Photo: Brad Chesivoir.

Lofgren's playing style is unusual in that like Mark Knopfler and Jeff Beck he doesn't use a plectrum, but, unlike Knopfler and Beck, he employs a thumb pick. `I keep a thumb pick on my right thumb and do a lot of picking with my fingers. I like the sound of the fingers - it's very gentle and it gives me a lot of control. The thumb pick has no give in it and it's really good for percussion so I can get a variety of sounds with the two techniques.

`I started using the thumb pick it by accident. I was around 15 years old and I had finished a ten-year run on the accordion. My brother was starting to play guitar and he showed me some chords. There was a thumb pick in the guitar case and I knew nothing about the guitar. First of all I'm left-handed so I started learning how to play right-handed which to me is no big deal `cause one hand has to catch up with the other anyway. But it took me about nine months before I could really play anything with any feel with my right hand. When I finally got to that point I started getting more serious about it and I started meeting other guitarists who all told me, `Oh, you can't play rock `n' roll with a thumb pick.' My attitude was that it had been nine months of hell for me to play anything that sounds like music - there was no way I was going to start over with a pick that I don't know anything about! And I still to this day can't play very well with a flatpick.'

Two important influences on Lofgren's guitar playing were Roy Buchanan and Jimi Hendrix. Lofgren adapted Buchanan's pinched harmonics to his own picking style, as can be heard most notably on `See What A Love Can Do' from the first Grin album, appropriately entitled `Grin' (1971). And as for Jimi... `When I saw him I was possessed. I realised, "Oh my God, this is what I want to do. It's going to be my career". I followed him around a lot, saw a lot of his shows and my band Grin wound up opening for him in California for a few cities which was a huge thrill for me.'

This interview was originally published in `The Guitar Magazine' Vol 6 No 1, Christmas 1995.

Douglas J Noble 1995