John Oates is playing more lead guitar than ever on the most recent Hall and Oates tours. He explains why: Oates says he came to the realization, sparked in part by the loss of long-time H&O sideman T-Bone Wolk, that everything could be taken away in the blink of an eye.
He says it all started, actually, with an injury — and some down time that made Oates appreciate his gift in new ways: “What happened was I started practicing. I had a shoulder operation three or four years ago,” Oates tells Rock Cellar. “That shoulder operation really was an eye-opener for me because I realized how fragile my time is. I realized if one thing goes wrong, I’m basically out of business. That had never occurred to me because I’d never had a major operation.”
Oates had also started spending time in Nashville, and he says being around musicians of that caliber spurred him forward, too. “When I recovered from that shoulder operation I began to practice and really take advantage of my skills,” Oates says. “This also all coincided with going to Nashville and playing with these amazing musicians and I realized the bar was set really high. All those things came together at the same time.”
Wolk, meanwhile, had been with Hall and Oates as a key sideman, co-producer and confidant since 1981’s Private Eyes. His loss in 2010 was both emotional and musical. “After T-Bone died, there was a void,” Oates said. “I thought, if anybody’s gonna fill this void it should be me, and so I kind of stepped up in a lot of ways.”