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Muddy Manninen “Playing with Fire” and Freeing the Firebird

Firebirds are one of the most sought-after guitars especially when you hear those sounds of Muddy Manninen pictured here with his own Firebird guitar and an Epiphone Firebird 1 Guitar this is an interview with our own guitar great Jimmy Fleming you can see his interview here with Guitardoor. If you are a guitarist get in touch via the contact page or Facebook page or Twitter just follow the links and share if you wish.

Today Jimmy talks with Muddy Manninen whose album was featured on the Pete Feenstra feature which you can hear at the end of the interview just scroll to player.

playing with fire on his Epiphone Firebird 1
Freeing the Firebird Muddy Manninen Epiphone Firebird 1 Guitar

There are many Great Guitarists who function in Different worlds. From the Garage band player, The session player is the Hired gun or one that functions in any capacity they walk into especially with his flaming firebird and if anyone is responsible for freeing the firebird its Muddy.

There are fewer who compliment or flat out-breath life into any project they undertake. Muddy Manninen is that Caliber of the player.

He is one the Driven that may be found doing many projects at once and some shining through no matter the project. Be it solo albums such as “River Flows” driving projects like Hipkiss or Playing with absolute authority as a member of Wishbone Ash. He is a credit to everything he touches. These are my words not his, as he is as wise and grounded as he is Talented.

As children, our parents often warned us not to play with fire, but when it comes to Music Muddy does to a degree that one thousand complimentary statements still don’t do justice.

You don’t get to be a member of the sort of bands mentioned if you don’t have the elusive “IT”. Muddy’s got “IT” and not just in one approach or style of playing. He has no lack of diversity, no lack of anything to be one of the A-list players. He is his own man. 

How did you acquire your Favorite guitar and what is it by year etc?  Any other specific guitars that you use as “go-to” instruments.?

“I Have three favorite guitars at the moment..and that’s basically all I got.

Never been much of a collector, I like to have a few guitars around me, that I can trust to deliver the sonic landscapes I want. But if I would have to choose the desert island guitar, it would be a Les Paul. My first electric guitar was an Ibanez Les Paul copy, and that sort of set me on my way, I have always been a Les Paul guy. And I’ve had a few…my current Lester is a 2013 Historic collection of 59 reissues, which I’ve had now for 8 years.

At some point, in the late 90s, when  I was really heavily into Hendrix, SRV, and Eric Johnson, amongst other Strat players, I didn’t have a Les Paul at all.

But that didn’t last long!  I guess that I sound more like me with a Gibson. Having said that, I recently got myself a Custom Shop 60s Strat, which I love. And being a Gibson Firebird fan, I have an Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird 1. And to be honest, it’s better than any of the vintage and new Gibson Firebirds I’ve had! I had to have one because Clapton was using one in Cream!”

Who made you inspired to be a player?

“Mom and dad loved music, so there was always music around the house.

So from an early age, I was exposed to all sorts of stuff: Bill Haley, Sinatra, Brazilian music, Dylan, Voices Of East Harlem, and Harry Belafonte. My mom had Hendrix too!

My aunt moved to England in the early 60s, and when the Beatles and the Stones started happening, she would send me singles. “She’s A Woman” was a turning point for me.

That raspy, bluesy vocal by Paul McCartney and that lead guitar break in the middle was something I’d never heard before, and I was completely hooked. So from there on all my pocket money went into the nearest record shop! The Move, Fleetwood Mac, Hollies..all the British late 60s bands, and Cream..but it wasn’t really until I heard John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Rory Gallagher that I started getting deeper into the guitar playing. I would say that Rory and Mick Taylor were the primary influences for me, as for guitar players go. 

But Rory was getting sounds out of the guitar I’d never heard before. It was

blues, it was energetic. Certainly, something a teenager, with growing testosterone levels could relate to! Taylor was very tasteful, had a Les Paul tone to die for, a beautiful vibrato, and also always playing for the song. When Mick was in the Stones, it was the best rock and roll band in the world.Period.He was actually the only guitar player I copied or learned his lines. Especially the album he did with Mayall, “The Diary Of A Band”, a live recording. 

But both of these guys opened up the door for me, I started digging to the roots, all the kings, Earl Hooker, Robert Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, Bukka White..the list goes on and on.

Two guys I have to give a special mention though, whom I learned to love a little bit later on, are Paul Kossoff and steel guitar player Glen Ross Campbell. Both had a huge influence.

In technical terms Paul wasn’t that special,  his playing was very simple, but the emotion he put in his playing was out of this world. And his Les Paul tone in the latter part of his career, well. I always try and go for that tone in Magic Ship, on “Free At Last”

Glen Ross played steel like nobody else, for instance using fuzz boxes with a steel guitar, and his playing has the same emotional impact. He could use the steel as a horn section, listen to Juicy Lucy’s “ Mississippi Woman” from their first album, or just play some mean lap steel on “Big Lil” from getting A Whiff A This.

But there were a lot of influential players around in the late 60s and early 70s. Ollie Halsall from Patto, Gary Green from Gentle Giant, Steve Howe, Billy Gibbons, Duane Allman and Dickie, Lowell George.”

As an Indie artist of so many years what benefits and roadblocks have you had to navigate?.

muddy with a les paul classic
Muddy with another guitar favorite

“I really haven’t been an indie artist that long, basically since 2017 when I left Wishbone Ash.

But it’s given me a pretty good insight into how the music biz has changed over the years.. and from an indie artist perspective, it just means you have to do everything yourself.

Whereas earlier you had different record company guys tackle different parts of the business, now you have to do all that yourself. Which really is a pain in the arse! You’d have to be on it 24/7, Facebook and all that shit.

I don’t have the energy for it, nor the money to hire some youngster to deal with it. I read Rod Stewart’s autobiography some time ago, and whilst being a very funny book, it was amazing how you could actually make money doing music in the 70s and 80s!

What would you say to a person Starting out now wanting to achieve something in this current world?

“I think the main thing is to find a way to express yourself, to put YOUR soul in the music. I see a lot of unbelievably talented players now, but they all sound the same. They are technically excellent but lack personality and vision.

It’s mind-blowing how much information there is nowadays, from all different sources. I mean one of the reasons why we had so many groundbreakings, and unique musicians in the previous decades is that they didn’t have the access to all the social media we have.

They didn’t have any of the videos you can now easily watch on YouTube. Whatever song you want to learn, it’s all there, tutorials. You don’t have to use your ear to learn stuff.

Of course, there’s always been music and music business. It’s a thin line, to be a musician who is true to his vision or to sacrifice parts of that vision in order to make a living.

Life’s all about choices..but I’d rather be playing music than being a delivery driver. It helps too when you realize that all music is good, it’s all human expression, just in a different form!

Favorite memories of playing with any number of bands or other players?

muddy playing with wishbone ash

“There’s always some good moments you will remember, and it doesn’t have to be a mega gig, playing for 50000 people. Might as well be a pub gig with a local band. It all depends on how things gel.

In the late 90s, I was part of a touring band in Finland, backing up 4 singers all Finns know and love. The final concert was in Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium, with some 30.000 people in the audience, singing along with every song, that was pretty cool! On another occasion, we played four shows in South Africa with Wishbone Ash, with greats like Uriah Heep, and Deep Purple on the same bill, that’s another great memory.

Deep Purple was the first major band I saw playing live, in Helsinki in 1972, so it was cool to share the stage with them.

And like I mentioned, lots of local gigs with Hipkiss, my band with saxophone player/ singer Patsy Gamble.”

Any wisdom to pass on of any sort that seems to fall on deaf ears? 

Be yourself!

What are you working on now in the age of covid?

“When all this madness started I began to work on my second solo album, which I released in October 2020, the album’s called “River Flows”. Features some of my favorite musicians: Simon Kirke from Free and bad Co guesting on two tracks, Gregg Sutton, who is a lovely guy and a great songwriter and singer, sang one of his own songs.

Melanie Denard on vocals, a fabulous singer from Atlanta, my mate Kev Moore from Witch Cross, and Christie supplied some bass and vocals too. Album’s available from my website

We’ve been working on some new stuff with Patsy, for Hipkiss and I started a project with singer/ guitarist Marcus Malone, called Black Pearl, which I am really excited about. The guy is a great singer! So there are things happening!”

I’m looking back to Muddy’s songs from the album “Danger Zone” and he knows the skill of combining soul, tasteful guitar work that also has his Identifying mark of tone and approach, and an accessible song that is commercial without losing integrity.

I know personally, that is not an easy achievement. Muddy makes it all sound easy. Truly impressive. 

Taking on songs with Wishbone Ash-like “The King will Come” is a testament to his skills. I knew coming into this writing I could spend days on that band alone, as Wishbone Ash is the guide for all the bands who embraced the twin guitar attack and harmony playing from Iron Maiden on. I also knew I am speaking of a player that as high an accolade of its own would still sell him short.

Hipkiss is another way of finding originality, same “named by sound” Call it Muddytone on who is playing but in a new context working with Saxophonist Patsy Gamble.

Freeing the Firebird on the album River Flows
Muddys Latest work river flows

I encourage you to visit  to keep up with an amazing player who had much magic up his sleeve. Drummer Simon Kirk is on board “River Flows” lending more to the notion this is a very special project. 

I think Muddy provides something for everyone in his widespread musical projects and if you are looking to add to the list of Virtuoso to learn from you can’t ask for better.

He is right there with Mick Taylor, Paul Kossof, and all who stand tall.  He will not disappoint, I dare say he’s capable of anything BUT Disappointment It’s just not gonna happen. If you have ears to hear and like music at all, there’s a life force there with no boundaries.

Hat’s off to you Muddy! who we hope will be freeing the firebird in many future albums and projects and also Thank you Pete Feenstra for steering these new sounds and new friends in our direction. 

Muddy Manninen on Mixcloud, Homepage, and Other Links

Muddy Manninen has some more tracks on his website. Here is his interview about the album river flows on getreaddy to rock in an album review which he was featured in Pete Feenstra’s feature on Mixcloud for you to enjoy also thanks for reading and subscribe for updates from and more from Muddy Manninen on his #facebook Page if you wish.

Freeing the Firebird a Chat with Muddy on the Pete Feenstra show on getreadytorockradio
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Chris Dempsey

Chris Dempsey

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