Rick West has had one of the steadier jobs in rock & roll music since 1962, when he joined the Tremeloes. He's played on hits selling in the millions on both sides of the Atlantic, and also managed to carve out a name for himself as something of an innovator during the 1960s. He was born Richard Westwood, in Dagenham, Essex, England, in 1943, and was fascinated by the guitar from an early age. He got his first real guitar at age 12, and was later inspired to go electric after seeing Bert Weedon play -- his first amplifier was made from a radio speaker, and used a World War II tank microphone as a pickup. West was a fan of skiffle artists such as Lonnie Donegan and Johnny Duncan, and passed through several such local bands in the late '50s, one of which included Mick Clarke, later of the Rubettes. He subsequently joined Tony Rivers & the Castaways, and from there, in 1962, became a member of the Tremeloes. Fronted by Brian Poole, the group enjoyed a two-year string of hits in a stomping Merseybeat style, but after Poole's departure in 1965, their sound evolved into more of a pop/rock vein.
West's instruments often set him apart from his peers, even in his late skiffle days, when he owned one of a handful of Fender Stratocasters in England. In later years, he has favored Fender and Gibson guitars. In the early '60s, he was already an innovator -- after joining the Tremeloes, he started making use of a controllable fuzztone sound on-stage, through carefully overloading an echo chamber. The Tremeloes were regarded as something of a lightweight group, but West's playing drew a lot of players from more respected bands to their shows. The fuzztone sound he mastered was impressive enough to attract the attention of such guitar luminaries as the Shadows' Hank Marvin and the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones. He was also one of the very few guitarists to use an electric sitar on-stage. The group's chart presence faded after the 1960s, and since then, West and drummer/vocalist Dave Munden have kept the Tremeloes' lineup going.