My earliest memory of playing the guitar was when I learned a D chord on my neighbor’s guitar. I was 11 years old then. My parents loved music and had stacks of 78 records. My mom especially loved Pete Fountain, a jazz clarinet player. My dad played the guitar on his lap with a metal slide. He only knew a few songs, but it was always a fun time when he played.
Some of my early music influences were Motown artists like Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. I remember wearing out the 45 record we had on our Silverstone hi-fi, "Sock it to me baby." I also had a record by Archi Bell and the Drells, “Tighten it up baby” when I was just about 12 year old. Then came the 1960's, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, all great songs and fertile ground to learn how to play the guitar.
How did you get started?
I joined the service when I was 17 years old and became a missile crewman, this gave me the GI bill. When I was discharged, I started college at Penn Valley Community College, and took music theory and harmony, and class piano. I was invited to join the Penn Valley Jazz band, playing guitar. I was already in my first real rock band called the "Highland Blues Band", this is the first band I remember, and we practiced in my kitchen at 71st and Highland.
It was during junior college that I remember starting to write songs, about 1978. It was common to be in several bands, some just basement jam bands. It was easy to start a chord progression and when the band got it going, and if you were ready with verses, a song was born. I later started doing this with an acoustic guitar, which is kind of backwards, because a lot of people who write with a guitar start with an acoustic. A friend on Facebook, who I was in one of those jam bands with, recently asked me about "Mental Duress." I wrote that in the late 1970's and recorded later in 2008. It’s about a girl I saw at a concert in Sunny Side Park in south Kansas City, and he was happy to hear it made it on iTunes.
Do you have a favorite song you have recorded and why?
“Mental Duress” is one of my favorites I have recorded because it blends rock and jazz elements together. All of my songs are written from the heart and have a message. I continue to write and have many new songs in the works. We are releasing a band version of, “All I Know," this fall.
For young songwriters or musicians, get your hands on an instrument as early as possible, and start playing and listening to music. There are many tutorials on Youtube on how to play most any instrument. If you have ideas for songs don't be afraid to try and put words to music. It's art and there are no rules! Keep it fun!
The current band I am in is the "Not Too Late Players" formed to perform some of the songs that I have written that are on most digital platforms. We are currently active doing selective gigs and having fun playing music. !
Thank you Gary for your time and sharing your inspiring talents with us.