AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JAKSON SPIRES, CHARLIE HARGRETT, GREG
T. WALKER and BOBBY BARTH by Michael Buffalo Smith
Reprinted from GRITZ
Issue #10, March 2005
The following interview took place just weeks
prior to the sad passing of drummer Jakson Spires. We dedicate this
page to the memory of our dear friend. -MBS
In one of the best surprises of recent Southern Rock history, the
hard rocking, take no prisoners band Blackfoot has reunited and
are touring again.
We caught up with the band during rehearsals, where we interviewed
founding drummer and song writer Jakson Spires, and said hello to
the rest of the band as well.
Jakson, how was Blackfoot formed and when?
I was in a band called Tangerine, and Charlie, Ricky, and Greg,
were in a band called Fresh Garbage. We did a lot of stuff together
as a combo. When the Allmans first got together, they only had
one drum set so they used mine for the double drummer thing. We
had a good thing going there and we had all grown up together
since we were 5-6 years old. Me, Greg and Rickey. I had met Charlie
at age 15. We had played around together and we felt that because
we got along so well that it could transform into music that same
way. It did, and we just kind of took it from there. The two bands
merged and the keyboard player for my band Tangerine stayed with
us for about one year and then he went on to do other stuff. We
called the band Hammer. Then we heard about another band doing
an album out on the west coast, this was September, 1969, so we
changed our name to Free and about one week later we heard about
the band with Paul Rogers. We knew we had some Indian heritage
so we came up with the name Blackfoot. We wanted a strong sounding
name. Blackfoot is actually the Blackfeet Indians and Blackfoot
is the plural of that, it’s reverse English. They were a
nomadic tribe that moved seasonally and hunted, and we were very
nomadic moving every night. We played in the South and at the
time the Southern thing was real big. Laid back, country blues
or the real jazz influenced blues of the Allman Brothers, and
then there was Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels, and Wet Willie
and Skynyrd. Even though we liked all that stuff we didn’t
play it. We were more influenced by the heavier stuff, like Deep
Purple, Free, The Who, and The Move and stuff like that. So we
headed that way. There were not that many places for us to play
in the South because we were too heavy for what was going on.
So we moved up to New York and did it up there for a while and
then moved to New Jersey for a bit. After a few years, Ricky had
went with Skynyrd to play drums and then Greg joined a little
later on bass, and the whole thing was maybe a year apart.We reformed
and started the band up again, actually with a different bass
player for around a year, in the early 70’s. A guy out of
North Carolina, Lenny Sandler. Greg was working with another band
in upstate New York and I called and asked him if he was doing
anything. I went up and got him back and we stayed together like
that for awhile. Right up until Charlie left. Then we got Ken
Hensley (Uriah Heep), then we got Bobby Barth from Axe right up
until 1985. The corporation broke up in 1986. It was a great time
and great band and we did stuff that you would not even believe
or comprehend. We still can’t talk about a lot of it. (Laughs)
When you think back to those days what are some of the highlights
that you can think of, that is, in the realm of those things that
you can talk about?
Well, I mean touring with Ted Nugent, playing with KISS, The Scorpions
are real good friends of ours, AC/DC, toured with Deep Purple,The
Who, went to Europe for many tours and had a great time over there.
Hopefully, we will be going over there this year too. Touring
with The Who was great because we had just come off of 18 months
of touring at the time of the Strikes Tour. We were doing it worldwide
and I had thought we were going to have some time off. I do remember
being offered the thing by their manager, Bill, at the time and
falling and rolling around on the office floor laughing hysterically
that we were getting ready to go to Seattle and start after we
had just gotten home. We always seemed to get along with musicians
from other countries more than we did with the ones from America.
The exception would be Nugent, because he took us out when no
one else would get near us.That was then and this is now. (Laughs)
Well what is the status of the SRA now that you are doing Blackfoot
and Farrar is doing things with his old guys?
It’s still up there. I have some offers and if I am not
available then I will have to get someone to sit in. We have had
Mike Estes come in and Charlie and Tommy Crain of course, it is
still a revolving door thing.
You guys have a good live album out.
It’s done well too. We just got another order from England.
How did the Blackfoot reunion thing happen?
Well, we had been talking about it for some time and Ricky and
Al had mentioned it to people and stuff. Nothing had ever happened
and Ricky was with Skynyrd and doing his acting thing and we wanted
to do it and as far as we are concerned he had an opportunity
to do it and decided not to. That is fine with us and we wish
him the best. We went out and got Bobby Barth, a friend of ours
that is a front man, leader of Axe, and singer, guitarist for
years and had actually played with us for the last couple of years
when we were on the road. This has worked out great and we couldn’t
have asked for anything better.
I was going to ask you how you came up with Bobby Barth but you
already knew him from playing before?
We had known him since the middle 70’s and we had written
a bunch of stuff together for Axe and Blackfoot. We’ve still
got stuff that we are talking about doing with this band too.
We went back and got the standard stuff we always did but we also
put a lot of stuff in the set that we didn’t do very much
or hardly ever did. The mix of it has worked really well according
to the audiences.
How many reunion shows have you played so far?
We have played four so far and are getting a great response and
having a great time. We sold out in North Minneapolis, Minn. and
we sold out in 35 degrees below zero. Then we did Las Vegas, at
the Fiesta Rancho Casino and it sold out and they put tables up
and we were out there about 2-hours signing stuff for people.
They seemed to like us and if we are having fun you know they
What’s it like, because I’m sure that you are having
deja vu. What is it like looking around and seeing Charlie and
Gregg, how do you feel?
I feel lucky to be alive. It is horrifying enough that we are
in our 50’s and no one ever thought we would live past 30,
that was the cut off for sure. The way we lived wasn’t always
pretty. But to hear us still playing like this is incredible.
There is no one touring right now that plays like this.
What are your touring dates immediately for Blackfoot?
We have a ton of dates coming in. We are going to Sweden, Holland,
and Europe this summer. Hopefully, we will have some time off
to put together new stuff. There is some stuff that Bobby and
I wrote years ago that was never recorded and we want to get some
of that together. Just to see where it will go. We all thought
that it ended too soon, but that was basically Ricky and Al’s
idea and that is fine because they can do what they do and we
are doing what we want to do. Hopefully, everyone is happy with
What are some of your most fond memories from the hey day of Blackfoot?
As the years go by and I look at it, there were so many times
I can hardly know where to start. I can’t start because
I would be leaving something out. Monsters of Rock in England,
and getting our gold records when we were out on tour with The
Who and they did the presentation of the Strikes record.
How long did you tour with The Who?
We did the Spring 1980 tour with them and played with them at
the Pontiac Michigan show at the Silver Dome. It was the first
show after their Cincinnatti show when those folks got killed.
That was Dec. 1979 when we played at Pontiac, Michigan and after
that show they asked us to do the Spring 1980 tour and we went
around the country with them and into Canada. It was nice.
What do you hope to accomplish with the Blackfoot reunion?
I guess bringing this back for new fans and back to the old fans.
I left the band 21-years ago and I think we are hoping to pick
our careers up and do it again. It is amazing to come around again
Has it been accepted pretty well?
A couple of people have said they miss Rick. He is a personality
of his own and a star without question. But I would say that the
band is just as good in a different way, and Bobby is a different
style but he is a great singer and guitar player. The more we
play the more second nature the Blackfoot thing comes to him.
Bobby is not trying to be Rick, not at all, but we are playing
those tunes the way we originally did them. It’s great.
GREG T. WALKER
Going back to the original run with Blackfoot, what would you
say would rise to the top in exciting and happy experiences that
you had with this band?
One thing comes to mind right off the bat. We did a show in Zurich,
Switzerland and it was an ice hockey arena that was an overblown
coliseum that seated 16, 000 people. I know when we were doing
“Highway Song” there were 16, 000 lighters that got
turned on at once. I remember looking out there and thinking about
being 7,000 miles from home and that all of those people came
out to see us it was a very memorable event.
Then when we did the big festivals in Europe like Castle Donnington
and Reading where you have got in Reading 80,000 paid attendents
and the other was about 65,000. That was the European part. It
was a happy experience for us because we were always glad being
out there. To us every night was like the last night we would
play. When we were touring with a lot of the bands before we started
being able to headline ourselves,we just had a blast. Ted Nugent
took us out when no one else would. He said we made him work and
he loved a challenge. Foghat, the Nazareth tour, those were a
couple that we enjoyed and hung out with everyday. The Who, we
did the North American and Canadian Tour with them and Deep Purple
was another one that called us and wanted us to tour with them.
There is a such a reputation for ‘high energy’ with
Blackfoot from the past, do you feel like you still have that?
Well, it’s more intense. That’s not to belittle anything
done in the past but I made this remark in a recent interview,
it’s true we have talked about this for a long time and
then when we rehearsed the first time I had this huge grin on
my face when I realized we have not lost anything over time. I
am sure the other guys told you that no one ever quit playing
and Jackson and I did album projects together when we would go
in as a rhythm section. We did a lot of stuff with just the two
of us with our songs and we all kept playing and Bobby and I worked
together. So I think what happened was, we seasoned without getting
old, we got better and definitely got smarter. I don’t know
about prettier (Laughs). The energy level is higher and more intense,
because we are so grateful. You can feel the power onstage and
you go to this place that you can’t describe.
Yeah, it doesn’t happen very often but when it does it’s
You have heard Jakson, and you know his energy level. Charlie
is still all over the stage, “Daddy Long Legs.” (Laughs),
I don’t take flying leaps off the drum riser like I used
to but I do still move around as much if not more and my knees
just don’t take that impact.
With the reunion, what do you hope to accomplish?
Well, you know we have a point to prove and there are a lot of
eyes on us. We go out with probably more confidence than we ever
had, and it was pretty high in the old days. To also show the
public that not all reunion bands come out to rape the public
and some have one or two people but this is the original and we
are quality musicians and entertainers and just put on a great
show. If it weren’t for the people we wouldn’t be
out there. This is a complement and honor for each of us everytime
we step out onstage. We are very grateful.
Bobby how do you feel about this project?
Well, we have all been friends for so many years and I joined
back in 1984 and it came as a shock to me that it all ended in
1986 when it did. It has been wonderful and I love playing with
these guys. They play great together and have been playing for
so long that they have one mind. It’s kind of scary.
You were in a band called Axe, tell me about that band?
It started back in the mid-70’s and we had a couple of albums
on MCA and two on Atlantic and Atco, the same label that Blackfoot
was on, and the same management company as Blackfoot. That is
how I got to know the band. They had 2-3 chart singles and toured
around the world with pretty much everybody. There was a bad automobile
accident that me and the other guitar player were in and he was
killed. That kind of messed my head up for awhile. So we just
let that thing slip away. So the first thing I did after Axe was
Blackfoot. We toured with Ozzy, Nugent, four different tours and
What are your future plans and what do you want to accomplish
with the reunion?
It’s such a great deal for us to get back together after
these years. We realize that we still have the ability to play.
Not everyone can do that. We still have the heart and ability
to do it. We have been so intrigued with that and having fun being
together, we are just going to do it until we drop. (Laughs)
Visit the New BLACKFOOT