The year 2012 was a year of transition for me, especially in my career. There are things that I had planned that had to get put on the “back burner” because other things were more important, such as my relationship with FMIC (Fender) or as a lot of you know, Guild Guitars. I recently went back to the factory in December to play for the employees there. It was right after the tragedy at New Town only a short distance away. I prayed that God would use me to restore hope and cheer to the folks there. I believe He did! I’ve found a wonderful family and a great opportunity to see such a beautiful name in the guitar world be raised to new heights. Guild. It is truly a wonderful guitar company with quality instruments made by caring hands, and I’ve seen this First-Hand.
May 15, 2013
April 13, 2013
Hello, Everyone! I just got back from Texas where I played at several places including Del Way’s place in Kerrville. Del is working on a new CD and asked if I’d play on a couple of things. This is going to be a really great CD from one of my favorite folks. I encourage you to keep in touch with the news on his site at delway.org.
I also spent several days in Austin working on my new Christmas CD “The Lights of Christmas” which will come out later this year. I had the opportunity once again to see my friend Eric Johnson before he left for his European tour and he allowed me to come and record there again. Kelly Donnelly, his engineer is one of the best I’ve worked with. He really knows how to capture my sound and tone. This CD is hopefully one of my best works yet and I’m super excited about this. I’ve put it on the back burner for years. Now is the time. I’m also going to release a compilation set of all of my original songs I’ve recorded from 1995 to 2005. I’ll also keep you posted on the release of this project.
Today, I am privileged to say that I’ve just come into an agreement with a new manager and a new talent agency as well. I’m believing for some great new doors to come open from this and I really hope I can reach more people in these next few years. This is a great thing for me. I hope you’ll understand that in all the years of my involvement in the music business, I’ve never had a manager or an agent. However, I’ve worked with a few down the line and my family has been a big help as well as my friend Mike Robertson. This is something I’ve prayed for a long time. I’m happy! I will post more news and some pics on this very soon.
I used my new signature Guild, my Kirk Sand, my F-212 twelve string and a 1961 Guild Starfire on these last sessions. I’ll never be as good as any one of those guitars and will never be able to exhaust all the good out of even one of them. I’m sure having fun trying. I hope to see you all soon. Please keep up with me on Twitter and Face Book as well as this website. I’m going to keep in touch more. You do the same.
April 10, 2013
April 8, 2013
Harvey Simmons was an inspiration, an encouragement and a friend to my family and me for as long as I can remember. Having Harvey in our lives was more than just an acquaintance but a true blessing. He loved the Lord, his family and his friends. He had warmth, personality and a lot of talent.
I don’t know of anyone else who could give you a great haircut and then sit down and give you a guitar lesson or play your favorite Chet Atkins tune on his beautiful orange Gretsch guitar. And then if you wanted, he could take your photo as good as any photographer. Harvey made me want to play the guitar better and he always made me feel my music had value. I only dreamed of owning an orange 6120 Gretsch Chet Atkins model guitar like Harvey’s until one day he gave me that very guitar. The guitar I now call Harvey will always be in my possession, and I will use this guitar on my new Christmas CD in his honor.
We love you Harvey Simmons! You just can’t even say that name without a smile.
In loving memory….
March 11, 2013
I can hardly believe that Spring is in the air already. I’ve had a marvelous winter, and I hope you have as well. I just finished a run out to CA this past week. It was great to be with my friend, Pastor Greg Laurie, at Harvest once again. It was also a privilege to take him and five of his worship leaders to tour the Fender Guitar factory last Monday. Greg is a guitar player and enthusiast and need I say anything about the boys he brought along with him. We had a jam session at the visitor’s center. What a great day!
I also had a recording session at my friend Aspen Pittman’s studio in San Fernando, CA. Aspen started a company years ago called Groove Tubes and has been famous for hand-built and choice amplifier tubes as well as microphones and recording equipment for years. Fender now owns the tube division and Aspen has switched gears and built a really nice studio there at his facility. I finally started on my Christmas CD that will be released, of course, later this year. I was also privileged to have producer Michael Lloyd to help produce and record the session. Our friends, Johnny and Nancy Tillotson, also came by and Johnny did a ‘cameo’ singing line on my new song “Christmas at Knebworth (with you)” which will also be on the album. I also recorded some great old Christmas standards with Aspen and his engineer Brian Ascenzo. What a great time and fantastic ‘kick-off’ for my new project.
I am also in the middle of another CD project that will have a lot of tunes that I’ve done on stage but never recorded as well as some new originals. I have my work cut out for me and soon will be traveling all over America and Europe, so be sure to come out when I’m in your area.
Recently I picked up a 1963 Fender Jazzmaster from my ole buddy Kelly Barber in Hawkins Texas at Action Sound. These old guitars have a magic about them that really makes you feel at home when they’re in your hands. I’ve found this to be a wonderful guitar for jazz, Chet and Merle style fingerpicking and even some neo/classical and pianoesque style music. I played it in front of Fender’s CEO Larry Thomas and Fender’s guitar guru Chris Fleming and both loved the sound of this guitar for fingerstyle picking. It’s amazing to see how an electric guitar also really does “Bridge the Gap.” By the way, my new signature Guild guitar was also so good in the studio I didn’t really want to leave the place. I also used my Guild 12 string and my Fender Jazzmaster. I will be using other guitars that I’ll talk about in the future if you like. My Sand guitar is especially great on Christmas music. My son Caleb and I are going to the Guild factory in a couple of days to discuss a couple of more new guitar ideas. Sorry, but I could go on for hours on guitar-talk.
I encourage you to record your music if you’re a player and if not… go write something and try your skills to express your feelings on pen and paper. Perhaps even write someone a letter. Someone once said to me…well, what good is writing a letter? Anyone who has studied or even just read the Bible will see how it’s made up of letters to people. I believe these letters are Divinely Inspired. Paul wrote to Timothy in First Timothy 1:6 to “stir up the gift that is within you!” A couple of translations even say to “Fan the Flame.” Sometimes doing something different or even playing something different or someplace different will do this. People ask me all the time how I keep things fresh in my music and repertoire. I always keep something burning. Whether it be on the front burner or the back burner, I’ve found you should always keep a project in your midst to work on. I also continue to play in front of live audiences. Some people I’ve seen seclude themselves into a studio and choose not to perform in public. It all gets a little weird to me. We lose track of ourselves… and especially others.
So there’s my message. Once again, go out and use your gifts and Keep the fire burning!
Best Wishes for a great Spring!
February 1, 2013
Hi everyone! In my last blog I said that I believe this year is going to be a great year. I hope it is for you thus far, and I’ll have to say it’s already a fantastic beginning for me as well!
Last week the NAMM show was held once again in Anaheim, CA, and the crowds were huge each day of the event. I see an upswing in things as people seem to be getting out and making things happen in such a day as this. This is the way we can break out of bad to good and it all starts with you and me.
I was told by the FMIC (Fender Musical Instruments Corporation) people that my new signature Guild guitar is now number ONE in sales for Guild! We also introduced my guitar in a beautiful sunburst in maple as well as a rosewood model. I also met with the FMIC accessories guys and we’re planning on some new products that I’m totally blown away with. I give all the credit to God as I believe this is His blessing that has brought these things, and with this, He has used some fine folks along the way. I am so appreciative to Larry Thomas (CEO FMIC) and Ren Ferguson for making this happen in such a short time. You’d think we’d worked together for 20 years when you see the guitars. Ren also designed a new series of Guild guitars called the Orpheum collection. These guitars look and sound like they’re from the 1940s era. I also appreciate Chris Fleming for working with me on my Guild and Fender Electrics. Then there’s the Gretsch guitars… I’m a bit overwhelmed! (In a really good way!)
I saw some great pickers at NAMM and had nice conversations with Andy Timmons, John 5, Warren DeMartini, Paul Clark, David Pack, Albert Lee and a host of others. It’s truly amazing how music brings so many musicians together no matter what genre they’re in or culture they come from. God gave us the gift of music and it’s exciting to see how He chooses to work through it even though some may not recognize that. I think deep inside most musicians are spiritual people, and they connect when they feel something special. I always pray that God will send the Holy Spirit to touch and do more than I could ever do with or without a guitar in my hands. Even when I play a song like the U2 medley or Classical Gas, I can feel something special going on, and for that I give credit to the one who gives us the gift of life and music.
The Crooner Johnny Tillotson, producer Michael Lloyd, my UK and NAMM board member Robert Wilson, Thilo Kramny (German fellow mentioned in Lights of Marfa book) and their families all came out to NAMM, and we went to dinner. I also invited my friend Paul Almquist and his drummer Mark from Tucson and some other friends came along as well, some from the film industry as well as the music business. The highlight of all this was when Johnny Tillotson got up on stage with me and sang It Keeps Right On a Hurtin’ and the crowd went wild! Johnny has had numerous hits, and ironically, we share the same hometown of Jacksonville, FL. I remember seeing him when I was a kid on Main Street in Jacksonville in front of a radio station on a flat-bed trailer with a band singing just as he still can. I asked my dad who this man was as I’d never seen anything that amazing before. He exclaimed, ”Well son, that’s Johnny Tillotson, and he’s a big star now and comes from right here in Jacksonville!” I never forgot his name or the sound of his voice. Years later I heard him on the theme song for the hit TV show “Gidget”… “Wait ’til you see my Gidget!” What a blessing to get to be friends with him through the years. Johnny still has the charm and the voice, and there are times when God blesses me by bringing someone in like Johnny who can still light up a room. That’s a gift. Whatever yours is, use it this year! Get up somewhere like Johnny did with me… running up onstage right from the escalator and using his God given gift. He didn’t have to do that, but he did. If you do, it will lift you as high as you do the audience, I guarantee you that!
The one thing I’ve learned from all this is that giving up is NOT an option. Keep moving and stretching yourself a little more. I once heard someone say, “If you want to see something you haven’t seen, maybe you need to DO something you haven’t DONE!” So there you go.
January 2, 2013
Happy New Year Everyone!
2013 is going to be a great year! I’m looking forward to some things that I’ve been planning and praying about that I believe will come and some goals I’ve set I believe I’ll make and some things that I haven’t even thought of that are beyond my wildest dreams will also come to pass according to Ephesians 3:20. In fact, look up the Amplified version of that verse, and it’ll all speak for itself and don’t forget verse 21 too.
Reflecting on last year is a good thing for me. I look back at things like our new grandson, Emmitt Gregory Johnson, was born in June, the Audio Book that I had really wanted to see came to pass, my new Guild Signature Guitar (WOW!), I played on the Grand Ole Opry (a couple of times) and went back to Germany with Fender for the Musikmesse, I played a number of events for Guild and for Fender or FMIC which includes many things, I got to travel with my son Caleb, and I had a wonderful Christmas with my family. There were other things that were difficult, like the passing of my mother-in-law Marie Taylor,, and some other close friends who lost their family members. We’ve had sickness in our family and loss and tragedies, especially in our nation, like the shootings that happened in several places, most recently in New Town, CT. There were things that happened that we will never understand. With these recent things in our minds, it’s a little hard to go into a new year and act as though it’s all peachy. But, I believe people will take these things that were negative and turn things around for the better. We don’t know how many plane crashes that Have NOT happened and how many buildings that Didn’t collapse during earthquakes or emergency alerts that saved lives because they learned from disasters before. Let’s reflect on things from our own lives even in 2012 and make it a point to make things better for ourselves and for others. Though we respect and pray for those who enter this year without someone they loved (especially from the shootings), let’s pray for healing and a better year for them, our nation and ourselves. Let’s hope for a better world and a better life for our children and grandchildren. There’s no ‘Fiscal Cliff’ on Faith, Hope and Love… and the greatest thing is, of course, Love. (1st Corinthians 13:13)
This year, I am believing for some of my friends to have better jobs and for God to restore finances, homes and even relationships. People make mistakes. Don’t just forget about it but learn and push through for a better year and a better life than even what you had before. God IS Love and He’s forgiving but don’t use His Grace and Love for an excuse to run off with someone or do something wrong in hopes that your life will change for the better. It won’t. Let’s all make an effort to be our best and do our best, and I believe our goals will be achieved, but even then, they won’t just happen. God blesses those who are Faithful and who Trust in Him. (Psalms 37:3-5)
I’ve also had on my mind today that we should “face our fears” and run at them “head on”. Why? Why not! Fear of failure is the one thing that keeps people from success and blessing. There was a time in my life that every time I got on a plane, I was afraid I’d never see my family again… or actually, they’d never see ME again. I was a white knuckler for sure. So, do you think I just started getting drunk with those little bottles of liquor? No, I had to face my fears and replace it with Faith. I received the Million Miler Award on Delta Airlines this past summer. I still drive a lot, but more often than not, I’m up in the air with my guitars. (1st John 4:18 and 2nd Timothy 1:7). I hope and pray for those who read this who’ve had drug or alcoholic problems that you too will have a complete turn-around this year!
The FMIC family that all started with Larry Thomas have all been wonderful to me. Ren Ferguson, coming on at the same time I did, was like a dream come true! The folks in New Hartford, CT, Corona, CA and Scottsdale, AZ and the DSMs (District Sales Managers) have been incredibly gracious to me. In case any of you are wondering, I’m doing great and very happy. This was a wonderful year and next year will be even greater. Guild is already much stronger and greater than before. I hope I’ve had a little part of that. Also, yes I’m still friends with Bob Taylor and the folks there at Taylor Guitars. This past year I heard things like, ”I bought my Taylor because of You!” Well, that’s nice but I believe folks buy Taylors because they build great guitars too. I continue to wish the best for Bob and the folks. We’ve had lunch this past year and even made contact several times over the holidays. Guitars can last longer than a person’s life but there’s nothing greater than friendships that can MAKE a life. I love and appreciate the man Bob Taylor even more than the guitars with his name on them.
Now, a lot of you folks know me. Some of you that are reading this may have just seen me in an ad or something and are curious. I can get a little preachy but I care for everyone who reads this that they not be offended but rather challenged and be blessed by this. God has a plan for you. (Jeremiah 29:11) We can make plans of our own but God still directs our steps. So this year let’s set our goals, but also let’s just relax, do our best, of course… and follow Him. (Proverbs 16:9)
Happy New Year!
December 5, 2012
Happy Holidays Everyone! What a wonderful time of the year and my very Favorite time of the year! I hope you’re all getting into the Christmas spirit by now and enjoying such a time as this. We have a new grandson, Emmitt, who will be enjoying his first Christmas this year, so we’re gearing up and looking forward to him being with us and the entire family this Christmas.
This past year I started working on a couple of projects that will actually be out next year. I’m working on two different CD projects, and one of them will be a Christmas CD, however I feel next year is the time for this. After recently getting my new Guild signature guitar and a couple of new Starfire electrics and my new Kirk Sand as well as some new vintage amplifiers and Gretsch guitars, I’m delving into these things head on after the first of the year. I do however have a new product that just arrived for this year and I’m so excited.
A number of months ago I flew up to Chicago and read my entire book “The Lights of Marfa” myself for my new audio edition. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this since I realize (like myself) most musicians especially would rather pick up their guitars and play if they have a little time especially after a day’s work and perhaps wouldn’t be as anxious to pick up a book to read. This is precisely what this audio book is about. Although, I really hope to connect more on a personal level with the listener (reader) as I did purposely read the book myself for this reason. I also saw that Rick Warren, President George W. Bush and even Keith Richards read their own books. Keith actually only read some of his but it was more real to me when he did even though one of the readers was Johnny Depp. Johnny was busy shooting a movie and couldn’t read mine so I had to… HA! Only kidding of course, but I do hope this will prove to be a blessing as we all prayerfully and with great effort tried to make this the very best we could. The audio version also contains the bonus DVD that was included in the print version. I’ll have to say that the folks at Moody Publishing in Chicago did a very professional and impressive job on the production of this audio book.
So, with that in mind… I hope you’ll consider buying a few of these for Christmas gifts for your family. Emmitt needs a new rockin’ horse! Alright, I’m kidding again but seriously… I hope this is a blessing to lots of folks. There were a few times while reading the book that I had to pause for a few seconds (or minutes) to regain my composure as these stories are truly close to my heart. Another cool thing is the fact that it was produced at the old original Moody Radio studios built in 1929. I could only imagine the thousands of people who were blessed by the music, the drama stories and sermons that came from that very room where I was doing the reading. I could sense a presence that enabled me to not only carry on through this, but I felt as though I was being annointed to do the job. The Holy Spirit does this, but I could also sense the very souls of the saints who have gone on to heaven in times past who I feel were aware that I was there. I’m not talking of ghosts but very live spirits like Dwight L. Moody himself who in fact was the “Billy Graham” of his day in the 1800′s. I felt very much at home there.
I also played little snippets of songs that precede the chapters and coincide with them. Again, I’m proud of this project and really hope this blesses people all over the world. Please be in agreement with me that it will.
So, for now I’d like to say that I hope this is a great Christmas for you. Although we lost a very close family member (my mother-in-law Marie Taylor), we will celebrate Christ’s birth for the very reason that we believe that she is with Him even now. I hope you too will turn your sadness into Celebration as we indeed celebrate His coming.
*To order the new Audio version of “The Lights of Marfa,” please visit doylestore.com (under Books).