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On the Record: Did George Harrison really play guitar on a Fleetwood Mac song?

On the Record: Did George Harrison really play guitar on a Fleetwood Mac song?

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Bradford Brady and John Maron

Bradford Brady and John Maron write the weekly On The Record column.

Q: I’ve heard that George Harrison played guitar on Fleetwood Mac’s “Walk a Thin Line” from the “Tusk” album. His name is not listed in the album notes, but I keep seeing references to him playing on the song. Did he?

A: Harrison did play on the song, but it was not the version on “Tusk.” Rather, it was the version on Mick Fleetwood’s 1981 solo album, “The Visitor.” Harrison, who was Mick Fleetwood’s ex-brother-in-law, was invited to visit the studio during the recording of the song. While there, he contributed slide guitar and backing vocals to the song.

Q: I was recently traveling through North Carolina and saw a sign for the town of China Grove. I instantly thought of the old Doobie Brothers song of the same name. I always thought the song referred to a town in Texas, but now I’m confused. What’s the real story?

A: You are correct in your understanding that the song refers to the little town of the same name that lies about 14 miles east of San Antonio, Texas. In an interview posted on, Tom Johnston, the band’s then-lead singer and author of the song, claims that he honestly thought he was making up a fictional “wacky little town with a sheriff that had a Samurai sword and all that sort of thing.” The song was released on the 1973 album, “The Captain and Me.” He claims that it wasn’t until he was riding in a cab in Houston in 1975 that he learned there really was a China Grove. “I must have seen the sign and forgotten about it. And when I came up with the term ‘China Grove.’” He credits Billy Payne, the keyboard player for Little Feat who occasionally recorded with the Doobies, for inspiring the lyrics by incorporating an “Oriental-sounding lick” in his playing. With regard to the two towns with the same name, China Grove, North Carolina, is the older of the two and is a virtual metropolis compared to its sister city. Located about 35 miles northeast of Charlotte, it was incorporated in 1889 and has an estimated population in excess of 4,200. China Grove, Texas, on the other hand, located about 14 miles due east of San Antonio, was incorporated in 1960 and has an estimated population of about 1,300 residents.

Q: Can you tell me the name of the artist that had a hit song called “When I’m With You” in the late ’80s? When I tried to download it, I found that there were several songs with that title.

A: The “When I’m With You” that you’re looking for is by the Canadian band Sheriff. It was released for the first time in 1983 but only got as high as No. 61 in the U.S. Discouraged by their lack of success and experiencing some internal tension, the band broke up in 1985. A few years later, an American DJ started playing “When I’m With You” again and soon other stations started doing the same. By February 1989, it reached No. 1 in the U.S. Singer Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi tried to resurrect the band but to no avail. Curci and DeMarchi then formed the band Alias and had a No. 2 hit with “More Than Words Can Say” in 1990. Along with being one of the many memorable power ballads of the late ’80s, that song is also remembered for Curci’s note at the end of the song, one of the longest notes held in a pop song.

What’s the name of that song? Where are they now? What does that lyric mean? Send your questions about songs, albums and the musicians who make them to Bradford Brady and John Maron are freelance music writers based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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