The Office star Creed Bratton on LSD, his love of Katy Perry and the power of an E chord

The star of The Office and one-time Grass Roots guitarist remember dropping acid at the Miami Pop Festival, why he doesn’t regret selling his ’52 Tele, and why he isn’t going to tell the guitar companies what to do.

creed bratton guitar gibson
Image: Scott Dudelson / Getty Images

The moment it all started…

“I played trumpet from very young age, and in high school, I was first chair trumpeter in my freshman year. But my grandfather played in a semi-professional country and western band down in Long Beach. He gave me an acoustic guitar and I started playing chords, but then I was in bed one night with my little crystal radio set – that’s how old I am – and I hear Link Wray’s Rumble. I hear that guitar sound I go, ‘Oh my god!’

“We were a very poor family, but I took everything that I’d saved up from working, and I sent away to Sears and Roebuck and I got that Silvertone guitar, which was a Danelectro with lipstick pickups, with the guitar case that had an amp built into it. So I took it out to the barn, plugged it in, and all the chickens went scattering, the steers were looking at me funny… but when I hit that E chord I went, ‘Oh my…’ and that was it! I just let that E chord reverberate through my body, and I was just changed boy!”

I couldn’t live without my…

“There’s a 1957 Gibson Country Western – I record a lot with that – and then there’s my ’69 Guild Bluesbird. I once had a 335 and an SG stolen on the road with the Grass Roots, and so I went to Manny’s in New York and bought this Guild. It originally had this wooden bridge, so I put a Gibson tune-o-matic on, and I’ve had it ever since. So that’s the guitar I’d run out of a burning building with. And I have two hands, so I’d grab the Gibson as well!”

The one that got away…

“I had an old Black Beauty Les Paul, with the staple pickups, and I also had a ’52 Tele, and y’know a few years back they were going for like $100,000! It used to drive me crazy that I sold them, until I got on The Office, and then it was like, ‘Well I can buy whatever I want now!’ But I don’t think I’d buy those guitars again now. I needed the money! I needed to pay rent, to pay child support, and you gotta do what you gotta do.”

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My signature model…

“It would be pretty close to the way I’ve got the Bluesbird dialled in. It’s got the mini-humbuckers on there, I’ve got the tune-o-matic, and I’ve also put on a phase switch, so I can pull up my treble volume, split the phase on the two humbuckers, and get that out of phase sound. I’m an acoustic player, so when I’m playing lead I still want to have that woodiness to it.”

The best advice I’ve ever been given…

“I would say it’s actually advice that I gave to myself. Before The Office started, I didn’t have a pot to piss in – it was a rough time for Creed, man. And I was talking about myself in the third person a lot, which is obviously problematic!

“Anyway, we put this band together, doing some old Grass Roots songs, calling ourselves ‘The Original Rockers’. It was me, Dick Dodd from the Standells, and Paul Downey from Herman’s Hermits… and we sounded really good! But I realised that I liked writing original songs, and I didn’t want to do it any more. So I guess the thing is, find your own voice and don’t get caught up in things.”

creed bratton the grass roots guitar
The Grass Roots. Image: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

My Spinal Tap moment…

“My life! It’s my every Saturday night! But a great one was when the Grass Roots were playing the Miami Pop Festival in ’68. 50,000 people… not a big crowd! So we do our show, and then the guitar player and I dropped acid backstage just before The Turtles come out.

“Mark Volman at the time had a huge afro, and on this occasion he was also wearing this big chain with a big star pendant. So they’re playing and he’s singing with his head down into the mic, and this thing is swinging like a pendulum back and forth, more and more until he gets to, ‘I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but…’ and bam, the pendant swings around and sticks in his afro… and it won’t come out!

“And so he’s still singing the song while he’s pulling on this thing and it just won’t budge… and we are at the side of the stage, crying. And then the road manager comes charging on stage with some scissors. And he’s kicking the guy because he doesn’t want him to cut his hair! It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”

My guilty pleasure…

“When I first heard that Katy Perry song I Kissed A Girl I thought it was horrible! Horrible! But I loved it… and now I love the shit out of it. I just thought it was one of the better fuckin’ pop songs that I’ve heard lately. I probably wouldn’t normally tell people that, but hell, I love it!”

I wish I was there…

“Woodstock, of course! But I’m not gonna be one of those guys out there in the tents with the mud. I want to be backstage with the drugs and alcohol, and where it’s warm and stuff! I’m a diva, what can I say?! I’m not really, I’m just spoiled. And I should be – I’m in my late 70s for god’s sake! You young whippersnappers need to give me a break!”

The most important thing on my rider…

“Room temperature water. Because anytime you get to the gig, they’ll have ice-cold water up on the stool, and you’ll grab it and it’s just going to fuck up your throat. So now I’m like, ‘Look, I’m not gonna have the brown M&Ms taken out or anything, I just want room-temperature water and I’m fine’. I’m a simple man!”

I wish I could play…

“I don’t think there’s anything, technically. But there are times where I listen to Issa Bagayogo, and it’s just one chord… but what a groove! I used to listen to back in the 70s, and there’s something about it that makes me just want to shake my tired old atrophied butt, y’know?!

Creed Bratton tours the UK in September 2019 for more see creedbratton.com.

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