Beatroutes A Player of the month
as printed in beatroute
By Lindsay Wilson
Revered as one of the top guitar players in Alberta, the reputation
Amos Garrett has spent over four decades building spans beyond the geography
of the Prairies, reaching into the U.S. and overseas.
Curling up with Garretts beloved 14-year-old pointer, Maggie,
on his plush sofa, which rests in the living room of his unpretentious
country-style home in High River, AB, quickly makes one realize that
despite the two-time Juno Award winners impressive musical achievements,
he leads a quiet home life, centered around his other passions: fly
fishing, bird hunting and training bird dogs.
Born in Detroit, but raised in Toronto, Garrett moved through piano
and trombone lessons, remarking that neither instrument suited him,
before finding the guitar at the age of 14. Within a year, Garrett was
I just sort of took to the guitar it suited me and I guess
I had gotten over my awkward years as a teen. I was getting little jobs
playing within a year of picking up the guitar, remembers Garrett.
Although known world-wide as a jazz and blues cat, Garretts eclectic
style of playing has allowed him to transcend beyond those genres that
lie closest to his heart, rooted in childhood, into country-rock, pop
Back then, we called everything rock n roll. We didnt
call stuff blues, rhythm and blues, rockabilly it was all rock
n roll to us, reflects Garrett. He remembers 1954
as being the year rock arrived, catapulting artists such
as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and T. Bone Walker into a world that would
never forget them.
By the time he had reached college age, Garrett began learning about
early acoustic Delta blues players from the 1930s such as Robert Johnson
And while Garrett was hard at work developing his own sound and playing
in bar bands in the Toronto area, including the Dirty Shames (which
also included Chick Roberts, Jim McCarthy and Carol Robinson), the acoustic
folk duo known as Ian and Sylvia Tyson were conjuring up a new sound
of their own.
My first break and ticket to the U.S. was courtesy of Ian and
Sylvia Tyson, says Garrett.
The Tysons went to work with Garrett, taking their new band, Great
Speckled Bird, and their new sound, hard-hitting country-rock, off to
Nashville to record and spend the next two years touring.
During this time, Garrett was rapidly developing his own technique:
a method of bending more than one string at a time, which he teaches
to students and through online lessons to this day. This innovation
gave Garrett the ability to sound like a pedal-steel guitarist at times,
while remaining rooted as a jazz player.
Amos does that multi-note string bend like no one else
You can put on a disc with a dozen world-renowned studio guys and pick
his solos out no problem. Totally unique, remarks contemporary
Calgary bluesman, Tim Williams.
Garrett had become a skilled guitar player, one who could be picked
up as a hired gun by any type of band and hold the music up. He spent
the next number of years moving up through the guitar ranks and contributing
his legacy to music history. He teamed up with folk artists Geoff and
Maria Muldaur, played guitar in virtuoso harmonica player Paul Butterfields
band Better Days, later on reunited with a now-divorced Maria Muldaur
as her guitar player and band leader and, finally, made the decision
to part with Muldaur some ten years later to go out on his own.
Garrett was the player who performed the famed guitar solo in Maria
Muldaurs 1974 hit, Midnight at the Oasis.
I wanted to sing. I loved to sing, but there was no way I could
do so being a hired gun for bands, says Garrett, who has enjoyed
a full life-spanning career both on his own as well as sharing the stage
with other renowned artists such as Stevie Wonder, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie
Raitt and Anne Murray (with whom he recorded her first five albums).
Over the years, Garrett has recorded with over 150 artists.
Edmontons Holger Petersen of Stoney Plain Records has been Garretts
manager since 1980. Garrett describes Petersen as the patron saint
of roots music in this country.
When asked what its been like to represent Garrett over the last
30 years, Petersen responds, Its been an honour and an education
for me. Amos gave me, a relative newcomer to the music industry, a chance
to represent him internationally and be a part of his musical circle.
Im very proud that weve worked together for so long.
These days, Garrett, who relocated to Alberta in 1989, keeps busy with
three bands: his acoustic act, blues band and jazz trio. The Amos Garrett
Jazz Trio is the band Garrett is the busiest with, gigging on a regular
basis and looking forward to recording over the next few months.
Its nice to record things before performing too much and
letting things get stale, says Garrett, who likes the idea of
live recording at gigs, letting the genre of jazz shine through its
Garretts latest recording, Get Way Back (2008), delves
this guitarist/vocalist back into the blues as a tribute to the late
Percy Mayfield. It received rave reviews from the finest in the music
Percy Mayfields performance career prematurely dissipated due
to a tragic car accident in 1952, but this blues vocalist led a highly
successful career as a songwriter up until his death in 1984. Most notably,
Mayfield was a songwriter for Ray Charles, writing hit tunes like Hit
the Road Jack.
At this point, theres not much Garrett hasnt accomplished,
at least in the music sense. Aside from his work with the Jazz Trio,
Garrett plans on doing a 2010 fall reunion tour with his old friend,
Geoff Muldaur, in Japan one of Garretts favorite countries
Id like to keep walking on this side of the grass
Id like to catch an Atlantic salmon twenty pounds or bigger,
muses the guitar guru. Whether or not he accomplishes this goal, Amos
Garrett can look back on a musical journey well travelled, proof that
hard work and persistence pay off.
Posted by Lindsay Wilson on Mar 03, 2010