Saturday, November 24, 2012

American Dream

From Vimeo: The American Dream video is based on the fear of success, this thought is extremely powerful, fear has the ability to cripple us from pursuing our dreams. The moment I embraced my dreams it was as if the universe had drawn people to help us and share their stories. Our goal is to tell the stories of the people who live in America. Your support is the driving force behind our project. We could not have done this without you. We have made it this far because you shared and supported us through our social networking sites. We were able to connect with the people in this film because of the internet. Every time you share or like this project it brings us one step closer to photographing your town, people you know, possibly even you.

American Dream from Ian Ruhter : Alchemist on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Desiree Bassett

I first heard about Desiree Bassett a few years ago when I came across her youtube videos. She was all of 14 or 15 years old then, and had already jammed with Sammy Hagar, Ted Nugent, Living Colour, Barry Goudreau, the Marshall Tucker Band and members of the Allman Brothers Band. She was named "Best Musician" by Talent America in 2005, has released two studio albums and has performed many times on both coasts of the United States.

Desiree, born in 1992 in New Haven, Connecticut, started playing guitar at about age three. At age four, she would be correcting her father as he attempted to learn new songs. Age age five, with a new Ibanez electric guitar in hand, she placed second at a talent competition playing a Joe Satriani cover. A few years later, at age nine, she began taking singing and guitar lessons at the University of Connecticut music program, where it was discovered she had perfect pitch and could play by ear. Desiree has been influenced by  Jeff Beck, Rick Emmett, Jimi Hendrix, Reba McEntire, the Allman Brothers and her personal idol Joe Satriani.

In 2005, she was voted Talent America's "Musician of the Year" in New York City.  Bassist Doug Wimbish discovered Bassett at an open mic event in Hartford, Connecticut and invited her to play at his annual Wim-Bash the following night. Later that year, she recorded five songs, performing all of the instruments; selling several hundred copies of the self-made CD.
Eventually word of her talents spread, and local musicians offered their services to be her band.  By November, she had built a local following. In December 2005 she took second place at the Olympics of Entertainment in New York City. In 2006, she performed at the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. Sponsorship followed from Peavey Amps, Schecter Guitar Research, and offers from Nova Sound Studios and Long View Farm Studios recording studios in North Brookfield, Massachusetts.  When she returned the following year to play at the NAMM Show, she was introduced as "the future of rock and roll." 
Desiree released her first CD, Power & Force Volume II, in 2008, at the age of 16. Currently, she is performing as the lead guitarist on tour with Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour which premiered in October 2011 and is scheduled to tour through Canada, the United States, and Europe.  She has plans to attend college for a music degree at some point in her career. 
I really like the way she plays. You can tell she loves what she is doing by her smiling and enthusiasm on stage. The future of rock is in good hands.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Iconic Guitars in Rock History - Rory Gallagher's 1961 Fender Stratocaster

Rory Gallagher used only a few guitars during his music career. His main one was a sunburst 1961 Stratocaster with the serial number of 64351.
Rory, from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland and born in 1948, bought this guitar, said to be the first Fender Stratocaster in Ireland, in 1963. It was sold as a used guitar, as the store owner had ordered a different color and the sunburst was sent instead. Rory bought this guitar in this brand new condition.
Rory used this Stratocaster for most of his life, throughout thousands of shows, touring around the world and recording his many albums. At one point it was stolen and recovered from a ditch, having been exposed to the elements for a few days. That is a testament to Leo Fender for building a guitar that can survive just about any abuse heaped upon it.
Over the many years, this Stratocaster was modified. It does not have the original pickups, tuning pegs, and pick guard.
Almost all of the original finish is gone, due to the heavy use, and a medical condition that caused Rory’s sweat to be acidic, which would wear away the thin nitro finish.
The neck is original but has one fret marker dot changed, as the original clay dot fell out and was replaced by a plastic one. The neck was also removed numerous times for repair, but the original one never broke – just needed a rest from time to time.

You can hear this guitar, most of the time played straight into an amp, on all of Rory’s releases. It is one of the most famous Stratocasters in rock history. It is amazing to me that such a simple guitar, one that started on a production line in Fullerton, California, could go on to be magical in the hands of a young teenager thousands of miles away. In the days when rock stars change guitars every song - Edge, I am talking to you – here was Rory using one or two guitars his whole career, writing a new book in blues-based rock. Fender produces an exact copy of Rory’s Stratocaster, and there are other builders who replicate the guitar, as well.
The history of Rory’s music takes him from his first group, Fontana, in the early 60s, to the very popular Taste, a blues rock and power trio. Taste performed mostly in the UK where they were regulars at the Marquee Club. They opened for Cream at their farewell concert, and supported Blind Faith on a short tour in America. Tasted released two studio albums, Taste and On The Boards, and two live recordings, Live Taste and Live at the Isle of Wight.
Rory went out as solo act in 1971, and remained that way for the rest of his career. He released about 13 albums, with a mix of studio and in concert recordings.
I discovered Rory in 1977 when a friend loaned me the Against the Grain album. I was just blown away by Rory, and was very glad I found his music. As a young guitarist trying to learn from everyone, I spent an ample amount of time listening to Rory, and picking up more of his albums to learn from.
Rory sold in excess of 30 million albums over his 30 career. He did not live, nor did he act, like a rock star, choosing to concentrate on the music. He was an introvert who did not show off, nor go looking for attention. He was dedicated to the art of music.
Rory received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year at age 47. He is a music hero in his hometown, and was one of the first successful musicians to come out of Ireland. His contribution to music was vast; he is sorely missed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Early Blues and Rock Music Pioneer

On one of my many nights exploring the web, mostly via YouTube, I came across a musician who I had never heard of before. On my screen, I was watching a black and white clip of a middle-age woman, jumping up and down, singing and playing a white Gibson SG Custom. It seemed surreal at the time. Until I looked into who this woman was.
It was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, born Rosetta Nubin Tharpe in 1915. She was a gospel singer, songwriter and performer who became popular in the 1930s and 1940s. She was a gospel singer at heart, but crossed over into pop music, singing in clubs and concert halls. Sister Rosetta was the first successful gospel singer in the 1930s and recorded four sides with Decca Records with Lucky Millinder and his jazz orchestra backing her.Her records caused much controversy in her core audience of churchgoers. They were shocked by the mix of gospel and popular music. Sister Rosetta was not content to stay within the boundaries of what was acceptable. Her appearances at the Cotton Club and CafĂ© Society, performing alongside Cab Calloway and Benny Goodman made her even more popular with fans of big band and swing music. Rock Me was her first hit, which took her gospel style into new territory with up-tempo arrangements. This song, along with This Train, introduced gospel music to an audience who had never heard it before. If they had, it sure was never like this.
Sister Rosetta was one of two gospel artists who recorded V-discs for the troops fighting in World War 2. The song Strange Things Happening Every Day, which was recorded in 1944 with Sammy Price, a boogie woogie pianist, showed that she was a formidable guitarist, combined with her sharp, witty lyrics and vocal style. This song was the first gospel song to make Billboard's Harlem Hit Parade Top Ten. The record has been considered the first rock and roll records. Sister Rosetta continued to make the charts as she toured the country with the Dixie Hummingbirds as her band.
Later on Sister Rosetta performed with Marie Knight. They toured the gospel circuit for a few years and had a hit with Up Above My Head. They recorded several blues songs in the early 1950s which proved to be an unpopular move as their gospel audience turned away from them.Knight crossed over to popular music, while Sister Rosetta stayed with gospel music, but her fans were not listening. She eventually returned to the gospel music, after taking a break to Europe, but found that the fans were not supportive.
In April - May 1964, as bands such as the Rolling Stones were forming and making blues popular again, she toured England as part of the American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan, with Muddy Waters and Otis Spann, Ranson Knowling, Little Willie Smith, Reverend Gary Davis, Cousin Joe and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, performing for mostly audiences of young students. Blues music was not popular in America, and it took the many young British bands to take it up a notch and bring it the masses.
Sister Rosetta suffered a stroke in 1970, and had complications from diabetes.She passed in 1973 after another stroke.
An interest in her work led to many television segments and articles, causing resurgence in her popularity.
Musicians such as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Aretha Franklin have listed her as an influence for her guitar playing and performance style. Her songs have been recorded by Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash often talked about her impact on his music. The U.S. Postal Service issued a Rosetta Tharpe postage stamp in 1998 and in 2003, the album Shout, Sister Shout: A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpewas released, with versions of Tharpe’s songs performed by female artists including Maria Muldaur, Odetta, and Marcia Ball. The Noisette’s, a band from England, recently recorded a tribute, called Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit.)
I would imagine that many of the young musicians of today have no clue that the musicians they admire were influenced by a gospel singer. Nor are they probably aware that Sister Rosetta was an early pioneer of rock music, and helped bring blues music back into popularity.
I would also add that the Gibson SG Custom she uses on these videos is one of the best looking guitars ever made. I wonder where this guitar is today.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Honor the Treaties - Aaron Huey

Great short film about the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Gibson SG Electric Guitar: 51 Years Old and Still Going Strong

The mighty Gibson SG – the weapon of choice for rockers around the world. Angus Young, Tony Iommi, Glen Buxton, Pete Townsend, Derek Trucks, Gary Louris, Duane Allman, and Robby Kreiger are but a few of many who use the SG as a part of their sonic arsenal.
Would you believe that there was a time when Gibson couldn’t give away a 50s era Les Paul?
Despite their attempts to get the Les Paul into the hands of musicians, even with the Les Paul brand, Gibson failed. 1960 saw the last year of the single cut-away, thick-bodied, maple-capped Les Paul. In 1961, it became a thin, all mahogany body, with double cut-aways. Les Paul was not happy with this and ended his contract with Gibson, although he was for a time contractually bound to be photographed with the new guitar.
The guitar was called a Les Paul in 1961 and 1962. After that it was called the SG, which stands for solid guitar.
There were four models:
· SG Jr, with one dog-earned P90 pickup
· SG Special, with two P90 pickups
· SG Standard, with two humbucking pickups, trapezoid inlays, bound neck, and a vibrato system
· SG Custom, with three pickups, gold plated hardware, ebony fingerboard, full square inlays, and a vibrato system.
1964 Gibson SG Standard

Gibson stayed with this lineup until 1967, when the large batwing pick guard was added, and the neck joint was changed. SGs have always had a weak spot where the neck joins the body. This allows the guitar to be easily played on the upper frets, but came at the cost of a weak neck.
In 1971, Gibson started to change things up. The SG 1 and 2 came out, both budget models, with the controls mounted on plastic, and equipped with single coil pickups. The Standard got an ebony fingerboard, block inlays and no binding on the neck for awhile.
By 1972 the design went back to the original style pick guard and rear-mounted controls. The neck set further into the body, joining at the 20th fret and altering its look. They replaced the tuneomatic bridge with a Schaller bridge, commonly known as the harmonica bridge.
Gibson stayed on this track for quite a few years, and by 1985 when the company was sold to employees and investors, a revamp of the product was in order. They started to make them like the old days, and today, there are more models of SGs then ever.
Early 1970s Gibson SG offerings

The Faded SGs are budget guitars, made in the USA, that feature an satin finish body, two humbucking pickups and dot inlays. The Faded SG is a great guitar at any level. Beware that the neck is thick so it may not be the best choice for young players.
The SG Tribute is a return to the SG Specials of the early 60s with two P90 pickups and the single side pick guard. The white version of this is one of the most beautiful guitars I have seen. For all its simplicity, it is stunning. And affordable.
New Gibson SG Classic Tribute
The SG Special is basically a Faded with a nitro finish - A good basic SG for those who want the shiny things in life.
The SG Standard is also one of the most beautiful guitars in music. It has the bound fingerboard, trapezoid inlays, batwing pick guard and two alnico humbucking pickups. These can be had all day long used for about $800. The cherry red version of this is the benchmark for SG colors.
The SG Classic is for all purposes a Standard with two P90 pickups, and dot inlays. I have spent time playing these, and love them. These are also affordable, new for just under $1,000, used for less.
Current Gibson SG Standard
The SG Custom is in a completely different league as the above guitars. It is the same basic guitar as before, but it is priced well over $2000.
There are many copies of the SG. Epiphone makes various models, with the SG 400 being the most popular. I like these and have played them often. Edwards, Tokai, ESP and Agile all make their own version of the SG.
The SG is a classic guitar and every guitar player should have one on their collection. They are as light as a feather, but still have that raw, crunchy rock and roll sound that you need and want.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mountain - Heavy Metal Pioneers

I was just a young teenage boy when I first picked up a guitar and learned to play it. It was frustrating at times, my fingers would not go where they were supposed to and the right hand did not coordinate with the left hand for quite awhile. My pick often ended up inside the guitar as it kept falling out of my hand due to a bad picking technique. I persevered and learned the chords G, C, and D, managing to play a song that my sister had in her music book. She gave me my first, and only, guitar lesson.

I was listening to the Beeker Street radio program, broadcasting from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. from KAAY in Little Rock, Arkansas.The number of new groups I heard for the first time was staggering. It seem like every other song introduced me to music I had never heard, as long as I could stay up to listen. I kept a cassette recorder by my bedside with a microphone attached so I could record a song that I liked, write that artist down, and hopefully buy the album. I had lots of albums at the end of my 6th grade year, thanks to my mom, who never really questioned what I was listening to.

One of the many bands I heard for the first time was Mountain, playing their huge hit, Mississippi Queen.
Leslie West, from Long Island, New York formed Mountain after recording a record called Mountain. Felix Pappalardi produced the album and played bass. West and Pappalardi worked well together and along with drummer N.D. Smart, went on the road.They called themselves Mountain and after their fourth gig they performed at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York.

Mountains went over well at Woodstock, but were left off the film, Woodstock, nor did they make it onto the first soundtrack album. However, they did appear on the second soundtrack album with the song Blood of the Sun and Theme for an Imaginary Western.

Corky Laing replaced Smart, and the band recorded the album, Climbing, which included the hit Mississippi Queen. I remember watching the movie Vanishing Point and hearing this song played. This album reached the Billboard charts, starting at #21 and going to #17 after the film was released.

Mountain toured constantly, releasing Nantucket Sleighride in January 1971. It reached #16, but did not have any hit singles, almost a necessity back then.

This was the most commercial success Mountain achieved, and they released Flowers of Evil, which had a mix of live and recorded material. Catchy title for an album, too. The band hit the wall that year, with drug problems, hearing issues and the endless touring causing the band to break up.

Felix Pappalardi was murdered on April 17, 1983 by his wife Gail Collins Pappalardi. She was charged with second-degree murder. The charges were dropped to negligent homicide. After her 16 years in jail, she has all but disappeared.

West and Laing reunited Mountain in 1985 and have been touring ever since. Leslie’s recent health problems have put touring on hold.

Perhaps you have seen Leslie as an actor, as a member of the band that Tom Hanks manages in the film, The Money Pit. He is dressed as a woman and says “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride."

Mississippi Queen
Here is the story about how their biggest hit, Mississippi Queen, was written:

“When Corky (Laing, drummer) brought me the idea, it was a one-chord dance song. I came up with the main riff and the chords. Then we fit the words over the sound. I was madly in love with The Band, and I decided to put a 'Cripple Creek' feel behind it. Later on, I told Levon Helm that I felt bad about ripping him off, but he said that he didn't hear any similarity between the 2 songs, and that we didn't owe them any money!"

The song is about a woman who teaches the singer about the ways of love, which was always my interpretation. However with Proud Mary released a year earlier, one might think it was another song about a riverboat.
Leslie West explains the famous cowbell in the song: "The cowbell in the beginning was just in there because Felix wanted Corky to count the song off. So we used the cowbell to count it off - it wasn't put in there on purpose. And it became the quintessential cowbell song."

You may not hear it in Randy Rhoads’ guitar style, but Leslie West a big influence on Randy when he was just starting out on guitar.

When I was playing guitar in a band years ago, I loved playing Mississippi Queen. The power of those opening chords were a joy to play.

Mountain's albums were:

Climbing! (1970)

Nantucket Sleighride (1971)

Flowers of Evil (1971)

Avalanche (1974)

Go for Your Life (1985)

Man's World (1996)

Mystic Fire (2002)

Masters of War (2007)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Borrowing the Past video by Eliot Rausch

I love the website, Vimeo. I am a fan of short films and animations. This site the best one on the internet for showcasing film makers, who range from established and well known directors to students at film schools. I came across this one by Eliot Rausch, with music by Rhiann Sheehan, set to a poem by Roger Stewart. This is one of the best ones I have ever seen. Watch it all the way to the end as the music keeps going.

Borrowing the Past from Eliot Rausch + Phos Pictures on Vimeo.

Here is the poem:

Awake, O Sleeper!
You kids of yesterday
You forefathers of tomorrow
This is our world

We were never perfect

You’re young, and that gives you energy
Stay rooted to the ground
Give thanks for what you’ve received

Our greatest gift is yet to be seen

You will try
But you may fail
And in those moments you will know our mistakes
You will recognize our intent
And you will begin to know our kind

You will tell our stories
And in return we will tell yours

Awake, O Sleeper!
Hear the tone of a reminder long forgotten
Our song is of goodness
Our song is of humanity
It isn’t long
And it isn’t always sweet
But it’s for you

Awake, O Sleeper!
I’ve heard your call at dawn
I recognize your warnings
I see you in their face
Like crystal in transparency
I see your beaten path

Your music rings through my ears, singing hymns at break of day
You lullaby my sleep

We stand upon your surface

Awake, O Sleeper!
We shine brightly for the day

And we see where you have led us
And we know where we must go

Monday, April 16, 2012

Link Wray - Guitar Innovator with the hit song, "Rumble"

Song Makes Adults Panic

There once was a time when a song was banned from the radio, claiming to cause juvenile delinquency.
The year was 1958. Rock and roll was still in its infancy, Elvis was in the army, and Buddy Holly was on the charts.
The song in question was Rumble, by guitarist Link Wray. How can a guitar instrumental cause supposedly rational adults to panic?
Rumble had a menacing sound. A rare, raunchy distorted guitar that was caused by Link punching holes in his amplifier speakers. Distortion in the 1950s was unheard of. It was that dark sound and repeating notes all played on the low strings that caused the trouble.
Little did those adults know that out there in the vast radio audience, young aspiring guitarists were mesmerized by Rumble. The song was a hit in the United States and Great Britain, where the teenage Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend, Dave Davies, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton Jimi Hendrix and countless others were influenced by it and were dreaming of rock and roll stardom.
Pete Townsend says of Link Wray:
"He is the king; if it hadn't been for Link Wray and 'Rumble,' I would have never picked up a guitar. I remember being made very uneasy the first time I heard it, and yet excited by the savage guitar sounds."
Link Wray, of Shawnee Indian ancestry, was born in North Carolina in 1929. He learned his first guitar technique at age 8 from a carnival worker. His family moved around quite a bit, and Link ended up in San Francisco.
Link was the Army during the Korean War. While there, he came down with tuberculosis. He lost his lung due the disease. He was told he would never sing again, so he concentrated on the guitar. Eventually, he was able to sing again, but had a deep and scratchy voice.
After leaving the Army, Link, along with his brothers Douglas and Vernon, started Lucky Wray and the Lazy Pine Wranglers. They played mostly country music for many years until they were hired for a local version of American Bandstand. It was for this TV show that Rumble came to be.
They backed several popular bands such as Fats Domino and Ricky Nelson, who were on the charts and very well known. During one of these shows, they were trying to work up an arrangement of The Stroll, a hit song for the Diamonds. The version they came up with became huge hit with the audience. The new song soon came to the attention of record producers. The song got its name from Phil Everly, who said the song reminded him of a street gang fight.
Link recorded several other instrumental hits such as Rawhide, Apache, Jake the Ripper, Ace of Spades, Shawnee and Comanche. He was often billed as a surf guitarist, and was forced to record with an orchestra to fix his image from the controversy ofRumble.
Link’s popularity went back and forth after the mid 1960s. He retired for awhile, and then came back in the 1980s as guitarist with rockabilly artist Robert Gordon. I first saw Link with Robert Gordon on SCTV. He was wearing all black leather, wearing sunglasses and was playing a Gibson SG, a perfect guitar for him.
He had resurgence in popularity due to being his music featured in films such as Pulp Fiction, Independence Day, Breathless, Desperado and Twelve Monkeys and others.
He often toured Australia and Europe with great success, and eventually settled in Denmark when he married a Danish student who had been studying Native American culture. He passed away at age 76 on November 5, 2005 in Copenhagen.
Before his death, Link was named sixty-seventh on Rolling Stone’s Hundred Greatest Guitarists list. He should have been higher, as Link was the one who invented the power chord, which is a simple chord using only two notes. Much of the rock music recorded since has a power chord in it somewhere.
It was those distorted tones and power chords that got young kids excited about playing guitar, to the dismay and disapproval of the fearful adults.
Link has not been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Many of his fans have complained and are actively campaigning to get him inducted. He deserves to be there. He is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jim Weider - Guitarist with The Band and Levon Helm

I have had the opportunity to see Levon Helm twice within the last few years. We were happy that he came to Minneapolis, as he mostly does concerts at his barn in Woodstock, NY. These shows are very popular and are known as the Midnight Ramble and are well attended by fans from all over the world.
Jim Weider has been the guitarist for both of these shows and it was great to see him perform.
Jim Weider is one of those unknown greats of guitar.When he performs with Levon, he mostly stays in the background, playing mostly acoustic and his Telecaster, taking few solos. On his own he branches out and really shows what he can do with a guitar.
Jim became known when, in 1985, he joined the reformed The Band, replacing Robbie Robertson. He worked with Richard Manuel, as well, when Richard performed as a solo act.
Jim grew up in Woodstock, New York, which has long been a popular area for musicians and artists to live. Born in 1951, he was influenced by the early rock and roll guitar players of the 50s – Chuck Berry, James Burton and Scotty Moore. This trio helped set the standard for guitarists, influencing countless young kids around the world.
As a teen in Woodstock, he became friends with Levon, who has lived there for many years. Weider moved on to Nashville and Atlanta, working as a session player and in local bands.
When Levon was restarting The Band without Robertson, he asked Jim to join as the new guitarist.
Jim remained in The Band until 1999, following the death of Rick Danko.
During his time with The Band, he played on all of their albums and was featured on many videos, including a performance with Roger Waters “The Wall” filmed at the Berlin Wall, tv specials, and at Bill Clinton's inaugural Ball in 1993. Weider has appeared on Leno, Conan, Letterman, and Today Show as a member of The Band.
In addition to The Band, Jim has recorded with artists such as Scotty Moore, Keith Richards, Los Lobos, Taj Mahal, Hot Tuna and many others, and in 2005 won the W.C. Handy Award for co- writing Mavis Staples' hit single and CD title song Have a Little Faith.
Jim performs as a solo artist, as well, releasing a critically acclaimed solo CD calledBig Foot. Vintage Guitar Magazine stated: "Big Foot is the highest-quality recording we've heard in a very long time. Any guitar purist will be impressed with Weider's varied styles -- rock, rockabilly, slide, good old blues, and even some 'chicken-pickin' country. This is a celebration of guitar at its best.”
Jim's CD, Percolator showcases the heavier side of his playing. I downloaded a few of his live shows from the Internet Archive. The songs are in the rock-jazz fusion style, and are much different than his other releases, full of top-notch playing from everyone in the band. As I watch the videos of Percolater on Youtube, it just reinforces my opinion that the Fender Telecaster is the most versatile guitar made. Leo Fender got it right on the first try with this guitar!
Jim uses a vintage Fender Telecaster as his main guitar, but he also plays a1960s Silvertone electric guitar and a 1960s Guild Starfire III. He uses a Fender amplifiers and his own signature series JW40 amp, designed in conjunction with Fargen Amplification, Inc. He co-designed the AnalogMan King Of Tone pedal.
Check out Jim’s work with The Band, his own band and with the many artists he has worked with. You will discover an amazing musician who is a true original, and has much to say with his guitar.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Open Blues Jams Give Aspiring Guitarists Chances to Perform

Bring Your Guitar and Be Ready to Play!

Music is made by many instruments working together. To make a band work, you need the rhythm of the drums, the low notes from a bass, the melodic guitar, maybe the blare of horns, or a sprinkling of keyboards, and a singer who can pull it all together.
You can practice your playing all day long, by yourself, and still enjoy the art of making music. But wouldn’t it be great if you could hear your music being played along with the supporting bass lines, or the chords of another guitar?
There are many opportunities for the amateur guitarist to perform. Many establishments offer open jam nights, where you can get up on stage and play a few songs. Your skill level should be at a point where you can comfortably perform with other musicians, and have an understanding of the chord structures and changes. Usually, open jams are based on blues music. Give a listen to some of the well-known blues musicians to get an idea of what you are going to play.

Here is small list of songs that could be played:
  • The Thrill is Gone by B. B. King, Texas Floodby Larry Davis and Joseph Wade Scott (or Stevie Ray Vaughan)
  • Green Onions by Booker T. & the M.G.s
  • Born Under a Bad Sign by Albert King
  • One Way Out - Allman Brothers Band
  • Someday After Awhile - Freddie King
  • Gimme Back My Wig - Hound Dog Taylor
  • Champagne and Reefer - Muddy Waters
  • Before You Accuse Me - Eric Clapton
A host band will start off the show. Throughout the night, the host will bring up musicians who wish to play. The host wants everyone to play or sing. Bring only your guitar and tuner, as amps are usually provided. If you have to bring an amp, keep it simple. No Marshall stacks here.
Blues jams are for people who want to enjoy performing and making good music. They are not for someone looking to show off by playing solos all night. The music should be entertaining for all, and as a guitarist, you need to work with the rest of the band to make that happen.
If you have no experience playing alongside other musicians and are shy about doing so, practice with backing tracks. There are plenty of them to choose from on the internet. Some are free, some require a small fee. Either way, pick some out, put them on the iPod, and practice away. If you have basic recording equipment, record your progress. I use Audacity, a free audio recording program that does multi tracking. I open up the backing track in Audacity, add a new track for the guitar, plug in and start recording.
This is a great way to practice, and with time, you will get a great song to play for family and friends. And over time, you will gain the confidence needed to take the stage. You may even form your own band and start to perform all the songs you practiced.
It is indeed a gift to be able to play music. It is even better when we can share it with others.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Roy Clark - Country Guitar Legend

When you hear the name Roy Clark, you probably think of the TV show Hee Haw.
However, if you look beyond that show, you will find that Roy can play just about anything with strings.
Roy is a legend in country music, a television personality and natural entertainer. His career has taken him from music to TV.
Roy was born in 1933 in Virginia, and grew up in Staten Island, New York. When he was 14 Roy began learning the banjo, guitar, and mandolin. He won two National Banjo Championships and world banjo/guitar flat-pick championships at age 15. At the young age of 17, he played his first show at the Grand Old Opry in Nashville. Of course, the Grand Old Opry is the Carnegie Hall of country music. To perform there at age 17 was quite an achievement.
At the age of 20 in 1955, Roy became a regular on Jimmy Dean’s television show. Unfortunately, Roy was fired from this job, as Dean was very picky about his musicians being on time for the show. Jimmy Dean was famous for the hit song, Big John, and his Jimmy Dean sausages.
After being fired by the future sausage king, Roy headed to Las Vegas where he found work for a western swing bandleader by the name of Hank Penny. He also worked for Wanda Jackson during her rockabilly years.
Sausage king Dean asked Roy to appear with him on the Tonight Show in the early 1960s. This appearance exposed Roy to the TV largest audience in America, as Johnny Carson reigned supreme on late night TV.
By 1963, Roy had signed to Capitol Records, where his song Tips of My Fingersmade the top 10.
Through the Eyes of a Fool made it to #31 on the country charts in 1964 withWhen the Wind Blows in Chicago made it to #37 in 1965.
In 1968, Roy began his acting career on the Beverly Hillbillies, playing a business man named Roy and dressing in drag as Roy’s mother.
In 1969, Roy’s career really took off when he was hired, along with the great Buck Owens, to host a country version of Laugh-In called Hee Haw.
The show became a success, until 1971 when CBS dropped it because the over-the-top country humor did not fit the hip image they wanted. The show was moved into syndication, where it became a staple on our TV on Saturday nights around 6 p.m. As a young budding guitar player, I was always interested in great guitar playing and the guitars used on this show. Roy always made a solo appearance, playing, guitar, violin, banjo and mandolin.
Roy sometimes acted the backwoods country guy, appearing in the corny sketches. If you could look past all that, there was some fantastic music, with Roy a part of it all. The show ended in 1997 but it is still around, on DVDs and in syndication. Hee Hawwas only one part of Roy’s life. The success of the show helped him sell records, with the hits I Never Picked Cotton, Thank God and Greyhound, Come Live With Me, Somewhere Between Love and Tomorrow, Honeymoon Feelin’ and I Had It to Do All Over Again. Roy also guest-hosted for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show numerous times in the 1970s and made appearances on theOdd Couple, (playing the song Malaguena) and the Muppet Show.
By 1983, Roy opened the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri. This venue was the first of its kind, as no other music star had their own theater to perform in. Branson became the country music capital of the Midwest in the years since.
In 1987, Clark was made a member of the Grand Ole Opry and in 2009, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Roy lives in Oklahoma with his wife, Barbara, where he still performs, flies his airplanes and rides his motorcycles.
A few of Roy’s awards are:
  • Entertainer of the Year, Academy of Country Music
  • Comedy Act of the Year, Academy of Country Music
  • Picker of the Year, Playboy Magazine's Reader's Poll
  • Best Country Guitarist, Guitar Magazine
  • Grammy Award for "Alabama Jubilee"
  • Earned an Honorary Doctorate Degree from University of Northern Alabama.
For guitar gear, Roy used Gibson and Gretsch guitars, and now endorses Heritage Guitars.
Roy Clark has influenced countless guitarists, and has enjoyed a stellar career that has lasted many decades.