I had often thought about this in the context of songwriting. I like Regina Spektor's writing - her songs can be quirky, melodic, dramatic, silly, deeply emotional, sometimes troubling, with melodies and flow that are beautiful and unique. I like Lisa Loeb's writing - again quirky, sometimes fun, sometimes troubling. These two writers have certainly influenced me. But then I got to thinking about my guitar playing which is nothing like the musicianship of Regina or Lisa. Who influenced that?
I have been playing music since I was about 8 years old. I didn't take formal lessons, but goofed around on whatever was around. I learned this from my dad who in his earlier days would play together with his buddies, dad on the harmonica, Ernie Arneson on the beer box and uncle Johnny on guitar and vocals. The first instrument that I ever owned was a harmonica that my parents brought for me as a gift from the Army and Navy in Regina, SK that they went to after a Saskatchewan Roughriders game. I also played the organ - the kind with the numbers on the keys and the chords to the side. My parents liked when I played "On Top of Old Smokey".
I attended St. Michael's elementary school in Saskatoon, SK. In grade 7 and 8, our teacher Mr. Leonard Wawryk got us playing ukulele. He also played guitar for us and we sang to the Tommy Soundtrack. I recall him teaching me to play "Pinball Wizard". My mom used to recall that when I was in a bad mood I would play that ukulele really hard. (I still play guitar hard, but even when I am in a good mood - especially then!)
My first guitar was an old acoustic on which the strings were about a foot higher than the neck of the guitar. It was hard to play, but I played it because it was what I had.
At the age of about 11 or 12, my friend Kim Fontaine got herself a bass guitar and I wanted an electric guitar. So, my uncle Johnny brought me around to the pawnshops in Saskatoon to find a guitar. I should note that uncle Johnny was the musician in the Pritchard family. He could play guitar and sing like Elvis. Heck, he was even as handsome as Elvis. We found an electric guitar. My mom and dad bought me an amp from Woolco for Christmas that year. I was pretty happy - I had a guitar and an amp. My parents were pretty happy too, since just a few months before I had plugged my electric guitar into the organ and blown it up. But, I digress...
I played guitar more and more. My uncle Johnny had spent a period of time at the Prince Albert Penitentiary and we kept in touch with each other while he was there. We wrote letters back and forth, but one day he phoned me. I ran and plugged my guitar into the amp and played him some music over the phone. Uncle Johnny thought that my playing was great and I was pleased. He may well have been humouring me, but that is what uncles are supposed to do.
My friends and I jammed in the house. There was much bashing about with drums, loud guitars and terrible singing. My parents never told me to turn that racket down (well hardly ever). My mom and auntie Johnnie came to my first gig ever at Albert School. My dad financed my Fender Stratocaster when I was on the road playing and could not afford the payments. When I told my dad that I was quitting high school to play music full time, he drove me to the next town for my first gig. This must have killed him, but he did it anyways. Thankfully that first gig was in Weyburn, SK where my mom lived at the time. They both came to see me play. My dad still comes to see me play and he and my brother came all the way to Wakefield, QC from Saskatoon for the release of my first CD. I was so happy to have them there, and I was so happy that I was still playing music all those years later.
So, musical influences in the context of guitar playing? I will write about that another day. Today, I would like to thank those people in my early years who created opportunities for me to play music. They are my late mom, Pat Pritchard; my dad, Don Pritchard; my late uncle Johnny Ritchards; my late grandma Marie Robinson; my late uncle Robbie Robinson; my friend, Kim Fontaine, and my grade 7 and 8 teacher, Mr. Wawryk. Thank-you very much from the bottom of my heart.
Here is a photo of me playing my first electric guitar at Kim's house.