John Knowles, The Amazing Fingerstyle Guitar Virtuoso.
John Knowles is an American fingerstyle guitarist and one of only
5 people in the world to receive the CGP(Certified Guitar Player)
Award,from the late great Chet Atkins.
The other guitarists who have received the award are:
Chet Atkins,Tommy Emmanuel,Steve Wariner,and Jerry Reed.
Each man who received this award from Chet Atkins is
extremely proud to have it. He only gave it out to guitar
playing musicians who were at the absolute top of their craft.
And these gentlemen who have received this award are among
the best guitarists in the world.
John Knowles and his acoustic guitar stylings are a pleasure
to listen to. This man is a master chord soloist and single string
improvisor. I love the way he does chord substitutions. For example
instead of playing a straight D7 chord,he may substitute a D9 or
a D7b9 or D11 or D13 depending on the melody of the song.
And if all around guitar versatility is the name of the game.
JK is your man,he plays everything,Xmas,Traditional Folk Songs,
JK really knows tons of songs everything from 1920's-30s
jazz standards,songs like “It Had To Be You,” “I'll See You
In My Dreams,” etc... right up to classic pop tunes. I've heard
him play “Simon and Garfunkel” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,”
“The Hollies” “He Ain't Heavy,He's My Brother” and he plays them great.
He also plays great Beatles arrangements.
John Knowles guitar playing style is heavily jazz influenced, and yet I
sometimes hear traces of a classical guitarist in his style too in some
of the chord voicings he uses. Another thing to remember is that he was
friends with the late great Jerry Reed. So he can pull off
his guitar licks too. One funny thing John said about Jerry Reed was:
“Trying to figure out Jerry's guitar style is like trying to eat soup
with a fork.” I agree with him on that point.
John Knowles has done transcriptions of both Jerry Reed and
Chet Atkins guitar styles. And they are the best I've ever heard.
JK had a very close working relationship with both of these players
and is super familiar with their playing styles. You just won't find
better transcriptions anywhere taught and played by master guitarist
If you listen to a lot of JK you'll discover that he's influenced by
his other CGP recipients whom he knew and played with. But he
also has his own distinctive guitar style.
One of the many things I personally love about his playing is
the way he plays guitar intro's. If he's playing a standard jazz tune
he may just use the last 4 bars of the song as the instrumental intro.
Then other times he may use a standard 1-VI-11-V intro, but
make it sound really hip by throwing in his brilliant chord substitutions.
So for example, here's a simple I-VI-II-V intro similar to his style,
that he might do in the key of C major.
Instead of playing the I-VI-II-V basic cliche intro C-A7-D7-G7.
Mr. Knowles might play the chords Cmaj7 at the 3rd fret,
D9 at the 5th fret, Dm9th at the 3rd fret, and then G7th at the 3rd fret.
Which gives it a lot more cool sound and is a lot hipper.
That's just one small aspect of his playing,or the tip of the iceberg
if you will.
Another guitar technique that he uses a lot in his style,is that he will
often slide into the chord he wants from either a half-step or 1 fret above
or below. Which also gives a really cool sound.
Now, we have 2 tips of the iceberg or more like 2 tiny ice cubes
of the John Knowles style. You've got to hear him play to really
appreciate him. He definitely is a one man band.
Go over to YouTube and for example listen to him play
“Bye Bye Blackbird” its in the key of C Maj.
Notice how he starts it off Chet Atkins fingerstyle with the alternating
I-V bass pattern on the C chord,then the 2 note hammer on to the F, to make
the melody,then to the D9,to the G7,to the C add 9, then Cmaj,
then the F#dim add the 9th and so forth. Very cool way to play it.
Also check out his arrangement of the classic “Danny Boy.”
I could go on and on so just listen to any of his recordings.
Here's a very, short John Knowles Biography and some
personal information about him.
He started off as a child picking out melodies on the piano.
Then he switched to the accordion,then he got a ukulele.
When John was 13 he discovered the music of Chet Atkins.
He thought it was impossible to play guitar like that but
immersed himself in Chet's style.
He also learned the basics of classical guitar from
Darryl Saffer, other influences were Christopher Parkening,
Pepe Romero,and Robert Guthrie.
And that is how JK became the amazing guitar player he is today.
Mr. Knowles has also worked with the finest classical and fingerstyle
guitarists in the business.
And lastly JK puts out a fingerstyle guitar publication called
“Fingerstyle Quarterly.” It's full of tips and pointers from John.
It also contains a bunch of his guitar demos.
You can find it at John Knowles website.
And finally,JK also has a Ph.D in Physics which you must have in order to
play guitar as good as him...just joking.
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