Pete Huttlinger – Guitarist Spotlight

Pete Huttlinger has died at the age of 54, after suffering a stroke.

A phenomenal arranger, composer, and performer of fingerstyle guitar music.

Huttlinger’s precision playing made the most challenging pieces appear easy as pie, even though the degree of difficulty was anything but.

Here is his signature arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, with the original story of how he came to perform it. There was once a very clean video of Pete in a TV interview telling the same story before playing the tune, but it is no longer on Youtube. So this one will have to do.

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 Born in Washington, D.C. in June, 1961. Pete Huttlinger was a 1984 graduate of Berklee School of Music, in Boston. He toured with John Denver and has performed with and for many other A List recording and touring artists. He also won the 2000 National Fingerstyle Championship.

Steely Dan’s “Josie” ala one-man-band Pete Huttlinger.

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Born with congenital heart problems, Huttlinger had a massive stroke in 2010 and heart failure some months later. But after a long and arduous recovery, including a battery powered pump to keep his heart going, he regained the ability to play the guitar. His final performance was in Atlanta, on January 9, 2016.

He released the album Parnassus in 2015 in collaboration with Mollie Weaver. And his 2013 album McGuire’s Landing was critically acclaimed. Here is the title cut.

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Tommy Emmanuel – Guitarist Spotlight

Few musicians have absorbed as many sources and genre of music and then given it back to the world in as unique a style and talent as Tommy Emmanuel.

Emmanuel grew up in Australia playing in a family band, starting at age 6. A year later he heard Chet Atkins on the radio for the first time and his own personal yellow brick road was laid before his little feet. Today he is one of the most admired guitarists in the world.

By the time he was 20 he was was making his living as a studio musician and performing in popular bands, as proficient on the drums as the guitar. His solo career took off in the late 1980s, although he continued ensemble work as well. He now lives in Nashville, touring constantly with his trusty acoustic guitars, although his years playing in country and rock n roll groups continues to influence his amazing one-man-band arrangements.

He still gets together with brother Phil when he can. And their duets are a sight to behold and be heard. Here’s something from the days before Tommy went global.

Finally, this video gives a little insight into Emanuel’s personality as an artist and performer, before he wow’s the crowd with his version fo Amazing Grace, inspired by a Chet Atkins arrangement, but taken out beyond new horizons.

More Tommy Emmanuel

Official Website

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Laurence Juber – Guitarist Spotlight

With 2 Grammy awards and 22 albums featuring his mastery of the acoustic guitar, Laurence Juber continues to expand his repertoire, resume, and renown.

From a formal musical education, Juber went on to ignite stadiums of fans with his blazing rock n roll solos, years before he demonstrated priceless vintage instruments at the Smithsonian Institute and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Laurence Juber began his career straight out of music school, playing primarily electric guitars as a member of Paul McCartney and Wings. After Wings disbanded, he moved from London to New York and ultimately Southern California, where he became one of the entertainment industry’s most sought-after studio musicians.

The varied voices of his guitars can be heard on the soundtracks of countless television programs, feature films, and albums of the top recording artists. He has even scored musical comedies for the theater. But Laurence Juber’s true musical love is solo fingerstyle acoustic guitar, something he does as well or better than anyone else on the planet.

Only a Paper Moon by Harold Arlen, arranged by LJ

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Juber’s own compositions meld jazz, blues, rock and even classical styles and technique. They are often deeply personal, like Catch, which was named after the NYC club Catch a Rising Star, where he met the other love of his life, his wife Hope.

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LJ’s arrangements for solo guitar of some of the world’s best loved music are rich with texture, capturing the spirit of the ensemble pieces with just one instrument and his two hands. His two albums of Beatles tunes and another of later McCartney compositions are very popular with Beatles fans as well as lovers of world-class guitar playing. Here is My Guitar Gently Weeps, recorded unplugged.

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LJ’s most recent studio release, entitled Under the Indigo Sky, was recorded as a mood album, conceived and intended to be enjoyed late at night when the lights are low. It includes Juber’s sublime arrangement of Cry Me a River.

When I went looking for a video of this tune, I found three good examples, each recorded with a different guitar. Juber has played various makes and styles of guitars though the decades. Since 2001 he has performed with one of his C.F. Martin signature models, of which there have been several editions, an honor no other artist has yet to receive.

They were made in mahogany, Indian rosewood, Brazilian rosewood, Madagascar rosewood (seen in the videos above) and a maple edition that included a version of the D-Tar Wave-Length pickup system that Juber uses on stage, although he blends in an internal microphone as well. And in 2011 a very limited edition was made in Hawaiian koa, expressly constructed with as light a build as possible for optimum responsiveness, using animal hide glues throughout.

So here are three versions of Cry Me a River, preformed on a mahogany Juber model, followed by Brazilian rosewood, and the hide glue Koa edition. Each has an Adirondack spruce top. Although the mix between pickup, mic, and PA varies, the personality of the individual guitar and tonal coloring from each tonewood comes through very nicely.

Adjust Your PC Volume Accordingly

Mahogany

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Brazilian Rosewood

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Koa

Related Reading

LJ’s official website including tour dates

The special koa Juber model up close

Descriptions of the different Juber models in LJ’s own words

Juber at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Pierre Bensusan – Guitarist Spotlight

In memory of the late Stan Jay, we feature one of his all-time favorite guitarists, the fingerstyle master, Pierre Bensusan.

May those in need of solace, find peace of mind and spirit in this evocative and moving music.

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Algeria was still a French colony when Pierre Bensusan was born there in 1957. At the age of 17 he signed a recording contract in France, which resulted in Près de Paris, which went on to win the Grand Prix du Disque at the Festival at Montreux. He has continued recording and performing ever since. And in 2013 he released a three-disc live album entitled Encore. And while earlier recordings and tours have included the use of various effects peddles to extend the sound of his exploratory music, he shows just how transporting his compositions can be when played on an acoustic guitar with no amplification or electronics what so ever. Here is The Alchemist.website

His mutual admiration shared with Michael Hedges resulted in the Hedges composition Bensusan, on the record Ariel Boundaries. After Hedges died in an automobile accident, Pierre Bensusan responded So Long Michael.

Pierre Bensusan

Bensusan offical website

Official Website

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Merle Travis – Guitarist Spotlight

The pioneer of guitar playing with the most influence upon fingerstyle is Merle Travis.

In fact, long before the term fingerstyle became popular, the technique where the thumb plays an alternating pattern on the bass strings while melody and harmony are played in upper register was known as “Travis picking.”

Guitarists from Phil Ochs to Leo Kotte, Paul Simon and James Taylor to John Mayer and Bonnie Raitt, Mary Flowers to David Lindley all owe a great deal to the boy from Kentucky who took a picking style rooted in Black blues music and expanded it to include elements from ragtime, Western swing, jazz, offering a rich tapestry of tones deceptively subtle in its complexity.

Here he is circa 1951 playing one of his most well known compositions, on his equally famous Martin D-28, which he had altered to include a neck based on the electric guitar that he designed and had built for him by Paul Bigsby in 1948.

The direct lineage leading to Merle Travis includes fingerpickers like Blind Blake, as well as local musicians from his old Kentucky home. The direct lineage of Travis pickers that followed include luminaries such as Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed. But while such players and their own musical disciples use a similar syncopation, they tend to play a single bass note on the 1 and 3 beat, where Travis often played two bass strings at the same time. And where most fingerstyle players use two or three, and sometimes four fingers to play above the bass line, Travis used only his index finger to create such intricate arrangements.

This video is from 17 years later and gives a clearer view of his typical picking style.

Merle Travis was equally at home on electric guitars, favoring large Gibson hollow body models like the Super 400, before and after his solid body Bigsby period. And like George Barnes before him, he had a signature model built by Carlo Greco at Guild Guitars during the 1960s, known as the Merle Travis Soloist. And like the Barnes model, only a handful was ever made.

Here he is with his son Thom Bresh pretending he hadn’t seen or played Cannonball Rag before.

Bresh has carried on his father’s legacy, while establishing his own reputation as a world-class guitarists. He will get his own Guitarist of the Week in due time.

Finally, here is Merle Travis and Chet Atkins together. No video, but a couple of old hands doing what they do best, play guitar.

Related Reading

Merle Travis – Country Music Hall of Fame

Thom Bresh Official Website

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Leo Kottke – Guitarist Spotlight


Leo Kottke popularized fingerstyle acoustic guitar like no one else.

Like his contemporaries John Fahey and Jorma Kaukaunan, he turned on the Woodstock generation to wonders of hardcore fingerpicking, and for many years Kottke was named Folk Guitarist of the Year repeatedly by Rolling Stone Magazine’s readers poll.

Born in Athens, Georgia on September 11, 1945, at 69 years of age the “great big boy” continues to delight audiences through his recordings, broadcast appearances, and live concerts.

His innovative style of fingerpicking on 6 and 12-string guitar shows the influence of Mississippi John Hurt and Merle Travis, but mostly in how it differs, and how it employs an expanded use of harmony, counterpoint and polyphony.

Hallmarks of his style include using his forefinger in tandem with his thumb to create kinetic bass parts, and a tendency to avoid using the highest treble string, except when necessary, where as most traditional fingerstylists rely on it as the primary source of the melody.

Leo Kottke is also known for his engaging stories, and his baritone singing voice, even if he only uses it now and again. Together with his instrumental compositions they have earned him many awards over the years, including being voted Folk Musician of the Year by Rolling Stone’s readers poll several years in row.


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Leo Kottke – official website tour schedule

Leo Kottke biographical information

Review of Leo Kottke in Concert

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