Deke Dickerson: Pure American Music.

Courtesy Robert Kreutzer - Posted Nov. 1, 2007 - American musical traditions like as jazz, zydeco, blues and traditional country draw small followings in the music world, especially compared with rap or rock. But small as it is, that cult includes some amazing performers.

Take Deke Dickerson, for example. The Missouri-born guitarist plays wild but skillful rockabilly and surf music on his double-neck guitars. He's a virtuoso admired for his technique, but if you ask him what he loves most about American music, he'll tell you it's all about the feel.

"You can go into the studio with computers and get music that's burnished and will sell to 13-year-olds," said Dickerson, talking by phone from his Los Angeles home, "but it won't appeal to anyone who wants some soul. A lot of American music is very simple, yet it's also very refined. To the untrained ear it can sound all the same, but once you get into it there's a lot of subtlety."

While renowned primarily as a rockabilly stylist, Dickerson in fact weaves many genres into his music, including bluegrass and country. His virtuosity has made Dickerson a performer well in demand, enabling him to play more than 200 shows a year. He is also a regular contributor to Guitar Player magazine. Dickerson is a former resident of Yucaipa and was once employed in Riverside.

Many traditional artists, despite great talent, fall curse to making music that is true and faithful to form but seems more like museum pieces than living and breathing, particularly foreign-born artists. Dickerson frequently performs overseas and gets a first-hand view of how American music is perceived abroad - and how some miss the point.

"When I get to Europe, sometimes these guys from Sweden or Belgium or wherever will tell me how long my cuffs are supposed to be," Dickerson laughed. "Now, the Europeans often know more about our music than we do, but sometimes they pay more attention to the cuffs instead of the music."

"The funny thing is that I dig some of what they do, but sometimes they're a little too scholarly. I always remind myself it's about the music, and all about the music and not all the dressing."

Dickerson's show is also visual, thanks especially to his instruments of choice - twin-necked vintage guitars that allow even more versatility into his fluid, but assertive, style. While much of it is simple showmanship, the guitars also serve a very useful purpose.

"The double necks are a gimmick," Dickerson admitted, "but at the same time it allows for two guitar types in the same song. I have one that's little on top that allows me to play mandolin-like parts, but I also have one with 12 strings and one with six-string bass."

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