By Todd Houston
Tell us a little bit about where you grew up and went to school here in Rockford.
I was born and raised here in Rockford. I attended an arts grade school called “Arts Alternative,” which later became CAPA. A good portion of the day was focused on music and art. We used to put on plays and perform around town and in Chicago. Eisenhower for middle school and Guilford for high school, where I played football and wrestled.
You have been a part of the local Rockford music scene for many years. Tell us how you got your start, and who were some of your musical influences?
My first band crush was Cheap Trick. My dad is an architect that did the remodel for Rick’s first home on Jacoby, and then designed the home Rick currently lives in. Maybe it was because I got to meet my first rock star in person. Really, it’s because the music is made with raw guitars with great melody and vocals over the top. I am a sucker for any power pop or rock music. I started playing in bands when I was a senior in high school as a singer only, but then quickly taught myself to play the guitar so that I could start writing my own songs.
While growing up and learning to play the guitar, Guzzardo Music was a very important part of my life. How did you get your start in sales there?
I was just looking for any job at the time so that I could work on music. I was interviewed by Joe Guzzardo. I had an in, due to my dad being the architect on the building. I was hired in 5 minutes. The “gear-head” knowledge just came by being around it day after day for the past 21 years. (laughs)
Is it true that your father designed the building where Guzzardo’s Music is currently located?
Yes! I remember as a child walking around in the foundation of the building when it was being built. It’s kind of ironic to own it now. You can see the ’70s aesthetic and the popularity of the volcanic brick, as my dad also used it for Forest Hills Lanes, Cherry Bowl, Oregon Bowl, etc. I’ve seen a couple of kids try to jump through that brick circle and land on their faces!
In the past 20 years, what is the coolest piece of used gear to come through the door on trade? By “coolest,” I mean that you actually peed a little while looking at it.
The coolest piece that I’ve seen was one that a customer brought in to find out what she had. “My father died years ago, and this guitar has been just sitting aroud. …” It was a ’57 Fender Strat in showroom condition, absolutely the most pristine specimen of a guitar from that era that I’ve ever seen! My business partner, Craig Taylor, and I were ready to run to the bank and grab handfuls of cash to set in front of her. She had no interest in the money whatsoever.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but manager Craig Taylor is the only person at the store that has been there longer than you. As a youngster, I can remember him taking a strat off the wall honking out some Hendrix and blowing my mind! I understand that he doesn’t play much anymore. Have you ever heard him play?
Craig Taylor and Greg Whitson are the two that have been here longer than I. Craig has been here the longest. In the 21 years that I have been here, I’ve only heard Craig play the guitar a handful of times. He taught me to play the opening classical guitar part for “Roundabout” by YES. From what he’s allowed any of us to hear, he seems to be a very good player.
Speaking of playing, in all your years of sales, what is the No.1 “go-to” song when someone picks up a guitar in the store to try it out?
a. “Enter Sandman”
c. “Stairway to Heaven”
d. None of the above
Of these songs, “Enter Sandman” I’ve heard the most. Surprisingly, I don’t hear “Stairway” much. For a while, it seemed like every kid was playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Bar chords, ya know.
Favorite Saturday night record?
In my house, music is constantly playing. If you asked me for a top 10, my head would spin off! (laughs)
Favorite Sunday morning record?
Sunday morning would have to be Bellybutton by Jellyfish. That’s my favorite headphone record. Remember, I’m a sucker for power pop.
Favorite place to dine out locally?
It’s a little-known fact that I can make a fool out of myself eating sushi. I seem to have no off switch. I like Nippon’s or Shogun. Either is divine.
Fender or Rickenbacker?
I’ve always been a Fender freak. I tried to like Les Paul’s twice, but always went back to my Fenders. The Telecaster specifically.
Black Crowes or Black Sabbath?
Ha! Being that I’m a singer in Fake Your Money Maker, a Black Crowes cover band, and have never once sang a Sabbath tune, I’d have to say Night Ranger!
Thanks for chatting with us, Arik!
From the July 23-29, 2014, issue