My passion for acoustic guitars can be traced back to the 1970's when I first heard and fell in love with my mother's record of John Williams playing Bach’s Gavotte en Rondeau. I started playing guitar and taking lessons in 1981 after my father gave me his Yamaha classical guitar. In the early 80’s I was fortunate to discover the record ‘Routes to Django’, which featured the young gypsy guitarist Bireli Lagrene. Another milestone in my musical education was listening to the record ‘Passion, Grace, and Fire’ which introduced me to the breathtaking Flamenco guitar playing of Paco Delucia. These two acoustic guitar based recordings, really showed me that there was an entire world of ‘Hot’ guitar playing outside the realm of amplified players Jimi Hendrix and Edward Van Halen.
In 1990 after I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy I decided to settle in Norfolk, Virginia and pursue a career playing music. In November of that year I began working at Ramblin' Conrads. Ramblin' Conrads was the premier folklore center and instrument shop in Tidewater, VA run by folk legend Bob Zentz and the store where I had recently bought my first Martin HD-28. Over the next 5 years at Ramblin' Conrads I was exposed to many fine hand built guitars as well as working sound for weekly in-store concerts with world class guitarists like Martin Simpson, Preston Reed, Bill Mize, Ed Gerhard, and Pierre Bensusan.
I first met Martin Simpson in 1991 at Ramblin' Conrads. After an incredible in-store performance he proudly showed off his new guitar built by English luthier Stefan Sobell. Soon after that meeting I found myself selling my Martin and patiently waiting for my first guitar to be built by Sobell. That Sobell, with it’s beautiful and responsive voice ultimately became my first teacher. It was also around this time that I discovered and fell in love with the music of Michael Hedges and Peter Finger. In particular, Peter Finger’s 1978 recording ‘Acoustic Rock Guitar’ and Michael’s first record ‘Breakfast in the Field’ which featured his use of the guitar hand built by his friend Ken DuBourg, has grown over the years to become a major inspiration for me.