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Six degrees of Laurence Juber 

In the United States, Gilligan's Island — created, developed and produced by a joke writer named Sherwood Schwartz — premiered on ABC-TV on Sept. 26, 1964. That same week, the No. 1 album in every country on earth was the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night.

Laurence Juber was an 11-year-old, short pants-wearing schoolboy in London, studying classical guitar on the weekends.

Fast forward to 2013: One of the most renowned finger-style guitarists in the world, Juber performs in concert Friday, Sept. 13 at Randy Wood Guitars in Bloomingdale. He is a multiple Grammy winner who has composed and arranged music for numerous films and TV shows, and has made 22 albums of solo guitar music in different genres.

Acoustic Guitar magazine named Juber one of the top acoustic players of all time.

Yet he's best known as the lead guitarist in the final incarnation of Paul McCartney's post-Beatles band, Wings. Juber played on the chart-topping "Goodnight Tonight" and "Coming Up," as well as the final Wings album, 1979's Back to the Egg.

He'd been a studio musician before McCartney recruited him, and after the band splintered, he immigrated to the United States to pick up where he'd left off. Here, he married a Californian woman named Hope Schwartz.

"Pretty bizarre, huh?" Juber, 60, says today. "The two great mentors of my career, Paul McCartney and Sherwood Schwartz."

Let us explain. "I didn't see an episode of Gilligan's Island until I came to America," Juber continues. "For me, it was the British sitcoms, and Monty Python and stuff like that. I saw my first Gilligan's Island and my first Dodger game on the same day. That was the beginning of my Americanization."

Juber was introduced to Gilligan and the Skipper because Hope's father was — you guessed it — Sherwood Schwartz (who also created The Brady Bunch, and composed that silly, obnoxious, unforgettable theme song).

That's why guitarist with the delicate touch and the golden ear has, on his resume, the scores for Gilligan's Island the Musical, A Very Brady Christmas and A Very Brady Musical. His father-in-law, who passed away in 2011, commissioned him to write the music for those legacy-extending shows in the '80s and '90s.

Ah, but Juber knows that his time in the employ of Paul and Linda McCartney is what'll be first-referenced in his epitaph. He's about to publish an autobiography called Guitar With Wings.

"If it was the only thing that I had ever done, perhaps I'd have some regret that I never really got beyond that point," he says. "But the reality is that I've done an awful lot on my own, and much of it having nothing directly to do with Wings at all. And just when I think it's safe to forget about it, it pops back up again."

It's not like he's tried to escape it. On the contrary, he has recorded two volumes of LJ Plays the Beatles, and a collection of McCartney covers, One Wing.

Like Australian Tommy Emmanuel, who's also turned up to play at Randy Wood's place, Juber is a virtuoso who can make it seem as if more than two hands are playing the instrument. He is a one-man, six-string band.

After 50 years as a guitarist, he says, there are still surprises for him. "That's what keeps me going, to be able to explore — and then to go back to perhaps the more conventional, but articulate it in a different way," Juber enthuses.

"What's great on the guitar is that you can take a melody and finger it multiple different ways, and each way of doing it can have a different stylistic frame of reference. Or perhaps using open strings, or conversely playing high up the neck using stop strings."

He's proficient in multiple alternative tunings, which he demonstrates on his four "how-to" instructional DVDs.

"I use DADGAD because it's a useful tool for that kind of exploration," he adds. "And for some weird reason, it lends itself really well to arranging pop songs and Great American Songbook stuff! There's something about the configuration of that tuning on the fingerboard that is kind of special."

Next month, Juber will join two fellow former Wings, Denny Laine and Denny Seiwell, at a Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas. He's looking forward to strapping on the ol' Les Paul again and rocking out.

Eventually, hopefully, McCartney will reissue Back to the Egg as part of his ongoing Archive series. Although the album was not a big seller, it's been unjustly relegated to the back pages of the McCartney history book. Juber thinks McCartney himself has all but forgotten about it.

Back to the Egg was co-produced by Chris Thomas, just after he'd done the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks, and prior to his work on the Pretenders' eponymous debut.

So it's quite a rocking record.

"I'm very happy to have been associated with the McCartneys," Juber says. "It was a unique experience for me personally, and as a musician. It gave me a great deal of insight, and also opened a few doors for me.

"And everything else has been just moving along, getting on with life and career ... and I get to share all of that with my audiences."

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About The Author

Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

Bio:
Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor is a veteran music journalist who has has written the liner notes for more than 100 CDs. He is the author of the book 'Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay's Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought it Down,' published in 2013 by University Press of Florida. On a personal note,... more

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