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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

INTERVIEW: Frank “Poncho” Sampedro - Neil Young, Crazy Horse Guitarist | Rolling Stone

Köln, Germany - July 12, 2013
Photo by Roel van Dijk's
(Click photo to enlarge)

A major interview with Crazy Horse's Frank “Poncho” Sampedro  | Rolling Stone by Andy Greene. (Thanks HG, Alan, Francisco & all!)

‘Way Down in the Rust Bucket’  - Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse 
"Fuckin' Up"
Crazy Horse's Frank "Poncho" Sampedro

Cleveland, OH, Oct. 8
Photo by thrasher

Rolling Stone/Andy Greene: What’s interesting is that you make Ragged Glory in early 1990. This is before Pearl Jam even exists and before most people have heard of Nirvana. It’s still the era of Mötley Crüe and Poison. With Ragged Glory, you really made a grunge record before that was even a thing.

Frank “Poncho” Sampedro: Yeah, man. We did. You know what?

Let me go on record as saying that I think this 'Way Down in the Rust Bucket" is the best Crazy Horse record we ever recorded. I love it!

Ilove this record. Neil plays great, unbelievably great. He’s just electrified. “Country Home” sounds like a country tune I never heard in my life. He just takes it to all kinds of different levels. He nails “Cortez.” He nails “Danger Bird” and “Over and Over.” He’s just playing so good and the band played really good.

I hate when people say, “These were warm-up shows for the tour.” We did two shows. Do they really think they were warming us up for a giant tour? That’s more for us. It’s giving back to the community. We played in Santa Cruz. It’s really close to Neil’s place. That’s so most people could come to see us. Just standing in the parking lot, I wound up talking to about 100 people I know.

We’d go onstage and we played “T-Bone.” We’d played that song at a birthday party for one of Pegi’s friend and then we played it there. We never played it too many other places. It was just fun. We played “Homegrown,” and at the end, people were throwing weed on the stage since it’s a big weed-growing community. [Laughs] We were having fun.

It was all about the beginning of a new era. We were becoming alive. I just don’t see it as a warm-up. It doesn’t hit me like that. We played “Cortez” and it sounds so beautiful. When I hear Neil play it with other people, it just doesn’t sound the same to me, ever.

RS: Tell me a little more about why this Catalyst show happened.

Poncho: Well, Briggs, our leader, said it was time for us to go out and play. We had to go play in front of people before we do a tour. That was why we did it. It was just to be out there and be aware that there’s going to be a crowd. At the same time, it was a setup because it was all our friends and it’s a home crowd. It felt really good.

We did “Surfer Joe and Moe the Sleaze.” Briggs used to give us crap about that song. “You guys never put your heart into it. You have to dig deeper. You sound like you’re noodling.” [Laughs] He wanted it to be “Moe the Sleaze” and really dig into it. It came off more like a pleasure cruise. He thought maybe the audience would give us an edge.

RS:  You played the Catalyst a lot over the years. What’s special about that room?

Poncho: Where Neil lived at the ranch, there was one other place to play and it was a bar, the Mountain House. We played there [on November 12th, 1990], but you could only get like 50 people in there. We just played on the dining-room floor. There was no stage. There was no room for a PA. You might want to call it our home venue. Later on, after Princeton Landing [where Crazy Horse had a long residency in 1996], Neil didn’t want to play bars anymore and the Warfield [in San Francisco] became our home venue. But playing at the Catalyst felt like playing at home. It felt like we were still at the ranch.

RS:  Do you remember them filming it?

Poncho: No. Not at all. When they told me they had a six-camera video shoot, I was like, “Really?” I had no idea.

RS: That’s great. It means you were playing to the audience and not thinking about the cameras.

Poncho: We always played to the audience. I’m watching the video now and Billy is having so much fun. I think I’m watching him more than anybody else.

Full  interview with Crazy Horse's Frank “Poncho” Sampedro  | Rolling Stone by Andy Greene.


Poncho Fuckin' Up
Australia 2013
Photo by Gary "Old Man Emu" Carter
(Click photo to enlarge)

Neil Young with Crazy Horse

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Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse:
"3rd Best Garage Band in the World"
~~Bill Graham
In tribute to Crazy Horse, the "3rd Best Garage Band in the World", here's a look back at some highlights:

Induct Neil Young w/  Crazy Horse
Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


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At 3/02/2021 04:47:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Very cool interview, people should read the whole thing. Very informative.

We miss you, Poncho. We miss you a whole lot.

At 3/02/2021 05:23:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Thanks for all the good years and great music. The shows, the tours. Thank you very much!

At 3/02/2021 05:26:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Like I said, Rust Bucket is my favorite live Crazy Horse album of all time. I prefer it to Weld. The vibe is uplifting. Good times! Alan in Seattle

At 3/02/2021 06:37:00 PM, Blogger rolandthompsongunner said...

Agreed. So nice to hear from Poncho. It makes my heart happy to hear he's in a healthy and good place.

Appears there's no ill will for the departure, and he shouldn't have to suffer for our entertainment. It's sad and I would still pay to hear him hit bum notes... but he shouldn't have to be in pain for my enjoyment.

We still have 40 years of wonderful music and Alchemy still to look forward to. The SNL sessions too, which will be exciting.

Rock on, Poncho! Enjoy the Hawaiian Sunset!

At 3/02/2021 07:01:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Poncho is the perfect sideman for Neil. Perfect.

He brings serious guts and intensity to Neil's music, as well as a lot of fun. And in some ways he's carried the Briggs torch into the modern era, too. Psychedelic Pill is full of the Briggs spirit, and I think we have Poncho to thank for resurrecting that.

A few decades before Psychedelic Pill, Elliot Roberts phoned Poncho up to (somewhat-coldly) inform him his services would no longer be required. Since then, he's always endeavoured to have another line of work outside of Neil-land. That's a powerful position to be in.

And as Niko Bolas put it, Poncho is the glue that holds the band together. Both musically and in terms of attitude.

He knows it's not *all* airy-fairy muse driven stuff, and that creative expression is as much of a skill as a talent.

In other words,

(Imagine me obnoxiously shouting the next bit for emphasis)

...HE WANTS TO MAKE A DAMN GOOD RECORD, a record that people will want to listen to in another 30 or 50 or 500 years time. That's the vibe I get from Poncho. He's fun AND laid back AND intense AND serious, all at the same time.

He's also a genuinely accomplished rhythm guitarist. He sounds just as comfortable playing with the MGS or the Bluenotes as he does with Crazy Horse; which I think speaks to his skill.

I doubt I will ever get the opportunity to meet Poncho, but perhaps one day I can send him a message and say how much I appreciated his music with Neil. He brought a lot to table, and as Richie says above, he is certainly missed.


At 3/02/2021 07:03:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...


according to the new interview, he can play the drums, as well. Who knew?!


At 3/02/2021 09:59:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Scotzman, you get it as well as anyone I've seen. You get Briggs, you get Poncho, you get what the Horse has meant to Neil on his journey.

Look at the picture Thrasher posted above of Neil and the boys, an instant favorite. Looks like from around the time of Ragged Glory and this Catalyst show that everyone is drooling over. Look at the smiles, the brotherhood.

Wonder what goes on if you looked into Billy's eyes if he took off those shades. That smile on Poncho, the devilish grin. The rock that is Ralphie. And finally Neil, all smiles as he stands with his buddies.

I think the buzz is getting to be where it's time I go listen to this show in it's new sonic glory. This show, that when I first heard it in early 1991, affected me so much that I left my childhood home for Santa Cruz. That show, it's time to listen again.

They played T-Bone, for crying out loud!!!

At 3/03/2021 04:56:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

Superb interview, really enjoyed reading the full article. So much stellar Crazy Horse still to come; Alchemy & Toast are going to be superb. Would love to hear the version of F*&#ing Up with Poncho on the drums. Wow.

At 3/03/2021 07:51:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

why oh why couldn't Andy Greene ask Poncho about the Greendale hologram ?

At 3/03/2021 09:12:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

@jonathan You'll have to explain that now mate, you've got me intrigued.

At 3/03/2021 10:16:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Return to Greendale live DVD released not long ago...Poncho is a hologram

At 3/03/2021 10:16:00 AM, Blogger miketoda said...

Love Poncho and all his contributions to the band. Weld remains one of my favorite live albums, ever. Ragged Glory when it came out was my intro to Neil and the Horse.

Glad there was no ill will, and glad he is healthy and just living life now.

At 3/03/2021 10:38:00 AM, Blogger Soldier Steve said...

Happy Birthday Poncho.72 years old on 2/25/21.Great interview.So much looking forward to Alchemy album and film,it was a great tour.

Soldier Steve

At 3/03/2021 11:05:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

There is hope! UPS tracking says my WDITRB is on the way...finally updated as 'in transit'!

At 3/03/2021 11:44:00 AM, Blogger bob g said...

I echo what everyone else said. Also wondering what Poncho thought of being replaced by a CGI character in Return to Greendale. I'm sure the answer would have 'cool' and funny.

At 3/03/2021 01:26:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

Just now finished reading the whole interview and I’m amazed that Rolling Stone Magazine actually got Poncho to be interviewed at all. This is the interview I’ve been waiting for since Poncho left the Horse. What a relaxed and friendly person he seems to be, and it doesn’t surprise me at all. He truly was the glue that held the music together for so many years, as he is such a gifted rhythm guitarist. Much like Bob Weir, their gift is so easily missed because it’s so incredibly subtle and articulate at the same time. Any musician can hear it instantly, but for the layperson who listens to music but doesn’t play wouldn’t notice it as quickly. It’s a feel thing, and that is hard to understand until it’s not there. If you were to sit at a mixing board with any Crazy Horse song playing, and you were to turn the track that Poncho is on all the way off, you would not only hear what’s missing, but you would feel it even more. His contributions to Neil’s music is irreplaceable. He has the gift that only few musicians have, and that’s why we all miss him so much.

This was a great interview with interesting facts and information that have answered a lot of questions I’ve had over the years. Poncho was so open and kind. I’m so glad he knew when to stop, and for the right reasons, with no regrets. Thank you Poncho for all the amazing music you have given us over the years. Generations of music fans will enjoy and appreciate your legacy long after we’re all gone. Your integrity, honesty and sense of humor all illustrate the wonderful person you are, and I wish you a long and happy life.

Peace 🙏

At 3/03/2021 04:17:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Something to strive for: "open and kind."

At 3/03/2021 04:41:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ RTG - right, still have Alchemy to look forward to + SNL sessions.

It will be interesting to play LIVE RUST, WELD & ALCHEMY back to back and then throw on RUST BUCKET.

@ Scotsman - indeed, Poncho is perfect for Neil musically. But also as a band memeber b/c Poncho has always been one to speak his mind directly to Neil which almost no one does we gather.

@ Richie - wow, quite an impact. affected me so much that I left my childhood home for Santa Cruz. out of curiosity, where was childhood home? landlocked presumably?

@ Soldier Steve - thanks for reminder. Maybe that's why Poncho was in such a good mood ... out celebrating his birthday.

@ Jonathan & Andrew - hoping for shipment soon for you & others out there waiting.

@ Dan - Thanks so much! We could not have said it any better. This interview by Poncho really puts to rest much of the idle speculation on "so, whatever happened to Poncho and Crazy Horse?"

So it really is essential reading for any Horse aficionado -- which we know are out there roaming about in very large herds.

See CotM @

At 3/03/2021 05:43:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Good comments here all round, thanks everybody.

Abner Snopes: I get the feeling you don't have to do too much striving towards that goal! Some of us, on the other hand...;)


At 3/03/2021 06:29:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Thrasher, I actually grew up in a beach town in Rhode Island, I basically moved from one coast to the other.

As I became a Neil fan around 1987, I became fascinated with Santa Cruz, a place Neil obviously had a major connection with. The 1990 Catalyst show sealed the deal for me.

The Grateful Dead convinced me to move to California, Neil convinced me to move to Santa Cruz, which I did in the summer of 1991, a decision I've never regretted.

At 3/03/2021 11:10:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Scotsman, I very much appreciate your comment. I was thinking (quickly), openness is quite probably a condition for kindness and the other way around. It seems even that openness is a form of kindness? Questions worthy of our thinking. I don't know about this topic but it might be that the openness of a Poncho, and however that cashes out, is an actual constitutive element of the music. In which case, openness and its cousin kindness (and so back and forth) have aesthetic and ethical value. The character trait is an element of the musical talent.

At 3/04/2021 03:43:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

@jonathan Ah yes, forgot about that. Poncho's ghostly blue hologram is weird in the Greendale film. To my ears his keyboard playing is mixed way too low in the mix also. I was told by a buddy the issue was a logo on Poncho's shirt but find that hard to believe.

At 3/04/2021 10:48:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Richie - thanks. we're a life long east coaster. about as far from S.C. as you can get.

altho we have been to the Cat Club, just to check out the whole vibe. we dropped by about 5p one day just as a band was loading in for soundcheck. the guy at the door couldn't believe we just wanted to walk around the place.

after a bit of cajoling about how we had come all the way across the country, he finally relented and we checked out the Cat Club. It was kind of bigger than we expected.

but the really cool visit was to OPL. wow. now that place is tiny. still hard to believe the Horse did residency in what was a little pool hall. as we recall, OPL removed the pool tables and the are became the stage.

well, say hey to the folks in S.C. without Bridge anymore, we don't get out that way anymore, sadly. but hope to back out your way again someday.

we'll buy the beers @ OPL!

At 3/04/2021 04:00:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Hey Thrasher, not sure when you visited the Catalyst, but if it was within the last 15 years or so, you missed out on how cool it actually used to be. You see, that was around the time that Randall, the old owner, passed away. He was a real character in rainbow suspenders who would sit at the downstairs bar and be quite happy to talk to anyone who wanted to know about the history of the place. Randall could be crotchety at times, and supposedly banged heads with Neil occasionally. Randall really kept the place in style, the downstairs bar and lounge was once decorated with huge green plants where you could sit tucked away at a table with friends and feel totally private. A totally beautiful area to hang out.

After Randall's death, new ownership took over, took out all of the plants, and made the downstairs area into another stage for lesser known bands to play in, kind of cool in it's own way, but a letdown for the old-school Catalyst regulars. The new ownership also moved the musical acts towards much more hip-hop, electronic, and punk music. Very few rock bands have played there since 2010, unfortunately. Neil hasn't played there since 1997, other than playing backup for Pegi's band in 2012.

In spite of the new ways of the club, the Catalyst is still a Santa Cruz landmark. Unfortunately, it's doors have been closed for about a year now, and many locals are worried it may close for good, which would be a very sad day for Santa Cruz.

Anyways, enough rambling. If you ever visit this area again, let me know. I'll show you some Neil historic spots that you probably are totally unaware of, including the house he stayed at in 1977 when he was a member of The Ducks, and some of the very neat places they played at. If ANY of you folks ever come to Santa Cruz, let me know and I'll show you around.

At 3/05/2021 10:56:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Richie - cool, thanks so much. deal.

not sure when we'll be back that way again, someday, soon.

but email me in the meantime. thrasher ATSIGN



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