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Artist of the Month for June 2004: Charles David Alexander

Editor's Note: Charles David Alexander won the 1992 Fingerstyle Championship at the Walnut Valley Festival held at Winfield, Kansas.

Charles David Alexander

Age: 52

Sumner, WA

Home Town:
Scottsville, KY

At what age did you start playing guitar, and what made you decide to start?
I started when I was about 10 or so. I used to watch my dad play guitar and lap guitar. He would have friends over every now and then and they would play music and I would watch and eventually started trying to learn enough to play along with them.

First guitar:
An old f-hole guitar which had strings at least a 1/4 inch off the neck. I don't have any idea who made it.

Early Influences:
Chet Atkins, Duane Eddy, The Ventures.

Tell us about your early playing days. What motivated you? Did you have friends that played?
I find that one of the best ways to learn is to jam with people that are way better than you.

Did you do a lot of jamming when you first started?
At first my dad would show me a chord or two and then I eventually got a Mel Bay chord book. I used to practice the chords and eventually learned enough to get together with a couple of friends and we formed a band. We had a drummer and two guitars. We would practice several times a week. I don't know how our parents survived it. We practiced for about a year before we broke up. I eventually met a neighbor who showed me how to play freight train on the guitar. It turned out that was the only song he could play, but I had never heard anything like it and it opened a whole new way of approaching the guitar for me. After that my dad bought me a Chet Atkins album and I would listen for hours trying to figure out what Chet was doing. This was in the early 1960s and there wasn't much in the way of books to learn from and I didn't have anyone around to show me stuff. I pretty much had to try and take songs off records. Eventually my brother started learning to play drums and we put a band together playing what was considered rock and roll at the time.

First gig:
The band my brother and I had played for high school sock hops.

Acoustic Guitars you own:
I have three acoustic guitars: A Kevin Ryan Mission Grand Concert, a Taylor GA-RS, and a Larrivee mahogany guitar.

Favorite Guitar:
Right now it's hard to say. It depends on whether I am on stage or just playing at home. My Ryan guitar which Kevin made for me back in 1998 is the guitar I play on at home the most. I really like its tone and the way it plays. I plan on using it to record my next CD later this year, however I don't have it set up to use on stage.

On stage, I use my Taylor. It is a cross between the 800 and 900 series. I got the guitar when I was still a clinician for Taylor. Amplified, it is clean, clear and well balanced and sounds fantastic on stage.

Your Style, and how you developed it:
I'm not sure what my style is and I have a hard time describing what I do. What ever it is, developed by trying to learn other artistĒs songs by ear and not being able to get them quite right. Eventually I started developing my own arrangements using techniques I had learned on other songs.

One of the comments I get all the time is how clean and effortlessly I play. I think this came from studying classical guitar a couple of years, and hours and hours of left and right hand exercises and lots of scales.

Practice Regimen:
Now days I don't practice much unless I'm getting ready for a show or to record. Back in the 1970s I practiced about 10-12 hours a day. I first worked on scales for about 3-4 hours, then played through songs that I already knew just so I wouldn't forget them, and then I would start working on new material.

Favorite Artist(s):
My favorite artist for guitar has always been Chet Atkins. Other artists that I find myself listening too a lot are Alison Krauss, James Taylor, Chuck Pyle, and Mark Knopfler.

As a professional, do you have any words of wisdom for folks who might like to try their had at the "Big Leagues"?
Practice and learn everything that interests you. Take what you do and make it yours. Perform anytime you have an opportunity and love what you're doing. There is always plenty of room for new players.

Anything else you would like us to know about you and/or your views on the music industry in general?
When I'm on stage performing I know that's what I'm supposed to be doing. I love being able to touch an audience and share a moment with them. That's what motivates me to practice and learn.

As for the music industry, I think this is a fantastic time to be able to make your own music and share it with the world. With the availability of quality recording gear and the use of the internet, a person or group can record and market their own products, as well as promote and market themselves.

Check out Charles' website.
If you are a guitarist with a cd out and would like to be featured here please contact me.

AOTM Archives:

August 2008 - Danny Combs
March 2006 - Bryan Clark
Februry 2006 - Darin Leong
January 2006 - Andy McKee
December 2005 - Don Alder
November 2005 - Doug Young
October 2005 - Nancy Conescu
August - September 2005 - Warren Greig
July 2005 - Ian Melrose
June 2005 - Roger Lasley
May 2005 - Jim Tozier
April 2005 - Jessica Papkoff
March 2005 - Todd Habekost
February 2005 - Michael Hewett
January 2005 - Steve Barney
December 2004 - Tony McManus
November 2004 - Chris Newman
October 2004 - Kevin Kastning
September 2004 - Rick Duke
August 2004 - El McMeen
June-July 2004 - Charles David Alexander
May 2004 - Tony Capri
April 2004 - Shane Simpson
March 2004 - Bill Cooley
February 2004 - Greg Meckes
January 2004 - Gary Leek
December 2003 - Ernie Hawkins
November 2003 - Keith Knight
October 2003 - Jaquie Gipson
September 2003 - Chuck Durfor
August 2003 - Cathy Horner
July 2003 - Art Edelstein
June 2003 - Muriel Anderson
May 2003 - Clarelynn Rose
March-April 2003 - Steve Wildey
February 2003 - Rick Ruskin
January 2003 - Kerry Kling
December 2002 - Tim O'Brien
November 2002 - Howard Emerson
October 2002 - Dennis Roger Reed
September 2002 - Larry Pattis
August 2002 - Paul Asbell