Guitar Hero

April 16th, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized

As a kid I always had heroes.

My first one was my Dad, I always wanted to be as good of a fisher and hunter as he is.

I never quite caught up to him but I got damn close which says a lot. You could drop me off at the ocean with a cast net and a ball of string and we would be eating like Kings in a few hours.

Here we are at The Ocean where we have a get away home. This is on a day when zero fish were biting and my dad still managed to somehow catch one Speckled Trout out of Nowhere.


I used to play a lot of baseball and basketball as a kid as well and my biggest sports heroes were St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith and The Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird.

When I turned 16 something came over me and the guitar became the most important thing in my life. Here I am at my high school talent show were I was victorious over a Jimi Hendrix impersonator.

I have never been impressed by impersonators or “tribute bands”. I like the real deal and it is sad to see how prevalent that is in our society these days. It shows a lack of moxie and courage.

To be an innovator shows that you are maverick and that have the steel balls to do what you believe in.

It proudly displays that you are not seeking validation and that you do not give a damn what other people are thinking.

Those are my heroes!

What came over me when I was 16 was seeing Yngwie Malmsteen live. I waited in line with my friend Peter Elsner for 2 hours so we could be the first ones in and get in the front of the stage.

What I saw that evening shattered every paradigm I had ever imagined was possible with an electric guitar.

They had to do 5 encores and every person in the room’s jaw was cemented to the floor including mine. After this that was it, I knew “Ed Zachary” what I wanted to do with my life and I have never looked back.

You know the word decision is derived from the latin word “decise” which means to cut off.

I decided right then and there that I would do whatever it takes to be the best guitar player I could be. I practiced for 4 years 6-8 hours a day and studied classical guitar and did gigs and garage bands straight until I was 20 years of age.

Yngwie was my first guitar hero and I have hung out with him quite a few times.

Yngwie gets kind of a bad rap sometimes and as is often the case this is rooted in misinformation and falsehoods. I found him to be charming and to have an incredible sense of humor. He is a big fan of Monty Python and we discussed one of our mutual heroes J.S. Bach.

After Yngwie got me practicing that much I started going to guitar shows like crazy. During the height of my classical guitar days my teacher told me to go see Chet Atkins. I did and man was that cool.

His versatility was so overwhelming that I almost cried some of the stuff he was playing was so beautiful.

That was the best way to describe his sound. He was so smooth, when I moved to Denton to go to College I became a member of the Dallas Classical Guitar Society. We brought Chet to the Meyerson for our concert series and I got to meet and spend time with another one of my guitar heroes. We both perform and love the guitar piece “Misionera” by Fernando Bustamante and here we are discussing the fingering on the intro:

Chet died a few years after that and I still have every album he ever put out on vinyl and that is a lot of records.

I saw Al Dimeola at Rockefeller’s in Houston a few years after that and that was another epiphany in what I thought was possible. Al is another gentleman who is accused of being all technique and not having any feeling. I notice most of the gossip comes from guitarist in the Jazz community who lack the technical prowess of Al and are simply jealous.

What I learned from Al is time, he has an impeccable command rhythmically of his instrument and it shows.

He also plays with an incredible amount of emotion. Listen to the CD “Cielo Di Terra” and you will see what I mean.

I was introduced to Al by my friend Chris Carrington who is a hell of a Classical guitarist and a luthier as well.

In college I was surrounded by a lot of musicians but I have to say my greatest education did not come from school. In fact, I haven’t used a fucking thing I learned in music school. I look at it as more of a hindrance that a help.

It’s funny because my friend Clint Strong said the same thing in an interview I did with him in the Lion’s Den. Chet Atkins did not have a degree in music either. In fact he just gave himself an honorary degree “Certified Guitar Player” and he used to sign his autographs “Chet Atkins C.G.P.” (certified guitar player)

My friend James Bland told me on the phone the other day that bassist Mike Medina said the same thing to him about music school as well.

You want a Phd? get one in results.

Let me ask you a question…

“Would you rather go to Heaven?”

“Or a lecture about Heaven”

School is a lecture my friend.

My 3rd major guitar hero is my friend Clint Strong. This guy can play circles around anyone and Clint is living proof that you can have technique and play Jazz. I am not a big fan of most Jazz guitarist. I find them to be snobby and full of themselves and they have the worst guitar tone imaginable. It sounds like a mosquito or a wasp in a jar when they play.

Frank Zappa said it best watching most jazz guitarist solo is like watching someone masturbate.

Clint breaks the mold entirely and has a great sense of humor about the whole thing. He doesn’t talk about it he just does it.

One of my proudest moments in my life was something Clint told me.

I kept bugging him about showing me how to play bebop so I started going over for lessons. I practiced everything he gave me like crazy and when I went back for my follow up lesson, I played everything for him and Clint says to me “Damn, what the hell are you doing here, you just need to get a drummer and a bassist and hit the clubs”

That did a lot for my confidence coming from him and that is one of the moments in my life I am most proud of. Even Ted Greene (R.I.P.) The Godfather of the Jazz guitar community raves about Clint. I was talking with Ted on the phone a few years back and when he found out I lived in Texas he just went on and on talking about Clint.



Of all my guitar heroes my favorite is Allan Holdsworth.

I gave up trying to figure out what he is doing years ago and just surrendered to enjoying his playing. As a testimony to doing what you love and success will follow we ended becoming great friends and he burned a solo on my new CD “A Fire in the Mind” on the track “No one knows my thirst”

Allan also thinks that the whole idea of who is the best guitarist is stupid. I share that belief with him as the answer to that question is impossible, as it is all relative. You should never try and be better than anyone else. Just be the best that you can be.

This is why battles of the bands are so stupid. How can you have a battle if everyone has the same goal. To entertain their fans, If they lose the competition mentality everyone wins. This is horrible in Texas where I live, I suspect it has it’s origins in High School football or something.

Allan is quite the fan of Yngwie himself and Yngwie is quite the fan of Allan. I love the way Allan says; “Oh Yngwie, he’s fucking great”

Here we are at my home earlier this year.

It’s important in life to have heroes and people that you look up to. To stand on the shoulders of giants and to have true friends.

When I get a little older I am going to get a place in Hawaii and sit around the fire with my friend Dr. Blase Harris and play Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar. The music just gives me “goosebumps”

Here I am with my Slack Key guitar hero George Kahumoku in Hawaii:

This Friday April 17th I am hosting another great friend and guitarist Edgar Cruz at my home in Denton. Edgar is a maverick and has transcribed an amazing body of popular music for guitar. He comes from a family of guitarist as his father was a great guitarist and his brother is the head of the guitar faculty at Southwest Texas State University. The concert is in my backyard and admission is $20. My friend Mark Holderbaum will be cooking Brisket. This is going to be amazing and a night to remember.

Here is a photo from last time Edgar was here. We are doing a video interview for The Lion’s Den as well tomorrow so stay tuned for that as well.

Much Love and until next time Aloha.

Eric

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