1958-1968Born, ate, grew, ate some more.
1968-1970Got a hand-me-down guitar from my brother and started noodling.
1970-1977Discovered Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Albert King, and Johnny Winter. WOAH!! Also got my first Fender and began to woodshed and eat. My neighbor Wilf Warkentin, who played way better than me, drug me down the rock-'n'-roll path of least resistance. Played in local bands together while still having our country records at the bottom of our rock & blues stack. After we got our driver's licenses, we hardly saw each other anymore. I continued to be hired and fired many times while still noodling and knowing it all at such a young age.
1977-1985Ran out of places to noodle in British Columbia, Canada, and relocated to Edmonton, Alberta. Once there and after lots of car trouble and nowhere to live but the car, I hooked up with a trio named 'Picker', headed by drummer /singer Gordon Green, for three years trying to learn how to sing and play at the same time.
Joined the Prairie Fire Band (a 5-piece hard core traditional Country and Western Swing band) with steel guitarist Dick Kruger in '81 for a couple of years, gathering TV and recording experience while studying under Big George Moody (my first live hero). Then entered Danny Hooper and Country Spunk with fiddle phenomenon Calvin Vollrath for another couple of years of hardcoredom. These two bands are where I think I learned a lot of music and business from two of the best band leaders in Canada.
1986-1990I decided to go to Nashville via California, assuming everybody in Edmonton was sick of my noodling and the U.S. hadn't heard of me yet (hopeful). My first stop was in Redding, CA, at the Saddle Horn Club with Johnny Roberts for a 1-month engagement that ended suddenly with my leaving town in the middle of the night.
Landed a gig with Don Cox and the Cowtown Band featuring steel guitarist Bobby Black (WOW!) in San José where Don told me that he had had some ugly guitar players in his 20 years at that club, but I was the best of the truck driver lookin' ones.
Six months later I moved to Santa Cruz to work with Ginny Mitchell in her trio for the summer (two guitars and bass) doing country, bluegrass, and swing. That was a blast!
Tired of being a noodling beach bum, I headed south to L.A. where I played seven nights a week in Huntington Beach with Chad Watson, Mike Thomas, and Alan Rich (Charlie's boy), met hundreds of new pickers, got my ass kicked by thousands of guitar players, it was wonderful. There I listened as much as I played. The L.A. music scene at that time was a great and exciting learning time for me. I got to experience country, blues, rockabilly, swing, and jazz like I'd never heard or seen before. I was lucky enough to get to play on many demos and recordings of everything but jazz; I still get a headache when I try to figure that stuff out. I even considered giving up food for music - there was so much variety there.
After ODing on L.A. I decided Nashville was my next move, knowing they fully needed another noodler with a Telecaster. So I stopped in San Angelo, TX, to visit Lynn Massey, former drummer of Red Steagall's band, whom I'd met in Calgary 10 years earlier. He just happened to need a guitar player for a couple of months, so we kicked around Texas for the winter. His band later became Neil McCoy's band and still is today.
1990-1997I got to Nashville in November '90, did sub work and fill-ins around town and surrounding areas 'til March. Had a house gig fall through in January so I was broke and ready to leave town already. I would go to clubs every night and sit in if they'd let me. I wound up getting more fill-in work until I was offered a job at the Stage Coach Lounge on Murfreesboro Road with the Don Kelley Band which turned out to be a springboard for many premiere guitarists in Nashville, such as Brent Mason, Sid Hudson, Danny Parks, Troy Lancaster, Walter Garland, etc. So for me at the time I didn't know that I would be the one to break the springboard! Oops, the club closed four years later. When Don would pay me at the end of the week, he would say "Here, go buy you a tone!" Needless to say this is where I learned how to pawnshop for new and exciting gear. Don Kelley is the best band leader Nashville has ever known. Being a great player himself, he always let the guitarist in his band go nuts within reason, his. After I left his band, he must have got his stride back 'cause he's got the great Johnny Hiland pickin' with him.
While in his band, Clinton Gregory, his fiddle player, scored a deal with Step One Records and hit the road 340 days a year with me for two and a half years. He did plenty of TV work for TNN at the time and he was sort of an underdog in the industry being as successful as he was and being on an independent label.
From then on, it was back to the clubs subbing and filling in for different folks with the odd week out of town here and there. A few years later, Don had moved to a club down on Broadway called 'Robert's Western World' six nights a week, so I went back to work with him, doing showcases and demos during the day, teaching, fixing guitars, and building pedal boards for friends around town.
1997-2000One day the phone rang and Merle Haggard wanted to know if I was interested in working with him. I hesitated, because of the "Roberts" gig, for 3/10ths of a second. I had jammed with and got to know some of the guys in his band. So when Joe Manuel left to go with Lee Anne Womack, Merle asked the band who they wanted on guitar, five out of eight said me, so I am still getting even with the other three.
Lucky for me Don said I could do both gigs until it got too hectic (pretty accommodating fella). So I did and had Johnny Hiland fill in as much as he could for me while gone. Later that fall, a tornado came through downtown and cleaned off Johnny's house gig, The Turf Club across the street. At that point, I was gone enough and Johnny needed a steady gig, and I think he's still playing there with Don.
2000-2002After not listening to commercial radio anymore for the last two years, I was asked when I moved to Austin, TX in an interview what had brought me to Austin. All I could say was "Nashville." I'd always enjoyed the live music scene in Austin, especially the variety: country, blues, swing, jazz, tejano, salsa, and everything else you can think of. At that point I had enough of the pop bubble gum music that I hadn't cared for the first time around, being played on the radio and in all the studios. The crowds in Austin seem to accept people for their musical ability more than their clothes or lack of, hair or lack of, cowboy hats or lack of.
So now I live in south Austin, play a few nights a week with my own band where I can noodle to my heart's content, within reason, mine. Play with Merle Haggard, around a hundred days a year, give or take a few, until he hangs it up or runs me off.
2002-presentWell all things good & shiny sometimes tarnish, fade, and lose their luster, then come to an end, bands, marriages ya ya ya . . . but since I got here to Austin in 2000, I've been playing in clubs around town, with my own little band and some others, doing some recording and Tv work as well, and periodicly flying to Nashville to record, doing some guitar clinics here and there. Mostly I've got to play with some fantastic players, live and on digital tape here in Texas. I jammed with some great players too. There's alot of great music right here in Texas, I just wish I'd come here sooner! Check out my ' News & Pig Tales' page!
Bye for now, this isn't all (I hope)
Here's a list of people I've played with, jammed with, sat in with, recorded with, or backed up in one form or another:
Starting in Canada as a teen:
Leroy Van Dyke
When I moved to the States in 1986 I did it with these people (you know what I mean):
Rex Allen Jr
Sneaky Pete Kleinow
Joe & Rose Lee Maphis
Hank Williams III
Asleep @ the Wheel
Harry Dean Stanton