Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Guitarist Gray Bartlett's music may be a little too mainstream for some tastes but there is no denying his technical prowess, his subtle way of interpreting a standard and, not the least, his work ethic.
At 76, Bartlett has clocked up a lot of traveling miles which has seen him play in London in the Swinging Sixties as a session man and at the Top of the Town, touring in Japan, China and the States . .
He began his professional career in '59 when he came second in a radio talent quest and quit his electrical apprenticeship and from then on he never stopped playing: skiffle, beat-era pop, jazz, a lot of country, forays into gritty rock, mainstream ballads . . .
He has enjoyed hit singles, recorded lord knows how many albums, became a promoter for international artists, was music director for the phenomenally successful A Touch of Country and That's Country television shows, organised national tours with all star country music casts which include Patsy Rigger, Brendan Dugan, Jodi Vaughan . .
Oh, and along the way he ran for Parliament, was on the Auckland City Council, assisted the early careers of Hayley Westenra, Annabel Fay, Yulia, Elizabeth Marvelly . . .
He's also a good sport and recorded Fish for the '97 tribute album to on of Flying Nun's mainstays, God Save the Clean.
And Gray Bartlett MBE has a new album out.
It is Platinum! and contains his stylish treatments of Albatross, Ed Sheeran's Perfect, Walk Don't Run and other songs alongside some of his originals (Hemingway's Theme, Painted Moon, Glory Train) and on Chris Isaac's Wicked Game he introduces another young talent, Carson.
Time then for Gray Bartlett to take a moment out of his busy life to answer a Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire . . .
The first piece of music which really affected you was . . .
In The Still of the Night. I hear New Zealand guitarist Mark Kahi playing it on 1YA when I was 14
Your first (possibly embarrassing) moment in music was . . .
Playing my first club gig in Auckland for the first time in front of an audience. I literally played but forgot the tune.
Which composer – popular, classical, whatever – do you admire and why?
Ennio Morricone. He understands how to get pictures from music.
If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .
I always wanted to be a surgeon . . . but I was too poor.
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear are . . .
What a Friend (my track)
You Were Always on my Mind (Willie Nelson)
The Living Years (Mike and the Mechanics)
Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home...
Not really, but very valuable guitars like an original K.Kohno Classic '64
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
Eric Clapton's autobiography
If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . ?
Willie Nelson, or the Eagles with Vince Gill
The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .
A Star is Born
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include...)
I don't download. Seal's Standards
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you in that case would be . . .
The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .
Ernest Hemingway poster
You are allowed just one tattoo, and it is of . . .
Gibson 335 guitar
David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where and doing what?
Going to the greatest full orchestra concerts with most featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and Ennio Morricone.
And finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why this is your best album ever?”
Platinum! is one one of my best because it is eminently listenable and has fun alongside quiet moods of reflection. It is listenable and not trying to educate people. Just enjoy it.