Strafford, New Hampshire (Top40 Charts/ Ed Gerhard)
Imagine. Living in a world of constant inspiration. Few of us know by the age of fourteen what we're here to do. But that was the case for Ed Gerhard. And he's made an extraordinary life out of thatknowing.
When he was fourteen, at home in Glenside, Pennsylvania, Gerhard saw legendary guitarist Andres Segovia perform on television and was "transfixed and transfigured. It was the sound of the instrument," he recalls. "The melody, harmony … and simply the sound. They made me feel different, and my life was never the same."
It took four years of "begging," but in 1970, when Ed was 14, his father finally bought him a guitar. A year later, Ed gave that first guitar to his brother and his dad bought him a Martin
D-18. Gerhard was off and running, initially, in the footsteps of Segovia, but quickly expanding to blues, folk music of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and the rapidly expanding British-influenced genre.
Gerhard is essentially self-taught. He was interested in pursuing medicine, "but the guitar changed all that." At age 17, he left home and never looked back. "The guitar has always been my companion," notes Gerhard. "Never a slave or master but a companion. It's my soul-mate. It's complete. It's the sound I always come back to."
At 15, Ed was introduced to the poetry of Ezra Pound. "His poetry made no sense to me," Gerhard recalls, "but at the end of the book were translations of ancient Chinese poems. These struck me. Viscerally. They were in the now. Clean, artful, lean, and potent, with no excess. They were an example of how I wanted to play. Even though some of these poems were well over one thousand years old, from an ancient culture over half a world away, I felt like I was right there at that very moment. And that moment is always now."
This brings us to the issue of transcendence in Gerhard's music. When listening to his work, even on recordings, there's a definite sense that separation disappears. This is not just a guy playing a guitar: this is a "guy/guitar." The unity of the sound is palpable. It is a true merging of instrument and player. You can hear it, you can feel it. And it takes you to that still, unified wholeness that you are as the listener.
Gerhard's life has been devoted to the guitar. "I have to touch one or hear one every day," he says. Now, that devotion includes his life partner, Kelli Bertram, who's his manager, confidante, and mate. Inseparable since 1988, they've created a way of life together, side by side.
Gerhard moved to New Hampshire in the mid-70s. "There was a great music scene," Ed recalls. "I fell in love with the place and moved up in '76 to stay." Five years later he met Kelli, who'd been managing a club there, and the rest is their history together.
Gerhard self-released his first album, "Night Birds," in 1987. It garnered a spot in the Boston Globe
Critic's Poll: Top Ten Albums of the Year. The following year, Windham Hill Records put a track of Ed's, "The Handing Down," on their Guitar Sampler album. It struck a popular chord, and Ed began getting a lot of attention.
According to Gerhard, the new album, "There and Gone," was difficult. "The direction kept changing all the time. It's turned out to be much more personal than I'd expected. It took a long time to get the material to coalesce into a unified concept. But now I'm very pleased with it."
Gerhard is among the few guitarists to be honored with a guitar model named for him. In a total collaboration of guitarist and manufacturer, Breedlove released the Ed Gerhard Signature Model. It became one of Breedlove's best selling guitars, and winner of the Player's Choice Award by Acoustic Guitar Magazine. http://breedlovemusic.com/artists/breedlove-musicians/ed-gerhard. Ed also won a GRAMMY Award for his inclusion on the CD, "Henry Mancini: Pink Guitar."
Ed is also one of a small but growing number of artists playing the Weissenborn, an Acoustic lap-slide guitar. http://www.weissenborn.es/. Gerhard's, unique approach to the Weissenborn is playing a significant role in reinvigorating interest in this somewhat esoteric but beautiful instrument.
Asked what his plans are for the future, what he wants to achieve, his response is pure Gerhard: "I don't really plan very much. I follow the signs. I'm working on tons of new stuff. I love having brand new stuff to play to an audience. Playing to an audience is the ultimate. It thrills me every single time."
May we all have the joy of being in that audience