In 2003, I spent a week at the National Guitar Workshop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, studying jazz guitar. The first night we were there, all of the instructors performed. Starting off the concert was John Knowles, who was there teaching fingerstyle guitar. He was, as you’ll see from the videos, an unassuming person, and came out on stage dressed as we all were, in shorts and sandals. He started off by telling the story of Marcel Dadi, a French fingerstyle player who, like John, was a friend of Chet Atkins, and who died when TWA Flight 800 exploded and crashed off Long Island in 1996. If I remember correctly, he said that Marcel had talked about opening a cafe sometime. He then played a song he wrote and dedicated to Dadi, “Cafe of Dreams,” the first video here. As I listened, I felt a lump in my throat, and found myself brushing away a tear. I was really impressed with his melodic and almost lyrical playing. I remember that I was talking to my instructor about how impressed I was with John, and he said something that I’ve never forgotten: “When I grow up, I want to play guitar like John Knowles.” I learned later that John was probably Chet Atkins’ favorite guitar player, and the two men were close, which explains why John is another Certified Guitar Player. His two albums, Sittin’ Back Pickin’ and Cafe of Dreams (both available on his website) cover a range of music from traditional country, to The Beatles, to his own compositions, and even the theme from “Looney Tunes.”
In addition to having played with other guitarists such as Chet Atkins, Tommy Emmanuel, Jerry Reed, and Lenny Breau (to whom the second tune here, “Waltz Forever,” is dedicated), John also publishes “John Knowles’ FingerStyle Quarrterly,” which contains arrangements of songs for intermediate and advanced players. And, something I didn’t know: He has a Ph. D. in Physics from Texas Christian University.
I hope you take the opportunity to watch some of his other videos on YouTube, and I know he would appreciate it if you were to order his albums… I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s Two For Tuesday, December 4, 2012. See you next week.