I first met Whitesnake’s David Coverdale after an Etta James gig up at Caesar’s Palace, in South Lake Tahoe, sometime in the mid 90’s. My parents were there and I was looking for them after the show to let them backstage, otherwise I would have missed David. As I was looking for my folks, I heard this guy with a British accent. He was about to get booted out by a security guard. He was saying, “But I’ve got to talk to Jimmy Z!!” I didn’t recognize him. He had on round wire rim glasses and long overcoat and did not look like the Rock Star he is.
For some reason I told the guard “It’s OK, he’s with me.” After we got my folks through, he introduced himself and I was surprised. He was such a gentleman and went on about my harp playing and how he wanted me to come up to his home studio in Tahoe to record on his new album. It just goes to show how fate can be such a part of show business. As luck would have it he saw the right gig. Sometimes Etta wouldn’t even call the Jimmy Reed song I performed with her and I could go several concerts without ever playing harmonica. (Here’s one story of what happened to me when I played this song with Etta.)
We exchanged numbers and I went back to LA. He called and we set up a date. David called me the night before I was to fly up and said he was really sick with a cold. He wanted to postpone the session. I had a six month old daughter, a wife, and I had just gotten clean. I had just sold most of my saxophones to rent an apartment, so I really needed the bread. I lied and told him we’d have to do it now as my schedule was so busy. So he said. “OK, come on up.” Sorry, David, I really needed the money…
He arranged for my amp and me to be flown to Reno where I was picked up and taken to his house. And what a place! A huge mansion on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe overlooking over one the most beautiful views in the world.
He had an incredible studio in the house, too. And sooooooo many gold and platinum records on the walls. I have to be honest; I didn’t know all his history. I was not aware he was the singer in Deep Purple and so many other big, successful groups and the singer on so many songs I knew.
David was sick, but damn, he worked me so hard on that song. I swear I must have done 38 takes. He worked long and hard as if he was healthy as a horse, but he was coughing and apologizing the whole time. I’d hate to see him work ya when he’s healthy!! LOL. We even tried a couple of other songs but the harp didn’t fit.
He was the most gracious host. There was some talk this past spring (2011) that I would maybe see David again at the largest rock festival in Sweden. I was there in May and June touring with Swedish bluesman Slidin’ Slim. The promoters found out that I’d played with David and asked if I’d join in the All Star Jam. As it turned out my schedule didn’t work with the festival but that would have been great fun.
Slidin’ Slim found an interview with David where he mentions me. It’s funny… ‘cause deep down Slidin’ Slim – an award winning blues musician – is a hard-core metal head. He knows them all. Sometimes on long drives he’ll mention one or slide their CD in and I’ll say, “Oh I know those guys or I played on their CD.” During the 80’s I recorded and hung with some of the biggest metal groups and didn’t even realize it…
Excerpt from MelodicRock.com’s Interview with David Coverdale:
…No, I haven’t.
DC: Now he used to be with David Bowie, its like I’ve got all of Bowie’s guitarists in. He worked with the Tin Machine when Bowie was working with him. And a bass player guitarist called Danny Sabre who does work with Bono and U2 and stuff and was gracious enough to add some wonderful elements on “She Gives.” Yeah, so other than that I’m just trying to think what I can say. Oh, a killer harmonica player, Jimmy Z.
Oh yeah, I know him.
DC: Yeah, I’ve got, he played on “Missionary Man,” Eurythmics, but I’d got down to see Etta James whose one of my favourite singers, and he, Jimmy Z’s actually a sax player who just happens to blow insane, insanely beautiful harmonica. And, and he did a feature with Etta and I went oh, I’ve got to get him on the record. So I looked at all the songs and the only one I could really think of was “Cry For Love” but he brought a completely different dimension to the song.
So that was, that was just a thrill and a half!…
Read the complete interview on MelodicRock.com.
I could not find a public recording of Cry For Love, the song I played on, but here is a video of a guy playing along with the record.