Pete Huttlinger Concert in the Kelly Ballroom, August 25, 2012

Pete Huttlinger had an abundance of tunes and tales for the Rochester Guitar Club Saturday evening at Tom Kelly’s house. The Kelly‘s are avid tango teachers at Tango Café and also in their own ballroom in their home on Hawthorne Street in Rochester. Tom, an RGC member and ardent guitarist was kind enough to host Pete and provide the ballroom for the concert and earlier workshop.


Pete Huttlinger

Pete plays a Collings guitar and claims that it stays in tune even after performing for two hours. Collings doesn’t normally do Signature models, but they did offer this one. Proceeds of the sales were to go toward Pete’s medical bills. One of the workshop attendees owns a Pete Huttlinger signature model which he brought with him to the workshop. Pete, also a short story writer, creates many of his own songs reflecting his personal experiences. Here are some of the stories.

“Things are Looking Up” was written after Pete had a stroke followed by heart failure. Eventually, Pete was able to get a heart pump which keeps him living and things started to look up again. He wears the equipment constantly and refers to it as “Donna and the Twins.” One time, at a friend’s home in Colorado, Pete had an unobstructed view across a valley to Pike’s Peak, forty miles distant, inspiring his tune “The View.” “McGuire’s Landing,” a charming melody, is from a short love story which Pete had written.

Pete originally was a banjo player, but one of his older brothers would hide his banjo moving him to take up the guitar instead. Having discovered the guitar and with six or so songs under his belt, he started playing background music solo in restaurants. Hearing this tale, it soon became clear that Pete was as creative a story teller as he was a musician! He went on to tell us that he could get away with just a few songs in his repertoire because by the time he had played them all, one group of diners would leave and another would come in! Supposedly, patrons largely ignored him anyway which allowed him to recycle the same songs several times in a night. He then embellished his narrative by relating how two guys with very long beards came into the restaurant and just stood listening. Then as they were leaving he broke into the chords from “LaGrange,” getting a “thumbs up” from none other than Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top. Pete said he had discovered that numerous songwriters would come into the restaurant where he was playing. In an effort to flatter them and perhaps open doors for himself, he would break into an instrumental version, Chet Atkins style, of songs they had written.

While on a flight from Denver to Houston, Pete encountered a grizzled old rancher seated next to him. The old man had never flown before and kept an eye on Pete trying to figure out what to do. Pete was sure he must have a story to tell, which he did. Pete asked him if he had an animal that was special. Seems he had a bull which inspired Pete’s song title “The Bull.” It also turned out that the rancher was going to Houston to finalize some legal business. The rancher’s wife had a distant relative who had died and left them 25 million dollars.

While Pete was performing in Texas, he encountered a heckler who wanted him to play “Superstition.” Pete explained “That’s impossible on solo guitar. It has this funky, synthesized bass line which is hard enough by itself; then there’s the melody line which is quite complex—impossible to play them both together at the same time, and then there’s the horn riffs besides—even more impossible to play all three parts together at once.” The heckler was satisfied and Pete finished the concert without playing it. But later, his tough, no-nonsense, cigar-smoking manager demanded that he learn the song. According to Pete, even after he once again declined, “she said ‘Are you going to play it or do I have to get a new guitar player?’” So, he learned it, and tonight he played it for us again, all three parts at once!

“Sir Duke,” yet another Stevie Wonder song noted for its complex lines, rhythm and chord structure contains a lengthy solo part in the middle of the song. As Pete got toward the end of the piece, he told the audience that they would have to sing the solo when it came around again since “everybody knows that part.” The audience made good and delivered a very presentable rendition of the solo line!

Pete and jazz guitarist/composer, Earl Klugh, keep in touch. Pete told Earl he would write a song for him that they could play together. Pete’s wife, some months later, asked him if he’d ever done the song for Earl. “Oops!” Pete hurriedly recorded both his and Earl’s part and sent him the song. The song is as yet untitled, but Pete played just his own part of the song for the audience tonight which held up very well by itself.

Pete once went into a Nashville music store having just enough time to buy some new guitar strings before heading off to a gig. Darcy, who owns the store, told Pete she had a new guitar she thought he’d really enjoy playing. Despite Pete’s explanation that he didn’t have time, Darcy insisted that he try the guitar. To humor her, he played it—and played it some more—and played it even longer, until he realized he would never make the gig. Darcy was right; he really liked that guitar! Then Darcy asked him to write a song for her guitar. So he wrote “Darcy’s Guitar” to memorialize the occasion.

Toward the end of the second set, Pete asked if anyone had any song requests. He then directed his attention to a lovely lady near the corner of the stage who didn’t have a specific request. Pete played an excellent rendition of “Moonlight In Vermont,” a song he figured she would recognize and appreciate!

We are very fortunate having the opportunity to hear Pete Huttlinger, a real gem of a player. We nearly lost him not so long ago.

Here is a complete (well, almost!) play list. Several songs were played in different tunings, “dropped-D,” DADGAD and others, while some also used a capo.

Monaghan’s Jig - traditional
Josie – Steely Dan
I’ve Got Rhythm – Gershwin
Isn’t She Lovely? – Stevie Wonder
Things Are Looking Up – Huttlinger
The View – Huttlinger
McGuire’s Landing – Huttlinger
The Bull – Huttlinger
Superstition – Stevie Wonder


Sunny/While My Guitar Gently Weeps/Eleanor Rigby – Bobby Hebb/Lennon & McCartney/Lennon & McCartney
Lately – Stevie Wonder
Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder
Tune For Earl/Get a Klugh – Huttlinger
The Crossing – Huttlinger
Darcy’s Guitar – Huttlinger
Moonlight In Vermont - Blackburn & Suessdorf
Drowsy Maggie/Cup of Tea/Morning Dew- traditional
Monaghan’s Jig (extension)- traditional

Williamson/Carter/Taglieri, an RGC core collaboration

Photo: Dan Feuerstein

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