Sunday, October 15, 2006

9 Questions for Richard Gilewitz

Those who enjoy the sound of fingerstyle guitar will want to check out Richard Gilewitz, who plays at Jambalaya Wednesday, Oct. 18.“It’s an unplanned night, no set list,” said Gilewitz calling from Florida before taking off on tour. “The music I play can be anything from ‘Embryonic Journey’ to a prelude by Bach to a John Fahey tune or something I’ve written. I play a little bit of everything in the fingerstyle guitar realm and in between I tell tales of life on the road, talk about origins of tunes or maybe about how I once mailed a fingernail to Leo Kottke.” Gilewitz is currently working on a book for Mel Bay called Nylon to Steel. He wrote another called Fingerstyle Acoustic Guitar Workshop. “It’s basically everything I know, even a chapter on how to deal with the sound man. That’s some of the stuff I’ll do in the workshop.” The workshop he refers to is the following night, Thursday, Oct. 19, from 6-7:30 p.m. at Arcata Music in Sunnybrae. “It will be a combination of me playing, and a Q&A session afterwards; all levels of players are invited,“ said Gilewitz.

We had our own Q&A session via e-mail...

Who are you?

My name is Richard Gilewitz and I have been playing acoustic fingerstyle guitar for 34 years. I have been fortunate to have performed in concert as well as the conducting of seminars in 48 states and 8 countries. I have also released 6 recordings and Fingerstyle Guitar Workshop Books and DVD's for Mel Bay Publications with worldwide distribution. I mention 'fingerstyle' guitar which is another way of saying I DON'T play flatpick style guitar. The pick kept falling in the hole.

Where are from?

I was born in San Diego, CA, grew up in my formative years (I made up the 'grew up' part) in New Jersey, attended high school and college in Alabama and have been a Florida resident since the late 1980's.

What do you do?

I continue to compose for the acoustic 6 and 12 string guitars along with a few other 'toys', record, tour in concert, conduct acoustic guitar camps, conduct music industry sponsored guitar 'music dealer' store events, teach privately, write for the national music publication Singer and Musician magazine, and still dig out music I couldn't play in college to take a fresh 'crack at it'.

Why do you do what you do?

For many years my pat answer was to say "I didn't want a real job". In reality I have begun to realize the absolute absolute! necessity to stay on one's toes, work extremely hard, be creative, and more than anything fight like mad to maintain something along the lines of that passion that made (probably most of us) start playing in the first place.

What are you working on?

I recently compiled my entire repertoire in every tuning for every guitar to determine with the much feared 'metronome' exactly where my tunes 'live'. In other words, having the groove is one thing but having the 'click' is another. This became apparent in recent years as I have had the fortune of playing with tremendous players and the need for them to 'tap in' is crucial for them to be able to become absorbed in the music, have no doubt, release and add the most possible. Additionally I am playing a few old tunes that accidentally got shoved into the attic and working on a few new pieces. Some by J.S. Bach, a couple of refinements of my teacher David Walberts pieces, and conjuring up a new tune or two.

What’s next?

I have an interesting instrument called a Banjitar which is a 6 string Banjo type instrument tuned and played like a guitar. Along with experimentation with that I am seeking out workable tunes with a Breedlove synthesiser guitar to see 'what my work'.

When will you be here?

Solo shows: Oct. 18th - 9pm Jambalaya - concert 707-822-4766

Oct. 19th - 6 pm Arcata Music - guitar seminar 707-822-3531


Chinese zodiac sign: The Boar

Anything else you want to add?

Many years ago I recall working for an agency and I was helping them to book dates for one of my guitar heroes as a youngster, John Fahey. I recall booking him in Eureka/Arcata area somewhere and I remember him thanking me and telling me how much he specifically enjoyed your area. I have always wanted to play there myself and with all the touring I have done for many years this apparently seems to be my first opportunity. Ya never know how the wind blows.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bob Asks - the Uke Man Speaks

Who are you?

I’m “the Ukulele Man,” a tag hung on me 15 years ago by the owner/promoter of Stach’s (now Little Brother’s) *1 (*relates to links at bottom), a revered night club in Columbus, Ohio.

I’m a crusty old bard (61 yrs.) seasoned by Joe McCarthy, the 60’s, and the education wars (31 years in an 8th Grade English class – the last 18 years as local union president too). I write songs and sing them, write poems and speak them, see what’s going down in our country and the world and resist it.

I’m an Ex-Boy Scout, an Ex-Catholic, an Ex-Good Boy – but I’m NOT a “Grumpy Old Man.” “Grumpy” is a constant state. I’m generally a “Sweetie.” It is true, though, that I have no patience with stupid, conniving grown-ups who, for example, still swear Saddam was behind the NYC and Pentagram attacks. I’m an active activist (I’m told that Humboldt County understands that term). And, finally, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!”

Where are you from? (originally/now)

My Mom was from a small town, Chillicothe, Ohio – the first state capital. My Dad was from Kendallville – a small agricultural town in the northern Indiana. I was born and grew up in Columbus – the present capital and hotbed of right-wing/business clap-trap. Twenty-eight years ago, I moved to Circleville (“Home of the Pumpkin Show” ta-daaaa!!! *2) – located south of Columbus and north of Chillicothe – another small town and – it turns out - more politically backward than Columbus – you know: the kind of place where if you ever get to the point where you no longer know what you’re doing, lots of folks can tell you.

Looks like I haven’t gotten too far; but I HAVE traveled – East and West coasts, from New Orleans to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and to Europe twice. Now I’m traveling to California again.

What do you do?

I write songs and sing them, accompanied by my Uke or by my Band, “Ukulele Man & his Prodigal Sons” *3. I write and perform poetry, and sometimes “act.”

I “play out” regularly with the band or solo. All seven of us toured New York *4 and Boston *5; three of us did Santa Cruz *6. We play Festivals*7, clubs, and bars in Central Ohio, and have done our share of benefits. Periodically I get to NYC for the Ukulele Cabaret*8 and for the public-access TV Show “Midnight Ukulele Disco.”*9

I’ve appeared in two films: the short Auraprint *10 playing a gay-porn producer and in the full-length Man of Faith playing Rev. Leroy Jenkins’ degenerate neighbor. I recently performed in a stage production, Dr. Danga Grimaldi’s Exhibition Fantastique, part of the month-long Columbus Fringe Festival.

I’m a member of NION (Not In Our Name), an activist group dedicated to opposing the Bush agenda*11. Besides attending/marching-in various protests in New York City these last six years, I initiated the organization of “Ukuleles for Sanity,”*12 a group who marched together first in the “No RNC” (“No Republican National Convention”) protest (we marched along near the Green Dragon that someone set on fire soon after passing Madison Square Garden and Foxxx News). During that time we also organized and performed “Dubya’s Ukulele Farewell Party”*13. It didn’t work, but we’re still trying.

Having given up on effectively haranguing the local news-rags via “letters,” I’ve started a blog*14 ( and have developed a growing number of readers. Check it out!!

Why do you do what you do?

Because it’s there (to do)? Because I must? There’s some truth in that.

Also, I was a little naïve as a “young person” – remember the “Boy Scout / Good Boy” reference above? Emotionally, I was with the revolution of the 60’s, but didn’t have a clue about how to get involved physically. I’m trying to make up for that.

At the same time, what I “see” (I’d like to say “as an artist”) makes me pretty “far out” in the context of this Midwestern, Red State, Conservative, Republican, Bible-thumping “oasis in a world of sin” that is Ohio.

A fellah has to do SOMETHING to stay sane living in a nuthouse.

What are you working on?

Well, we’re still trying to get rid of Bush, and will be joining with World Can’t Wait and others on October 5 (it’s nationwide) to “Drive Out the Bush Regime.” The point is to organize people around the knowledge that the only way real change will happen is if the People themselves demand it.

Musically, I’ve got most of my tracks laid down for my third CD (all original stuff, as with the first two*15 ). We’re starting to lay down band tracks now.

A poetry book has been in the planning stages – on and off – for a while now too.

And I’m working like crazy going over my set lists for the California trip - and practicing (old guys think they have to do that).

What’s next?

A few days after I get back to Ohio we play the Pumpkin Show – it should be interesting – it’s the centennial year for it. But I guess the next Big thing will be planning a trip to the UK to see some friends and play some music, particularly in Glasgow while visiting Alistair Hulett*16 and the Centre for Political Song.*17

When will you be here? With who?

I’ll be in the area from October 7 through the 10th. I’m playing Six Rivers Brewery October 10, and I’m bringing two Ukuleles with me.

Who's that?

Tentatively it’s a new Ovation “Applause” soprano uke and an old-reliable tenor “Fluke.”

Website? Links?

Please check out my Blog (# 14 below) and any other sites that seem interesting!

1. Little Brothers: 2. Pumpkin Show:
3. Band My Space: 4. NYC – Bowery Poetry Club: 5.Boston Sky Bar: 6. Santa Cruz – Uke Fest West: 7.COMFEST (Community Festival): and Columbus Arts Fest: 8. Ukulele Cabaret: 9. Midnight Ukulele Disco: (may be under renovation)
10. Auraprint: 11. NION: 12. Ukuleles for Sanity: 13. Dubya’s Ukulele Farewell Party: 14. My Blog: 15. CD’s, “SumoNinjaLele” and “Crazy Old World.”: 16. Alistair Hulett: and 17. Centre for Political Song:

Anything else you want to add?

Well, I think I’ve said enough, except for:

I hope everybody comes out to the Six Rivers Brewery on October 10. That’s my one chance to see everyone!!! I understand it’s not a real late evening; so stop by. The Uke and I will be goin’ at it from early to closin’.

Yours - Ukulele Man

p.s. Here’s a short list of my “roots” & “influences”:

Dad, Big Billy Goat Gruff, Mom, Horton, "Hippity Hop Bunny," Captain Video, Howdy Doody, Pinky Lee, Captain Kangaroo, Scrooge McDuck, Sister Ann Mary, Alfred E. Newman, Mark Twain, Li’l Abner, Tarzan, Uncle Vern, Turok Son of Stone, Aunt Sis, Laurel & Hardy, Hank, Sally Flowers, Soupy Sales, The Kingston Trio, The Mouseketeers, Pete Seeger, Little Richard, Ed Sullivan, Elvis, Sherlock Holmes, Chuck Berry, the Plymouth, Honorable Ball Peen Man, Woody Guthrie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Beatles, Edgar Allen Poe, Dylan, "Brown Eyed Girl," Inherit The Wind, Herman’s Hermits, Herman Melville, the DeSoto, the Temple of Psychic Prophecy, The Monkees, the "Jones-Lawrence Memorial Award," Don Quixote, Indian Ike, Twilight Zone, MLK, "The Conqueror Worm," Star Trek, Malcolm X, Robert Frost, Dr. Strangelove, Venice, The Rolling Stones, Fellini, "Ozymandias," Don McLean, Edvard Munch, Animal Farm, Al Crapp, the TR3, Emily Dickinson, Kung Fu, T.S. Elliot, The Crucible, e.e. cummings, Leaves of Grass, Jung, Steven Crane, the Bug, Joe Cocker, Brave New World, Carlos Castenada, "Eldorado," Bob & George, New Orleans, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Kenny Sparky Mona and Ray, John Lennon, Café Du Monde, San Francisco, "The X-Files," Waiting for Godot, Oscar Wilde, the Redwoods, The Simpsons, Manhattan, the Eldorado.

thanks, Bob