Movin' with the times 001a, 50 percent


Movin’ with the times

Published circa 1982

Gilroy’s blues guitarist John Garcia has traveled across the country, been associated with John Lee Hooker, jammed with B.B. King and joined a recording Movin' with the times 001 19.75 size, 1100 px widesession with Paul Simon. Recently, he played at the Garlic Festival, right.

Dick Del and the Deltones may have left little impression on most people who heard them, but they turned John Garcia into a guitarist.

“I don’t even know the song, but the guitar knocked me out and I wanted to learn,” said Garcia, recalling a surfing in­strumental the group recorded. “It was just at the end of the Beach Boys’ era,” said the Gilroy native.

He was 16 or 17 and hadn’t been at all interested in music before. His grand­mother’s efforts to teach him piano had failed. “She came to the house for lessons but the problem was, I never showed up. I was out playing baseball.”

That was his father’s mother, Rose Garcia, the only musical person in his family and a regular entertainer at the Milias Hotel. “She was a real hot boogie-woogie piano player in her time,” he said.

Once heard the record, there was a second musician in the family. Garcia quit piano, picked up a guitar and has been at it ever since.

He taught himself by watching and lis­tening. “I heard some records, liked what I heard and tried to duplicate it,” he said. “I built my ear up so 1 can pick things off records, note for note.”

During live shows and on television, he studied guitarists. “1 watched how they used their hands, how they manipulated the instruments,” he said. “I think I edu­cated myself pretty good without a music conservatory. As long as you get there, there are a lot of different means.”

Known for rhythm and blues, Garcia said he has also played blues, dance blues, jazz and country and western, using both electric and acoustic guitars.

He’s played locally, traveled across the country, been associated with John Lee Hooker, jammed with B.B. King and joined a recording session with Paul Si­mon.

When he played with Hooker’s Coast to Coast Blues Band from late 1976 until early 1980, national and European tours were part of the scene. He’s put a lot of miles on his 1957 Les Paul Gibson guitar.

A bedroom-turned-studio is covered with posters of bands he has heard, places s he has played. “Too many places,” Gar­cia said. After a while, it’s one big blur.”

Gilroy remains home for Garcia, who is divorced and recently engaged. “You have to have roots,” Garcia said. “Musi­cians are stereotyped as nomads, but you can be a musician and a stable person in control of your life.”

It isn’t easy, confronted by the pres­sures and stress of the music business. “Some look for an outlet, an escape,” he said. “They start drinking heavily, using reefers or pills as a way of coping-

“Both the common person and those in the arts have to take hold. “You have the power to control. I feel the mind’s a real strong thing.” Willpower, diligence, and hard work are necessary.

“The music business really fluctuates,” Garcia said. “It’s real good or real poor. No in-between. It takes a certain amount of hustle — definitely — but I like doing it. If not, I’d do something else.”

Not all of the business is corrupt but much of it is, Garcia said. “On the sur­face it is glamorous and pretty looking. You get inside and it’s ugly.”

Because the Top 40 records have such clout, talented musicians often go unheard. “The music doesn’t count, it’s the promotion,” he said. “You could pro­mote a brown paper bag and make it sell.”

The part Garcia likes is being on stage, where he returned for the Garlic Festival after recuperating from surgery to re­move benign cysts from his kidneys.

“I just like to play. If all the notes are coming right, it’s a blast, a natural high. It feels like somebody came and set you up on clouds in the sky.

“What’s even better is to go beyond, where you don’t play, your fingers just go. You don’t think and everything comes out right. I think people watching get the same feeling. You feed from them and they feed from you.”

Playing music, teaching guitar and staying in Gilroy are what Garcia sees for his future. “I just want to keep playing, growing. I want to keep teaching, so kids won’t have to learn what I’ve learned the hard way.”

One of the things he has developed is musical values. “When I first started, I liked playing, but it was really for the pre­stige, for the girls,” he said. Now he sees music as “a spiritual thing.”

He works alone, singing more than he used to, or with his new John Garcia Band that has Al Bishop on drums and Chuck Trujillo on bass.

“I’ve been playing 17 years and right now — I really mean it — I feel I’m just learning to play. I feel like musically I’m starting to blossom. It feels good. All the years I put into it are paying off.”