Pete Herzog

Bio

 

Pete Herzog started playing at the age of 8 on a lap steel. He learned the slide and playing using all the harmonics and overtones he could wring out of an instrument. During the folk revival he switched to a regular guitar, but eventually was drawn to playing bottleneck in various open tunings. Pete discovered blues, bluegrass, and other roots type music, most of which are played finger style, not knowing better at the time, he learned to play with a flat-pick, not traditional but giving him a different style and sound. When he first heard the blues he was instantly taken with the style, so similar to Hawaiian music in approach yet so different in sound and effect. Both types of music use the instrument as another voice, using all the harmonics and overtones to make the guitar sing.

Pete uses several different guitars often tuned in several different open or modal tunings. One of his favorites is a Kay arch top from the 30’s that he uses for slide. A friend of Pete’s bought it in the 40’s in a Chicago pawn shop and gave it to him before he passed on. “I’d clean it up but the essence of all those who have played it before me colors the tone, sometime I think it knows more about the blues than I do.”

Pete spent time working on the railroad as a gandydancer on a traveling steel gang, learning arhoolies and steel driving songs sung as they were originally given voice. He learned “linin track” while lining track. He learned call and response style songs while driving rail road spikes into hard wood ties. As in blues, the beat and the rhythm are the most important things, it’s dangerous to get mixed up swinging 12lb. Hammers.

Pete has always been attracted to a common sound that reaches back through the ages and touches all people at a basic level. Even when composing a contemporary song he strives to make connections with those ancient places and feelings. Born in the city but living most of his life in the country he relates strongly with rural music, the delta and country blues and the roots of bluegrass and jug band styles. “I’ve lived most of my life in the country on a dirt road and spent countless hours pickin guitar on the back porch. To me the blues have always been more than three chords and twelve bars, sometimes one chord is plenty to tell the story and convey the feeling I’m trying to put out. The blues is mostly about a man and woman, the yin and yang, the light and dark, the tension and release, but it doesn’t always have to be sad. Some of my favorite blues are more about, I’m happy to see you, let’s do something about that.”

Since the release of “Homestyle” Pete has toured up and down the West Coast and on to Hawaii having adventures, chasing down new music and coming up with new song ideas. Now after over a year he has completed the performance piece “Steel Guitar, a Blues odyssey” a folk opera. “Steel Guitar” contains 22 original songs that tell a story of a guitar as it is passed from owner to owner, musician to musician, purchased, stolen, won in a card game, passed down through families. Through its travels its sound is colored in some way by each person and they feel it's history when they play it. The 22 original songs are the glue between the stories about the lives of these characters filled with love, loss, and the pursuit of happiness with a little gamblin and ramblin thrown in.