Fingerstyle guitarist and Beatles freak Steven King is scary good

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 30, 2002

By Steve Newton

Steven King may not be as well known as the horror scribe who spells his name differently, but he’s been winning acclaim as a technically boggling acoustic fingerstyle guitarist since 1994. That was the year King claimed the U.S. National Fingerpicking Championship, performing his solo arrangements of Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing”, Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk”, Artie Shaw’s “Four Brothers”, and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Fans of those deathless gems should note that King plays them at his free Taylor guitar clinics, like the one taking place at the Ward Music/Long & McQuade store on Hastings this Tuesday (June 4) at 7 p.m. (Reservations can be made at 604-682-5288.)

There’s a good chance that King’s local appearance will also feature some Beatles tunes, as he’s released four full-length CDs of them—Beatle-ing!, Re-Beatle-ing!, 3 Beatle-ing!, and Beatle-ing 4: That’s It! No More!—through his Web site (http://www.kingofguitar.net/). As the 49-year-old picker explains from his home in Granite Falls, Washington, reworking Beatles tracks has been a labour of love.

“I’m such a Beatle fan myself,” he relates, “I enjoy almost any Beatle song. ‘Within You, Without You’ was a bit of a challenge, but that came out very nicely. That’s on Re-Beatle-ing!, the second one. And ‘Lucy in the Sky’ was a bit of a challenge to get the melody going with that obligato part on the guitar up on top.”

King performs all his music on California-made Taylor guitars, and has been conducting workshops under the company’s sponsorship since ’96. He says it was a combination of the Taylor guitars’ sound and their quality—and the company’s “good people”—that brought him onboard as a touring clinician. “They needed kind of an acoustic-jazz artist to represent them,” he explains, “so it was a lucky situation for the both of us.”

As well as giving workshop/concerts, King has performed several times at the annual Chet Atkins Appreciation Society’s festival in Nashville. Strangely enough, he’s not a serious devotee of the fingerpicking legend. “I’ve still never heard a Chet record,” he claims. “But his rendition of ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’, when he went on The Tonight Show, was an influence on me; that was quite somethin’. I do that piece now.”

Fellow guitarists who have caught King’s ear of late, and thoroughly impressed him, include Martin Taylor, Pat Donahue, Jim Nichols, and former Atkins collaborator Tommy Emmanuel. “All these players have their little trademark greatness,” he muses. “It’s like Dizzy Gillespie once said: ‘Anyone only ever gets a little piece of music.’ “

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