From Farm Aid to Grand Ole Opry, guitarist has seen it all
by: Jim Clark, John Bunzow will play Edgefield on Friday, Dec. 26.

In Nashville, they call it 'ghermin,' or 'germing,' according to John Bunzow, a noted singer-songwriter who lived in the capital of country music for many years.

'Ghermin' is the process by which one shoulders up to a celebrity, Bunzows says, pointing out he did a little ghermin at Farm Aid in 1995 or '96, he couldn't quite remember.

Bunzow was there to play with Dean Miller, Roger Miller's son, and found himself standing next to Neil Young - (of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame) - just as he was about to go onstage and talk about the festival.

'The guy was just so unbelievably intense,' Bunzow says, recalling the vibe emanating from Mr. Soul. However, instead of taking a prime opportunity to kiss up to Young, Bunzow got cold feet.

'I just couldn't bring myself to do it,' he says with a smile.

Too bad - for Young, that is.

Had Bunzow introduced himself, Young would have met a fine songwriter who grew up in Portland and has recorded four albums of roots music critics have acclaimed for their intelligent lyrics and fine instrumentation.

Bunzow - who also plays with local heroes the X-Angels - has graced the stage at the Grand Ole Opry, been featured on CMT, and has heard his tunes recorded by the likes of Patty Loveless.

He's been onstage with everyone from Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp to Govt. Mule and Roy Clark. He's also played on numerous studio recordings and has toured Europe and the United States.

Bunzow will be playing McMenamins Edgefield the night after Christmas, and sat down with The Outlook recently to muse on music.

On guitar solos

A fan of Mike Bloomfield, Albert King and B.B. King, Bunzow is all about improvisation.

'I never like hearing a band where the guy is doing a canned solo, the same exact notes.'

On being a studio musician

Grace under pressure is the mantra for anyone who wants to be called on to play for others, he says. Producers can be a little wacky, and might tell you, 'I need a little more orange and a little more green,' instead of what notes they need.

'I'm making a helluva lot of money, so I'll just do what he says,' Bunzow adds with a chuckle.

Old school records versus today's fancy schmancy records

'These days, all the things have been modernized and sanitized for your protection.'

A fan of Tom Waits and Steve Earle, Bunzow believes writing good lyrics takes practice

'In Nashville, everyone's pushing you to write these clichés. (Waits and Earle are) digging deep, and it's not a first draft kind of thing.'

How to become a fulltime musician

'Sometimes the money's going to be a little light but play out as much as you can.'

Local performance

WHAT - John Bunzow, singer-guitarist

WHEN - 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 26

WHERE - McMenamins Edgefield, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale

HOW MUCH - Free, 21 and over

INFO - 503-669-8610

John's Jams

John Bunzow has recorded four albums.

• 'Alive at O'Connor's,' 2004. Ten songs recorded live in Portland.

• 'Darkness and Light,' 2002. Electric guitar pickin', country rumblers, ballads and bluesy tunes.

• 'Off the Shelf,' 2000, compilation of material Bunzow wrote for publishing companies in Nashville.

• 'Stories of the Years,' 1996, described by one critic as 'rootsy' and 'revolutionary.'

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