Earl Klugh has quite the story. I recently spoke with him about his music career and a few personal topics. He humbly recanted his memories and shared his intimate stories as if we had known each other for years. This gentle and soulful man has much more in him than an award-winning career.
Chet Atkins is the musician that influenced Earl the most growing up in Motown – Detroit, Michigan in the 1950’s. He had watched him on television performing his instrumental genius and from that moment on he knew he wanted to be a great musician and walk in the steps of one of the most well loved artists in our history.
Early on in Earl’s life he would watch variety shows with his mother, whom he loved dearly. He remembers seeing a pianist on the Tonight Show hosted by Steve Allen and he thought it was pretty cool.
His mother provided piano lessons for Earl at the age of three and he stayed with it for five years. After this, he decided he wanted to play guitar. The piano lessons helped him with rhythm and reading music, but the guitar was his real passion.
By the time Earl was sixteen he was giving entry-level guitar students lessons in the back of a music store in Detroit. One day, in-between lessons, he was picking on his guitar. I man heard him playing and asked, “Are you the one playing this guitar?” He answered, “Yes.” The stranger asked, “How old are you? You’re fabulous!”
It turns out that man was Grammy award-winning Yusef Lateef. Several months later he received a phone call from Yusef and was asked to come to New York to play on an upcoming album. This was the launch of his spectacular career.
When Earl turned 19 he left Detroit and played in a number of clubs. He met Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie and many of the greats. He learned a great deal about music and life. He said one night he saw a man carrying a bag into the back room where the musicians were hanging out. He asked what was in the bag and the manager told him he didn’t need to know. He kept pushing, wanting to know what was in the bag. Finally the manager told him it was drugs to help one of the musician play through the next set. Earl cringed and wished he hadn’t insisted on an answer.
Earl is passionate about music. He plays through his romantic focus on life and translates that into the strings. When I asked him what his ideal date night would be he answered, “A great movie. Other than music I love movies.” He went on to say that he loves both new and old classics like the ones they play on Turner Classics.
Earl Klugh will be playing with Kenny G in concert this Sunday, July 22nd at Thornton Winery in Temecula, CA. Tickets are still available on a limited basis.
In the fall he will be performing at his annual Weekend of Jazz at the Sanctuary Resort at Kiawah Island, South Carolina November 15-17.