Come sit awhile and let me play you my story.
My journey to Progressive Rock "Guitar-dom" begins with a heritage in Country Music. Let me take it one step further and say the birth of Country music. My grandmother's maiden name (on my mom's side) was Harrell. She had a cousin by the name Kelly Harrell from Draper's Valley, VA who was a singer for RCA Victor from 1925 to 1929. As one of the first artists to record for RCA Victor he is considered to be somewhat of a legend.
My mother was born and raised in the Staunton, VA area and she and my aunt, her twin sister, were a singing duo back in the late '50s. They used to perform on television with the Statler Brothers when they were first starting out.
My own musical interests began when Johnny Cash and June Carter released their hit song "Jackson" which became my favorite song as a 4 year old. When Johnny Cash, The Carter Family and The Statler Bros. came to town, my family took me to the concert. Afterwards as my mom and aunt were hanging out talking with the Statler Brothers, Johnny walked over to say something to them, saw me staring up at him and gave me a pat on the head before going on his way. That left quite an impression that I will never forget and had me thinking "that's who I want to be like when I grow up". My love for his music continued to grow after that.
Although it was Johnny Cash who was my first inspiration to pursue music, it was Glen Campbell and Jerry Reed who inspired me to take up the guitar after attending the "Glen Campbell Goodtime Show" at the Roanoke Civic Center.
Rip It To Shreds
Two of my early Rock influences were The Eagles and Paul McCartney. To this day, The Eagle’s “On The Border” album is one that I still revere. Their take on the song “Midnight Flyer” really grabbed my attention for it’s Bluegrass Rock styling. It was actually a cover of an Osbourne Brothers song, but the Eagles’ version had this killer slide guitar solo on the ride out that just blew me away.
Southern Gothic Crossroads
The slide guitar work on this song pays homage to the late great Duane Allman and the baritone guitar tones give a nod to my childhood guitar hero Glen Campbell. Songs such as “Galveston" and "Wichita Lineman” still cut to my core to this day but are ever “Gentle On My Mind”. With Alzheimer’s taking its toll, Glen released the equally mesmerizing “Ghost On The Canvas” a few short years ago and a farewell tour followed. That album ranks as one of his all time best in my opinion. Thank you Duane and thank you Glen.
The Stuff Of Legends
The title “The Stuff Of Legends” originated from a guitar clinic I gave a few years ago by the same name. During the clinic I presented the names of some guitarists that are considered to be legends (Jeff Beck, B.B King, Jason Becker…) and posed the question “What did they have to go through to become legendary and what events transformed their lives?”
Once I told their stories it was apparent that the very obstacles that stood in their way was what attributed to their sound. For the teenaged Jeff Beck, guitars were hard by in post WWII England and swiping a pickup from a music store, built his own electric guitar that somewhat resembled a Fender Strat, but the neck was too long and the frets out of place resulting in the intonation being way off. He learned to bend the strings into tune to compensate and this is why his playing has a vocal like quality to this day.
For B.B. King, he would bang two nails into the walls of his house and string broom wire from one nail to the other as a makeshift instrument because “if us kids wanted to play music, we would find a way.”
Prodigy shred guitarist Jason Becker had reached the pinnacle of success in 1991 when he landed his dream gig of taking over for Steve Via in the David Lee Roth Band. Right about the same time he began experiencing numbness in his leg. The diagnosis wasn’t good… Jason had ALS. He barely finished the DLR album before losing his ability to play and the tour was called off. Jason is still alive and continues to make albums to this day. He and his dad developed a language using eye movements. Jason will stare at his guitar hanging on the wall and communicate to his dad what notes to put into the computer and the music that comes forth is astounding.
This kind of resilience is awe inspiring and what keeps me forging ahead and that’s “The Stuff Of Legends”.
The Electric Boardwalk
The Electric Boardwalk commemorates one particular night when I was 14. We were on a family vacation at Carolina Beach and on this one night I was hanging out on the boardwalk by a nightclub. Since I was too young to get in, I was just handing there by the entrance with the waves crashing behind me and while songs like “The Boys Are Back In Town” (Thin Lizzy), Long Time (Boston) and Cold As Ice (Foreigner) cut through the salty night air above the barroom chatter.
What a great time to be young and alive on “The Electric Boardwalk”!