Tom Colicchio

For his Guest DJ set, Tom Colicchio chose pivotal moments of his life as a music listener, from his first concert to his early exposure to alt-country. We hear how rock music has fueled his ascent to the ranks of restaurant owner, award winning chef and head judge on Top Chef. The Season 9 finale of Top Chef is tonight on Bravo.
For More:

1.) Maggie May- Rod Stewart
2.) Hots On for Nowhere- Led Zeppelin
3.) Invitation- Hot Tuna
4.) Alex Chilton- The Replacements
5.) Up On Cripple Creek- The Band

Anne Litt: I'm Anne Litt and I'm here today with Tom Colicchio, the chef and owner of Craft restaurants, Colicchio and Sons, and the head judge of Bravo's Emmy winning reality show Top Chef. Today, we will be playing excerpts of songs he selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. So Tom, what did you bring for us today?
Tom Colicchio: Music has meant a tremendous amount to me during me life. I was the kid walking around town with a transistor radio to my ear. So I thought about music, and different bands really, and what they meant and where they pushed my musical tastes that sort of leads up to what I'm listening to today.
AL: I see the first song you brought is Rod Stewart's "Maggie Mae". So talk to us about that one.
TC: Classic AM music. AM when AM was great.
But I think it was cool because when you were a kid, you kind of can relate to it because older women were pretty cool. I mean older women were 26 when you're 13 and I was like ‘this sounds like I can get into this.’ Rod Stewart was a little more sophisticated than a lot of stuff I was hearing and listening to at the time.
AL: Rod Stewart's "Maggie Mae" I'm Anne Litt here with chef Tom Colicchio on KCRW's Guest DJ Project.
Song: Rod Stewart – “Maggie Mae”
AL: Led Zeppelin is a touchstone for so many people and you picked a really interesting track which I am dying to hear about -- "Hots on for Nowhere". Tell us about this.
TC: Fifteen years old, Led Zeppelin was coming to The Garden on tour, 1977. You had to get tickets through a lottery. I was an absolute -- by the time I was 15 -- a Led Zeppelin fanatic.
In “Almost Famous”, that kid that was wandering down the halls of the hotel saying that ‘their Gods are here’ or whatever it was, that was me. I was such a fanatic. I actually won three tickets in the lottery. They were bad seats and it was my first concert.
AL: That is a heavy first concert.
TC: Yeah, yeah. I'm really proud of that. I get to trump anybody when people say I got to see this band… Zeppelin in '77.
Song: "Hots on for Nowhere" – Led Zeppelin
TC: You know, I was looking through some of my playlists trying to find songs and stuff and this was the only song from Zeppelin that I had on one of my playlists. I make the playlists for the restaurants as well.
AL: You love food, but to hear how important music is to the mix, I think is really exciting.
TC: Recently Robbie Robertson – he’s in my LA restaurant a lot -- he was in my New York restaurant and it was kind of a weird night when Keith Richards was there and so was President Clinton, so it was kind of a funny night, but on my playlist I was playing a song by Levon and the Hawks called "Bacon Fat". It came on and Robbie grabbed me and said ‘how do you know about this song? No one knows this song.’ He was freaking out and then he started listening and he was like ‘you've got great list here’.
AL: That was Led Zeppelin. "Hots on for Nowhere" on KCRW's Guest DJ Project. I'm Anne Litt here with Chef Tom Colicchio. So, next up is Hot Tuna, "Invitation".
TC: Hot Tuna. You know, I had a friend of mine, Joe. He had older brothers and so he came one day and said you got to listen to this band one of my brothers was listening to it's really great, Hot Tuna. God, you listen to that and it's like ‘whoa, this is something different’. This is just completely out there. Second concert I ever went to was Hot Tuna, Capitol Theater in New Jersey.
Again, it takes you away from that hard rock. I was listening to Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and Aerosmith and things like that and then all of a sudden you hear something else and it's like ‘Wow, this is different’. I saw Jorma or Hot Tuna probably thirty times now and recently became friendly with him, with Jorma. I was fortunate enough to get a guitar lesson from him: One of the coolest things in my life, ever.
AL: Do you play guitar?
TC: Yeah I do, yeah. You know it's one of those fantasies you have as a kid and then you play for a couple years and you start getting enough confidence and someone says ‘hey, dude, get up on stage’.
Song: Hot Tuna -- “Invitation”
AL: That's "Invitation" by Hot Tuna. It's one of Tom Colicchio's song picks on KCRW's Guest DJ Project. So, up next, a band that I think has changed a lot of people's life over the years at different times. It's the Replacements and you've picked "Alex Chilton", who is another influential person in so many peoples' lives. Tell me about this song.
TC: The Replacements, again for me, was that first alternative band, college band that you listen to. It was almost music like someone didn't care so much about creating a single or making hits. They were just doing their thing, you know? And so the Replacements did it and so when you hear that and its raw energy, just great stuff.
This is in the days before you go on iTunes and you hit your song and then it says ‘we recommend these other songs too’. You actually had to do a little work to find bands and you'd listen to a great DJ and they'd play The Replacements and then they'd start playing other stuff. And that's what the Replacements did, they opened the door to other bands like REM and other sort of college classic radio bands.
AL: This is the song "Alex Chilton" inspired by the singer from Big Star. It’s the Replacements here on KCRW.
Song: The Replacements – “Alex Chilton”
AL: Tom, what's the last song you've got for us?
TC: The first time I knew of The Band, I belonged to this swim club in New Jersey and I used to go to it when I was like a teenager. I remember this friend of ours, her older sister had a shirt on that said The Band. And I kind of looked at it and said "The Band, what band?" and she said "The Band" and I was like "Come on, what band?" (laughs) and it was one of those things. And she said "You really ought to listen to it" and I said "alright, cool".
Song: The Band -- Up Cripple Creek
TC: Again, really different headset, different mindset. And then cool thing from there, there is this slight country influence in their music – I mean, their influences are from all over the place – but from there you start to find people like Gram Parsons. And then what does that lead to? That obviously leads to alt-country stuff like Jay Farrar and Jayhawks and Wilco, which is so much of what I'm listening to right now.
I think the song, also, it gives you permission to be a little bit of a screw up. (Laughs) Someone's going to bail you out.
AL: One thing that I find so fascinating about all your song picks is that they all seem to be this great jumping off point.
TC: Well, that's exactly why I chose these bands, because these were these pivotal moments of me listening to music. These were the bands that moved me in a different direction and got me listening to other stuff.
AL: Tom, thank you so much for joining us on KCRW.COM
TC: You're welcome.
AL: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online you can go to KCRW.COM/GUESTDJPROJECT and subscribe to the podcast through itunes.