By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Are you a guitar geek? Do you pore over every wordof guitar mags, books and old catalogs? Do terms like Vibramute, Ecco-fonic and Carvin AP-6 give you a book-matched, bird's-eye maple woody? Do the names Maphis, Nokie and Van Eps mean more to you than Rumsfeld, Cher and Chomsky?
Then has Deke Dickerson ever got a show for you! His second annual Deke's Guitar Geek Festival is teeming with hotshot guitarists, both legendary names like the Ventures' Nokie Edwards and guitarist's guitarists who are so hip and inside that even their own wives probably haven't heard of them.
There are seven acts, plus secret guest stars, guitar maker's booths and a museum of some of Deke's oddest guitars, begging the question: Just how many hours of guitar will this thing be?
"Oh, Jesus, more than anybody can stand," Dickerson says. "But no one is more keenly aware than me that six hours of instrumental guitar would be boring to anybody, so there are a lot of vocals mixed in. When T.K. Smith does his tribute to Gene Vincent's guitarist Cliff Gallup, Big Sandy will be doing Vincent's vocals. Del Casher—an old-time guy who played with the Three Sons and is buddies with Les Paul—is doing a tribute to Les, and there will be vocals on the songs Les did with Mary Ford. My own set is about half vocal numbers. And the other acts are all so different from one another—not to mention incredible—that it should stay interesting."
Brian Lonbeck, known as the "fastest guitar in the West," played a tribute to country string burner Joe Maphis at last year's Geek Fest and this year is stretching out into additional territory. Steel guitarist Jeremy "J.W." Wakefield is considered one of the most astounding non-pedal players in the world and has a forthcoming album called Steel Guitar Caviar produced by Dickerson. Washington's Dave Bunker has built some of the oddest guitars on earth and will be playing his double-necked "touch guitar."
Then there's Dickerson's own estimable picking. Like other artists he's featuring, he is an exponent of the clean-but-crazed guitar sounds pioneered in the 1950s by such West Coast players as Maphis, Jimmy Bryant and Larry Collins. On Dickerson's stage, there are no Marshall stacks, fuzztones or effects racks, so it's down to dexterity, speed and a caffeinated musical imagination to create the thrills.
Growing up in Missouri, Dickerson, now 36, was indeed one of those kids who read Guitar Playerover and over until the next issue came, and played in bands from age 13 on. He played his share of AC/DC covers, but when Elvis Presley died in 1977, Dickerson heard a bunch of early Elvis on the radio and liked it: "Then it wasn't long after that the Stray Cats and the first rockabilly revival came around," he says. "If you were a young guitar player, it was a great time to have a radio. You'd hear Eddie Van Halen and then Brian Setzer."
In Missouri, Dickerson formed a surf/garage band called Untamed Youth that toured nationally and released four albums. When he moved to California at age 21, he got more plugged into the '50s West Coast sound and pursued it in the Dave and Deke Combo and the Ecco-Fonics.
"Until I moved to California, I only had a vague idea of who people like Larry Collins and Joe Maphis were. Here, I'd find the records at garage sales and the old guitars at Steve Soest's shop or in Bakersfield pawn shops, and it really captured my interest."
He went for it whole hog, explaining, "Johnny Ramone is probably as big an influence on me as Slim Gaillard, Cliff Gallup or anyone, but I have a lot of respect for the purity of musical styles and playing it the way it was meant to be played. Usually when someone says, 'We're breaking new ground. We're dragging rockabilly kicking and screaming into the 2000s,' that's because they're not good enough musicians to play the real shit. It isn't 'new'; it's just thrashy."
Along with having their own material down, he and his Ecco-Fonics have been working on getting their Ventures tunes just right, since they won't have any rehearsal time with Nokie Edwards before the gig.
"I'm sure he'll come up with something from left field that we don't know, but we may have a surprise for him, too. When we did our Venturesmania re-creation last year, we made it even geekier by having a Japanese musician I know named Rockin' Jelly Bean do the Japanese and broken-English between-song announcements from the Ventures' Live in Japan '65 album. We're going to try to get Rocking Jelly Bean to do it again this year and see how Nokie reacts to that."
Last year's show packed the Doll Hut, so Dickerson's found a larger venue for this year, the Odd Fellows Lodge in Anaheim.
"All things considered, it's more appropriately named, too," he says.
Deke's Guitar Geek Fest with Nokie Edwards and Venturesmania, T.K. Smith and Big Sandy, J.W. Wakefield, Brian Lonbeck, Del Casher, Dave Bunker, and Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics at the Odd Fellows Hall, 721 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim; www.dekedickerson.com. Sat., 7 p.m. Tickets available online for $18 or possibly at the door for $20. 21 +.