Multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and cat owner.
By Holly Bergantino
David Goldflies (pronounced Goldfleece), a lifelong musician, distinguished himself at an early age through his Grammy award-winning tenure with the Allman Brothers Band (ABB). David is one of just 20 musicians that have performed and recorded with the ABB. His Alembic bass is currently on display at the Allman Brothers Band Museum – the Big House in Macon, Ga. David’s inherent understanding of authentic southern rock and blues can be heard in his playing with the ABB. The same heart and soul is also present in his original music. Writing and performing rock, classical, jazz, and electronic music, David explores multiple musical horizons from the unique perspective of the bassist.
PHOTO BY KIRK WEST PHOTOGRAPHY
Currently, David serves as Principal Bassist with the Panama City POPS Orchestra (Panama City, Florida), is a co-founder of the Allman Goldflies Band, and is releasing new music as solo artist TNEO, The New Electronic Orchestra.
Tell me how you got started playing the bass?
I was 14 when I told my dad that I wanted to play electric guitar. “No, you don’t,” he replied. “You want to play electric bass. Good bass players are hard to find.”
My first gigs were with Dad’s band, The Town Criers. We played the “animal” circuit in Richmond, Indiana, playing places such as The Elks Lodge, The Moose Club, and The Fraternal Order of Eagles.
In high school, I played with a few rock bands but mostly jammed along with records by Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull, and others. Then I met bassist Bill Jeffries. Bill played in a band which as fate would have it, did a lot of Allman Brothers and English progressive rock. Bill had a 4001 Rickenbacker bass with Rotosound strings and a Sunn Coliseum amp. We both loved the sound of Yes bassist Chris Squire! Bill showed me how the choice of equipment influences and shapes your sound. He was also an outstanding player who really nailed the nuance and feel of Berry Oakley’s bass parts on the Allman Brothers Band albums of the time.
Before I met Bill I was playing an inexpensive Harmony bass with a warped neck. I cut grass and bussed tables to scrape together enough money to get my first “real” bass – a Rickenbacker 4001.
In Ohio I played with a band called Sagebrush. We only played two gigs. At the second gig, Bill Bartlett, the former guitarist with the Lemon Pipers, famous for the hit song “Green Tambourine,” asked me if I wanted to play in his band, Starstruck. They were a hot local band and I jumped at the opportunity. In 1975 we recorded “Black Betty,” which became a chart-topping hit record, but unfortunately, by then the band had broken up.
After Starstruck disbanded, I finally found a gig with a top-40 band in Cincinnati. A week later, Danny Toler, who was playing with Dickie Betts and Great Southern, came to my gig and said they were looking for a new bass player. I auditioned in a motel room at the Carousel Inn on Reading Road in Cincinnati, Ohio and got the job. Betts told me to gather my stuff and get on the bus. I said “Hey! I have a gig tonight. I can’t leave the band with no bass player!” I was told I had two days to get to Nashville for the tour rehearsal. The top-40 band’s former bass player was able to come back and fill in for me and I was off on the road with Dickey Betts and Great Southern. At the time I was 19 years old. Playing with Dickey Betts and Great Southern directly led to my being asked to play in the Allman Brothers Band in 1979. During a Great Southern concert at Central Park in New York City, Gregg Allman, Jaimoe (Jai Johanny Johanson), and Butch Trucks joined the band on stage. This led to the ABB being re-formed once again. And I was the bassist!
David Rook Goldflies, Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts
How did you get interested in music and playing?
As a child, I can’t remember a time when classical music wasn’t being played around the house. My grandfather, Eugene Goldflies, was a violinist and music director. He started teaching me violin when I was four. In our family, musical competence was important, not stardom. Practice, practice, practice. In fact, dinner wasn’t served until I had finished practicing violin for the day.
That ethic followed me to high school where I used to practice bass like a madman before school every morning. My folks didn’t have to tell me to practice. It was just fun!
How did the Allman Goldflies Band get started?
Gary Allman and I have been friends for years. In 2016 Gary emailed me with a recording of “Standing in the Georgia Rain.” I called him and told him I loved the song. I said “let’s put a band together.” I wanted to draw on my southern rock experience of playing with the Allman Brothers Band. Writing and arranging for the Allman Goldflies Band put that experience to work. Our first album, Second Chance was the result. The album features songs by Gary Allman and myself, with some help from lyricist Cindy Menfi.
I got the chance to put on my producer hat for the Second Chance album. We recorded the album at my studio located in New Hope, Florida which is dead center in the middle of nowhere. It took about 18 months to create the album using the DAW, Ableton Live. Producing forced me to lift my focus from the bass to the overall impact of the song.
Currently, we’re teaming up with composer/conductor David Ott to perform AGB’s original music with the Panama City POPS Orchestra. Ott has 400 years of western classical music in his head and we are rockers, so the finished product should be an interesting mix. I feel like we are entering the realm of Procol Harum or even the Beatles with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This is going to be a really exciting event for us!
The Allman Brothers still has a great following. Can you tell me a little about your experience with the Allman Brothers?
Being the bassist with the ABB from 1979-1983 was wild. Thinking about it now I am reminded of Hunter S. Thompson’s movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I was 10 to 15 years younger than the other guys in the band which is why I got the nickname “Rook”—short for Rookie. It was easy to fall into believing the hype that surrounded the band. But there was always someone, like my mom, who was there to bring me back down to earth.
The opportunity to work with bluesman Gregg Allman and guitarist Dickey Betts was a gift. I learned so much from Dickey. He would sit with me in motel rooms and we would pass the bass back and forth. He would show me how he wanted the bass part to go and I would try to learn it. He had worked with Berry Oakley and Berry had played with a pick. Dickey said Berry rattled the strings. So I learned how to do that as well. Those lessons were some of the best times I had during my ABB experience.
It was great to meet some of the other touring acts like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Motley Crue, Cheap Trick, the Atlanta Rhythm Section, and others. It was always fun when the movie stars came by: people like Cher, Nick Nolte, and Don Johnson.
I also remember the grand scale of the operation. It was always this huge, full-tilt concert-touring act. It was industrial-grade music… yet at the core of the experience, it was just musicians up on stage playing great music. My job was to get up there and play some bass and they gave me many opportunities to have bass solos before hundreds of thousands of people. Butch Trucks, Jaimoe, and I would do drums and bass solos. Butch would come up and play timpani as well. When drummer Butch Trucks passed away last year, I was in shock. Butch was a great guy and we spent a lot of time together on the road. We would improvise bass and timpani solos on stage. I actually bought some timpani last year and we do a bass and timpani solo in the AGB show in memory of Butch.
What was it like getting on stage every night during this time?
There was a moment of anticipation just before I would go on stage in front of audiences that were sometimes as large as 100,000. I finally realized that every time I go on stage, I’m where I’ve always been – if that makes any sense. The stage is the same wherever you are. All the conventions of stagecraft snap into place once the show begins. Once on stage, any stage, it is time to perform. Judging by the reaction, people loved it!
Can you share more about your work with the Panama City POPS Orchestra and the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra?
I was 50 years old when I attended a performance of the Panama City POPS Orchestra. At the time I was playing nothing but electric bass in rock and jazz groups. I thought it would be fun to play in a symphony. I realized that the electric bass, even fretless, wouldn’t work in an orchestra so I bought an old upright bass. I set about learning to read bass clef. That was a bit tricky since I was used to reading the treble clef from playing the violin. But, practice makes perfect and I’ve become a proficient reader. I auditioned for the POPS orchestra and they were kind enough to let me in. It is hard to overstate what a benefit playing in the orchestra has been for both my bass playing and composing.
In 2013, under the direction of Eddie Rackley, the orchestra performed my original piece “New Hope.” It was a special night because my father was in the audience.
This is a video of the world premiere of the piece “New Hope,” by David Goldflies performed by the Panama City POPS Orchestra in 2013.
While in the POPS, I met Ernie Szugyi, a bassist who later became my teacher. Ernie was the former principal bassist for the Nashville Symphony. He improved my bass playing by using the Socratic teaching method. He would ask questions and it would make me think about my habits and techniques. Ernie is still playing at 82 and just killing it!
Erine, Holly Bergantino, Steve Gilmore, Chase Rowe
Ernie and I both perform with the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra in Niceville, Florida. I got the gig when Steve Gilmore, Phil Woods’ former bassist, couldn’t make a jazz show with the orchestra. Being able to read and swing landed me the gig that night. They liked what they heard and I’m currently in my 5th season with the NFSO.
How would you describe your playing style?
My style varies based on the gig I’m playing. On a rock gig, I’ll play more aggressively whereas on a jazz gig, my tone is smooth and more connected. At times I’ll bring the upright on (non-orchestra) gigs as well and I’ll get to use the bow at interesting moments in the music. I have even brought a keyboard connected to my laptop to have bass synth sounds available for funk jams. I really try to look ahead and be sure I have studied the music and the instrument I’ll be playing on a gig. The idea of being prepared and then having the tools (both musically and gear-wise) has really helped me do the best I can on each gig I play. My Bergantino rig has allowed me to use my 6-string bass in ways I’ve not been able to do with other rigs. The clarity of the Bergantino has opened up an entire world of chords on the D, G, and C strings. What used to be unclear and thick is now beautifully clear and precise.
Tell me about the basses you have played.
I mentioned earlier that the first real bass I had was a 4001 Rickenbacker that I bought in Springfield, Ohio. I loved it! That bass went with me on the first road trip with Dickey Betts and Great Southern. But when Dickey heard it, he didn’t like the tone of the Rickenbacker. He told me, “No way man!” One of the roadies at the time, Bill Hoyt, handed me his Fender jazz bass and that’s what I played when I first went out with Great Southern. It turned out that Bill’s jazz bass was a great instrument and quickly felt natural to play.
While on the road in Chicago, I bought a long scale, dovetail, Alembic bass. It is a beautiful bass and I played it for many years with the ABB. My rig at the time was the Alembic bass, an Alembic preamp, two matched McIntosh Studio amplifiers (each of which doubled as a boat anchor), and sixteen 15” infinite baffle Bag End cabinets. That rig was a beast. I also picked up a Carl Thompson bass in New York. It was very cool bass and was light as a feather. I currently play a 6-string Ibanez BTB bass. It has a really wide neck. Having played double bass for the last 12 years, I like the feel of the wider neck. When I first went from electric to upright bass, I used a Zeta crossover bass. I’m so used to 6-string basses now, I actually have problems playing 4 and 5-string electric basses!
PHOTO BY KIRK WEST PHOTOGRAPHY
How many basses do you own??
I have five electric basses — three 6-string Ibanez basses, the 4-string Alembic bass that I used in the ABB, and a fretless Lakland bass. I also have a 5-string acoustic Breedlove bass which has a great tone. I have three double basses. One is a fine instrument and has a C-extension installed. The arco tone is great on that bass. My second bass is my back-up bass that I use primarily for jazz gigs. It has a great pizzicato tone. The third bass, which I actually bought first, is an older instrument that I was told used to be played on the Jackie Gleason show!
How did you find Bergantino?
I was looking to upgrade my rig so I went to visit my friend Beaver Felton at Bass Central in Orlando. I spent the better part of the day testing out some different amp and cabinet combinations. I came across a Bergantino Forté amp. I paired it with an Epifani 112 cab and was just floored by the rich, gorgeous tone. It’s a bit of a funny story—after I bought the amp, I was on my way home to Panama City Beach, Florida when I got a call from Bass Central. It seemed my Forté was meant to be an advance unit sent to various stores to introduce the Forté. My Forté has the serial number 02 on it. The store wanted me to bring it back. What can I say, I kept the amp. The Forté has been rock solid, which is the first priority for any equipment used in performance. The sound has been clear and responsive. The Forté is providing me with all sorts of shades and nuance in my sound. Overall I really like this “first” Forté amp!
I was playing a gig in Orlando this past May and I went back to Bass Central. I was looking for a rig capable of playing a higher volume rock gig. I once again spent the day listening to various Forté amp and cabinet combinations. Nothing compared to the Bergantino Forté with Bergantino cabinets. I ended up buying the HG410 and the HDN212. They are both light and compact, and I can stack them for a very small stage footprint. Together they are incredible. I had a few of my bandmates with me that day who all weighed in on the sound of the rig. They loved it!
The new higher volume rig has been a joy to play. After my first few gigs with the rig I emailed Beaver Felton at Bass Central and said:
“I used the new bass rig on the gig this weekend. Blistering! If my notes were made of fluffy pastries before, they are now made out of tempered steel. Just clear, responsive, loud, nuanced — I play chords and every note is pristine. I used a Zoom B9.1ut effects pedal with it (Hartke amp pre) and the whole system gave me a new level of punch and crunch in the notes.”
What is your favorite song to play?
Honestly, it’s not about each song; it’s about the group’s ability to bring life to whatever music is to be played. One of the great moments we have every night in the AGB is the opening of “Whipping Post” (by the Allman Brothers). It’s fun to play in 11/8 time, even if it is formulaic at this point. Recently I played bass in David Ott’s pit orchestra at the premiere of his original score for the ballet “Peter Pan.” One piece, called “The Irate Pirate,” has a great creeping-in-the-back-door riff in it. I think the whole ensemble had fun bringing that new score to life.
Who were your influences?
Early on, Stanley Clarke was a huge influence on me. I saw the original Return to Forever tour with Chick Corea, Al Di Meola, Lenny White and Stanley Clarke. It was a life-changing experience; rock played at an impossibly precise level mixed with the harmonies of jazz. Fusion. I think they gave an entire generation of musicians their voice. Another bassist that really stood out to me was Miroslav Vitous (with Weather Report). Chris Squire, the bassist for Yes, was also a major influence on me. I loved John Entwistle’s great rock and blues bass lines with The Who. Rufus Reed was a significant influence; I still have his book The Evolving Bassist. And of course, Jaco Pastorius changed all of us at the time.
Many bass players like to share their ideas and techniques with other players and they give you “permission” to try different things that will allow you develop into a better player. Jaco was just such a player. He opened the door and set us all free with his use of harmonics and melody. Another example would be my good friend and teacher, Ernie Szugyi. I learned double bass through F. Simandl’s method book. With Simandl, in the lower positions, the third finger is just not used. Ernie showed me how he used his third finger in the lower positions to help simplify playing certain passages. He gave me permission to use my third finger. It’s a huge change. Use of the third finger makes certain figures much easier to play more accurately and at higher tempos.
What have you learned along the way that would be helpful to others?
I’ve learned it’s really about the music. Every band, large or small, will have all kinds of management or personnel situations crop up. But focusing on the music, how well it is played, as well as visualizing what effect you want it to have on your audience, is what drives my desire to create or be involved with new music. I am fortunate at this point in life to have the opportunity to create music as an expression of emotions within me as well as those around me. One other thing I’ve learned is that hard work pays off, if not financially, at least in a sense of accomplishment and the feeling of a job well done.
Photo by Bruce Goldflies
What do you like to do other than playing the bass?
I own two pieces of property here in Florida. I like working outside while getting fresh air and exercise. I’m surrounded by pine and live oak forests and there is a lot of wildlife here. A family of peacocks lives nearby, and they stop by every now and then, I guess to listen to the music. They drive my four cats crazy! I spend time at the studio almost everyday writing, recording, or programming music. I also play the guitar and violin so I’m always trying to keep my chops up. The song “Fadiddle” on the Second Chance album came about by just diddling around in the studio one day on the fiddle.
My newest project is TNEO, which stands for The New Electronic Orchestra. TNEO’s music has a light and positive message. Starting with the song “Hiya,” TNEO will be releasing one song per month on my new label, Spagyric Records. Spagyric is a cool word that means of alchemy which was the effort long ago to make gold out of lead. I take that to mean creating something better out of something lesser. TNEO’s first song, “Hiya” will be available shortly on Spotify, iTunes, etc. as well as at TneoMusic.com. There is also a patreon.com page so that folks who want to keep TNEO’s music coming can directly support the artist.
David Goldflies is busy these days with TNEO, AGB, and orchestral performances. But he is always open to new gigs and projects. It seems we are going to be hearing more from this bassist. Check out these links to read more.
Support the music of TNEO at www.patreon.com/tneo
The AGB’s first album is Second Chance – available on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify, etc.
Bergantino Audio Systems has been dedicated to developing and building the highest quality audio products and bass guitar amplification systems since 2001. It has received numerous accolades within the music instrument industry and continues to be a leader with new designs as well as its unique approach to products and musical development. www.bergantino.com