Taped on Nov. 24, 2019, at downtown San Diego’s Embarcadero Park South as part of the first annual Wonderfront music festival, the full concert was broadcast on Dec. 27 via the CW Network. The event was a true all-star gathering, featuring guitarists Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Nancy Wilson (Heart), Steve Lukather (Toto), Warren Haynes (The Allman Brothers), George Thorogood and Charlie Starr (Blackberry Smoke), plus singer Ellis Paul (Tower of Power), alongside a backing group that included horn player Steve “La Bamba” Rosenberg (Bruce Springsteen) and drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Cougar).
Rehearsals took place earlier on Nov. 24 in Hendrix Hall at Point Loma’s Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego music studios, with the full concert running to an hour and a half. The album, with the same title as the main event, cherry-picks 11 of the night’s best tracks. Available digitally or on CD, Pacific Records CEO and founder Brian Witkin is effusive about the album’s release.
“First of all, we’re helping people,” he said. “Proceeds from the album, go to America Salutes You, an organization that raises funds for brain and mental wellness charities assisting veterans and first responders. That’s really what this is all about. However, setting that aside, it’s also an honor to be working with such revered names from the music world,” Witkin remarked.
“With an event of this magnitude, there are so many logistics and things to work out,” he said. “Even getting everyone in the same room together can seem like a daunting task. Luckily, we have a great facility like Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego available and everyone involved just wants to contribute the best that they can.”
Witkin notes a project like this can be a bit of a blur. “After weeks of preliminary work, it’s amazing to see everything come together on the night of the concert and even more so to just a few weeks later be mixing those same songs for national release. Once the ball is rolling things seem to go by pretty quickly.”
He considers the hard work to be well worth it. “We’re actively helping people and making great music available at the same time. That feels pretty good,” Witkin said.
As can be seen on the broadcast, the concert itself had many highlights, though even the extended version needed song cuts due to commercials and additional footage from America Salutes You. Was it hard to whittle down the song list? “You have no idea,” Witkin laughed. “There was so much great material. We did limit it to songs that actually aired, but it wasn’t easy.”
He cites Charlie Starr’s “Hey Delilah” and Ellis Hall’s version of “God Bless The U.S.A.” as his two favorite tracks. “He just nailed it,” he says of Hall’s song. “It was just incredible to hear, what a performance.” He also considers the “jam” tracks to be special.
“Hearing musicians of this caliber interact for one-off performances, is incredible,” Witkin said. “Listening to members of ZZ Top, Heart and Toto exchanging licks on the concerts opening “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” is a special moment that any of their fans, or music fans, in general, are going to love.”
Plans are already underway for the next Guitar Legends concert, but in the meantime, Witkin is proud of this release. “I think the performances are outstanding, this is the best live album we’ve ever done,” Witkin mused. “If you edited out some of the crowd noise, you’d never know it wasn’t done in the studio.”
Visit pacificrecords.com for more information.