Blues Saraceno’s amp-blowing reminded Jack Bruce of something Hendrix would do



By Steve Newton

As a kid growing up in the wee burgh of Middletown, Conn., Blues Saraceno had it kinda rough. He wanted to play guitar, but he couldn’t find anyone his age to jam with.

“That was the absolute worst,” Saraceno says on the line from his home recording studio near Ventura, Calif. “I started when I was, like, nine years old, and it was just hard trying to find people that I could play with, period—never mind people my age. I don’t think anybody took it as serious as I did.”

Saraceno’s early devotion to the guitar has certainly paid off—the 21-year-old is now one of the finest young rock stylists in the world. He recorded his debut album, Never Look Back, when he was just 16, and he is working on his third release for the New York-based Guitar Recordings label.

He has also already played with the father of the electric guitar, Les Paul, and toured with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, playing Cream tunes in the spot previously enjoyed by Eric Clapton. He’s coming to Vancouver for a free, Yamaha-sponsored guitar workshop at Science World on Wednesday (June 9).

Saraceno’s ascent to the status of guitar wizard has been the result of a lot of hard work, but he has also been lucky in having his parents behind him all the way, though not aggressively.

“There was never a push to do anything,” he says. “I was supported more than encouraged. I had the natural desire to do it, and they had the tolerance to deal with it while I was learning.”

As well as putting up with all the racket that comes when kids discover the joys of amplified sound, Saraceno’s father helped him out by making a guest appearance on his latest release, Plaid.

“I asked him to come play guitar, and he says, ‘Nah, nah—there’s enough guitar-playing on the album, I think I’ll play some harp.’ So he just came in and did a one-take thing and split. That was kinda cool, actually.”

The elder Saraceno also built his son an amplifier, a one-of-a-kind piece of equipment that Blues uses more than any other amp. Fortunately, he wasn’t using it when he went to audition for the Bruce/Baker gig in New York City—it was somebody else’s amp that blew up.

“I walked right in, plugged in, and cooked the amp right off,” Saraceno says with a laugh. “And I figured for sure that was gonna be the demise of my audition. But Jack was into it. He said it reminded him of somethin’ Hendrix would do.

“Then he said, ‘Let’s play some songs,’ and I didn’t know any of his songs, so I thought that would make matters worse, but he liked that even more! So I just jammed with him, and we played forever—I didn’t think I’d ever get outta there, actually. It worked great, and they said, ‘Okay, thanks for your time, man,’ and I split. I figured, ‘Hey, at least I can tell my parents that I jammed with the guys from Cream,’ you know?

“Then when I got home, I got a call, and they said, ‘Hey, man, you should come on down and play with us some more, but this time learn some songs.’ So I learned a coupla songs and I showed up, and that was it.”

Local guitar freaks interested in checking out Saraceno’s workshop can pick up free tickets at any Ward Music location. And they needn’t be worried about getting confused by a bunch of fancy terms and in-depth lecturing.

“It’s definitely not gonna be technical,” says Saraceno. “I don’t think that focusing in on a bunch of little details is really gonna advance anybody, because most people forget ’em by the time they leave, anyway. To be honest with you, the majority of people that show up just come to hear me play music more than anything else.”

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