Q&A: Al McKay of Earth, Wind & Fire

Legendary soul/funk band Earth, Wind & Fire helped inspire the disco revolution with hits like ‘Boogie Wonderland’. EWF guitarist Al McKay keeps the flame alive with his Allstars and their show, The Earth, Wind and Fire Experience. What’s Hot New Zealand traded licks with Al ahead of his band’s performances at A Summer’s Day Disco in January.

You started out as a guitarist with Ike and Tina Turner – what can you tell us about those times? I had just graduated from high school when the opportunity came around. I went to a rehearsal for Ike and Tina with a musician friend. Ike was learning a new song for the band, ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You’ by The Temptations. Ike was playing the opening guitar line wrong and I called him on it. He offered me the job as guitar player with Tina, and of course I took it!

Earth, Wind & Fire’s legacy is huge – what are you most proud of there? The show and the songs I wrote with Maurice White, founder and leader of Earth, Wind & Fire.

Who else have you worked with that you’re particularly proud of? Sammy Davis Jr, and Al McKay Allstars.

Are you seeing a resurgence in the audience for jazz? Where? Europe and Asia have always loved jazz. Smooth jazz though is what I’m seeing, not traditional jazz.

Who are some of the new jazz artists catching your ear? Gerald Albright, Paul Jackson Jr, Byron Miller, and I loved Chuck Loeb (RIP).

Is this your first visit to New Zealand? Yes it is, and I’m looking forward to doing a great show and seeing the country.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Learn the music business. Practise more and keep a closer eye on my money.

Do you have a pre- and/or post-show ritual? A prayer before every show.

What can we expect from your Christchurch gig? A really strong show from start to finish – this band is really good!

What’s your favourite way to relax while on tour? It depends on where I am. I always like seeing the beauty of nature and I enjoy good food!

Who are your musical heroes? Carlos Santana, Lindsey Buckingham and George Benson.

A Summer’s Day Disco

January 8, 2020, Trustpower Baypark, Mt Maunganui
January 9, 2020, Park Island, Napier
January 11, 2020, Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth
January 12, 2020, Hagley Park, Christchurch