John plays pedal steel guitar, bass guitar, dobro, banjar, accordion, and synthesizer. He is a member of Six Mile Grove and has played in a variety of tribute bands including Pink Floyd, Elton John, Billy Joel, and Linda Ronstadt. He also accompanies Brandon Sampson.
How did you start with pedal steel guitar?
Ron Bublitz is the front guy in Smokin’ Coyotes, and his dad, Bud Bublitz, got me started with pedal steel. I played bass for 35 years, but when I sat down at the pedal steel, I was scaring our cat and making him run away from me. It was awful. It’s the most difficult instrument I’ve ever tried to play, but once I learned more about it, the cat started coming around again.
Why dobro and banjar?
I just like odd stuff. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut playing the same thing all the time. And I like to be marketable. Not many people play these instruments.
Most listened to song in the last week?
Anything by Forrest Sun is my favorite song, but this week I’ve been listening to his song “Morningbird.”
Strangest thing you’ve ever seen an audience member do?
I was playing in a band called Rebound in Zumbro Falls in the 1990s. Two exotic dancers showed up that night, and they were the only ones in the bar. One of the girls began practicing her trade to the music we were playing. The funniest part was our guitarist’s reaction. His mouth dropped open and his hands dropped to his sides. He just stood there in shock.
Most memorable Rochester gig experience?
We opened for Jamey Johnson at Down by the Riverside. I was told the steel player lost his picks and tone bar. On a Sunday afternoon in Rochester, no one is going to find these things. So I ran down there with mine. I was introduced to “Cowboy” Eddie Long, who is the best steel player in the world. He’s played with Hank Williams Jr., recorded with Bono, Kenny Chesney, and Alison Krauss. He tried to pay me, but I told him, “Just be my friend and give me lessons.” And he did.
Top artist at the moment?
Pink Floyd rides over everybody. Paul Scott produced three successful Pink Floyd tribute bands that I have been blessed and honored to be associated with, but something creepy happened during this last tribute concert. We were able to get Prince’s saxophone player to do the show. The show was planned for April, but then he died in March of a heart attack. So we got another saxophone player. Then, two days before the show, Prince died. Needless to say, we ended up doing an unpracticed, impromptu version of the song “Purple Rain” at the end of the Pink Floyd show.
What sparked your interest in music?
My dad. He was a very accomplished multi-instrumentalist and a true musician. Dad gave me his accordion to take home with me before he passed away. That was his heart. I ended up using it on the Six Mile Grove album, “Secret Life in a Quiet Town.”
Show rituals or superstitions?
Ever since I’ve acquired it, I’ve always worn this stone necklace for very important events and during performances. This stone was present during a time when something big happened that cannot be explained. My nephew brought it back from an ancient archeological site. There are some that believe that the indigenous people of that area were given technology from star children.
What is it like when you are performing?
I don’t get nervous. I get wound up. I can’t wait to do it, and then I am bummed when it’s over. But when I am playing, I am doing advanced mathematics in my head. I’ve got like 8, 9, 10 things going on all at once.
What is your musical philosophy?
Music is another form of expressing something that can’t be put into words. And often times, the best notes played are those that aren’t.