Interview with Brian Turner by the Humble Kingwood Observer
How did you get your start in the music business?
I have been playing guitar since 1968. I love music. I have been very fortunate to be able to do what I love for a living. During the 70’s I was working a full time job as an electrician. I was taking lessons from Manuel Pedraza at a small store in south Houston called Bert Lynd Music. I was practicing constantly and playing in bands. An opening for a part time guitar instructor came open and Mr. Pedraza recommended me for the position. I was teaching there a couple days a week. Not long after that I answered an ad in the local paper. Garland’s Music was looking for part time teachers. I started teaching for them. I was also studying music in college. So, I was working a full time job, studying under Mr. Pedraza, teaching at two different stores, going to school, and gigging in a rock band. It soon became apparent that something had to go. Then Elaine Garland from Garland’s Music called me and offered me a full time job as a salesman selling guitars and accessories. I had to make a decision. I knew I wanted to be a full time musician but the thought of giving up my job and a nice paycheck was scary. Elaine told me to take some time to think about it. I struggled with the decision. Then one day I was working on a high voltage piece of equipment and I got zapped and fell flat on my back. That was the day I decided to be a full time musician. I resigned my job as an electrician and went to work for Garland’s Music as a salesman and teacher. That was in 1979. Soon after that Garland’s Music moved to Humble. I was getting more students so I got out of sales and started teaching only. I believe it was 1982 when I was teaching full time and that is what I have been doing since then. Garland’s Music eventually became known as Humble Music Center. So now I have been working with Elaine, her brother Gene, and her son Rod for almost 30 years. I hope I’m able to do the same for the next 30 years. I still love playing and learning new things. I thank God for giving me this opportunity.
Why do you have the Frankenstein-like caricature of yourself on the car? Is it your favorite monster? Do you see yourself like him?
In the early 80’s I had this idea of writing a guitar book and having a band called “Brianstine’s Theory” which rhymes with Einstein’s Theory (not that I know anything about the theory of relativity) I just thought it sounded cool. I also loved the book Frankenstein which is nothing like the Boris Karloff movie. A friend of mine from church named Dan Dunn was a great caricature artist. My friends threw a surprise birthday party for me. Dan did two caricatures of me. I looked like Albert Einstein in one and Frankenstein in the other. I was impressed and I thought the caricature would be a great logo. The 80’s saw the rise of guitar heroes with phenomenal technique such as Eric Johnson, Steve Morse and Steve Vai. Some referred to these guys as monster guitarists. So I took my sweet pea green colored van to a sign shop and had the monster logo plastered on the sides with Munster lettering that said “Be a Monster Guitar Player.” That was the best advertising (and cheapest) I ever did. I sold that van in 1997 and people still talk about it.
What do you do at your studio in Humble? classes? for what?
I mostly teach private lessons to a range of ages from 5 to 85. Most of my students are guitar students but I also have electric bass, upright bass, mandolin, banjo and an occasional ukulele or dobro student. I have learned other stringed instruments also. My newest instrument is the Puerto Rican Cuatro which sounds like a cross between a mandolin and a 12-string guitar. I like playing it because it has a great sound and you don’t see anyone playing them around here. It was a gift from my in-laws. I also have an Irish bouzouki, a mountain dulcimer, a hammer dulcimer, and a steel guitar. I have more toys than a big boy really needs.
I would like to know about your books and cds.
I have a new CD out that is called Test of Time. It was recorded at Cypress Lane Studio in Kingwood by my good friend producer and engineer Ron James. It is called Test of time because the songs are what I consider to be timeless classics. I played all the instruments on it. It is instrumental (no vocals). It is all acoustic except for an occasional electric bass. There are several classic pop tunes on it such as Unchained Melody, Strawberry Fields Forever, and California Dreamin’. There is some classic swing tunes such as Sweet Georgia Brown and Ain’t Misbehavin’. There’s some Celtic and Old-time tunes such as Blackberry Blossom and Swallowtail Jig and much more.
I also have my previous cd called Culture Medley. You can hear bites of Culture Medley on my web site, ITUNES, or at CD.BABY.COM. I haven’t gotten around to putting Test of Time on ITUNES yet.
I have a beginner’s book I have written called Dr. Brianstine’s Guitar Method. It teaches basic chords, rhythms, walking bass, variations on the blues scale and finger picking. I publish it myself. It has done well locally.
I’m working on a book now that will have an accompanying CD that plays the songs slow and fast. The book/CD will have classic guitar songs that never go away such as Ghost Riders in the Sky, House of the Rising Sun, and Wildwood flower.
I’m also working on a chord book. It’s going to be long. That’s a long term project. I do a little, do other things, and then come back to it.
You played at the Renaissance Festival?
Yes I did. That was great. I camped out there. I had a one man pup tent I slept in and a flash light. It was nice talking to the actors and musicians. It was real nice when the weather was good. On the wet and cold days it can be uncomfortable. You just try to stay warm and dry. Most of the days had nice weather.
Anything you would like to add about yourself to the article?
It’s nice to see many of my students doing well. They’ll drop by the store and give me a CD they’ve recorded. Some are teaching guitar professionally as I do. But also, I enjoy seeing the ones that stop by the store just to buy some strings. I like to know that they’ve kept playing their guitar, simply for fun. Also, I’d like to invite guitar enthusiasts to visit my web site. I think there is some valuable information on it. For example, I recommend and review a lot of instructional materials that I have used over the years. I also list my favorite guitarists and sources for guitar music.
What do you hope people learn from your classes?
I want people to enjoy music as I have, to be excited about learning new songs, to have a hobby they love, a way to relax and escape the stress of every day life, something of their selves that they can share with friends and family, something they can keep, something good, wholesome and healthy for the body and soul.
There are lots of negative influences in today’s pop culture. We are bombarded daily with disturbing images and bad news. The arts lift our spirits. The apostle Paul said “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”
Your musical stylings?
Regardless of the style, I like music that is pleasing to the ear, soothes the savage beast, and reflects beauty.