Earl Klugh comes home to Detroit and he couldn’t be more excited

EKOne word that keeps coming up in a recent conversation with Earl Klugh when discussing his upcoming appearance in his hometown of Detroit – his first since 2009 when he appeared at Chene Park – is the word ‘excited’.

As if to emphasize his love and excitement for and about Detroit, Klugh will be appearing with a band full of Detroit musicians, including:

Al Turner – bass (Musical Director)

David Lee Spradley – keyboards

Al Duncan – keyboards

Ron Otis – drums

Tom Braxton – saxophone and flute

Braxton is the only band member not originally from Detroit. All are part of Klugh’s touring ensemble, which heads straight to South Africa after leaving Detroit.

“I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to play this time. It’s really gonna be special for me. That’s for sure.”

“I can’t wait to see how everything has been going. I’m really excited. Really excited.”

“I’m just excited about being able to get to the show and get everything right with the music and the fans. This really brings back a lot of memories.”

During an enjoyable, if brief, phone conversation with the phenomenally talented guitarist whose career now spans more than four decades, the word ‘excited’ must have popped up more than 10 times, but never once did it sound false, as if this was the right kind of thing to say to a hometown reporter to get more folks to the show. When Klugh shares his feelings about returning to his native city, the city where he graduated from Mumford High School, the palpable emotion can be felt even at a distance.

There’s something special about Detroit to be sure, but that feeling is particularly strong among Detroit musicians, and Earl Klugh is no different. Not all the memories are fond ones, but in Klugh’s case even some of the not-so-good experiences worked out to his benefit.

“You know, when I got my first guitar it was a nylon string guitar. That was like an instrument that didn’t exist. And so when I’d walk back and forth to school, you know, I’d have my acoustic guitar and, uh, they would laugh at me, you know, and I look back on that after all of this time and I’m like, well, I don’t think I did too bad.”

He laughs fully, the sound of someone who appreciates the advantage of having that last laugh. Not exactly revenge, just sweet vindication. From his biography on musicianguide.com:

“While teaching guitar and working at a Detroit music store at the age of 16, Klugh was ‘discovered’ by jazz great Yusef Lateef. Lateef invited Klugh to participate in a jam session at the world-famous Detroit jazz club Baker’s Keyboard Lounge. Impressed by the teenager’s playing, Lateef asked him to appear on his album Suite 16. Despite this dramatic development, Klugh chose to finish high school before embarking on a full-fledged professional career in music.

“After graduation, Klugh was introduced to jazz guitarist George Benson at Baker’s. The two quickly became friends and when Benson came to town thereafter he would invite Klugh to sit in with him. After a year of working intermittently with Benson, Klugh was formally invited to join the group. This professional relationship resulted in two albums, Body Talk and White Rabbit. Speaking of his days with Benson, Klugh related in Guitar Player, ‘That was the best musical experience of my life. George taught me a lot about playing, and I also learned the potential of an acoustic guitar in an electric setting.”

Later on, Klugh went on to win a Grammy with Bob James for One on One, received seven more Grammy Award nominations, and earned a gold record for Crazy for You.

What’s that Earl said?

“I don’t think I did too bad.”

Yeah. No kidding.

Earl Klugh will appear at the Sound Board in the Motor City Casino on Friday, Sept. 25, at 8 pm. Sound Board is located at 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI. For more information, call (313) 309-4614

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