Dateline 1969-70, Cleveland, Ohio - I have pictures of myself somewhere playing my Dad’s guitar

while sitting on his knee.  Looks like I am about 8 years old, but it’s hard to tell. I was a big kid.   

When I was 10 when I got MY first guitar.  A Kingston.  Then it was plugging that Kingston into the

family stereo, a Zenith console, and marveling at the strange sounds I could make.  I was taking

lessons too, but they conflicted with basketball practice.  It wasn’t the teacher’s fault that I quit....

the lessons.

    Then it was the string bass in the Jr. High orchestra (a cute female classmate violinist inspired

me).... along with playing bass guitar - a Cobra with plastic icicles scotch taped on the tuning pegs

to make it look kind of sinister (like I was in Kiss or something).  My first band  wore hats that looked

like Chairman Mao’s along with polyester dress shirts and platform shoes.  We called ourselves

Abednego (I know the biblical reference is odd against the Kiss thing), and our first gig was a 

Bar-mitzvah.  In Fort Wayne,  Indiana, no less. (Where my family had moved in the early 70’s)

    Somewhere in there I went back to my Dad’s guitar and started “figuring out” Rolling Stones

songs from the same Zenith.  I started playing in a church folk group, guitar and vocals. 

I discovered Simon and Garfunkel.  Then it was Jimi Hendrix and Andres Segovia simultaneously,

and there you have the root of my neuroses.  

    Then it was college, Indiana University, a degree in Music Therapy which I practiced for more

than 10 years along with clinical social work in Denver, Colorado then back to Cleveland.  The

degree entailed studies in classical guitar, and that led to writing my own compositions as well. 

I fell in love with a classmate who was a tremendous banjo player as well as fellow guitarist. 

She broke my heart, and I left classical music.  More neuroses.

    I “experimented” with all kinds of styles...rock, jazz, show tunes (“JC Superstar” was a favorite),

fusion, reggae, R&B, pop-rock, Motown.  I was the “hired gun” lead guitarist, playing mostly electric

but starting to dabble in acoustic music.  Discovered Michael Hedges in there along with Shawn

Colvin, and I started turning in that direction.  Some hybrid of acoustic/electric....rural/urban. 

Looking for some balance.

    Moved to Missoula, Montana in the early 90’s with my former wife Beth and turned to music

full time after the death of my father reminded me how short life is.  I’ve released 5 albums -

“This Year”, “Part of the Picture”, “The Dance of Apollo”, “In This Place” and “December’s Quiet

Joy.”  Performed all over the Western region, mostly in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest. 

All of this got me out in front.  Not just as a guitarist but as vocalist and lyricist.  For the most part

I’ve been a soloist over these years in Montana, but I also perform with other combinations.

    So what does it all sound like?  I’ve always thought this review summed it up nicely -

    “Blending an aggressive and percussive accompaniment with adventurous melodic

guitar playing, John combines instrumental pieces with vocal tunes featuring his strong, blues

inflected singing. Lyrically, his songs are often “slice of life” stories; some autobiographical,

some slightly less than fictitious, some free-associations from the subconscious.”

    I write my own material, but I also love interpreting the work of others, be they Ben Harper,

Lyle Lovett, Patty Larkin, Robert old folk tune from England of centuries ago....

a jazz standard.....maybe a song by one of my peers from Missoula.  It’s an attempt to honor

other writers as well as a chance to try the music on for size.

    I’m still searching for the balance....something that musically hits on many levels.  Big Sky

of Montana meets the Rust Belt of Cleveland.  Acoustic/Electric, Masculine/Feminine,

Rural/Urban.....I turned 50 in 2012.  The music I make will be from that place. It will be adult,

but not without adventure.  I love subtlety, but I also love energy.  They’re not mutually exclusive.

It’s still an interesting journey for me.  It’s still inspiring.  It’s still a fun ride.  Jump in and come

with me.

Also -

    I produce programs for Montana Public Radio, Musician’s Spotlight with Brian Kopper as

well as Friday Morning Freeforms.

    I still sometimes produce concerts for other artists and used to be the concert coordinator

for the Missoula Folklore Society.

     I enjoy micro brewed beer, mountain biking, well made espresso drinks, my VW Eurovan,

the breakfast burrito at the Hob Nob, The Tudors, Ivan Doig, fishing, Annie Prioux, The NFL

network, Bjork, Tori Amos, Cleveland sports teams, hot tubs, James Lee Burke, hammocks,

Star Trek (no I don’t dress up), Salma Hayek.....(though my all time movie star girlfriend is

Amy Irving)

     Guilty pleasures - Old school John Denver, the soundtrack from Bambi.  Early Jackson 5.

     I used high school football (still dream about it all the time).......throw the shot

put.......get arrested ( was a long, stupid story involving walking around my old high

school late at night with my buddy Mike......sober no less) able to speak Spanish pretty well. 

Photo by Tony Rizuto


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