We’ve made no secret of our fandom of the tragically passed George Cromarty. He is the only artist featured on both the Guitar Soli and Lonesome Heroes compilations. His story is still very much lost to us, but everytime a piece comes together we try to share it. We’re not alone in our fandom. Even though he had relatively little recorded legacy, he managed to build an impressive base of committed fans (just look at the comments from our last Cromarty blog entry, and another set of ecstatic comments on Waxidermy.) Recently, a new fold emerged when Matt Kallman got in touch with me to report that he knew of another set of recordings done with George Keller. I got in touch with Mr. Keller, and though the master tapes appear to be lost, he was able to share a few anecdotes and photos.
“I was visiting in the San Luis Obispo area in the early 70s and had heard about a club in Morro Bay that had live music. The club was a hof brau owned by a Dutch family and was located along the wharf area. Late one afternoon, I headed over there with my guitar. As I approached the entry to the club, there was this very intense guy wearing a funny looking cap, playing outside the doorway to an audience of about two people. I could see inside the club and there was a stage area and two guys were playing. I was wondering what this guy outside the door was doing, so I stopped to listen. I could tell he was playing in an open tuning, but I couldn’t tell which one. After a few minutes, being young and brash, I got out my guitar, tuned up slightly to match his guitar, and started playing leads along with him. He shot me a sharp look but continued playing. After a while, he paused, looked over at me with some approval, and asked me my name. When I said it was George, his eyes widened and he sort of laughed and said that was his name too. He played another piece which I also played along with, and when we were done, he asked if I wanted to go inside the club and play some more. I said sure, and we went in and George asked the manger if we could sit in during the break. So, when the two guys took a break, we got up and George announced we were a duo named George & George and started to play an old blues song. So off we went for several songs. Now, I had no idea who this guy was but obviously he was professional and very skilled at manipulating the crowd, who was responding with more and more applause. We continued on for another hour to great reaction and then took a break. Meantime, I don’t know whatever happened to the two guys who had let us “sit in” but I never saw them again. The manager asked us if we could keep playing the rest of the night. He would give us some money and food. We said sure and on it went ‘till closing. At the end of the evening, there was standing room only. The club owner asked if we would be available to play five nights a week starting the following Tuesday. Now, at the time, I was living in Sacramento, had only met George three or four hours before, and had no place to stay, so of course I said yes. George was staying with his sister and her husband in Morro Bay and I was offered a room in the hotel the hof brau owners also operated. So it was set.”
– George Keller
This is a drawing from a fan who was fond of their regular sets:
The pieces continue to come together. A truly enigmatic genius of the guitar is slowly coming into focus.
I almost cut myself shaving this evening while listening to NPR’s All Things Considered. They had a thoughtful and engaging piece on Richard Crandell who was featured on our release, Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli.