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American Blues News

John Williams has played with the likes of country blues artists Willie Nelson and Conway Twitty. He has also had his music used in countless video productions. John is attributed with contributing to projects for NPR, BigTex Video, Franklin-Covey, Working Horse Winery, GearHead Pictures, Quova, Showa University (Tokyo), The State of Alabama, QSR Magazine, University of Michigan, and WGBH.

Currently, John can be found playing solo acoustic guitar around the Seattle/Tacoma/Puget Sound area. The music is a mix of traditional and modern acoustic instrumentals borrowing heavily from country blues and early southern “delta blues”. If you are in the area, catch this jewel of a player hidden within the boundries of the state of Washington!

Who are your major influences and how did your family background affect your music?

My immediate family was not especially musical. A few aunts played piano in church but that wasn’t all that exciting to me. I grew up in the south (Florida) and there was a lot of country music playing on the radio so that naturally soaked in.

Who stands out most in your playing?

Duane Allman was the first guy I listened to where I thought I could actually play like that. I didn’t turn to Chet (Atkins) until much later, and that led to guys like Pat Donahue and Tommy Emmanuel. That’s who I want to sound like when playing solo guitar. The old blues guys like Lonnie Johnson are who I’d like to feel like.

How long did it take you to develop your own style?

Haha, still not all the way there yet. I played in a lot of cover bands back in the day; had to be good at sounding like other people and copping styles. I did a little studio work too but it wasn’t until the mid 80s that I got my first multitrack cassette machine. That’s when the journey really started.

How long did it take you to go from playing the notes to playing music?

The real epiphany, and something that still blows me away, was when I realized that there was such a thing as improvisation – making it up as you go. My first lessons dealt with reading notes and basic chords. The first garage bands we mostly learned covers from sheet music. It wasn’t until I’d played in kid bands for a year or two that I figured out it was possible to play stuff that came out of your head. It would have really been great had some of my early “teachers” pointed this out.

How did you matriculate so quickly to playing with such big names as Willie Nelson and Conway Twitty?

From about age 12 I started making money playing so I was never required to go out and get an after-school job. I played all the time. We lived in Texas when I was in high school and the liquor laws were such that kids could get into bars to play but, of course, not drink, so I was playing in clubs when I was 15.

Back then (early 70s) you could work a lot and meet a lot of people. All through high school my usual schedule was six nights a week in a club, Saturday and Sunday afternoon brunch gigs, and sometimes doing recording sessions when I could squeeze them in. This was playing all kinds of music.

There were a lot of booking agents back then and my name got around as being a good utility player. I could walk into almost any situation and quickly start making music. Booking agents liked to have guys like that on call. I’ve never been a stellar player or any sort of star but I do try to make everyone sound good. The gigs with the “big names” were just like all the other work I was doing at the time – learn the tunes, do the shows.

Were you primarily a road or studio musician for the big names you played with?

For some reason that I can’t recall, my real desire back then was to play live. This was before recording gear was easy to get so there wasn’t the opportunity to record near as much as there is today. I was only vaguely aware of that part of the industry and it didn’t seem like that was where the action was.

Who did you like playing with most and why?

Music became a full time job when I finally got out of high school. I was playing for an Elvis impersonator in a pretty big backing band. Two shows a night plus dance sets. There was tremendous pressure to learn complex charts very quickly, to always be professional, and to always make the “star” look great. The people I was playing with had a lot of experience and were very, very knowledgeable about that sort of thing. The learning curve was very steep but it was really satisfying. That’s where I learned to cut through the BS and deliver.

Did playing in support roles help or hinder your creativity and the development of your own style?

When I play solo I still fall into a mode of trying to deliver a structured show and not attracting too much attention. I’m still trying to accompany someone and in that role I sometimes forget to put my own personality into it. There’s no question that everyone has a personal style but the real trick is letting it out and sharing it.

How long have you spent on the road?

Off and on perhaps 10 years. I still travel a little but am usually home every night.

Are you considering a tour?

Not at this time. Really trying to release more music.

Do you have any new musical goals, pursuits or interests?

Still trying to get better at the solo stuff. I’d also really like to improve my show, make it more entertaining, more smiling and personality.

What motivates you musically?

It still gravitate to playing for crowds. I’m not outgoing at all but I have some inexplicable drive to put music out to a big room full of people.

Where do your fresh ideas come from?

The really good ones just hit you out of nowhere. It’s a race to get them down before they pass on by. It takes a lot of time to work out the stale ideas.

How many original songs do you have in your repertoire?

I don’t do any covers any more. Solo guitar, especially blues with a lot of improvisation, is an endless list of ideas that are at different stages of being usable.

Do you play the other instruments on your recordings or are you strictly a guitarist?

I played bass and keyboards on both Hand Picked and Long Ride Home.

Do you typically market yourself as a solo act or do you play with others just as well?

A solo act is much more agile. It’s also a lot more scary but I’m getting a lot of satisfaction from it at the moment.

Do you have a band or do you have aspirations of putting one together?

There are people I play with regularly, very good players, but nothing is formal. It is very hard to find the time to do the rehearsals and build a show.

Are you shy about singing or just prefer being an instrumentalist?

Most folks prefer that I don’t sing.

Did you ever try writing lyrics?

Traditional blues lyrics are clever and funny and I’m really entertained by that. I’ve dabbled but since I don’t sing it’s hard to go too far with it.

All About Jazz

A man and his guitar. If one were to summarize the theme of this delicately crafted instrumental album, those would be the only words necessary. After all, nothing is spoken between Pacific Northwest musician John Williams (not to be confused with the legendary film composer) and his guitar; however, there are emotions expressed between them, an intimate conversation that is expressed with each warm pluck of the string. This is a record that can be savored in two different ways. Artists will be able to relate to the wordless give and take between Williams and his instrument. Williams has presented to the public what is often hidden from public view, a private, often introspective session between a man and his guitar. Williams plays the guitar without any acknowledgement of the outside world; he is baring his soul, letting his feelings guide his hands, oblivious to time. Aside from the propulsive riffs of the first track, "Strait," there are no easy, repetitive hooks on this album; it exists as a mood piece, one that should be experienced from beginning to end. In that regard, fellow guitarists will find much to relate to as Williams captures their own personal moments with the guitar, alone and away from the pummeling noise of everyday life.

On the other hand, for non-musicians Williams' work here can be appreciated as a therapy piece or as a soundtrack to the tranquility of outdoor living. The lush playing on "Brown Island" and "Shaw Island" is hypnotic and soothing. Williams is reaching into the deepest recesses of the heart, conveying not just love but a sense of inner peace. To call this New Age might seem inaccurate because of how that genre is normally viewed as cold and soulless; nevertheless, Williams' compositions create that level of relaxed spirit that it is supposed to achieve.

That Williams is based in Washington State is no surprise. The overcast shades of "Wasp Passage" reflects the state's rainy clouds, and images of the ocean and water in general are what the imagination consistently triggers as the record unfolds. The meditative "Speiden" is among the highlights contained within, a relatively long, epic journey that is awash in various shifts of tone. Williams describes this music as "Quiet Guitar," but there's no denying the weight of emotions that is carried by this fragile beauty.

Misc. Reviews

"Finally an artist who can play the guitar, the way it was meant to be played" --Airomee Wind-- – Airomee Wind

"Finally an artist who can play the guitar, the way it was meant to be played"

Great Acoustic Instrumental Blues – Amazon.com Ija Huizinga (The Netherlands)

This instrumental blues fingerpicking CD from John Williams (not the classical guitar master with the same name), is very good, and some of the songs are in the same style as the great fingerpicker, Tommy Emmanuel.

Only too bad that the CD is only 31 min , and there is no cover. But a CD like this is rare,and a must for the acoustic blues fan.

Reviews – CDBaby

Anyway, just wanted to drop you a line that I got your album and it's great. All these years working in entertainment has made it so easy to cut through all the bullsh- that's out there, it's nice to hear real players.

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Absolutely brilliant guitar playing by the way!

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Wow!

I'm a man of few words...

That word almost describes how impressed I am with your CD. All the blues tunes are so well done, but track 7 just absolutely blows me away!

Do you have any of these songs tabbed out? Will you adopt me? I would love to learn to play like you...

Thanks, John for some absolutely wonderful tuneage.

John Chamberlain

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The stuff you are doing is really incredible. I remember hearing read Keith Richards say the first time he heard Robert Johnson he thought there were two guitars and only afterwards he knew it was just one doing the rhythm and the licks altogether.

Well, it happened the same to me when I heard your music.

David Cifuentes

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Thank you for posting this to the UK and after a quick listen to a few tracks before work today, it sounds like it's going to be on my CD player a lot!

Best regards,

John Loader

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