Born on November 4, 1948, Howard "Buzz" Feiten is a North American singer-songwriter, guitarist, session musician, and luthier. He is best known as a lead and rhythm guitarist and for having patented a tuning system for guitars and similar instruments. Feiten also manufactures and markets solid-body electric guitars.
Feiten grew up in Huntington Station and Centerport, New York, where he was known by schoolmates and friends as 'Buzzy'. Son of a musical mother, Pauline (a classical pianist), and an airline pilot, Howard Sr., Feiten received training in classical music as a child. Feiten's older sister Paula was a flautist, and became a top fashion-world 'cover girl' model in the mid-1960s. A younger brother, Jon, was also involved in music and the arts.
In youth, he studied several musical instruments, finally settling on the French Horn. As a teenager, he played in all-county (Suffolk) and all-state (New York) youth orchestras on the instrument.
Feiten first played Carnegie Hall in 1966, on French Horn, in a select All-American orchestra, American Youth Performs. He would later return with other major acts, such as Rickie Lee Jones. In 1966, he auditioned at the Juilliard School on the French Horn but was not admitted. Feiten was credited on the French Horn on one of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's 1960s albums.
His debut in commercial pop / rock music was with a high school band called The Reasons Why (other players were Steve Beckmeier (rhythm guitar), Al Stegmeyer (drums), Danny 'Fingers' Horton (lead guitar), and Daniel Kretzer (keyboards)). The Reasons Why were locally successful on Long Island, and two of their songs, "Tell Her One More Time" and "Same Old Worries" were mentioned in a Billboard 'new singles' article in the summer of 1966.
Woodstock, with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Still known as 'Buzzy', he backed up Jimi Hendrix and B. B. King on electric bass in late 1968 or early 1969, while a student at NYC's Mannes College of Music. These experiences helped qualify Feiten, now increasingly seen as a 'wunderkind', to audition for and join the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, filling the post of the recently departed Elvin Bishop, who had gone solo. Feiten recorded on the group's fifth album, Keep on Moving. With Butterfield, Feiten toured internationally and played such gigs as the Atlantic City Pop Festival and the Woodstock Festival, polishing his 'chops' on rhythm 'n' blues. His playing can be found on some of the Woodstock recordings, including the second 'official' video compilation.
As he matured into the adult music scene, his nickname became modified to 'Buzz'.
Other projects, and Full Moon
Feiten's next major combo engagement was as lead guitarist with The Rascals, Felix Cavaliere's group (formerly known as the Young Rascals) on their Peaceful World and Island of Real albums, which included a few original Feiten songs. His original and almost legendary 'Jungle Walk' track on the latter album showcased both his technical proficiency and his penchant for genre-blurring innovation.
But as a young-adult player, Feiten achieved musicians' musician status in 1971 with the independent project album Full Moon, featuring Neil Larsen (keyboards), Fred Beckmeier (bass), Phillip Wilson (drums), and Gene Dinwiddie on tenor saxophone. Sidemen contributing to Full Moon included Randy Brecker, Airto Moreira, Ray Barretto, Dave Holland, and vocalists Robin Clark and Tasha Thomas. A notable early example of Jazz Fusion, Full Moon gained airplay and vinyl album sales in some metropolitan and urban-suburban markets. It was re-released in 2000 on CD with a bonus track not included on the original. A sequel album, Buzz Feiten & The New Full Moon, was released in 1999, with a modified different complement of musicians: original member Freddie Beckmeier on bass (brother of Steve from 'The Reasons Why'), plus new members Jai Winding on keyboards, Brandon Fields on saxophones, and Gary Mallaber on drums. Two other Feiten projects had the 'Full Moon' name attached; one a 1982 Larsen-Feiten band studio-recorded release, and the other a 'live' album, Full Moon Live—early 1980s recordings of some of the original Full Moon and Larsen-Feiten Band songs, with Neil Larsen on keyboards, Lenny Castro on percussion, Art Rodriguez on drums, and Vernon Porter on bass.
Feiten has played with many well-known acts, and his discography includes well over 100 collections with various artists, playing music ranging from straight blues, cabaret standards, pop, rock 'n' roll, rhythm 'n' blues, jazz, and fusion. His own musical projects have included The Reasons Why (with whom he first played electric bass), Full Moon, the Larsen-Feiten Band, and the Whirlies. In 1998-99 he was a member of the Dave Weckl Band, and recorded songs (including some of his originals) on two of Weckl's CDs, Synergy and Rhythm of the Soul. Synergy is considered some of his best jazz / fusion work.
Feiten's recordings and/or performances include the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Rascals, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, The Brecker Brothers, Bruce Willis, Gregg Allman, James Taylor, Wilson Pickett, Chaka Khan, Olivia Newton-John, Neil Larsen, Rickie Lee Jones, Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler, David Sanborn, Dave Weckl, Kenny Loggins, Art Porter Jr., Michael Franks, Dave Koz, Felix Cavaliere, Jeff Lorber, Commander Cody, Stuart Hamm, Jason Miles, Claus Ogerman, Boz Scaggs, Mr. Mister, Richard Pelkoff, Bill Quateman, and many other great jazz, pop, rock and blues musicians. His much-imitated style and techniques on the electric guitar can be heard throughout late 20th century and early 21st century pop, rock, jazz, and fusion music.
Feiten's songwriting (and sometimes singing) credits include tracks with the Reasons Why, the Rascals, Chicago (#18), Full Moon, Larsen-Feiten Band, Casino Lights, Whirlies, the Dave Weckl Band, and Guitar Workshop in L.A. (1988). On the latter rare CD, Feiten 'faced-off' in a 'battle of the guitarists' with three other great rock and pop fretmen, Teddy Castellucci, James Harrah, and Jeff Baxter, who may be best known for his work with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers.
Some of Feiten's CDs, compilations, and re-releases have only been marketed in Germany and Japan, with minimal commercial publicity in the USA.
More recent work
In 2008, Feiten recorded with Steve Postell, formerly of Little Blue and Pure Prairie League, on the album 'Time Still Knocking' (Immergent Records). Postell reported pre-release that Feiten was featured on three tracks from the CD, and that Feiten "... plays beautifully, and wrote two of the songs." And on December 2, 2010, Postell posted on his web site that "My song '3:35 Coming Through' just won Best Americana/Roots song at the HOLLYWOOD MUSIC IN MEDIA AWARDS ... A big part of what makes this song sound so good is the insanely great band on the track: drums, Steve Ferrone / bass, Leland Sklar / keys, Benmont Tench, Peter Adams / percussion, Debra Dobkin / guitars, Robben Ford, Buzzy Feiten / backing vocals, Gia Ciambotti / Dobro & vocals ..."
There was a late 2008 release of the Japanese-published 'Buzz Feiten with special guest Brandon Fields' on CD, recorded at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles on January 11, 2007. The band includes Jerry Watts, bass, Dave Beyer, drums, and John Thomas, keyboards—disc credits are in English and Japanese. Notable among the six included tracks is a tribute to the late "Brotha" Gene Dinwiddie, saxophonist in the original 'Full Moon' project album. A video of the tune's live performance, 'Hey Dinwiddie', can be found on YouTube as of this writing.
In 2010, BGO Records, in cooperation with Felix Cavaliere, re-released the 1971 and 1972 Rascals albums Peaceful World and Island of Real as a re-mastered double CD. Feiten joined the Rascals (formerly known as the 'Young Rascals') in the late 1960s upon leaving the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with whom he played at Woodstock. The double CD includes 3 original Feiten songs, 'Jungle Walk', 'In and Out of Love', and 'Icy Water'. He is also credited as co-writer on the title song 'Island of Real'. Feiten is featured on rhythm and lead guitar in all 23 tracks.
Late releases of early recordings
Taking place in roughly the same post-Butterfield Blues Band timeframe as his seminal 'Full Moon' project album, Feiten's 'Chicago Phase' featured his work with Bill Quateman. In 2014, Quateman released a 'new' CD of work recorded for Columbia Records (in 1972) now titled 'Almost Eve of Everything', with personnel including Feiten, David Sanborn, Paul Buckmaster, Caleb Quaye, John Payne, Tom Radtke, and Sid Sims, and with the new 2014 release produced by Quateman, Feiten, and Robin Geoffery Cable. Quateman refers to this as his 'Second Album' (never before released). Songs include Stone Fool, Ties That Bind, Rosie, Take Me Home, Cheap Circus, Roll With It, Amazed & Afraid, Good Old Days, He Come to Brief Me, and Rivers Come Rolling Home, all by Quateman. [This may be a re-release of some earlier material on a Japanese-produced CD called 'Bill Quateman & Buzz Feiten', released on Dreamsville in 2002.] Feiten's credit as co-producer indicates that he may have helped to engineer (restore) the recordings for release. At this writing (early 2015), 'Almost Eve of Everything' is available on www.billquateman.com
Buzz Feiten tuning system
In 1992, Feiten patented a new tuning system for guitars, now marketed as the 'Buzz Feiten tuning system'. The architecture of his system makes it possible to tune guitars and basses more accurately, resulting in more accurate tonality of notes played on the lowest 3 or 4 frets, which otherwise frequently play out-of-tune compared to notes played on the rest of the neck. The difference, though subtle, is especially evident in the playing of open chords.
The system requires some minor alterations to the instrument, and can be retrofitted to most guitars. The Buzz Feiten Tuning System is factory-installed on several well-known brands, plus guitars made by trained and qualified luthiers who are able to incorporate Feiten's formula into their instruments.
The Feiten tuning system can make use of a special guitar tuner featuring "Buzz Feiten presets" — the strings have to be tuned slightly flat or sharp because of the nut's compensations.
Buzz Feiten Guitars
In 2012-2013, Buzz Feiten announced the establishment of a new firm, Buzz Feiten Guitars to manufacture and market solid-body electric guitars. The firm initially offered five models, the Blues Pro, T Pro, Signature Elite, Classic Pro, and Elite Pro. Other models were subsequently announced.
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- Buzz Feiten with special guest Brandon Fields (2008), Guitar, Vocals, Songwriter
- Buzz Feiten 'Whirlies' (2000), Guitars, Bass, Synth Bass, Mandolin, Bouzouki, Percussion, Background Vocals, Songwriter (on all tracks but one)
- Buzz Feiten & The Whirlies, 'Live at the Baked Potato, Hollywood, 6-4-99' (2002), Guitar, Vocals, Producer
- Buzz Feiten, 'Buzz Feiten & the new Full Moon' (2002), Guitars, Vocals, Percussion, Songwriter, Mixer, Producer
- Full Moon, 'Full Moon' (1972, re-released in 2000), Guitar, Percussion, Vocals, Vocals (background), Songwriter, Co-Producer (on 2000 Re-Release)
- Full Moon, 'Full Moon Live' (2002), Guitar, Vocal, Engineer, Producer, Songwriter
- Larsen/Feiten Band, 'Larsen-Feiten Band' (1980), guitar, vocals, songwriter, horn co-arranger, co-songwriter
- Larsen/Feiten Band, 'Full Moon featuring Neil Larsen & Buzz Feiten' (1982), guitar, vocals, horn co-arranger.
- "American Airlines sponspored the American Youth Performs program" (PDF). Hankboerner.com. Retrieved 2014-06-25.
- "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-06-25.
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