Sunday, July 27, 2014

John Fahey-Red Pony 1969

When I stopped in at my local Powell’s bookstore this morning I noticed a new biography of guitarist John Fahey. I guess I knew died a few years ago, but looking through a few chapters and some of the photos of the book confirmed it for me. One thing that caught my attention was the author saying he regretted having only seen Fahey in concert one time and toward the end of his career at that. I realized that I hadn’t seen him or even heard about him for years but what was even more striking was the fact I used to see him often in the early days of his career. That would be the mid to late 1960s. John Fahey was a master guitar finger picker and had a he following back in the day. He also had a few albums out there and played a variety of venues from small clubs to large theaters. I recall seeing him in The Ashgrove, the famous L.A. folk club a few times but also while a student at UCLA. Fahey played a few times in Royce Hall, the UCLA landmark of Italian Romanesque architecture so prevalent in Hollywood films and now commercials. This morning I sifted through a few You Tube clips to see if I could find what I recall was something unique to Fahey. No luck, but you deserve to know. Back then he was a smoker. He’d often light a cigarette, take a few drags and then place the filter end into the guitar strings near the tuning pegs. It would sit quietly there, burning down until he stopped in the middle of a song, take a few drags and then begin again. He did this with Coca Cola too. Fahey would often come onstage with his guitar and then have two large bottles of Coke just to the left of his guitar mike. He’d take a break, in mid song, guzzle down about half the bottle, and then resume. At first the audience would react or laugh. After they got used to it, it just happened. RIP John Fahey, American original.

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