JOHN GARCIA

John, how do you describe your philosophy for the blues music?

To me, it’s a way of life and a feeling from deep down inside , to be honest and true to one’s self.

What characterizes the sound of John Garcia?

My sound comes from the feel and spirit of the music from the 60’s and 70’s, the people that I used to see perform and play their music, like B. B. King, John Lee Hooker, Paul Butterfield, Freddy King, Jimmy Reed, Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, Magic Sam, the Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Musselwhite, Santana, and many more. This was the music of the San Francisco Bay Area when I was growing up and learning to play.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

I think all the di8fferent periods have been interesting. Life is full of surprises, both good and bad. We’re always learning new things and growing from these experiences.

How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?

Well, where I live, here in the Bay Area, there’s not as many great venues to play and perform. Also, the number of bands exceeds the number of places to play, so you have to travel outside of the area or state to play. It’s much harder to get a record deal from a major label. That’s why there are so many independent record labels now. It seems blues is more popular in Europe and abroad than it is here in the United States. It’s always been that way!

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

I’ve had many great ones. The one that comes to mind is playing Carnegie Hall in 1979. “Boogie and Blues” was the title. Performing with Clifton Chenier, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Honey Boy Edwards, Walter Horton, Sunnyland Slim, and John Lee Hooker and the Coast to Coast Blues Band. It was a night I’ll always remember. I met Paul Simon that night and was hired for a recording session. But the highlight for me, most of all, was jamming the blues in the dressing room with Walter Horton. I was in heaven. Just him and I. I was playing with a living legend of the blues and a hero of mine.

What do you think is the main characteristic of your personality that made you a blues musician and teacher?

I’ve always been a creative type person when it comes to music and art. I used to draw and paint a little. If I got into something, I had to get into it all the way. Blues music grabbed me and I’ve been hooked ever since.

What does the BLUES mean to you & what does it offer you?

The blues to me is a feeling! A state of mind. It offers me peace and much joy. A natural and honest way to create and communicate.

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD blues musician?

All experiences! Both good and bad, that’s what life is all about and the blues. It molds you into the player you are or become.

Are there any memories from John lee Hooker, B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Albert King and many more, which you’d like to share with us?

There are many, but what stands out the most for me is all their generosity and encouragement toward me and my growth as a musician. I remember once Albert King invited me to the bandstand when he was playing the Keystone Korner in Palo Alto, California. It was an honor to be able to perform with him in concert. I was humbled that he would allow me to play with him. B. B. King was the same way. The first jam session I ever went to was at the Fillmore in San Francisco in the late 60’s. It was a Tuesday night and B. B. was hosting it. Wow. I didn’t even have a guitar with me, but someone there let me use their guitar, and B. B. let me go on stage too and play with him. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t sleep for a week after that.

Why did you think that the blues continued to generate such a devoted following? Give one wish for the BLUES.

The blues is a feel good music. It tells stories of everyday life. People relate to that and always will. I hope the blues will continue to captivate the hearts of both young and old.

What is the “thing” you miss most from the 70s?

I miss the free spirit feeling of making music. It was about the music, not the money. People were creating something. They were in the moment and having fun while they were doing it from the heart!

Which memory from your first years with the blues makes you smile?

In my early years all I had was recordings to listen to by the blues greats. I was buying music whenever I could. That you could say made me smile, but I would have to say it was my first real blues concert I ever went to. It was John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed. A double bill at the San Jose Civic Auditorium in San Jose, California. My first real blues experience. I was hooked after that.

From whom have you learned the most about blues music..and the “blues life”?

John Lee Hooker! He introduced me to all the players and the real world of the blues. Through him I was able to meet and play with many of the greats — Bo Diddley, B. B. King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, Albert King, James Cotton, Luther Tucker, Mel Brown, Otis Rush, Bobbie Raitt, Paul Butterfield, and of course, many more. When you tour the Chitlin’ Circuit, you learn the true blues life.

What is the best advice a bluesman ever gave you?

Be yourself and play from the heart.

Are there any memories from gigs and jams, which you’d like to share with us?

The first gig I played with John Lee Hooker was at the Keystone Korner in Berkeley, California. It was amazing. It was for teh Hell’s Angels. They had Elvin Bishop and the Tower of Power horn section with John Mayall who played with us. For my first gig with John, it was hard to believe. Getting to play with John Mayall was very exciting because I was buying his records and was a fan.

My fondest memory was getting to play in 1977 at the Blues Festival in Mexico with Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-Stars, featuring Jimmy Rodgers, Walter Horton, Lefthand Frank, S. P. Leary, Billy Branch, Sunnyland Slim, and John Lee Hooker and the Coast to Coast Blues Band. It was h=eld in Mexico City, October 12, 13, 14, and 15th, 1977.

Do you think the younger generations are interested in the blues?

Yes, I do. I see a lot of younger kids coming up who are interested in blues and jazz music and who want that feeling of the music that was happening in the 60’s and 70’s. The spirit and the freedom to create.

What advice would you give to one anonymous young blues musician?

Play because you love it. Let it be from the heart. Not for money, fame, or the ladies. The other stuff doesn’t last.

Who would want to be your disciple and who make to you a workshop?

Not sure what you were asking on this question?

What difference has a self-taught by one who has studied music? How easy is it to learn blues from the books?

You can be self-taught and then study by books and school. That’s how I started. I play by ear and learned from records. then as time went on, I wanted to know more. Knowledge can be a good thing, but you still need that street sense of music which you can’t get from books. I guess I’m trying to say if you just studied from books you lose the essence of playing blues from teh heart, feeling the music from your heart cannot be taught in books.

I wonder if you could tell me a few things about your experience with the School of the Blues?

The School of the Blues is a great experience for me because I love to teach and share my knowledge with others. It’s a way of giving back. Also, if I stay a student myself, it helps me to grow as a person and as a musician. There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve yourself.