Wherever I travel, I’m always impressed by the camaraderie of the guitar community. We guitar players seem to share a bond that exists above and beyond all the other instrumentalists and musical groups. Our guitar festivals, guitar camps, vintage guitar shows—as well as events such as the Sweetwater Gear Fest and All-Star Guitar Night at NAMM—are proof that, as a community, we support each other.
That support was in abundance when I played the Guitar Town Festival at Copper Mountain, Colorado. This two-day event is divided into two parts: an acoustic day and an electric day. The morning workshops with all the players are standing-room only events, and, although I was booked to perform only on the electric day, I attended the entire workshop with the acoustic guys, as well as every concert that day. Where else can I get a chance to hear my friends Laurence Juber, Doyle Dykes, and Tommy Emmanuel play solo sets, and the amazing John Jorgenson play bluegrass mandolin, gypsy jazz, and oud, all in one day?
The next day’s electric workshop gave me the opportunity to play the old blues standard “Key to the Highway” with such amazing Tele players as Bill Kirchen (of “Hot Rod Lincoln” fame) and John Jorgenson (who gets around—he has played with the Hellecasters, the Desert Rose Band, and Elton John). By the time slide players Lee Roy Parnell and Sonny Landreth took their turns, everyone in the room knew they had witnessed something incredible.
Not only unique and amazing to the delighted audience, each solo was unique and amazing to each of us players, as well. This is what makes our community so strong. It’s our deep respect and appreciation for each player’s talent, years of dedicated practice, and individual personalities.
When a guitar player (and massive hero of mine) like Tommy Emmanuel says to me, “Thank you for everything you do for music and the guitar,” I’m practically moved to tears. Are you crazy? You’re Tommy E.— one of the baddest cats on the planet!
The obvious benefit of this community is the sharing of knowledge, and if you’ve ever noticed, all the truly great players give it all away. The passion for the instrument supersedes any desires to keep trade secrets, or hide licks from fellow guitarists. Our collective mission statement: Pass it on!
I’m proud to say I’ve learned from the greats, and I’m still learning every day.
On a ride back to the airport sitting next to Albert Lee, I asked him how he was able to put on such a great show after a 3:00 am wake-up call in Edmonton, Canada, a three-hour flight to Denver, and a two-and-a-half hour drive to the festival. Think about the lack of sleep, the wickedly taxing travel day, and the altitude adjustment he had to deal with.
But Albert, who turned 70 earlier this year, just said, “Well, you do what you have to do.”
No complaints, just the obvious professional response, and a lesson for us all.
Carl Verheyen is a critically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, producer, clinician, educator, and tone master with 12 CDs, two live DVDs, and two books released worldwide.