Gary Lucas: Ignoring Genre Divisions

Beginnings



Gary Lucas
Interview Excerpt #2


FRANK J. OTERI: Now you’ve been playing music pretty much since the 1960s…

GARY LUCAS: Yeah, the first time I picked up a guitar was at the age of 9 which was 1961 – well that blows it – I just had a birthday, you can work it out.

FRANK J. OTERI: (laughs)

GARY LUCAS: My father came to me and said, “How’d you like to play the guitar, Gary.” I never had any notion of playing anything so he put the bug in my ear, and I thought, ok that sounds like a good idea, so he arranged for me to take guitar lessons which lasted all of about three to four weeks. I was hopeless. They had rented me a practice guitar, which the strings were about 11/2 inches off the fret board, so physically it was very painful to try to grapple this thing. At the same time I had taken an aptitude test at elementary school, a music aptitude test, and I had scored a perfect score 100 on this test, so the band leader in this school decided that I was therefore a natural candidate for the French horn which was absurd because as you can see I barely have an upper lip, so I couldn’t really develop a great embouchure on this instrument. It is very difficult with the intonation being what it is to play the French horn. Nevertheless within a week of taking guitar lessons I also started taking French horn lessons to play in the school band. So that immersed me in music. Prior to that I spent years sitting in a rocking chair in the basement of my father’s house listening to Top 40 radio and bit of the FM radio of the times, so I soaked up a tremendous amount of music that way.

FRANK J. OTERI: What was the first stuff that excited you musically.

GARY LUCAS: Oh, Duane Eddy, Dance with the Guitar Man. That was the first album I remember purchasing. I definitely aspired to learn to play that on the guitar, as well as the theme from Peter Gunn. That really turned me on. And I loved Tchaikovsky‘s 1812 Overture, the sound track to Peter Pan with Mary Martin, my parents had lots of Broadway show tunes playing in the house in the ’50′s when I was growing up. As well as a lot of light, easy listening albums of the day.

FRANK J. OTERI: Although in the ’50′s a lot of that easy listening stuff was really not so “easy”…

GARY LUCAS: Now it’s contemporary…

FRANK J. OTERI: Les Baxter and Esquivel did some pretty out there stuff…

GARY LUCAS: I liked that stuff. I’d go to my neighbor’s. I had these friends who lived in Syracuse, and they had quite a bit of what’s now called “lounge music.” I thought it was terrific.

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