Inquirer: Tom Keifer

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FROM THE GW ARCHIVE: Originally published in Guitar World, August 2013.

What originally inspired you to pick up a guitar?

My earliest musical memory was seeing the Beatles on TV. I was pretty young then. Shortly thereafter I became a big fan of the Monkees; Mike Nesmith really inspired me. I was addicted to the Monkees. Then my mom hooked me up with lessons and a little three-quarter-size acoustic.

What was your first electric guitar?

My first electric was a Teisco. I bought it at a department store—maybe it was Klein’s in the Philadelphia area. I saved up for it over the course of a whole summer by cutting lawns. I think it had a matching amp that was about eight watts. And it cost about $50 between the guitar and the amp.

Do you remember the first song you learned?

On electric, it was “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream. One of the older guys in the neighborhood showed me how to play that riff. On acoustic, it was probably a Beatles song or some folk song like “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” That’s what my instructor taught me: how to strum open chords and sing along. But I do remember the first riff I learned on electric, which was a bluesy hard rock thing.

What do you recall about your first gig?

I was in the third grade. I asked if I could play in an assembly in the lunchroom. That’s my first memory of playing live. I didn’t even really know how to play. I kinda knew some songs and just strummed and sang. I remember a couple of guys playing drums and, I think, bass. We’d planned a show, made arrangements, but when I got onstage I had this overwhelming feeling of nervousness.

Ever had an embarrassing onstage moment?

I remember one in Germany about two years ago. It wasn’t just one thing that went wrong; everything that could’ve gone wrong went wrong. And on the Long Cold Winter tour, we opened with “Bad Seamstress Blues/Fallin’ Apart at the Seams,” where you think this big, heavy song is gonna kick in, but it doesn’t. I was up on a P.A. wing with a Dobro and harmonica, and the scrim got caught on the Dobro, and it was trying to pull it off into space. I was hanging on, trying to pull it back down, with about 20 spotlights on me and 15,000 people staring, wondering if it was part of the show. That’s probably the funniest one. The guy backstage pulling the scrim couldn’t see me. He only knew the scrim was snagged, so he just pulled harder. It was very Spinal Tap.

What’s your favorite guitar or piece of gear?

It’s a toss-up between my 1950 Nocaster and my 1959 Les Paul sunburst. It’s a tough choice. I go back and forth all the time.

Got any advice for younger players?

Play from your heart. Don’t follow trends. Just play what feels good to you and what you like. And the rest will come.

Tom Keifer has been the frontman for Cinderella since the mid Eighties and is releasing his debut solo album, The Way Life Goes, on April 30.