B-Sides (MUSIC & OTHER EPHEMERA): Tommy’s knocking

Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel

Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel

Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel’s affinity for Kentucky goes beyond a few tour dates in the bluegrass.
While watching a young Cassius Clay pound some schmo into the canvas, Emmanuel’s father, a boxer in his own right, made a prescient proclamation, “You watch Cassius Clay. He’s gonna be great someday.”

Connection No. 2 is Muhlenberg native Merle Travis, who sung the famous line, “It’s a long way to Harlan, it’s a long way to Hazard, just to get a little brew.”

“Kentucky is where the roots of so much music comes from,” Emmanuel says.
The Aussie hasn’t done too bad for himself, either: The two-time Grammy nominee was just named No. 1 acoustic guitarist in the world by Guitar Player magazine. His new, two-disc live CD and DVD Center Stage, filmed over several nights at the Sierra Nevada Brewery in California, is out now.

Center Stage grew out of a need by Emmanuel’s fans for some footage of his shows, arguably the most popular solo performances, whether you’re a guitarist or not.

“We deal with the public every night,” he says. “We listen to what people say. A lot of people make suggestions, this is a what-everybody-wants kind of thing.”

Entertaining is at the core of his performances, a tactic he picked up watching the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Elvis Presley. “I took a leaf out of everyone’s book,” Emmanuel says. “One of the best ways to get through to a crowd is not to be afraid to laugh at yourself, making jokes about the way you do things, being willing to look a fool for the sake of it.”

Tommy Emmanuel performs Wednesday, May 21, at The Brown Theatre (315 W. Broadway, 562-0100). Anthony Snape opens. Showtime is 8 p.m., and tickets are $25-$30.

Mat Herron is LEO’s Music Editor, and he wishes gas were cheaper. Heckle him at [email protected]
On this week’s LEO Music Cast: Dude Plays Saxophone