Sandy MacDougall and the Gretsch

Sandy MacDougall

In the last post I was talking about how I was amazed at the playing of Domenic Troiano. This post is similar and gives credit to another amazing guitarist. The picture above is of my Dad, Sandy MacDougall. He played through the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. He was a humble, kind, and gentle man whose style was the Travis/Atkins (Merle Travis/Chet Atkins) style. The guitar in the picture is an original Gretsch Chet Atkins model that came out at the beginning of the 60’s.

My Dad’s playing was finger style with a thumb pick. He was an incredible player whose understanding of chord structure, melody, and rhythm went far beyond anyone in the area and he became a well known and sot-after player in Atlantic Canada and in later years an outstanding guitar teacher. He played most every day and I grew up listening to a player who played on the level of a Chet Atkins with much of his own developed approach intertwined with the Travis/Atkins style. My technique developed as a single note approach with a flat pick and claw style of finger picking. He helped me in the early years understand how chord structure worked and how rhythm combined with chord structure worked behind someone such as a singer, or a sax player taking a solo.

I remember many evenings listening and watching him play and develop his skills. At the time I really didn’t understand just how good a player he was. It was just my Dad playing his “stuff” and I was all charged up playing and listening to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Electric Flag, and into the mid to late sixties sound. It wasn’t until I was out playing professionally myself for many years that I began to understand the depth of his playing and musical knowledge. I’m listening to Hendrix, Clapton, Bloomfield and telling him how good these guys are and he’s saying “Oh, you like that? You should check out BB, Albert, and Freddy King, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters because that is where these guys are getting their “stuff” from.” That was great advice and started my journey into the Blues and R&B world which has lasted a lifetime.

We had many jam sessions at our house with players from all over dropping in to play with, and learn from him. I was always allowed to hang out and listen, and the odd time allowed to sit in. Most of these players played way above my level at the time, and they helped me learn, by fire, to play better. I thought with Father’s Day coming up soon that this would be a nice way to honour, and say a big “Thanks” to my Dad, for all the help he gave me to survive as a professional player in a competitive music world. The advice, love, and encouragement will never be forgotten.

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