By Ann Pierceall
The State Journal-Register

Gary Pihl, longtime guitarist for the iconic rock band Boston, says he gets the same rush of adrenaline on stage as he did when he first performed live more than 40 years ago.

Pihl recalled playing music with friends in the 1960s and said not much has changed.

"You get up there ... and the greatest thrill is it's the same as it was 50 years ago. It's awesome!" he said in a recent phone interview.

Pihl will perform with Boston for a show Aug. 12 at the Illinois State Fair Grandstand, with opening acts Sweet and April Wine.

Outside of Boston founder Tom Scholz, Pihl, 63, has been with the band the longest -- since 1985. Before that, he had performed with Sammy Hagar for eight years. In fact, Pihl met Scholz when Hagar's band opened for Boston between 1977 and 1979.

When Hagar joined Van Halen in 1985, Scholz contacted Pihl to see if he would help finish the "Third Stage" album (which contained the Top 10 singles "Amanda" and "We're Ready").

Pihl called it a "dream come true," and left to join Scholz immediately after his last performance with Hagar at the first Farm Aid concert. Pihl noted his good fortune in his official Boston biography: "I wasn't out of work for a day."

"I've been working with Tom ever since," he said, adding that Scholz is a great musician and a great friend. "Tom is really special."

Aside from sharing a talent for playing their guitars, Scholz and Pihl are both technical wizards, involved in always improving the engineering sounds of Boston as well as inventing new devices and improvements to electronics they and other musicians use. He assisted Scholz in building his Hideaway Studio II.

And Scholz is just as appreciative of Pihl.

"I'd be lost without him," Scholz said on Boston's official website, noting that Pihl is the only other person who completely understands the complex production systems the band uses on tour to perfectly mix the seven touring musicians. In addition to Scholz and Pihl, Boston also currently features Kimberly Dahme (bass, guitar, flute, vocals), Jeff Neal, (drums), Michael Sweet, formerly of Stryper (guitar/vocals) and Tommy DeCarlo (vocals).

Boston got its first recording contract in 1975 and soon launched the hits "More Than a Feeling," "Don't Look Back" and "Piece of Mind." But Scholz, the only remaining founding member, had been writing and producing music since 1969, and throughout his years attending MIT. The band became renowned for its unique sound of layering and overdubbing the various instruments and vocals found in Boston's music.