Guitarist Reveals Red Hot Chili Peppers Chose John Frusciante Over Him, Recalls Band Bailing Out on Him Twice

While talking to Guitar World, guitarist DeWayne McKnight, also known as “Blackbyrd,” recalled his brief collaboration with Red Hot Chili Peppers. To those not familiar with the name, Blackbyrd was in the band for a brief time in 1988, right after original guitarist Hillel Slovak passed away.

But before Slovak’s death, DeWayne was invited to fill in a couple of times, as he recalled in the interview. However, the band bailed out on him on both occasions, bringing back Slovak last minute. DeWayne said:

“So, this is something that many people don’t know: a couple of times before Hillel Slovak passed, the truth is that he’d left the band, and during those periods, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had asked me to play with them.

“I believe that this happened on at least two occasions where they’d call me because Hillel had left again. I’d come in and learn however many songs they had at the time – all of them, not just some – and we’d plan for me to play with them.

DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight - Insane Guitar Solo (Very Rare)

“We did this at least twice, and all the way up to the day of the gig, I’d have a feeling that something was happening, you know? And both times, it was the day of the gig, and Flea and Anthony [Kiedis] would come to me and say, ‘Hillel is back; we don’t need you after all.’

As DeWayne further adds, he believes this was just a ploy to bring Slovak back to the fold. He explained:

“You might even say that they had gotten me in there to coax Hillel back; at least, that’s how I saw it. But I don’t know how it went, and I don’t know what they felt because I never talked about that with them.”

After Hillel had passed away in 1988, Blackbyrd was the first one to replace him. The musician was there for a handful of shows and his only official contribution to the band’s catalogue is on the 1994 compilation of rare songs titled “Out in L.A.” with “Blues for Meister.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blues For Meister - Bonus Track [HD]

Going deeper into the matter, DeWayne was asked whether they discussed officially becoming one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers during his brief stint. He offered:

“Not with me. If Anthony and Flea had one internally, I couldn’t tell you that either. But there was no discussion about that, and there was no ‘You’re in the band’ moment. And that was tough, and I had thoughts about it, but I tried to push it out of my mind.”

McKnight also revealed how the band discussed bringing in another guitarist while he was still in the band. Of course, that guitarist turned out to be John Frusciante. McKnight talked to drummer D.H. Peligro, who was in the band at the time and was friends with Frusciante. He recalled:

“I said to him, ‘Well, why don’t they get this guy if he’s so good?’ Well, unbeknownst to me, they were thinking about it.

“So, we did three or four shows, and after those shows, I got the news that I wouldn’t be in the band. Needless to say, the guitarist they were talking about in rehearsals was John Frusciante. See, I never knew what would happen next, and it wasn’t easy for me, to say the least.”

Remembering how they really wanted him to sound like Slovak did, DeWayne said:

“But when it comes to the soul of guitar, Hillel and I are two different beings with two different frames of mind. For example, one time, we were playing a song live – I don’t remember which one – and at the end of the song, Flea came over to me and said, ‘Hillel didn’t play it like that.’ All I could say to that was, ‘Sorry. Hillel is not here.’ So, there’s your chemistry; that’s what it was like.”

He also adds:

“To me, John Frusciante had what Hillel did down, and I saw that. I mean, they’re different in some ways, and they did different things, I will grant you that. But John played more in the direction of Hillel, and he was able to mimic him. I didn’t do that; honestly, I didn’t want to and wasn’t going to.”

Photo: Manfred Werner (DeWayne ‘Blackbyrd’ McKnight – SociaLibrium, Vienna2009 b), Raph_PH (Red Hot Chili Peppers at Ohana2019-308 (49679060976))

David Slavkovic

David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.

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