By Joel DeVyldere
Classic rock guru Gary Rowles makes memorable, relaxing and enlivening music. The energy infused in his performance reveals a passion for playing the guitar that still shines through after spent 20 years playing and recording music as a studio guitarist and a road musician.
The son of jazz composer and pianist Jimmy Rowles, Gary Rowles stated his pursuit of music as a two-year-old pianist. At 14, he discovered what would become his true passion – the guitar. Rowles was quite taken by music, and started to record in studios at the age of 18. He played guitar with the classic rock band Love from 1969-70, and even made a record with legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
In the mid-1980’s, Rowles settled down in the Willamette valley, where he started Wake Robin Recording and Sound in South Corvallis. He now lives and works in Lebanon, both owner and operator of a recording studio called Audio Media Services. Rowles now plays periodic shows with guitarist and vocalist Chuck Holst. While recordings of Holst and Rowles are almost non-existent online, the duo can be seen fairly regularly performing at Bombs Away Cafe and Imagine Coffee.
Advocate: Your last few shows in Corvallis have been collaborations with Chuck Holst. How long have you guys been playing together?
GR: I first met Chuck in the early 80s. He showed me some of his material, and I immediately felt a kinship with him musically. We’ve been playing together off and on since then, which would make it approximately 30 years.
Advocate: What is your songwriting process like?
GR: It’s different for each song. Sometimes I get a visual picture of an environment, or observe a situation, or just a feeling about something. It always starts with the lyric, typically with some type of metaphor. I’ve found that it’s the best way to tell a story, and it gives people the opportunity to read themselves into it. The music becomes the vehicle and the environment in which the story is presented. Both share the load, exchanging the direction of the journey.
Advocate: What do you look forward to about your shows?
GR: The freedom of pure musical expression. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to do what I want to do for most of my life. It is a blessing!
Advocate: You were part of the line-up for the band Love in the late sixties. What was your experience playing with them?
GR: It was a great time. I got to do things with that band that I never realized would have so much impact, even now. I still do interviews for US and European fanzines about that musical experience. We toured Europe in early 1970. I really miss the musicians, especially Frank Fayad and George Suranovich. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Advocate: Can you talk a bit about your experience with Jimi Hendrix?
GR: I first saw him in 1968, in Phoenix Arizona, and met him that night. Absolutely, the most amazing guitarist I’ve ever seen-ever in my life. Every recording of him captured only 2% of his gigantic, immense sound. We jammed for hours on March 17, 1970 at Olympic studios in London. One song from that session ended up on the Love album “False Start”. A gracious, humble, great man. I got a call from a friend in London a few minutes after he had passed away, and I still wonder what he would be doing musically these days if he were still alive.
See Chuck Holst and Gary Rowles on Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Bombs Away Cafe in Corvallis.