Rider on a
By Gayla Drake Paul
Laurence Juber says he started playing guitar
when he heard The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold
Your Hand,” but that’s the only thing resembling ordinary about the man, or his career as
a genuine acoustic guitar hero. From familiar
and humble beginnings—the kid with the cheap
acoustic guitar holed up in his room teaching
himself to play—Juber has landed on top of
the heap, with the break that allowed him to
fly coming from an early hero, Paul McCartney.
He was lead guitarist for Wings when Back to
the Egg was recorded, winning him a Best Rock
Instrumental Grammy for “Rockestra,” even
though his name was misspelled (Laurence
Tuber) on the jacket.
Since Wings disbanded in 1981, Juber has
simply done consistent, exemplary work that
cannot be denied or ignored, earning him
frequent critical acclaim and awards such as
Fingerstyle Guitar magazine’s Guitarist of the
Year in 2000. Even if you don’t own a single one
of his CDs, you’ve probably heard his music in
television shows (and a few commercials) and
movie soundtracks. He released his 14th CD in
October of 2009, Wooden Horses, in which he
shows off his considerable chops as a composer
of great solo acoustic guitar music.
Like so many guitarists of our generation,
your desire to play came from hearing The
Beatles, and again, like so many, those musicians have had a long influence on your music.
Take me back to when you first fell in love
with the guitar.
Actually, I really wanted to learn to play guitar.
I had already been motivated to play guitar by
The Shadows, who were the English version of
the Ventures, and they did all this twangy stuff
that would have been surf music if we had any
surf. That was kind of the initial inspiration, and
then I started playing guitar in November of
’ 63, and I think “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was
released right around then.
How young were you when you started?
I was 11 when I got my first guitar.
Did you decide that guitar was going to be
your life early on?
At that point it was really just something that
I wanted to do. By the time I was 13, there
was a local bandleader that started hiring me
to play gigs, like weddings and stuff like that.
The fact that I was actually being paid to play
was kind of a revelation, because up until then
earning money had meant either babysitting
or washing neighbors’ cars. And then by the
time I was 14 it was either working at the
local supermarket on Saturdays or going out
with the local Top 40 band and doing gigs
during the week, and you can imagine which
one I preferred. So, from the time I was about
13 I just figured that this was what I wanted
to do for a living, but my ambition was to
be a studio player. I was just enamored and
enraptured by the guitar itself, and so I was
exposing my musical self to all kinds of influences; not only the English pop/rock thing,
but also jazz guitar players like Barney Kessel,
Howard Roberts and Django Reinhardt. I
guess right around that time the whole folk
scene was happening and you were kind of
obligated to learn a bunch of protest songs.
I really started getting into fingerpicking at
that point and learned Davy Graham’s “Anji.”
But as time went by I started getting more
into playing ragtime pieces, and got into the
Merle Travis style. But I was also learning how
to read music and studying classical guitar in
high school and getting myself a sort of well-rounded guitar education.
You were doing everything you needed to do
to prepare yourself to be a really great session guitarist, all on your own.
Oh yeah, it was very conscious. That’s what I
wanted to do because I discovered that that
was how you could make a living being a guitar
player, outside of being in a band—not that I
wasn’t in bands as a teenager, I was. But there
was something very appealing about it as a
teenager. I think part of it was because when I