Books Music Programming History Purchase Interviews

Some of my guitars

Some of my guitars. Clearly, I need an intervention.
I used to play in bands.
I don't know where the Manwhore T-shirt came from, but I had several of them. I've always been a Les Paul kind of guy, too. Electric guitar is a necessary evil when you're playing big shows. Looks like I'm playing a B-note here, which means probably it was a solo on Crazy Train

I have been a professional musician, singer and songwriter since 1986, playing guitar, bass guitar, piano and (when really pressed) drums. 

My four-octave vocal range (apparently quite rare) has been the subject of much discussion, but in reality, I have long rather been known as a good guitar player.

I have been playing guitar for 40 years (as of 2016), but, paradoxically and completely narcissistically, I really struggled to be known as a singer, which I consider much harder than playing guitar.

I actually started playing guitar in 1976, when I was 7 and convinced my parents to part with the 19 dollars it cost to buy an acoustic guitar at K-Mart. I never took a lesson. A kid down the street (at the time, I thought he was terribly old; he was something like 13) taught me how to tune the guitar by placing my thumb on the fifth fret and playing that string and the string after it. Except, of course, for the fifth string, where the thumb inexplicably went on the fourth fret - a lesson I never forgot. 

At the time, the extent of my musical tastes ran from Kiss Destroyer to Kiss Love Gun and Rock and Roll Over, so from that vast well of music theory, I taught myself my first barre chords, though I would have been hard-pressed to tell you that's what they were called. 

It's a 70s thing

If you lived through the 70s, you understand

When I was 14, I was dying to get an electric guitar, but my parents were house-poor and all my newspaper route money went to buying myself clothes for school - and usually meals, too. So after hearing me play Open Arms by Journey, my mother, who was an Avon lady (don't even get me started on how much I hate Avon), made me a deal: If I would deliver all the Avon books to every house in all her routes (she was, in that one aspect of her life, an overachiever, so she had numerous routes that ended up being several hundred houses in total), she would buy an electric guitar for me. 

This is pretty much exactly what it was like

Exactly

So imagine being a 14-year-old boy, to whom nothing seemed nearly as important as impressing girls, running up to the houses of numerous girls from his school, knocking on the doors and then handing them Avon books, meekly proclaiming, "My mom is your Avon lady." It was horrifying. But I really wanted an electric guitar, so I did it. Every last, embarrassing, awful second of it. I did it.

A week later, we were at a music store, and my mom realized how much electric guitars cost. So she got me the cheapest one in the store, an Arbor flying V and a single-speaker Peavy practice amp. I didn't even care. I ran right home and started banging out the chords to every Twisted Sister song I could find, every Dokken song, everything Def Leppard ever thought about putting out. My friend David May also had started playing guitar, so we started a band. I don't even think the band had a name. With our friend Mark Smith on bass guitar, and John Prado on drums, we had a complete band, and we banged the hell out of our instruments. 

The band didn't last long, but the love for music did, and throughout the 80s, I was playing in numerous bands of varying popularity, even doing some session work at the height of hair metal. By the 1990s, I had become a worship leader at numerous large churches after converting to fundamentalist Christianity (the entire story of that is available in my book, Deadly Vows.) Being a worship leader forced me to teach myself to sing. My only experience before that had been singing along with Steve Perry and whatever he was doing with Journey, but I had never been confident enough to sing in front of people. Once I started, I realized I was more in demand as a singer than as a guitar player. The religion itself lasted about 15 years, but the musical lessons I took from it have lasted far longer. Listening to a virtuoso like Stephen Curtis Chapman make musicality sound effortless, or the compositions of Keith Green make everything sound so simple, or the effortless soul of Jon Gibson, I learned to take the instruments I played more seriously, and I expanded my repertoire to include other instruments, from bass guitar to piano and drums. 

One of my many bands
F chord? Check. Baggy jeans? Also check. But the true test of a working musician? Electrical tape holding the guitar strap on. Ghetto comes to me for advice on how to fix things on the cheap. That's Jerry Owens playing guitar behind me, and Ray Walsh on the drums behind him. Hiding behind the speaker is bass guitarist Terry Walkingstick. This was the Leif Wright band, which stuck around for several years.

Because of my church experience, I started to really like the way acoustic guitar sounded, so I focused mainly on that instrument, though I've always kept an electric guitar around for times when I wanted to shred. I started really focusing on music theory - on why certain things sound good and other things don't. To this day, I have eight ten 13 guitars hanging on my office wall and sitting on the floor across from my desk, with two zero more in cases underneath the baby grand piano. Of those ten guitars, seven are acoustic guitars, one is an acoustic bass guitar, one an electric bass guitar and one an electric guitar. 

I still love making music, but having a growing family and running a business takes time away, so I haven't been able to focus on it as much as I used to. I'm currently working to form a band to play on special occasions, so we'll see.