When I was a child many of my days were spent at the Academy, learning how to dance, unlike the other boys my age who were all playing baseball and football. Music was then and is still my life but at about the age of fourteen my parents took me to a county Fair where I saw a live Rock band for the first time in my life. There they were – four of the tightest musicians I would ever come to know. They were called The Trends, led by a man named Clayton Watson. With Clayton playing drums and lead vocals, Denny on Bass, Carol on the Tenor Sax and Gary Edmonds on Guitar, these guys were an incredible group that could play everything and anything with soul and fire. My attention immediately was directed to the Guitarist in the band. He wore Spanish boots, a blazer and turtleneck shirt, was tanned and had great hair. Clutching a Fender electric guitar and playing big fat jazz chords, then ripping solos through a Fender amp and Fender Vibratone Leslie Speaker, with one leg slightly bent at the knee keeping time, this guy was the epitome of cool! I turned to my folks and said, “ that’s who I want to be! “
And so it was. That summer my dad taught my brother and I to play some chords on an old acoustic guitar he bought for us at a pawn shop and we soon discovered our new home away from home – Lohr Brothers Music Store where we, along with all the other kids into music would hang out. And there he was, Gary Edmonds the guitar teacher from planet Cool! That same dynamic lead man in The Trends was there every day and accessible to all who would gather around him. And even if you couldn’t afford or didn’t have the attention span required for one-on-one lessons with Gary, he would show you the latest guitar lick or his “ big fat Jazz chords “ just for the asking. Gary loved to teach and was good at it. Over the years he probably taught hundreds of students and some of those went on to be really great professional musicians. And he would occasionally play solo, just a minimum of gear, but always with his trusty Fender in his hands, Gary could sing the standards and current Pop and Country hits all night long.
I had many interactions over the years with Gary Edmonds and I can honestly say that every single memory I have of the man is a good one. He was witty and sharp, full of great musician jokes and of course, always willing to help out a musician in need.
Gary was a soldier in two wars – WW2 and the Korean War, ending his military career as a US Marine and very proud of what he’d done for his country. At one point he became aquatinted with my father who was also a veteran. They spent some good times talking about having been in the service and being proud of their country. Gary was like family in our house.
Mr. Edmonds was married for many years to a fine lady, Penny, who was always very supportive of his music. They had several daughters who all learned the music of their soul from their way-cool dad! I don’t know a lot of other personal things about Gary but I can tell you that in my whole musical career the one time that I actually got to work on a professional job with him was a highlight of my life. He played Bass Guitar on that occasion because arthritis was preventing him from making a tight grip around a Telecaster neck. Halfway through the gig though we were asked to play some Big Band era standards that were way over my technical head and Gary said “ OK Man , I’ll give it a try ! “ And the guy absolutely tore it up and set the place on fire! I will never forget that moment.
Gary Edmonds, sometimes professionally referred to as “ Dad “ was our iconic hero in our little town where my friends and I grew up. He was always the coolest guy with those slick waves in his hair, the pack of smokes rolled up in his short-sleeved shirt which incidentally left the tattoos on his arms exposed. But the musician that he was transcended the normal levels of technical prowess that most of us could ever hope for in this life. He was simply the best.
The other day, as many of the musicians who loved and admired him were shuffling in, one by one to be at his bedside with family, Gary and I got talking about guitars. He said “ I had a nice Gretch once and it played real well, but I just couldn’t get used to it. I was always a Fender man.” When it was time for us to go and respectfully leave space for his loving family, I stood up and told him something I always wanted to say , that although many of us may have learned to copy his tricks and chops over the years, none of us would ever be cool. Not like him. As I turned for the door I said “ see ya later Daddy-O! “ Gary raised his arm and gave us a silent “thumbs up “. Three nights later with his wife and family at his side, Gary Edmonds began his journey in the afterlife.