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curious about what influences and inspires an artist. People ask about it every
day! What kinds of artists do I listen
to and how has it affected me? It's as though they expect hard rockers would listen
only to Metallica, or folk guitarists should listen only to James Taylor etc. In
truth I prefer music without lyrics of any kind such as instrumental jazz and classical
Many listeners request songs performed by those I 'sound like'. It's almost as if there is some
private victory to be had if they can 'guess' what I know based on how I sound. Though I have often aspired to sound
as good as those whom I admire, I really have made no attempt to sound like
anyone in particular.
start out in pursuit of those things to which they are exposed. My small
hometown had only one AM radio station. In fact our family had only one radio as
well! I sang in the church choir along with my brother. I took clarinet lessons and did my best in
talent shows. You didn't do much singing with a clarinet in your face and I was
soon off to find some way to accompany myself. Dad had a chance to bring home a
banjo and I felt it was his way of discouraging me from the pursuit of pop
music. Eventually I mowed enough lawns to buy a decent guitar and set about
trying to unravel the great mystery.
I suppose as
any artist I've passed through certain phases of influence and admiration. The
very first song I ever tried to play on the guitar was the Beatle's 'Day
Tripper'... of course I had to play the entire lick on one string but it was
performed with feeling! Obviously the Beatles were big with everyone during
those years; so were Cream, the Monkees, Jimmy Hendrix, and the
Raiders as well. Now when listening to some of those admired and professional recordings
I am frequently shocked to hear the relatively shaky level of
performances. Technology has improved to such an extent that I can get a better
quality sound from my own modest studio.
hooked up with other musicians of the day and we set about duplicating the best
of that time including Simon and Garfunkel as well as a
variety of folk entertainers. The times were post Woodstock and CSNY were big. I
had gotten into a 7 piece high school band with two female singers. We sang at
folk services and performed songs like 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother', and
'Leaving On A Jet Plane'. We did a lot of practicing without discernable
singer guitarists appeared on the scene I was right there in the groove. I paced
around Mom's kitchen 'til the wee hours trying to master the changes of 'You've
got a Friend'. This is roughly about when I struck out on my own leaving behind
the band members and female singers. Very soon John Denver came along and I had to do my best to master
those tunes as well as many from Jim Croce, Neil Young and Cat Stevens.
Elton John was also huge at this time and although I wanted to absorb this
energy it was rather clumsy since Elton performed on the piano. (Songs written and
arranged for piano are notoriously awkward for the guitar.) Soon enough a
fabulously talented Billy Joel made the charts and it was a welcome presence. He
was one performer who could hold his own against Disco.
Disco sound had become tremendously popular. I was performing in a Duo at the Host
Airport Hotel in Tampa, Florida. John Denver, Joni Mitchell and 'Feelings' were
all still very popular. None
the less not a day went by that someone didn't request 'Fly Robin Fly' or 'Do
the Hustle'. Disco basically heralded the demise of solo
guitar players everywhere. It was shortly into the eighties that they became
something akin to pariahs and avoided as
All of a sudden wonderfully talented players were unable to
secure gainful employment and gave up on the 'music business' altogether. What's up with
once professional musicians turning to real estate... and law? Fortunately someone invented drum machines
around this time and they were pretty well received. This was a somewhat
tedious time for solo guitarists since most of your peers preferred hearing your
acoustic delivery, while the best available income was from venues requiring the much fuller sound
associated with a drum machine. So
what? Were you going to 'sell out' or 'tough it out'?
I did both. The
drum machine became one part of my act and the acoustic guitar became yet
another. I was performing some Billy Joel songs with the electric drummer and
continuing to explore the new acoustic music. I discovered a fondness for
instrumental counterpoint and have made several recordings just so. A number of one hit wonders had appeared including 'I'm Easy' and 'Please Come to Boston'. Dan Fogelburg
several noteworthy recordings as did Christopher Cross. Kenny Rankin and Al
Jarreau had become rather mainstream and of great interest to me. Both had
recorded a style of singing known as 'scat'. I did my best to maintain the
roots of this musical interest while trying to make progress in the relatively
new field of 'MIDI' programming. 'MIDI' is an anagram for Music Industry Digital
this technology is both complicated and costly. Once you get it mastered you can indeed become the only guy in the
band! The user is required to play one
instrument at a time into a multi-track digital recorder. It begins as blank
digital memory that you basically fill with a program of your own machinations. It can
sometimes take weeks to record one sequence even though the playing time of the
tune may be only 3 minutes. Needless to say a lot of people decided not to
opt for this effort and rather went into a more acoustic pursuit. This was
actually quite a schism in popular music for the guitar.
entertainment had become somewhat pejorative and rather anti-climactic. The best of
popular acoustic music had been abducted by country artists while all that
remained had become more basic and 'folksy' than ever.
With my new found skills at programming I
discovered a whole new panorama of music that was appealing. Bobby Darrin and
Bob Marley, Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond as well as tunes from Maxi Priest and
Basia all made for smooth sequencing.
Today I enjoy a fabulous
variety of music each time I take the stage. I often tell my crowds that even if
I won the lottery I'd still be doing this work! Over the years I've managed to
achieve a balance between the acoustic and sequencing portions of every live
appearance. Below is a listing of talented performers to whom I am indebted for
their capacity to inspire me... some are actually famous!
Johnson Kenny Rankin Al
Jarreau Neil Young Cat
Stevens John Denver Jim
Croce Billy Joel Basia Christopher
Cross Bobby Dorgan Steve
Howe JS Bach Bob Marley
Neil Diamond Don McClean Frank
Scavone James Kidwell James Taylor
Beatles John Batchelor Dan Fogelburg
Kottke Bobby McFarrin Jose Feliciano
I would not be at all
surprised if I have failed to note many an invaluable person in these credits.
I'll just keep updating 'til I get it right...
for sharing your spark!
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