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Artist of the Month for September 2004: Rick Duke

Rick Duke

Chapel Hill, NC

Home Town:
Durham, NC

At what age did you start playing guitar?
Technically when I was ten, but my father died within months and I lost all interest. Didn't pick it up again until about seven years later, a little before I went off to college. Thereafter I was a closet guitarist, playing off and on with only a casual interest. Around 1999 at age 40, I bought a new Taylor 314ce, discovered Internet tabs, and kicked my playing into high gear.

First guitar:
A Kimberly brand nylon string, Korean-made I think, purchased new by my parents in 1969 for around $50. Pretty hard to play given the high action and wide neck, but enough to get me interested. My next guitar was a cream-colored Electra Stratocaster copy purchased in 1976 for around $275 as a high school graduation present from my mom. I still have both guitars and actually played the strat on one of my CD tracks. Typically, I hold onto things acquired throughout my life.

Early Influences:
I'm pretty much a musical child of the 70's, so just about anything that got airplay then weighed on my mind. Steve Howe of Yes has always been at the top of my most admired list. He's such an extraordinary and versatile guitarist. Jimmy Page was another any kid with an electric guitar wanted to emulate. Wasn't long after that I was discovering jazz artists like Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, and Pat Metheny. Though primarily electric guitarists, every one of these guys comes with an acoustic sound all their own. James Taylor, Mike Cross, and Neil Young represent some of the acoustic-only sounds I've drawn upon. There are tons more, but these stand out most in my mind, both as guitarist and songwriter.

First gig:
College dorm floor party around 1977-78, Appalachian State University. A piece of plywood thrown over two beds in a tiny little dorm was center stage for three guitars, bass, and drummer. I was in the mix for few songs and can remember playing Aerosmith's Sweet Emotion. Somewhere in that set I broke a string, left to change it, but couldn't get back into the dorm for the remainder of the party.

Acoustic Guitars you own:
Taylor 314ce and 614ce. Both are great sounding, easy to play, and look good, especially the maple 614. Both are featured on my Second Son CD. I haven't yet felt the need for changing them out.

Favorite Guitar:
I've neither played nor owned that many guitars. I suppose my favorites are what I currently own and play. I'm a believer in great tone coming from the fingers, not necessarily the instrument.

Your Style, and how you developed it:
That's a little hard to pin down because it's been gradual and still evolving. I had several months of not-so-hot group lessons, and several of better individual lessons. Beyond that, self-taught without much theory knowledge. Learn by osmosis, you know. I don't fit neatly into one single genre and like to describe my music as synthesis of folk-rock, rhythm and blues, and contemporary jazz influences with a southern flavor. I do gravitate toward sweet sounds, both in my compositions and choices of cover material, and like to give listeners something to latch onto. Folks tell me my music is relaxing and takes them familiar places, and that's fine by me.

As of this writing, I'm taking jazz-style lessons from Howard Morgen, a teaching superlative, outstanding guitarist, and published arranger and fingerstylist whose includes Paul Simon, Edie Brickell, Carly Simon among some of his past students. It's helping me to know both music and my instrument better, while learning to sight-read, play off the cuff, and add some jazz chops to my repertoire. I'm playing sixty-plus new chord shapes I never knew existed, as well as songs written decades ago. My goal is to stay with it at least a year, and I'm one third way there.

Practice Regimen:
While in practice mode, one or two hours most every evening, or until my back hurts and forces me to stop and rest. Weekends I have more free time so allot more time. I don't know that it matters so much exactly what or how you practice so long as it's working from unfamiliar to familiar, breaking new ground, setting goals and improving. I prefaced with "practice mode" because I've also had to split time with my home studio needs. Recording and mixing my own music is something I've had to learn on my own, and time spent in that realm takes away from practice and writing time. For now, I've put the studio work aside to concentrate more on my instrument.

Favorite Artist(s):
Steve Howe, Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Billy McLaughlin, Michael Hedges, Peter White, Sting to name several. I have an appreciation of eclectic styles and like to listen to smooth jazz. Also still loving the 70's group sounds of Yes, ELP, Heart, Pink Floyd, Zepplin.

Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your playing style or your views on today's music in general?
One self-produced (self-everything!) solo CD entitled Second Son, released late 2002. All things are possible given a little money, technology, time, and desire.

Check out Rick's 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