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Cowboys In Cyberspace - April 2004


Learn your licks from the masters!

ROY NICHOLS was best known as the lead guitarist in Merle Haggard's band, THE STRANGERS, although he was already an influential player before he spent 22 years on the road with 'The Hag'. Roy passed away back in July 2001, but his sound still reverberates on good country records today through the countless pickers that he inspired.

ROY NICHOLS Having spent the last two decades trying to sound like Roy myself, I was delighted to find the Website of guitar player TERRY DOWNS from Texas. Terry has taken this quest to the next level and created a masterful study of Roy's style and released it as a DVD, accompanied by a CD and book. Titled THE GUITAR STYLES OF ROY NICHOLS, the DVD outlines the essential elements that dominated Roy's playing so that you can incorporate them into your own ideas. It also teaches you some of the memorable licks that Roy played on Merle's records, such as Mama Tried, plus a couple of The Strangers' instrumentals including the classic Stealin' Corn. Terry also addresses the issue of the brief period where James Burton played on some of Merle's recording and how Roy and James shared the duties for a while afterwards. The full-sized book includes transcriptions of the tunes in Tablature and regular notation plus other resource information and a history of Roy's career, while the Audio CD contains backing tracks of the tunes for you to use in your practice.

Apart from the loving detail that Terry has poured into this project, one of the most notable features is the camera angle. Most instructional videos show the 'teacher' face on, presenting a mirror image of what you, the student, are trying to duplicate. Terry performs for you with the camera looking over his shoulder so that the guitar neck and his hands appear, surprisingly at first, upside down on the screen. As soon as you glance down at the guitar in your own hands, the logic of this is so obvious that you'll wonder why no-one thought of it before!


This package is a tremendous effort, perfectly thought out by a musician, for musicians, and perfectly executed. On top of that, Terry is donating the proceeds of this project to the Nichols family. Roll on Volume Two and keep on pickin'.

More Roy Nichols links...

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DVD cover

The AV Channel / Umbrella Entertainment

Originally aired as a television special, this 1986 tribute to Ricky Nelson includes performances of some of his greatest hits such as Hello Mary Lou and It's Late, plus recollections from the likes of Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Kris Kristofferson, John Fogerty and Waylon Jennings. Rick Nelson himself is shown reminiscing about his life and career, including the resistance he met during his later 'Country-Rock' years with The Stone Canyon Band and the story behind their 1972 hit Garden Party. Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, two of Rick's sons, host the special and also pay tribute to the band members who died in the same plane that tragically took their father's life. In some ways the influence of his music which spanned pop, rockabilly and country, is still under-estimated today.

Interesting points to look out for: a young James Burton playing some classic lead guitar on the early songs and also John Beland playing guitar on the later performances. Although history books often mark the origin of the modern 'music video' down to The Beatles' Hard Day's Night movie, watch here for the 1961 clip from the Nelson family's TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, where Ricky's dad (and the show's director) Ozzie superimposed images of different countries around the world onto an image of Ricky singing Travelin' Man. Life was so much simpler then and the music, oh so good.

The AV Channel/Umbrella Entertainment
DAVID0206 (45 Mins plus extras)

Until next time, happy surfing!

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Don't forget to listen out for cyberBob each month on the radio waves with Murri Country, 4AAA (98.9 FM in Brisbane) and Barbara Morison on 2SER (107.3 FM in Sydney and on the Web).



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