It occurs to me that you might like to know a little about the real Bruce Emery, beyond the usual glamour, media hype and pop star deification.
Some of my earliest musical memories are of singing with my mom in the car on long trips; she loved to harmonize and she’d get me to sing the melody. She also played a baritone ukelele and would accompany my grandmother’s mandolin playing. (Grandma played for dances as a teenager growing up in Sweden.)
I still have that old ukelele. I can remember times when I would sit and gently strum the open strings, gaze through the soundhole at the lighthouse printed on the inside label, then close my eyes and dream of …world domination…I mean, fluffy puppies gamboling in the grass!…no, really it was world domination. The only thing stopping me was that I wasn’t big enough to cross the street by myself.
At the age of nine, I took piano and organ lessons for a while and then moved on to actually playing the stupid ukelele---old songs from the ‘40s and ‘50s that I gleaned from my mom’s songbooks. The guitar came along at about the age of twelve. I guess I had a few gigs in my “early period,” like playing for Christmas parties at school, performing old Smothers Brothers routines in the fourth grade and singing “A Boy Named Sue” at a square dance retreat.
At 15, I started studying classical guitar, and this really turned me on to fingerstyle guitar. But while I loved some of those Villa-Lobos Etudes and Preludes and still do, I was more attuned to popular music, both instrumental and vocal, and I gravitated to the likes of James Taylor, the Beatles, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed and Pierre Bensusan (still my favs). I played at dormitory steak dinners at the University of Maine, at a gin mill in Bly, Oregon, and even on an international television production, “Dick Stacey’s Country Music Jamboree,” in Bangor, Maine. Well, I say that it was international because the folks up in New Brunswick could pick it up, too.
After pursuing an education in forestry and forest genetics in Maine and North Carolina for ten long years (don’t ask), I awoke one morning and decided that I should dump all that and see if I couldn’t make a living with the guitar. I had already discovered that I had a flair for teaching recreational dance---swing, waltz, Scandinavian and eastern European---so it wasn’t too much of a leap (as it were) to teaching guitar. So I opened the Bruce Emery Guitar Studio in 1986. Just like that.
I suppose my fifteen minutes of fame came in 1988, when I actually played a duet with Chet Atkins himself, at a workshop taught by John Knowles. (We played “Windy and Warm” together.) I currently play an Olson cutaway acoustic guitar, the very instrument, in fact, that James Taylor first tried out and convinced him to have an Olson built for himself. I also have a beautiful Kirk Sand nylon string electric guitar (just like Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed!) and a Lowden steel string (just like Pierre Bensusan!) for open and altered tunings.
I wrote the Skeptical Guitarist books between 1997 and 1999 and figured I was done writing method books. But then I began receiving requests from rank beginners for information that was more basic, something dealing with the mechanics of playing guitar, so I began writing the Scratch series in 2001. In the summer of 2005 I finally cranked out two Christmas books, one for strummers and one for solo players, that had been sitting around on the computer in rough form for nearly a decade.
In addition to teaching and writing, I perform in a duo with David McKnight, a violin/mandolin player, and we’ve produced three CDs: two of popular jazz, folk and blues instrumentals, Windy and Warm and Night and Day, and one of traditional Christmas tunes, All Is Calm, All Is Bright. I also play in several other ensembles, I’m singing second bass in the Concert Singers of Cary (NC) and guess what? I just began playing Swedish dance tunes on the mandolin, just like Grandma. I’ve come full trapezoid!
..By the way, the frighteningly accurate cartoon depiction of me above was rendered by my friend, Lou Dalmaso, a fine young man who also designed this web site. If you don't like his work, e-mail me and I'll see to it that he's punished forthwith. If you do like his work, e-mail him at LouDalmaso@att.net and perhaps he can be coaxed into designing a web site for you.
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