Joe Walsh is known to many as the rubber-faced guitarist for the Eagles. He’s one of the most impressive guitarists to ever pick up a Fender Stratocaster, personally responsible for classics like “Funk #49,” “Rocky Mountain Way,” and “Life’s Been Good,” to name a few. What many people might not know about Walsh, is that’s he’s also a Gold Star kid.
“My father died in active duty in 1949 when I was about 20 months old” he said. “So, my whole life I’ve been aware of what a family goes through and what a kid goes through, making that adjustment. I’ve been kind of resonant to that.” As the wars in both Iraq and especially Afghanistan rage on, with seemingly no end in sight, Walsh has decided to do something to help the veterans of those wars cope with the effects of the battlefield, as well as their reintegration with society, by holding a blowout concert call Vet Aid on September 20 in Fairfax, Virginia. Walsh will perform, along with the likes of Gary Clark Jr., Keith Urban, and the Zac Brown Band.
“I’ve always kind of been on the perimeter looking at it and it just doesn’t feel right,” he admitted. “I decided to take it up a notch and make it a cause, try to get some awareness going and try and help. There’s too many families that are hurting.”
As a veteran myself, the event means a lot to me, and I recently had the opportunity to talk to Walsh about this new venture, the future of the Eagles, and what it meant to perform at the last Steely Dan concert ever to feature it’s founder Walter Becker before he died.
Why did you decide to talk up the cause of Veterans?
I just don’t see much being done. It’s public awareness, I don’t think the public is really aware, really, of what’s going on over there. And what the soldiers have to go through and what it’s like to come home. If the public knew about that more, I think more help would be available. But, in the meantime, there’s organizations that do good in helping vets. But in my experience, the bigger the organization are the more money goes towards the administration of the organization. They can almost get too big and kind of lose sight of what they’re doing.
So, with this festival, are you looking to disperse funds to local veterans groups then?
When we find people who have a great record, people who have feedback from vets that they helped a lot. We look at them. I think we’ve got about fifteen this year that we’re going to introduce at the concert. And there will be a little video about each of them and what they do. It will be an ongoing thing as we become aware of the smaller organizations, we’ll put them on the list. When we get a batch, we’ll announce it and send out the funds. It’s the first time I’ve ever done this, it’s new to me. But I think we’ll get the hang of it.
How did the lineup come together?
Well, the first round of asks were pretty discouraged and kind of late notice. Most people were out on tour or have a full schedule by this point. It was pretty bleak, people would say ‘Gee, I’d love to but, I’m playing that night.’ Or ‘My equipment can’t get there’ or ‘I’m on a family vacation.’ So, I thought maybe we’ll just try again next year. But a couple of people said, ‘Wait a minute, I’ll get back to you.’ Keith Urban initially said he could come and kind of play with the house band. He didn’t think he could get his whole band there. That was great. Then he called and said, ‘Never mind, I’m bringing my whole band.’ Gary Clark Jr. has something on the west coast that conflicted, so he couldn’t get there, he really wanted to come. So, the initial, ‘Sorry man.’ Turned into ‘Wait a minute.’ That, whatever it was, got delayed. So he called and said, ‘I’m coming, I want to open.’ Same with Zac Brown. They said I could play too! So, yay!