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Hello-caster! 

A couple of weeks back, the Savannah Music Festival welcomed guitar master John Jorgenson and his gypsy jazz quintet to Orleans Hall for a series of spellbinding sets that wowed existing fans and made instant converts of most in the audience who’d never had the pleasure to witness talent of that caliber up close and in person.

This upcoming Wednesday night, Portman’s Music Superstore will provide another such opportunity when they sponsor a clinic and solo performance by Jorgenson’s peer, friend and longtime guitar foil, Jerry Donahue. Both dazzling musicians famously collaborated alongside fellow six-string whiz Will Ray as members of The Hellecasters — a supergroup of almost insanely gifted Telecaster baddasses championed by Monkees member (and independent record company magnate) Michael Nesmith, that went on to become one of the most celebrated acts of their kind in the history of recorded music.

These days, Donahue —who in his capacity as a highly sought-after session guitarist has worked with a dizzying number of major artists including Robert Plant, Elton John, George Harrison, Bonnie Raitt, Nanci Griffith, Roy Orbison, Joan Armatrading, Sandy Denny, The Yardbirds, Warren Zevon, Gerry Rafferty, Linda Gail Lewis, and more— is doing a small number of intimate clinics to help promote his latest endeavor: the Omniac guitar.

Designed by Donahue in association with the Peavey company’s custom shop, this signature model resembles his last foray into this realm, 1997’s Fender Signature Series Tele. However, according to the guitarist, this new model is the closest he has come to a design that meets his own exacting specs. It would also seem to provide versatile players with a wider variety of tonal possibilities than can usually be found when buying an axe “off the rack.”

“The Telecaster has, without a doubt, a far superior bridge/pickup assembly (than other electric guitar styles),” he said in 2006, adding that the Omniac “takes what I’ve always loved to an even higher level.”

In layman’s terms, the main difference between his new Peavey model and a standard Fender Tele is in the pickup array, and how those pickups contribute to the sound of the instrument. With a proprietary five-way selector switch and a pair of specially-wired Seymour Duncan pickups, this guitar offers five classic tones from the ‘50s through the ‘70s. Whether they be full-bodied jazz, soaring overdriven blues, or variations on the classic raunchy lead sounds which defined both country and rock tunes of those eras.

At this event, this “guitarists’ guitarist” will play a solo set, centered around emphasizing how he’s developed the personal style he’s become known for (a radical method of bending the instrument’s strings to emulate the trademark sounds of pedal steel guitars). While it may sound as though this clinic is tailored strictly for players, Portman’s CEO Bruce Chapman predicts it will be both educational and highly entertaining for any lover of guitar music — whether they pick or not.

“This’ll be seventy or a hundred people sitting around where they can talk to him. He’ll play some, probably tell a few road stories, demonstrate some techniques, and then answer questions from the crowd. That’s usually the high point of clinics.”

Chapman says that despite a career in music retail for a quarter century, he’s never met Donahue before, and seems as anxious as anyone to see the man play.

“I’ve been very aware of him for years, and as soon as we had this chance, we jumped all over it. He’s only in this part of the world for about a week, and is only doing five dates. Ours is one of them.”

Donahue will be bringing some of the new Omniac guitars with him, and the store will likely make people a better than average deal on them to commemorate the clinic. However, Chapman says this show is about much more than moving product.

“This is a good, family event, and it should help to motivate people to go home and work on taking their own music and abilities to the next level.

“A lot of young people out there never get to hear great live music in person. They may have only known this kind of playing on record, TV or the internet. Here they can see up close what their own possibilities are. It’s a whole other thing.”

Jerry Donahue plays Portman’s Music Superstore 7 pm, Wed., April 18th. Advance tickets to this intimate ALL-AGES event are only $5, and can be purchased at the store, or charged by phone at 354-1500.

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Jim Reed

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Connect Today 12.09.2016

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