Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito returns home at the Kennett Flash
By Rob Nagy
Armed with his electric guitar pursuing his dream of becoming a great blues guitarist, Springfield, Pennsylvania native Rick Vito submersed himself in the fertile L.A. music scene of the early ‘70s.
Establishing a reputation for his slide guitar and blues guitar prowess, Vito soon found himself working with the elite of blues, pop music and straight-ahead rock and roll. His impressive resume includes Todd Rundgren, Delaney and Bonnie, John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Miller, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger and Fleetwood Mac.
“I’m a roots player,” says Vito from his home in Franklin, Tennessee. “I’m very fluent in all kinds of blues styles, slide guitar and roots rock and roll. I got really good at that and I was able to use those roots in whatever situation I found myself in whether it was in the studio or working with another artist. I think that’s kind of a lost art today. There aren’t a lot of guys that really do that. My credo has always been to play what’s right for the song and play something impressive.”
Ultimately, he landed a gig with Bob Seger with whom he spent time recording and touring. His slide guitar is prominently featured on the Seger hit “Like A Rock” among others. Vito then got the call to join super group Fleetwood Mac, replacing the legendary Lindsey Buckingham.
“I had just come off a year of touring in the huge arenas with Bob Seger so my head was in that space and I had this overwhelming feeling that something big was going to happen,” recalls Vito. “I thought Bob was going to ask me to permanently join his Silver Bullet Band but it was all quiet after that tour. In a matter of weeks, I got the call from Mick Fleetwood and he said, ‘Lindsey’s left and would you be interested in playing with us?’ So, I turned to my wife and said, ‘This is what it’s going to be: Fleetwood Mac.’”
“Lindsey was pretty much asked to leave,” adds Vito. “The situation between he and Stevie got kind of bad. So, I joined Fleetwood Mac in the summer of ’87 and stayed with them until ’91.
We made the decision we were only going to do “Go Your Own Way” and a couple other tunes like “Don’t Stop.” We really weren’t trying to replicate Lindsey’s presence. We just considered this as the band going into another phase.”
“You have to do your best to capture the essence of what they were doing before and try to put some of yourself into it,” says Vito. “I was in my top form and it was a challenge but it wasn’t a fearful challenge. Fortunately for me the Fleetwood Mac fans were incredible. There were never any of those situations where fans were saying ‘Where’s Lindsey?’ None of that kind of stuff. There was total acceptance and they were very kind to us so it was really good. Fleetwood Mac is a huge group with an amazing legacy, and to have been a part of that is really gratifying.”
Vito’s compositions are featured on their albums, “Behind the Mask”, “The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac” and “The Chain.” He also appears on their “Greatest Hits” CD and the live DVD, “Tango in the Night.”
Vito has released nearly a dozen solo albums with his most recent being “Mojo On My Side” (2016).
As a producer, he has collaborated with Delbert McClinton, Rita Coolidge, Maria Muldaur, Boz Skaggs and fellow Fleetwood Mac alum Billy Burnette. Warner Brothers’ movie release, “Angel Eyes” featured Vito’s song, “It’s Two A.M.” Performed by Shemekia Copeland, the song earned Vito the W.C. Handy Award for “Blues Song of the Year.” His songs have also been featured in a number of primetime TV shows.
“I have a new record that’s mixed, mastered and waiting,” says Vito. “I’ve been talking to several record labels. I want to make sure the label is the right fit before I turn it over. So, we’re waiting to see. I’m hoping for a 2018 release.”
“I think I’ve probably done my best work on my own records, just because I’m able to stretch out more and play everything I’m capable of playing,” adds Vito. “I haven’t even touched all of that yet so hopefully there will continue to be opportunities to do that.”
Vito continues to maintain a personal and professional relationship with Mick Fleetwood as a high-profile member of Fleetwood’s band “Mick Fleetwood Blues Band featuring Rick Vito.” Shortly after their inception in 2010, Vito was nominated for a 2010 Grammy Award in the "Best Traditional Blues" category as both artist and producer for their release “Blues Again.”
Vito continues to perform solo shows around the world, demonstrating his skills on his Reverend Guitars’ “Rick Vito Signature model guitar,” as well as appearances with Mick Fleetwood.
“When you get older if you’re not a household name by the time you are my age you have to look a little bit deeper to find those outlets that makes sense for me to get involved with,” says Vito. “I’m a survivor. I’ve been very fortunate to have accomplished some great things and worked with some classic groups and artists. I’m still here and still doing it because my powers have not been diminished, thank God.”
“I think when you look back and you get to be where I am,” adds Vito. “You say, ‘I could have done better here, I could have done that a little differently.’ The fact of the matter is you do the best you can at the time and the chips fall where they fall. I’m very proud of what I have accomplished.”
Rick Vito performs at the Kennett Flash, 102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, PA 19348, on Friday April 20, 2018 for two shows at 7:00 P.M. and 9:30 P.M. For tickets and information, visit www.kennettflash.org.
To stay up to date with Rick Vito visit www. Rickvito.com