Coinciding with NAMM is the lesser known Guitar Geek Festival. Now in its ninth year, the two day concert brings together some of best known axehandlers within the guitar community. We caught up with organizer Deke Dickerson to find out more about the event.
How did you come up the concept for this festival? What was the impetus and inspiration?
I remember going to these various "guitar events" while I was growing up, and it was always the same thing--30 rock stars on stage, all taking solos that went on forever. It was boring and still is boring! I thought to myself, "Why doesn't anybody book Nokie Edwards of the Ventures, or get some of these incredible obscure players nobody's ever heard of?" Finally I realized that was only going to happen if I did it myself, so the Guitar Geek Festival was born. I must have struck a nerve, because it's grown every year and gotten completely out of control--there are a lot of people who were thinking the exact same thing as me!
Of all the guests you've had over the years, who's your been your favorite?
If I had to pick one single moment, getting Duane Eddy to essentially come out of retirement was a huge, huge deal. He wasn't officially retired, but he hadn't done a complete show in over 20 years. He took some persuading to say yes, but he came out to California and had a ball. He did a fantastic show and everybody was in awe. People still talk about that show with reverence--you had to be there! Since then, he started touring again, made a great record, and is really enjoying himself. I'd like to think I had something to do with getting Duane back out there. For all the kids who don't know who Duane Eddy is, he's the George Washington of Rock & Roll guitar!
Are you planning any activities to coincide with NAMM or is the date purely coincidental?
I do it every year coinciding with the NAMM weekend, across the street from NAMM, because there are so many music people in town, but I have nothing to do with NAMM, and I have to say that, or their lawyers will send me a letter.
What makes having Nokie Edwards and Lady Bo at the festival so noteworthy for guitar geeks? Is there any reason why they aren't well-known outside of the guitar junkie community?
Nokie is one of the most influential guitarists of the last 100 years, but because he was part of a group, people only really know The Ventures names and but not his. The same goes for Bo Diddley, everybody knows who he was, but few know Lady Bo because the band members weren't advertised on the records.
Do you think Lady Bo could outduel Bo?
I know she could keep up with Bo. The important thing to remember about Bo Diddley's playing is that he wasn't a hugely technical player, it was all about rhythm and basically playing drums on the guitar. It's a stylistic thing, rather than a technical thing, and Lady Bo (Peggy Jones) is the ONLY person Bo ever said, "learned his style the right way." That's pretty impressive, male, female, what have you--she's got it!
Do you think Dave Bunker has had one of the most understated influences on guitar playing by inventing the touch guitar?
Dave Bunker is like finding out that there was another Albert Einstein who came up with completely different valid and workable theories about everything and you can't believe you've never heard of him before. He's a really smart guy, and everything he does is very well thought out and well designed. I think that ultimately his stuff was just too radical for people, it represented a complete reboot of how to play the guitar, and that was too much for him to hit the mainstream.
How did you get the Hellecasters to do a reunion show? Was it difficult?
Strangely enough, that one was not difficult. Jerry Donahue called me, and let me know that they were looking for a place to do "the big reunion." Probably the easiest headliner I've ever procured--it was just good timing all around.
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What do you foresee for the future of the Festival?
I'm going to do the festival until all of my heroes have died. Then it'll be somebody else's turn. I don't live in the past but they ain't making 'em like Nokie Edwards or Duane Eddy anymore.
If you were to pick any guitar from any era to jam with, who would it be and why?
Chuck Berry at some small East St. Louis blues club, around 1955. Chuck is probably my favorite all-time guitarist and Chuck used to be a genius and he used to play great, but every time I've ever seen him, he's bitter and his guitar playing sucks. So the only way I'll ever get to experience the real, great Chuck is if they invent a time machine.