but there's so much easier to walk out in your
road and turn the computer on that it is to

get you go all the way down the hill. So okay,
so if you're doing a show now, you tend to
be writing it at home and then recording it at
the other studio Woodland Hills. That's right. What we do
is we as we do the core work in our
home studios. It's either Patrick or I on Seal Team.

It's Patrick and me me less and less. And what
we do is we write our core music and that
is the performance of the core music. Then we we
uploaded at the studio and add Sweeten Nerd to that.
We had you know, cello or George or percussion or

whatever we add to that in it. The technology is
so good now that you can actually sit at home
and record George Deering at his studio in real time
and give notes in real time and then handed off
to the mixer and you can listen to him mixing
it in real time at home. I mean, it's the

technology has moved that far now so that you can
actually record people anywhere in real time. You don't know
if you deal with the lag. We used to go
to Bratislava and stuff to do string sessions anywhere. Was
there always two in the morning and there was a
five second lag? And huh? But it's it's the technology

is just zoomed forward. So now are you personally also
a good engineer and can you read and write music? Know,
I'm not a good engineer. I trust people to do

that for me. You know, from playing years of rock
and roll, my hearing is not the greatest. So me
on a mixing console you're liable to get an awful
lot of triangle and I strengths. But as far as
being an engineer, I don't do that at all. And

your other question was writing and reading music. I never
learned to read music. I still don't know how to
read music. I went to u c l A after
the first year of thirty something, and I said, and
I took an orchestration class, and I said, can I
get somebody else to write my parts? And and he
looked at me like I was crazy. And the next

couple of classes I brought somebody else's transcription of what
I wrote in and he pulled me aside, he said, listen.
But then he knew what I was doing. He said,
you you have what we all want. You have a job.
When you run out of jobs, come back to school.
And I ended up hiring that teacher to orchestrate from

me three years later. So I've never run out of job,
so I've I've never had to go, and I never learned.
And I can't. I can't follow a score that I've written.
I can see basically where the movement is and keep
up with it if I count bars. But I'm way
better at just closing my eyes and watching the film

and hearing what's coming at me and judging it or
changing it based on that. I'm not a paper guy.
I always looked at a piece of paper and said,
you know, I can play paper like a chord chart,
or I can play music. Which one do you want? Okay,
let's go back. You're talking about with Marshall and Ed

making you redo the cues. Is that still a thing
that you've experienced, and what is it like when you
do experience? Absolutely? I think younger guys go through it
more than I do, because number one, I've listened to
them enough to kind of know what they really mean.
They may say one cloud with two doves, but what

they're really talking about is a sweet PIANOICU. I've heard
it enough and chased enough of those clouds and doves
to know what they're talking about emotionally anyway. But yes,
all the time they will. They do what's called a
preview now, where they're so used to you being able
to ride at home, mock it up and before you

adding the instruments to it, send it to them and
they look at it locked to film and they decide, well,
you know it's good up to here, but I need
this here and that there, and you've got to go
in and take it apart and restructure it. Or they'll say,
you know, this is perfect, which is good to hear,
or they'll say what were you thinking? And then you

start from scratch and have to write it again. I've
written queues for some shows six seven times and and
a lot of times go back to the original cue
that I wrote. Okay, when the show is done, When
your work is done, do you end up watching the
finished product and be do you since so much as
it's done its speed? Do you watch and wins say

I should have done this or I could have done
this better? Boy? Do I watch it when it's done?
It sounds the best when it leaves my studio because
music is loud and proud, and I'm not fighting effects
and I'm not fighting the helicopter and I'm not doing
all that. I don't watch my work for two reasons. Ah.

The main reason is it makes me uncomfortable if it's
too soft or if it's too loud, unless it's right
in that middle space and it's really working well. The
other thing is why did I do that? Right? You
know once you watch it, and what I had to
do in the beginning, probably the first ten years, was

watched them on television as they aired. Because they're compressed,
they don't sound the same as when they leave the
dub stage, and I always felt like going down to
that to the mix put one of two things into play.
Either they were nervous because you were there, so they

turned music up too loud, or they were piste off
because you're there and they turned the music down. So
I found it was best for me not to go
and put myself in that situation unless it's just a playback,
and if it's something important regular episodic. We were doing
twenty two episodes at that time. You didn't have time
to go down for a playback. You were busy right

in the next episode. And from the time I started
up until a year ago, I've been doing multiple series
every year. So I've had at least two series on
every year since. So I don't have that kind of time,
you know. Uh, But the other you know, I don't like.

I learned from watching it on the air. I learned
what works and what doesn't work. I don't like watching it.
I mean, I've never watched The West Wing and people
say they just love it, and uh, I'll watch it
someday when I don't. Probably when I stopped doing it.
I just I've never been comfortable listening to my work.

I never wasn't the guy who carried a cassette around
in my pocket. Go listen to my new song either.
So I was just not that guy. Okay, So how
did you meet Aaron Sorkin? And you started with him
in the beginning of television and you grew together. So
can you tell us that Aaron. It's interesting story. Aaron

watch thirty something and really loved thirty something. So when
Aaron put his first television show on, uh, he called
my agents and said it would Snuffy be interested in
doing this show? And I was up in Mammoth skiing
with my kids, so I wasn't you know, Dad's at

the studio. And I got a call from my agents
and they said, listen, this guy, Aaron Sorkin done some movies,
really good writer. Wants you to look at this script
and would you be interested in I said sure, send
it up. So they messengered it up or fed exit
up or something, and I got the script and and

I was used to looking at scripts and just flip
into the back page to see how long it was,
because I will tell you it's an hour and a
half hour. And I flipped to the back of the
page and it was sixty pages. So I got a
less an hour drama. So I read it. It was wonderful.
It was so beautifully written and such a great piece.
I said, absolutely, I'd love to do this. Only two

weeks later to find out Aaron writes sixty pages for
a half hour show most people. And so I learned
it was a half hour television show and it's called
Sports Night. And we did one year of Sports Night
and it was kind of a funny show because it
was half hour, but Aaron really nixed the laugh track

and so, you know, some people got into it, but
it wasn't really big. Aaron had in his back pocket
at that time West Wing. He had the idea of
show about the West Wing that was really about the people,
not the president, and he had shopped it and it
hadn't been picked up. And so once he was on

the air, Tommy Slammi was doing the directing to which
was phenomenal. Tommy, you know, created this whole thing of
walking through the giant sets with moving cameras and did
that on Sports Night, and so there was a lot
of credibility for the quality with Sports Night. When Aaron
came back to John Wells with with the West Wing,

and at that time. You know, I've been doing this
electric guitar show all you know, all of my roots,
you know, playing bluesy stuff and slide and all electric
guitar and and Aaron came to me said, listen, I
have the script. You know, it's about the West Wing.
Would you be interested in doing it? And he sent

me the script and I read it and there was
just incredible. Aaron had a way of making the first
five minutes riveting of any show you got of his.
Every pilot I did with Aaron was that way that
you couldn't walk away from it. It's like Social Network

is a great example of of that kind of writing,
where it's just it just goes. And so I read
this and I said, yeah, I'd love to do it.
What are you thinking? He said, well, I'm thinking American
acoustic guitar. I said, great, I don't how to do that.
About two months later, after they shot the pilot, they're

starting to edit it and they started putting John Williams
up against it and it worked really well. So Aaron
came to me and said, listen, I know we talked
about acoustic guitar, but we've been putting this big orchestral
stuff up against it. Would you be able to do that?

And the only answer you can give if you're about
to be out of work is yes. And I went
to a friend of mine, James Horner, and talked to
him about what I wanted to accomplish, and he pointed
me to some areas and we discussed how I would
do it and what the process was, because I had

never worked with a big orchestra at that point. I've
worked with some string sections, just doing strings on some
guitar music, but the first time I've ever worked with
big full horns and everything, and so James helped me
a lot. And then I studied Aaron Copeland and I

boiled it down to well, really, he's just playing a
simple melody. It's just but the orchestration's lovely. So I
got a great orchestrator, Brad Dector and who was doing
all James Newton Howard stuff and and I I brought
him in and he brought in a couple of other

guys because you had to put out so much music,
so it took two or three orchestrators just to get
it orchestrated and prep for the orchestra. And the funny
thing about it is. I was. I was writing the
whole first full first episode, part of the second episode,
and a couple of is for the third episode because
they didn't have the money to do fifty six pieces

every week, so I was writing two or three episodes
and doing a session. Ah. But they were going to
Randy Newman and all the Carthy, Stills and Nash to
do the main title. Everybody was you know, everybody wanted
to do Aaron Sorkin's new main titles. Uh. And they

were telling me about it. I was going, yeah, Randy Newman, now,
how would you complain about that? And I was. I
was working on the third episode and Tommy Slimy came
over to my writing room, which is not this one
but the one downstairs, and I played in the queues
and I played in the end queue and he said,

that's it. I said, that's what he said, that's the
main title. It took me fifteen minutes to write that queue.
But that que turned into uh to some music that
I want an Emmy for the theme the third theme
to West Wing, and Tommy recognized it more than I did.

I was just writing as fast as I could and
trying to get something together. But Tommy recognized the emotional
content and with his visual content of what he was
going to do because he was already shooting the credits.
There are the opening credits, and I give Tommy a
lot of credit for that. Certainly did me a good

one there. So you're a rock and roller at hard
So where did you grow up? I have Bonouisiana, raised
in Texas, went to school in Texas. You know. I
had my parents split up a lot, so I would
follow one to the little rock and then found the
other one back to Texas and then they get together
and then we'd all be together in Houston. So I

grew up kind of. I went to twelve different schools
getting through high school. So I was always trying to
fit which which helped me as a composer, by the way,
because I also knew how to you know, kind of
fit into a piece. And I started my rock and

roll career plan at a strip joint I had. I
was going to football before that. How it was there
music in the home? How did you end up even playing?
Oh Wow, You're gonna go way back? You know? When
I was about five, they gave my parents gave me
a Hawaiian steel guitar. Gave me lessons on that. But
I lived in tech in East Texas, so you know,

all was there was country. So I was basically playing
learning how to play country music on a Hawaiian lap still.
And then I learned a little piano and play. We
had a Hammond cord organ at home. I kind of
learned how to play that. In fifth grade, I went
out for band. This was exciting because the guitar didn't stick.
I was doing tap dancing too, so you know, they

had me involved in everything. Were you the only kid? No.
I had one brother two years older, same birthday. We
were born two years exactly apart, and I'll get to
him because he was the gifted one of the family.
He's gone now, but he was the really gifted musician

in the family as far as I look at it.
So I got a traumbone. So I started playing traumbone
in the fifth grade. In the sixth grade, and then
I wasn't good enough on trum bone, so they moved
me to baritone. And by the time I got through
eighth grade, I was I was just done with band.
I just I couldn't do it anymore. So in the

ninth grade, we moved down to Texas and for Christmas
that year, my grandfather got me and my brother both
electric guitars little Fender music Men or whatever. They were
a single pick up little Fender, and we started playing
electric guitar in The first song played was Misty and

the second song I played was long, Tall Texan. And
that's about those wider ranges I was ever going to get.
Pretty soon, my brother took off two strings off his
and started playing based on his, so he ended up
getting a base. We put a band together, of course,
in the night. It was summer of between nine and

grade for me. We put a band together called the Showman.
And you know, we had one guy in the band
because he had a band, so he played tambourine. We
had another guy in the band because he had a
twelve string and we wanted to play I wanted to
play the twelve strings, so we got him in the
band too, So you know, there was about three of

us core musicians. We also had a guy named Turkey
who would bring a little Hammond cord organ around to
every gig. I don't know why his father did that,
but they did it. And we played, you know, school
dances in the local tiki club Quantza Time. Okay, you're
you're in Texas in the northeast, Northeast. You know, it's
tough forty radio first Folk, then Four Seasons, Beach Boys,

then the Beatles in British invasion. Texas is its own country.
So how important were the Beatles to you and where
you grew up and what kind of music were you playing?
Were you influenced by local music and country music? You know,
I loved the Beatles. I bought all the Beatles records.
I loved what they did. But we didn't play an

the Beatles. I never worked up a Beatles song. We
were kind of we weren't that good, you know. We
we could play uh animal songs, we could play some
Stone stuff, we could play some basic twelve bar stuff
and you know, Kinks. Maybe it's about as daring as

we got. So we didn't. We weren't recover band because
we weren't that good. We weren't good enough to reproduce
those records. So we just kind of play, but we
could play. I was listening to a lot of chet
Atkins in and we were listening to that songs like
Tellstar instrumental records and so we just kind of did
a hybrid. We just got together and played really and

that's kind of all I've ever done, as it, and
it turns out I've never done. I did one casual
gig in my life where I played at a wedding
and they fired me the next day and never called
me back because I didn't know all those songs. I
never learned anyway. We had a cover band then then
we decided to release the record. My grandfather was pretty

impressed and he built he opened a record label, and
we cut a single and it was on one side,
baby let Me Take You Home by the Animals that
my brother sang, and the flip side was Bald Headed
Woman by the Kinks, and Doug and I traded off

vocals on that. Doug, my brother, and I still have
that record. And we changed the name of the band
because the Showman didn't sound cool enough. We called it
ps Y one to three for Psychedelic because the elevators
and all of that was just starting to happen in Texas.

Wow funding to go back to that, and and we
kept that band together for about a year and a
half and then it disbanded because my brother got sent
to military school and he got my my he got
my girlfriend pregnant, so you know that was that was fun. Uh,
and he married her, so we the band kind of

broke up and I didn't. I kept playing in the
in my bedroom, but I didn't really play in any bands.
In my senior year, I went to four different schools
because I got kicked out of one. I went a
wall from a military school. I got barely through the
asked one, but I didn't have all the credits I needed,

so I had to go to summer school. So that
was my final year. And that year was spent for
me going out to the black clubs and seeing Sam
and Dave and the Impressions and uh, you know those
acts of that time in nineteen sixties sixty seven and
drinking beer and hanging out with the guys. It was

like junior frat guys. So I didn't play it all
that year. And then when I graduated and I started
going to college, I was friends with this guy who
had FM underground radio show on this little tiny FM
show FM station called k r b E, which is
huge now in Houston, and I got a job. I

got my second I can't remember what degree it was
but basically an apprentice license to be a DJ. So
I was going to college, going to on a double
major premat premit Math. I was working at this little
underground radio show, doing all different sometimes the morning shows,

sometimes the late night shows, whatever they could give me.
And I was playing in a strip club called the Seller,
where they sold fake boost to the clients, trying to
tell like was uh bourbon flavoring in coke? And the
girls all wore broad panties and they would dance and

they would strip for tips, and when they had stripped,
they locked the front door, and you know, it was
just really sorted. It was dark and sorted. What made
you pick up the guitar down? You know? I always

gravitated toward it. I remember that senior year, Sergeant Pepper
came out, and I remember being so impressed with Sergeant Pepper,
but didn't have any Connation played, but Fresh Cream and
Hendrix came out. Those two records came out, and that
brought me back to the guitar because hearing Clapton and

Hendrix were like, whoa guitar can be like this? And
I don't remember a moment that where I picked it
back up and said I'm gonna do this. I never
really intended to be a musician. It just kind of
happened that way. Now, but in your documentary it says
you slept with your guitar, and I think the images

of a less Paul. What's the reality there. It really happened.
I that was where I did. That was the time
when I was living in Memphis. I had already had
three or four bands in my Well, then let's stay
with here. You're playing the Strip Club, Give me to Memphis.
I've got a I got a band that I joined

called the Deep Elm Blues Band and Little Screaming Kenny
still lives in Houston and plays gigs all the time.
He was the bass player and the singer and Rick
I can't remember rex Rick's last name. We were a
trio and we played this place called the Seller, and
if somebody got up and started stripping, you weren't allowed

to stop playing. If you did, you were fired and barred.
So you had to learn how to improvise. Always had
to learn how to improvise, which worked for me. It
was it was our music school, really, and when it
whenever we'd switched bands, the other guys had come on
stage while you're playing and switch into your amps and
so the music never stopped. You just kept going and

going and going. And you know, they paid like eight
bucks a night. I mean we were when we went
to the fore Worst Seller, we had to get to
hotel rooms for the band, and every other night we
had to move everything into one hotel room because we
could only afford three hotel rooms. Every two days we

couldn't afford for So that's just how low paying it was.
But I was living the dream. I was playing guitar.
I was having a great time. That's where I first
did L s D. I mean, you know, I was
just living the dream and didn't care. I didn't care that,
you know, I was having to hang mayonnaise in the

back of the toilet to keep it cool, you know,
so we'd have turkey sandwiches. I mean, it was just
it was really funky. But you know I learned a
lot there too. That's one of those places that I
really consider my schooling came from. So anyway, when that
band broke up, I I had a little time that

I came out with my brother. My brother had come
out here and gotten record deal with Metro Media. I
think it was at the time, and I came out
and joined his band for about three months, and then
their manager got arrested for drug dealing. So I went
back home and I was living in the park, but
I had a roady in the park and a guy

named George Maxi. The only thing that that I'm missing
is there was a band called the Grits that we
kept together for about a year. That personnel changed a
bunch of times, but we played a lot at the
Balkan Gas Company which turned into Armadilla headquarters later, but
the Elevators played there, and you know all these different bands, uh,

and we played that circuit. After I dropped out of that,
I went to Dougs band, and then I came back
to l A. And I was living in and came
back to Houston living in the park, and some guys
asked me to come over an audition. Now they were
way older old guys. They must have been twenty six
or twenty seven. I was nineteen or twenty. They felt

like they were playing like the old big band clubs
to me, and I joined that band. It was called
the Silver Spoon, and we moved to Memphis, and that's
where I first started my real recording and studios. That
band ended up disbanding, but uh, Jerry William H Jerry Thomas,

who was b J Thomas's brother, was there. And I
had actually had backed b J Thomas up on two
gigs in Louisiana when I was about fifteen um and
he didn't even hurt for the band. He just came
on the stage and said Barefoot and two three four,
and we all just sat there. You know, we knew
Animal songs, we knew Stone song, but we don't know

Barefoot and from Adam. And it was a pretty unsuccessful
little stint we did through Louisiana, but I got to
know his brother and and I got to work in
the recording studio. I remember one night we were at
American Recording Studios and there was this big commotion. We
used to get downtime around midnight, and there was this

big commotion and and everybody starts whispering and Elvis walks
in with his crowd talk about floored. You know, this
is nineteen sixty nine, I guess something like that, and
that was a big deal. That was a real big deal,

and you know, but that kind of stuff was going
on in Memphis and places like that. Nashville I spent
virtually no time, but Memphis I spent a lot of time.
And that's where Rodny Millsap came broke out of And
there was a band called Flash and the Cadillac Kids
and a lot of local bands. Same state to two

totally different mindsets. Really, well, there was so much. There
was a lot of blues and Memphis and that kind
of stuff. You know, at that point, Nashville was just
pure country, at least from my point of view. So
you're telling me about sleeping your guitar and how you
ultimately get a record deal. Okay, Well that has to

do with Silver Spoon. When I was living with them,
I was that was when I really started my drug intake.
And they had these pills that were one half speed
and one half Downer, and you were supposed to take
them together, but I would split them and take the
Speed all day longer than the Downers all night. And

I would lay in bed with my guitar and drink
coffee and play until I fell asleep. And I sleep
on my guitar. Didn't have a girlfriend, didn't matter, And
I get up in the morning and first thing I
do is just play and that's all I did all
the time, was just play guitar. So I really did
sleep on my guitar. That's a true story that it
was a blacklist Paul, and uh, you know, I had

it in battled with me all the time. Huh. We
that this band. Slowly we went back to Houston. Uh,
we're woke up. And then one of the songs that
we were that we wrote was recorded on Johnny Winner's
second Winter album called The Good Love, but the bass

player took all the credits, so we you know, we
were all outset of him. He's long passed away. I
don't have any issue with him. Uh, But so that
was you know, I was starting to go, Wow, if
I do something, somebody can like it. And I joined this.
I had a bout of hepatitis and living in fort

Worth and I would you probably know who Jerry Williams,
don't you. Well? Jerry Williams was living in fort Worth
then and I joined him Linda Wearing and Randy Cakes
and we formed the Jerry Williams Group and we played
local clubs and everything, and we were getting ready to

come out to the West Coast for a record deal.
You know, it was all going to happen, And three
days before we were supposed to leave, I came down
with appatitis. So I got stuck in the hospital. They
told me I couldn't play music anymore. Uh I didn't.
I didn't go with Jerry, and then they came out.
They got a record deal. Jerry did a bunch of

acid and took a left turn and that record never
even came out. But I got sick, and when I
got out, they told me, if you get back into
music business, you're gonna be dead. And this is from
taking all those drugs and all that stuff. It just so.
I got a gig in a music store and lasted
about three weeks and I just couldn't do it. So

I moved to Colorado with this other band that I
knew from the Fort Worth area, and I do one
gig a week and then rest the rest of the time.
Then I built it up to two and built it
up to three. That was a little band called Aphrodite,
and we worked out of Denver. That's the band that
when Emerson Lake and Palmer came through town. The old

crew came down to a little club we were playing
at and we're just knocked out, and they said, we're
going to get you a record deal. And they went
and finished the Immerson, Lake and Palmer tour, came back
to Denver and put us on this circuit where we
were saying, last gig before we go to Europe and
before our European tour, and got us, you know, endorsements

for ants and all this stuff, and all of a
sudden everything grew big p s and uh so we
raised a bunch of money to supplies to England and
we went over to England. It didn't go well in England.
We were there about six months and at that point
my girlfriend was having helping support the band. We lived
in just this awful flat that you needed shillings to

get hot water or propane or gas whatever. And then
we cut an ascetate. We were still aphrodite. We couldn't
ascetate at the play is called que Bridge. It was
a little live room, but they also could cut an
asset take there, and somehow we got it to Greg

Lake and Greg listened to it and he liked it,
and he called us up and we went into the
studio with Greg for a day and cut three songs
and After that, Greg called me over to his house
and he said, listen, I love what you do. That
he was the problem with the band. The drummer would

get better every take. I was good first take, get
a little worse, second take, third take. The fire was
gone by the sixth take when he got good. So
what Greg said to me was, listen, I'd love to
work with you, but I can't work with you with
this band. If you want to stay with that band,
then you should go on, and I wish you good luck.

But if you want to work with me, I'll help
you put a band together and we'll make a bad
and around you. So that's what I did. I went
to my drummer and I totally said you gotta do it,
you gotta, you gotta do it. So the bass player
state Al Roberts and and we went on a quest

to find the drummer. We had Cozy Powell and you know,
all these different people. We went all around England, couldn't
find anybody, just auditioning people who came to America. I
went to New York, went to Houston, we went to
Denver to try somebody out. We ended up in l
A for our last a bout of tryouts and Nold

Redding was in town rehearsing with his band, and we
got his drummer to come over, fellow named Less Sampson,
and it was magic. And that's when we put the
three piece bands Straight Dog together. That recorded on Mantical Records,
was my first record deal. I was twenty three, maybe
twenty four, you know, seventy three when we recorded the

record came out and seventy four, so yeah, I was
twenty three and and I had a record deal with
a big label and it was Manticore Records released by
Atlantic over here, and they were going to take us
on a world tour as their opening act. And you know,
the truth of the matter is I just couldn't handle it.

We were great musically, we weren't songwriters, so we got
no airplay. We only got underground FM airplay. We had
a real cult following, but we didn't weren't songwriters, so
we didn't get airplay. And we My alcoholism continued through

that point and was getting worse and worse. And then
we started a tour. We toured all of Europe with
Lake and Palmer are doing you know, everything from fifty
tho sedar stadiums to the Olympic, Holland and Munich, and
then we came to America. We did the whole East
coast of America and we ended up that tour and

there's a lot of sordid stories that go on through
all that with my drinking and stuff. But we ended
up playing two nights in Madison Square Garden before Christmas four,
I guess, and they rolled me back to the hotel.
I was so drunk and in my white leather ballero suit,

and two days later I got the word that, you know,
we no longer need your services on this tour. So
we moved the band to l A. Ended up doing
one more record in l A. And then basically something
happened where I had to come home and I called everybody.
I said, I'm gonna come back tomorrow, and they said, well,

if you come back, the whole band, Squitty So Stray
Dog broke up. As far as I was concerned, I
was no longer in the band, and they broke up.
Six weeks later. We were on tour Dave Mason at
that time, and there was a fight between the bass
player and myself and I ended up in the hospital.
So but you know all that comes under the heading
of my alcoholism. Dude, you got that story. That's how

I got my record deal. Okay, so how did you
How did you get from being drunk, kicked out of
your own band, two, getting sober, and then being a
road guy and studio guy. Well, you know, I was
doing a lot of studio work. I did a record
was free, you know, when coss Off was was too

in his disease to do it. I played with the
guy to keep Sinfield. I did a concert over there
as Bill Withers guitar player one time over in London,
you know, because I was a Texas guitar player in London.
That's the way I looked at it. If Hendricks could
go from from New York to London and be a hit,
then maybe a XS guitar player could come to London

and make some noise. So you know, I got a
lot of opportunities, but I just I didn't have the
wherewithal and the solid background, you know, the upbringing and
and all that stuff to be secure enough to go
from nothing to playing at fort SA gigs. I mean,

you know what happens is your egos on one side
and your insecurities on the other side, and they slowly
diverge and get farther and farther apart, and you're left
with the hole in the middle. And that's what happened
to me, and so I tried to fill that whole
with alcohol. And you know, when the band moved to

l A and then it broke up. I had a
band called the Walton Olsen Band with Mark Olson, Rare Earth.
UH toured with different people, Alsta Haley, who's got We've
got a record coming out from the Evan Deeson And
then I started playing with Eric Burdon and that turned
out great. I toured with Eric Burden off and on

for the next three or four years. And you know,
I could drink successfully with Eric because everybody else was
crazy too. So you know, we had got Ronnie what
was his name, amazing Louisiana piano player, Ronnie Baron. I
don't know if you've heard of him, you know, dr

John kind of guy. And that was the band, and
then Rabbit joined the band. Rabbit who played in The
Who for twenty years and played in Free. Rabbit and
I were friends since Houston, so we've known each other
and Uh, Rabbit came into the band, and then Tony
Brownegle and Terry Wilson came into the band, and they
were also from Houston. So we were a core four

piece behind Eric with a couple of extras, with a
sax player and another keyboard player, and we became his
core and and we toured with him whenever he toured.
We were all nuts, you know. I ended up doing
a record with Terry and Tony when they had a
band called Backstreet Crawler, when cost Off was too sick

to do that record. So I did that record for
I was always kind of behind Costs, you know, filling
in for him when he when he wasn't well. And
so I did all these things, and you know, I
was toured with Eric Burden and in I guess it

was January. Yeah, I went and saw my dad Christmas
of nineteen nineteen, and ah, he looked different, and I
asked him what he did. He said, well, you know,
I read this book and I stopped drinking. And I said,

let me see that. I talked to him out of
the book he had read, and ended up coming home
deciding that I didn't have a problem with alcohol. The
problem was my wife wouldn't let me drink the way
I wanted. So I came home and drank like a
man for two weeks, kind of came out of a
blackout and knew I needed trouble, and I made a

call to get help. And so for that first year
where I was trying to stop drinking, I was still touring.
I was going out and doing gigs and we did
a film over in Berlin with Eric, and then I
had Lost Week in the Lost Week in London, Ah,
and then I came home and you know, bouncing around.

I got asked to go back out with Eric, and
I did. And at that point I was telling everybody
that I wasn't even drinking because everybody knew that I
had tried was trying to stop. So I'd rush into
the dressing room after the gig and knocked back a
couple of Tikito Sunrises and uh, and then just drink
my orange juice like everybody else. So one night I

had a bad night in a love with drugs and alcohol,
and I hit and run five cards and go through
security gates in my hotel and ended up in trashing
my room. And the next morning it was a dear
friend of mine. Michael Ruff. I don't know if you
know him. He wrote for Bonny and different people. But
Michael was in the band with Eric at that time.

And I was down in the dining room trying to
force some food down, and Michael came and sat down
next to me and talked to me a little bit,
and then he said, Stuffy, I love you too much
to watch you kill yourself. When we get back to
l A, don't ever call me again. And that really
rang from me. And I stayed there another six weeks,

touring and producing a record. But I ended up in
the Sydney Australian Airport Christmas Eve and I looked in
the mirror behind the bar after I ordered a few
drinks and I realized that I really was an alcoholic.
And that's when I first did made it to my
animal self, and I believe I entered the Stacey Grace there.

I didn't expect to stop drinking, but that's the last
drink I ever had was in that bar in Sydney.
So that's close to forty years ago. So how did
you stop and stay off? Well, you know, I stopped
h I worked with the Fellowship, I read the books,

I learned how to be of service rather than to
serve myself. What happened was after that Christmas, then I
had a New Year's Eve gig where I started playing good,
but I couldn't play, and I finally walked out of
the session and said, don't pay me. And then on
January eleven two, I got a phone call to go

back on the road with Eric, and I got off
the phone. I said, I'll call you back, and I
got off the phone, and I panicked because I knew
I had to choose life or music, because I had
been trying for a year to do music sober and
I couldn't do it. And so I just threw myself

into everything I could having to do with recovery. I
never went to rehab or anything, but just bare knuckled
it and had you know, still had friends who were sober,
and I just hung out with them and quit playing
music for a year. I didn't expect to ever play again.

Got a job doing phone sales and this set and
the other, and then I got asked to come sit
in for somebody, and I went and sat in with them,
and I was afraid nothing was going to happen. No
music was going to come out, and yet when I
started playing, it did. So that kind of got me
into doing those night gigs around l A, which kind

of brought me to doing some bigger gigs and playing
with Michael Ruff and at my place, and then touring
with Shaka and then musical director for Laura Brannigan and
you know, it was just going up, but it was
all Sideman stuff. And that trajects me into where we
started this conversation where I was playing with Michael Ruff

New Year's nine and got approached by an agent. So
I don't know if that's short, but you get a synopsis. Okay,
let's go back to the wife you came back. Is
that the same wife you're married to now? No? I had? Uh?
That was wife number two? So Hi, wives, have you

had three? Uh? And I'm not probably not going to
have more? Uh? Now? The first wife was my agent
who who took care of us over in London when
when Aphrodite was trying to get together, and then I
came to l A with her. We moved to l
A when she came out here to work with Jerry

Goldstein she goal, and that's how I ended up knowing
Eric and getting in that band, but I followed her
out here and then I tripped off for a while
with this other girl, and then I came back with
her and married her. And then two weeks later the
girl I had tripped off with started throwing rocks at
my door. And so I mean, I was a mess.

Let me tell you, I was a mess. I ended
up only staying married nine months. I had like an
emotional breakdown. Then I got a divorce. Then I married
the mistress. That lasted nine months. When I came home
from my dad's I was living with my second wife,

who promptly left me two weeks after I got back,
and we lived together just for a little while, and
then she just bailed because I was a mess. I
was just a mess, And so that marriage lasted as
a marriage nine months. So you know, I didn't have
a very good rick coming into this deal. The year

I started scoring television was also the year I met
my wife. It's the year everything changed for me. I
was five years sober and seven everything flipped and all
of a sudden, I was scoring a hit television show.
I had met my wife to be, who was going

to bear two kids, and and I've had the last
twenty nine and thirty one years with them. I mean,
my life totally changed. And you know, I really believe
it wouldn't have been possible. She'd have had nothing to
do with me if I'm still drinking, and I'd probably
be dead by the end of anyway. But so for me,

getting sober was really the mechanism that brought me a
whole second life, an entire second life, separate from the
rock and roll thing that I blew because I had
an opportunity. You know, if I'd had my head on straight,
I could have turned that into a successful career. But

so five years sober, I got this whole new life. Uh,
and it's all because of sobriety. How did you meet
your second wife? And you also said just before we
started that year, her health is not good. You know.
It's my third wife and she was diagnosed with all
simmer five years ago. So we've been married thirty two years,

been together thirty four years. So I beat the nine
month thing I did. My second wife actually was the
mistress from my first wife, So you know, I just
kind of went a ping pong back and forth. I
didn't know what I wanted. I don't know what I
was doing. But you know, to me, everything pre getting
sober was a different guy. I almost feel like God

kind of reached down and took out the damaged soul
and put a cleanman back in. I really do. I
I feel that strongly about it, and my handwriting changed
after I got sober, so I don't know take it
as you want people listening. I really believe it was
an actor grace, and I'm gonna go with that story.

So how did you meet your third wife? I met her.
She would come down into at my place and when
we play. We started out playing with Michael Rough, my
friend down there, playing just Sunday nights and I was
two years two years sober. We built that up over
a couple of years to where we were playing weekends,

four sold out shows every time we played, and she
would always come second show, second set, second day, second set,
Saturday night, last set. Because the band was so musical.
It was, you know, Ralph Humphrees drums and Jimmy Johnson
on bass, and we had Cheryl Crow, Vona Shepherd, Leslie
Smith on background vocals and that it was a four

piece corep and we were selling out every show we
booked there and she used to come down because the
music was great, and it wasn't a meet joint, you know,
it wasn't where you hit on girls, so she could
go and and and do that. At that point, she
was working for Steven Spielberg as his assistant, and somebody

introduced me to her, and I just remember looking into
her eyes and going and when she walked away, I
couldn't have told you if she was five two pounds,
I couldn't have tell you anything. I just connected and
then I chased her. That was in June probably of
that summer, and I chased her until I finally got

her to go out with me in November, and she
wouldn't have anything. She kept saying, I'm too busy, you know,
Stephen takes all my time. And I finally got her
to go out with me, and but I called her
and she said, also, I don't I don't date musicians.
And I finally called up. I said, I'm a composer,
because thirty something had just gotten on the air, and

so she said, okay, I got an opening in three weeks.
So I waited three weeks and we went to sushi
and she sat me down and she said listen. You
know what, if you're just interested in a little flank,
I'm not interested. We might as well have our tea
and get up and go our own ways. If you're
interested in a serious relationship that's going somewhere, then then
I'll talk. And we closed the sushi choine and we

were together from that moment on. So what's the state
of her Alzheimer's and what's it like for you? You know,
it's been the roughest thing I've ever gone through in
my sobriety. We just she had early on set. We
just moved her to be a resident in the memory

care facility two weeks ago. So it's very us, very
raw um. But she seems pretty happy. I went out
and had an early Thanksgiving dinner with her yesterday and
we spent a couple of hours just laughing and talking.
You know, she doesn't we don't have the sadness besides

the fact that it happened to her. It was not
in her family that we knew of it all, but
she had it was gene. She got a gene on
both sides, so that's why she got the early all
summers in the sixties. The thing that's really sad. Besides
the fact that she's slowly disappearing, is that all those

shared members, we had, all the little things where you
had drive by a hotdog judge, remember when we were
over there with so and so. Those are all gone.
Now that's there only with me. And you know, when
I went and saw her yesterday, you know, we we
don't talk much about the past. She was talking about

dogs that are like it died thirteen years ago or something.
That's kind of where her memory is right now. So
she's she's in a safe place. We had too many
instances in a row where it was unsafe for her
to stay here. And my agreement was that I keep
her safe, comfortable, and as happy as I could. And

when I could no longer keep her safe, I had
I had to make a change. Does she know who
you are? So? Oh? Yeah, she she Most of the
time she knows we're married. Sometimes she thinks we're having
a fling. It's kind of cute. Okay, how does the

money working? Composing and you talk about your hiring these
different people amplify that. When I started television, the primary
model was you got a fee for writing the music,
you got paid for orchestration, separately, and the musicians were

all paid for separately. All of that was paid your fee,
the orchestration and the musicians, and all the things going
into the recording, we're all paid by the production. When
I came in, the concept of a package had just started.
They give you one fee, and you spend whatever you

want and keep whatever you want, but you've got to
produce something we love. So I came in making way
lower on the wave scale then Mike Post because my
post was had been doing it for ten years already,
and Mike was doing that that model of a session.

The fee, the orgustration, and the and the session fee
all get paid separately from the production. So when I
came in, they offered me a package which is X
amount of dollars, and out of that I covered my musicians,
I covered my engineer, I cover uh any extra costs

of workers. I never put anything on paper, so we
didn't have them any costs. So our costs early on
were very small, and the packages were healthy compared to
what I was making as a sideman. You know, all
of a sudden, I was making like whoa thousands of
dollars a week for just writing music and having my
name on the screen too. And then I found out

about B M I and royalties, and that was like whoa,
Now they're gonna pay me royalties for this too. It
was like I died and went to heaven. But the
package came more and more and more into play over
the first five to seven years I was, I was
doing it. I've never worked under the old structure of

composer's fee, orchestration and and musicians. I've always worked under
a package. Now sometimes I augment the package. I say, listen,
I'll only pay for three musicians out of my package.
You need to pay for the other ten twelve if
you want big strings, if you want orange. West Wing
was the one thing that paid me a package and

paid the extra musicians with a large group. But we
did that because we wanted that sound. So I've worked
on packages from and a package can be anywhere from
you know, for a half hour three thousand dollars to
five thousand dollars for an hour our drama, go anywhere

in there, depending on your credits, your president, your hotness
at the moment. You know, if you're the hot young guy,
then you can ask for an extra five bucks, you know.
But so I've always done from the package, so I
pay all the costs, but I've always believed never to

scrimp to make an extra thousand or two thousand dollars.
Put your best foot forward all the time, because what
you only have at the end of the day is
your body of work. So I never well, I don't
want to spend that for an Obo player. I didn't
have that mindset. You also got to realize I came

into this so green. I believed I had to work
twice as hard to be half as good. I said
that earlier, and so I believed I had to put
twice as much in to get you know, a half
decent uh product. So that's the way it worked for me,

and I've done that so long. I can look at
a project and once we set the palette, I can
I know it within five percent of what I'm gonna
earn for the year because I can just ballpark and
I'm just so used to doing it right. I have
a separate set of books for every episode of every
television show I've done. That's the only way I can

build it, you know, because you can't admortize it and
average it out. So that's the way I do it.
And what about now that we've moved to streaming and
total buyouts, etcetera. Has that affected your work? You have
an opinion on that. Well, you know, one of the
things that I didn't realize when I first got into
it was that there's no union for composers, which means

there's no medical insurance, which means there's no retirement plan.
There's nothing. As a composer, you're on your own, so
you only the only thing you ever got was what
you got as a musician, and of course I was
a musician. On all I said, they'd go in the contracts,

but what happened is the b M I royalties of
the ASCA for royalties became that money's that I could
spend for my retirement and for my insurance. And and
those moneys are pretty lucrative. If you've got three or
four shows running in prime time. You know it's not

pocket change. So you know, I was able to put
myself in a position where I'll probably outlive my money.
I mean where my where my money will outlive me.
And I don't have to look at the bill for
a price when I want sushi, you know, I can
just buy whatever sushi I want and not worry about it.

So it's been great to me that way. I've generally
lived on the money I made on packages and put
the be and my money away. So that's just what
I tried to do because to me, that was my
retirement account. But now the changing with Netflix, ETCeteras, that's
something you're thinking about or the shows you're working on,
that model is different, so you're not that concerned. Well,

the model is different, still a royalty stream, but it's
it's minimal, and were talking to you know, you talked
to record people all the time. There's no there's no
living to be made in songwriting unless you're writing big rapids.
I don't think. I know the songwriter friends of mine
are are really struggling. And that's not the case for

television because primetime television still pays and reruns and there's
reruns all around the world and they all pay royalties.
So my income stream from network, from from the network
shows I did, it is just out there in the
pipeline working the Netflix stuff. They're actually changing it. A
good friend of my works there and they're changing it

to up the royalty structure for composers. They've done mostly
buyouts and the royalty stream is virtually nothing. But now
Netflix is stepping up and going, you know what, composers
are important. They do make our product better, and so
they're upping their game and upping that what they're paying composers,

which I think is great, not only in packages, because
they always pay good at Netflix of the packages. But
I say that without having ever done a netflixing, but
I'm aware of all the deals. But now that the
royalty structure is going to start to come up, other
other streaming services are going to have to look to
Netflix and they'll come up to I mean Netflix is

they hunt in town guerrilla right now, and you know
they have more product than anybody, and they're doing quality products.
I have to ask. Your name is Garrett, and then
you ultimately got the nickname which stuck Snuffy, and it's
all everywhere where you can get that. It's not like
a hidden reason why someone's interests. They can look it up.

But there's a famous record producer named Snuff Garrett, you know,
which it's hard to keep you straight. What do you
think about that? That? Well, that's Tommy Garrett and I
wish I got all of his royalty checks and I
used to say that at being my Uh, Tommy Garrett
was h I had one of his albums years and

years ago, the fifty thousand Flamenco Guitars of Tommy Garrett.
You know, he produced all different kinds of stuff and
produced I think, every which way but loose. I mean,
he just was so in the circuit, so but in
a different genre than I was in in rock and roll.

I got the name the same way he got. The
biggest manufacturer of snuff in the South is a company
called Levi Garrett and Son. My mom's maiden name was Garrett,
so my grandfather was Garrett. Uh. They were both Garretts,
and they were nicknamed Levi or Snuffy when they were
growing up. I got it when I was five at
a co educational camp pair send me to every year

and during the summer as I was Snuffy, and you know,
during the school year, I was Garrett. And then music
took over the summers in my life, so I just
stuck with Snuffy. Somebody calls me Garrett, I know they're
from high school or before, so that's kind of the
way I gage it. So do you ever meet Snuff Garrett?
I never did. I never did. He's past now, but

uh did you know? But you know, first I used
to confuse you. You see the credits back at thirty something.
You know, you couldn't think there would be two Snuffies.
So how much longer are you going to do this
and anything in the horizon you would like to achieve
or do before you leave this planet. Yeah, we've been

kicking around during COVID this idea of myself, a friend
of mine, one big actor, and one huge rock star,
and I really I can't talk about it, but it's
really interesting thing with four of us up front. Uh,

everybody is a singer, a songwriter, and you know, and
every some people play drums and some people play guitar,
and we would switch around, and we've been kicking this
idea around and throwing some songs around. I'm also going
to do another Snuffy Walden album. I did one in
two thousand, two thousand one for Windham Hill, but I

based it on my television work and I want to
do an electric guitar album. So what we're looking at
Chris Kimsey, the guy who produced my original record, who
produced the Stones and all these other people. Uh, Chris,
and I want to do it. I'm just gonna go
to London and cut half the record there with some
guys he knows, and go to Nashville and go to

Frampton Studio because Peter is a friend, and and and
record the other half there and get an English flavor
and get an American flavor, and you do it. A
vanity project you have records for not gonna sell. Now,
I'll fund it. I just want to book end what
I've done. I don't want to just kind of fade

away like all that sold guitar players do. I really
want to have this is my ending thing that that
doesn't mean I'm not going to compose. I mean, honestly,
with what's going on in my family, in the last
few years, I have not pursued work. If anything, I've

stepped away from it. The last thing I did, uh
that was fresh, was a West Wing special we did
when when Biden, you know, we were getting out the
boat from Biden. That was fun, but that was in
Now it's been almost a year since then, and now
that things are changing around here and the dynamic is changing.

H I want to play, but I want to do
projects I love to do. I just want to do
things that I have passionate about, or I gotta love
the project, I gotta love the people, or I've got
to love the money. And it's got to be two
of those. So if I love the people and love
the project, I'll do it for no money. I don't care.
But uh, it's got to fit in, you know, if

that whole thing. The road in front of me is
a lot shorter than the road behind me. And what
do I want to spend the next ten years of
my playing on till I'm eight one? What do I
want to do? So? I want to do what fun?
I want to perform live more. Uh. You know, we
talked a little about the documentary it's coming out. I

hope that gets to people in recovery. That's my goal
for that. That's why I did it. When they asked me,
I said I wouldn't do it, And when they finally said,
you might really be able to help somebody understand that
there is a life after you stop drinking. You can
have a whole another life. And from that point of view,
that's the point of view that I believed him when

I told the story, and you know, that's just my story,
It's what I got it's the only one I got.
So what am I gonna do go forward? I don't know.
Bring me something, tell me something you think's exciting. Uh.
If I'd love to do an electric guitar score like
I did with Stephen King's with Stand, I mean that

was so much fun for me, and yet electric guitar
scores don't fit very well in television drama. You can
use it as a color, but not as a main voice.
So I'd love to do that, but it would take
the right the right piece of material for that to work. Well. Snuffy,

you tell a good story. You tell a story that
tell a story that's not been told by many, both
the recovery in the second life and going from a hardcore,
hard party and rocker to a guy very successfully scoring
television in his own unique, identifiable So I want to
thank you so much for taking the time, Bob. It's

such a pleasure. I was just tickled when who we
decided to put this year. Thank you so much. Until
next time. This is Bob left six h
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