Nazareth guitarist and producer Manny Charlton talks to LRI about touring, the 70s and his work with Guns N’ Roses

Nazareth guitarist and producer Manny Charlton talks to LRI about touring, the 70s and his work with Guns N’ Roses
July 18, 2012 | By More

Nazareth rose to worldwide fame from Scotland and will always be remembered for hits like “Hair of The Dog” and “Love Hurts”.  Manny Charlton played guitar during those days and recorded those classic tracks, toured the world and basically lived the rock and roll dream.  Along the way, he acquired skills in the studio in addition to on the six string and if you’re a Guns N’ Roses buff you know he even recorded that band in their very early days.  We recently caught up with Manny and asked him a few questions about that and much more.  Read on….

LRI:  Nazareth was formed in Dunfermline, Scotland in the late 60’s. What was the music scene like as you guys were putting things together?

Manny Charlton: All the local bands were playing all the Soul stuff that was popular in the 60s (the Tamla Motown & Stax repertoire) I joined The Shadettes just as all the so called progressive music wave was starting to take over, Here’s a brief sample of the songs we did in our early days, Good Times Bad Times-Led Zeppelin,Kentucky Woman-Deep Purple,Sunshine of your love-CreamHey Grandma-Moby Grape,Rock my Plimsouls-Jeff Beck Group,Piece of my Heart-Big Brother & the Holding Co.,Morning Dew- Tim Rose

LRI: Just by listening to some of the early Nazareth albums it seems quite clear that you guys were influenced by American blues, boogie and rock. Was there anything like that being played on the local stations in Scotland or did you sort of have to search that out on your own?

Manny Charlton:  At that point I used to listen avidly to Saturday Club and The John Peel Show on the BBC. Both shows were wonderful and they played all the current rock music and also had some fantastic live recordings of Beck, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd it was great time to be a music fan in the UK.

LRI:  When you got together with Pete Agnew, Darrell Sweet and Dan McCafferty did you know right off that you had something special going on?  Let’s face it there were only a handful of vocalist that were singing with the range and power of Dan McCafferty at the time.

Manny Charlton:  Well there were two reasons I joined the Shadettes …Dan Mc Cafferty and Pete Agnew. Individually and together they were both fantastic vocalists….that and the fact that we were all willing to attempt to write and play original material.

LRI:  It wasn’t until the second album “Exercises” and a tour with Deep Purple that the band really started turning some heads. Who’s idea was it to enlist Deep Purple’s Roger Glover to produce 1973’s Razamanaz album?

Manny Charlton:  At that point we had done 2 albums and only succeeded in getting into a mountain of debt (pun intended) we as a band and our management decided to get a musician in to produce us, someone who understood what we were about. We asked Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend and Roger Glover.  Roger got back to us and really wanted to do it …He did an amazing job and I’m eternally grateful.

LRI: Would you agree that the album Razamanaz took the band to the next level? The quality of production and musicianship really shines here and you’re playing in particular is brilliant! I personally love the slide work on “Vigilante man” and “Woke up this mornin!”

Manny Charlton:  Razamanaz is a great Nazareth album a magical set of songs and performances and Roger Glover’s production was the icing on the cake!

LRI:  Let’s talk about your guitars for a minute. It seemed that you were favoring Fender Stratocasters quite a bit early on especially for slide. Do you still have any of those Strats or did our good friend the taxman ultimately wind up with them?

Manny Charlton:  I’m really a Gibson fanatic Todd and those were and still are my guitar of choice. At that time I couldn’t really afford a second Les Paul Custom as a spare so I got this old 60’S Black strat and eventually I used it for slide. I think I traded it in for a pedal steel that I really never did figure out. I still like Strats a lot it’s just I didn’t grow up with one so I’m always a little bit uncomfortable with that 25.5 inch scale! I still have a 1960s Relic strat ,70s sunburst and a Warmoth hollow bodied that I put together myself.

LRI:  I spoke to you briefly about the black Les Paul that you favored quite a bit in the late 70’s. You told me that it actually started out life as a 50’s Gold Top! Hats off to whoever did the work on that one! Can you elaborate?

Manny Charlton:  Yes, that was a great Les Paul! I bought it in the states around 75-76. It was really beat up and I had John Birch (Tony Iommi) customize it for me! He sprayed it black and fitted it with his own bridge design. He also fitted it with Alembic designed hot rod magnets in the pick-ups.
I used that guitar on the road for many years until in a moment of insanity! In the middle of the 80’S whammy bar craze I had a Kahler Trem fitted to it …totally destroyed a wonderful guitar! (laughs)

Manny and the original Nazareth lineup 1970

Manny and the original Nazareth lineup 1970

LRI:  1975’s Hair of the Dog ranks right up there with Frampton comes alive, Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic and Deep Purple’s Machine Head in terms of must have records back in the 70s.   In other words, if you didn’t have these albums in your collection you were nobody! Your thoughts?

Manny Charlton:  What that album did was set the band up for American success forever…Looking back I’m still trying to understand why it was so successful! I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all about the attitude of the songs, performances and the rawness of the production. This was the first album that I produced for the band ….beginner’s luck you might say?

LRI:  The song “Love Hurts” reached # 8 in the US TOP 10 and also charted in 9 countries. It even spent 60 weeks on the Norwegian chart, how many teenage girls do you suppose used that track as their “break-up” song and how many times over the years have you wished that YOU had written it?

Manny Charlton:  Wished I had written it?…every friggin’ day! (laughs) Get the girl and the boys will follow! Especially if the lead song on the album is a Son of a bitch ..Oops I mean Hair of the dog! (LAUGHS)

LRI:  In 1979 Zal Cleminson from The Sensational Alex Harvey band joined on second guitar for the albums “No mean city” and “Malice in Wonderland”. What brought this on and were you a fan of SAHB before Zal joined?

Manny Charlton:  Zal was an old friend of the band…. I got him in the band to help lighten my load as I was writing, playing guitar and producing. Zal was a great addition and we made “No mean City” one of the finest Nazareth records ever! And yes I was huge SAHB fan!

LRI:  I caught you guys in 1981 for the 2xS tour in Rockford Il. with Molly Hatchet! By this point Zal was out and Billy Rankin was in. I must say that you guys sounded fantastic! Who were some of the bands that you enjoyed touring with over the years?

Manny Charlton:  Too many to mention Todd!!  Aerosmith, ZZ top, Ted Nugent, Rush, Bob Seger, Van Halen and Lynyrd Skynyrd were some.

LRI:  You ended up leaving the band in 1990. Dan McCafferty and Pete Agnew were quoted as saying that you weren’t satisfied with the producer brought in for the 1989 Nazareth album “Snakes n’ Ladders which ultimately led to you leaving. Was there a falling out with Dan and the others or were you just simply becoming more and more interested in pursuing other avenues by this point?

Manny Charlton:  The “Snakes and Ladders” album was a disaster! There were just too many personal problems in the band during that time. We should never have been in the studio at that point and I’ll take my share of the blame for all the bullshit that went down.

Axl Rose in 85 photo by Jack Lue

Axl Rose in 85 photo by Jack Lue

LRI:  In 1986 you were originally brought in to produce the Guns N’ Roses debut classic, “Appetite for Destruction” album. What was it like working with Axl Rose and crew and do you still have any of the tapes from these sessions?

Manny Charlton:  Ahh, the G-n-R saga…. Okay, Axl’s favorite singer is Dan McCafferty.. He said to his label, get me the guy who produced “Hair of the Dog” by NAZARETH! What Axl wants…. Axl gets!     I went over to L.A. to meet them and eventually went into the Studio where we recorded straight tape 2 track stereo… their whole set live and they were great.
We left it saying, if we could get our respective schedules together then great. I was in the middle of recording “Cinema” with NAZARETH and it didn’t happen.   I later found out that they auditioned a dozen or so other people for the gig.

LRI:  A while back you re-located to Texas and are now fronting the “The Manny Charlton Band”. This band includes Tim Bogert (Jeff Beck Group), Walfredo Reyes Jr. ( Carlos Santana, Steve Winwood, Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne) and Robin Delorenzo! Amazing talent here! How did this lineup come about?

Manny Charlton:  Gary Mc Grath of GB Records an independent label out of LA has been wanting a solo record from me forever and finally this year he put together this line-up..and we recorded “Hellacious”. This record at present time (July 2012) is in the final mixing stages.

LRI:  This is a question that begs to be asked. What would it take to get you back together with Pete Agnew and Dan Mc Cafferty for a NAZARETH tour and an album?

Manny Charlton:  I don’t think it will ever happen Todd and I’m tired of even thinking about it! Like the man said…..Let it be.

Todd Houston (legendary Rock Interviews)
Let’s do work association! I say a word or phrase and you comment with whatever pops into your head!
1. Wellpark Brewery = Never heard of it!
2. Darrell Sweet = The Nazareth drummer!
3. Vivian Campbell = He plays on a couple of Hellacious songs…… great guitar player!
4. ESP guitars = Best guitars for the money you can buy today
5. Kemper amps = Game changer…… German technology and innovation at its finest! Sounds fantastic!
6. Brian Johnson = That man had a hell of a pair of shoes to fill and has risen to the occasion… and then some!
7. Maggie Bell = Wonderful Scottish singer…. miss her.
8. Jimmy Bain = Really good Scottish bass player. Played with some great bands
9. Steven Adler = Guns n Roses drummer. He came in to the studio and laid drums down for us on a track on Hellacious lovely guy and his new band is HOT
10. Erv Karwelis (IDOL RECORDS) = He has a local indie label here in Dallas.. Haven’t spoken to him for while! He always talks to me about doing something together….maybe one day?

LRI:  What’s next for Manny Charlton?
Manny Charlton:  Get this CD out and hopefully do some live gigs …….get out of my cave and meet some old fans and friends!


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Category: Interviews

Comments (3)

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  1. Todd says:

    Manny is a total gentlemen and a great talent!
    Best of luck mate!