In the world of under-appreciated and often overlooked guitarist, RICHIE KOTZEN is at the top of my list. Born February 3rd 1970 Richie started playing piano at the early age of 5. He was only 7 when he started playing guitar. Richie was discovered by MIKE VANEY of SHRAPNEL RECORDS at age 19. He went on to record his first solo album in that same year. Even though still in his teens Richie also created an instructional video called “ROCK CHOPS”, that detailed his formative techniques.
Though short lived, in 1991 RICHIE KOTZEN got what looked like was his “big break” when he joined forces with 1980’s powerhouse rockers POISON. He replaced the bands beloved guitarist C.C. DEVILLE and together the group recorded the “NAITIVE TONGUE” album. The release peaked at #16 on the BILLBOARD 200 and has been certified Platinum. Unfortunately life on the road with POISON didn’t go as well and Richie left the group in 1993 and returned to his solo career.
It was in 1999 that Richie joined on with MR. BIG. Richie played on 2 albums for MR. BIG “GET OVER IT” released in 1999 and “ACTUAL SIZE” released in 2001. Sadly the MR. BIG gig was also short lived as the group disbanded in 2003. The group later reunited in 2009 but the reunion was of all original members. But Richie’s time with MR. BIG would pay big dividends down the road. And he maintained his solo career throughout it all.
In late 2012 MR. BIG bass virtuoso BILLY SHEEHAN and ex-DREAM THEATER skin pounder MIKE PORTNOY were looking to form a new band and were in the process of looking for a singer and guitar player to complete the group. At the encouragement of rock DJ EDDIE TRUNK the group reached out to Billy’s ex-MR. BIG bandmate RICHIE KOTZEN about filling the role of both slots. The chemistry was instant and the group started writing songs together immediately. The new “Super-Group” would be called THE WINERY DOGS and they released their first album May 5th 2013 as a Japanese only release. The album earned a world-wide release July 23rd 2013. Their self-titled debut was later released as a 2 disc set with the 2nd CD featuring a live concert titled “UNLEASHED IN JAPAN 2013”. The group previously released a live DVD of the performance also. THE WINERY DOGS received critical acclaim all over the world as music DJ’s, columnist, fellow musicians and fans all praised the group and album. In 2015 the band returned to the studio for the follow-up album to be titled “HOT STREAK”. “HOT STREAK” also was greeted with critical acclaim. And THE WINERY DOGS are one of the hottest acts out touring this year. Despite the busy schedule of THE WINERY DOGS Richie also continues to work on his solo career with 21 albums released to date.
RICHIE KOTZEN describes his playing style as a mix of rock, blues, jazz, fusion, and soul music. The same can certainly be said about his singing voice. He has one of the most soulful voices in rock history. My band DOWNTREND had the pleasure of opening for Richie at a tour stop in Kentucky in November 2014. His performance, both vocally and on guitar, were absolutly mind blowing and left the crowd in astonishment. If you have the opportunity to see him solo or with the dogs I strongly suggest you do so.