Down and Dirty with G. Love: The Beginning
Photo Credit: Noah Abrams
In 1980, when I was 8, I was in the back seat of my parents’ silver Chevy station wagon, banging my hand on the front seat like a drum, keeping time with the radio. My mother asked me then if I would like to play a musical instrument. I said I wanted to play guitar, and that was that.
Shortly after, I was taking guitar lessons at Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. I hated it. My mom could play better than me, my fingers hurt, I wanted to play outside, not practice inside; I was completely miserable with this damn guitar. But I kept at it, 10 minutes a day during the school year, and for some reason I'm really unsure of, I didn't quit. This went on for about five years.
By the time I was 13, I was still playing the guitar. By then, I could sing and play a lot of songs. I was learning Beatles songs mostly, but there was some Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Cat Stevens and Jim Croce in there as well. My second teacher was named Heidi Wolf. She had a band called Heidi and The Wolves. They played around South Street in Philly. She was a real-deal ’80s rock chick. Siiiiiick.
She wanted me to sing and play at the same time. She was planting the seeds for me to become a performer. She encouraged me to write songs. The first song I wrote was about torturing the Walrus Man Star Wars figure. Well, at 9 I was writing what I knew about what can I say...Heidi was cool and I'm pretty sure I was starting to have an 11-year-old crush on her as well.
I kept at my guitar and it was finally starting to sound like music. Shoot, I was almost able to tune the damn thing. I was starting to like this box and strings ... my third guitar teacher was an artist and a musician named Christian Raphael. To help my innate lack of natural rhythm, Christian would have me rest my foot on top of his foot, which he would tap to keep time. This keeping the beat thing was a real challenge for me. I can almost remember the awkward feeling of my foot being forced to keep the beat. I remember him asking me why I was speeding up on the choruses I replied that, “choruses always go faster!”
Today I stomp my foot so hard when I perform, I swear to God, I gotta go see the podiatrist!
Christian once asked me (probably out of frustration because I didn't practice): “Why do you even want to play guitar?” What he meant was“Why are you doing this to yourself and me?!” The fact is I didn't know why I kept doing it. At this point it was just something I'd always done. It was part of the routine of my life: brushingmy teeth, going to school and guitar lessons on Tuesday. During the summer that guitar never saw the light of day.
“The guitar is in the case, in the corner, and no, I don't wanna practice.” Gradually, I fell in love with music and it started clicking when I upgraded from a classical ¾-size junior guitar to a full-bodied Madeira steel string acoustic. Now it was starting to sound like a lil' something. I was learning all those Beatles songs and when my first girlfriend broke my heart in ninth grade, I immediately picked up that Madeira and wrote my first real song. I swear it’s good enough to play today. That was the start. I've never stopped writing. Writing that first song was like taking the first step onto the road and I've been on the road ever since.
I've been on the road now for 20 years. I'm not sure where it goes. this road; basically we drive around in circles, big town to small town from Tokyo to Telluride, from Roskilde to Rochester, from Philly to Fairbanks and everywhere in between. I'm driving to musical perfection. It's somewhat of an endless high-speed pursuit. Care to join? So, my friends, my good brothers and sisters, you, yes you! That's the beginning, the origin, if I may, of the Philly Kid.
This is my life and here's what I do: I write songs, I play guitar and harmonica on the rack, I perform 150 to 200 shows a year, coast to coast and around the world. I make records, I cook it up, I always take the gig, I practice the blues, I stomp my foot, I sweat, I reach for notes, I take chances, I throw it down every show, I piss off my drummer, I go off, I get hot, I make mistakes, I get lucky, I get loose and I love music. Music is my life, the pursuit of playing the guitar and harmonica, writing, recording and performing songs is my passion and life’s work. Join me in my musical adventures as I get “Down and Dirty” every week to discuss music and guitars, learn licks and techniques, travel the world.
Stage to stage, guitar shop to guitar shop, in search of music, music and more music we go. Are you ready?!
G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, has been the front man and founder of the alternative hip-hop blues group G. Love & Special Sauce since their inception in 1993. Widely known for his upbeat hits "Cold Beverage," "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Hot Cookin'," G. Love returned to his blues and country roots on his latest release, Fixin' To Die (Amazon, iTunes), produced by Scott and Seth Avett. A road dog if one ever existed, G. Love performs roughly 125 shows a year all over the world including Australia, Japan, Brazil, UK, Canada and the U.S. G. Love teamed up with Gretsch to create his own signature model, the Gretsch G. Love Signature Electromatic Corvette, which features a pair of TV Jones® Power'Tron™ pickups, deluxe mini-precision tuners and a cool Phili-green color scheme with competition stripe that would make ANYONE from Philadelphia proud! Check it out here.