...was born in 1954 in Luton, about 30 miles north of London,
England. My parents already had a son - John, so I was the second-born in the
family. Soon after, my sister Michele arrived, and the whole family moved to
the nearby town of Letchworth Garden City, where my father had spent his youth.
It was the first planned city in England, where every house had a garden - thus
the name, Letchworth Garden City. (I'm not absolutely certain of this, but it
sounds plausible!). My younger brother Danny was born a few years later - one
of my earliest memories was of my mother returning from the hospital with our
new baby brother.
My father encouraged me to play music - I started on the recorder,
then the piano, guitar, clarinet, cornet, trombone and violin. I had lessons
on all these instruments, except for the guitar. I had to learn on my own. I
was about 8 when I first started playing the guitar and I learned by putting
my fingers in different positions on the strings and listening to how it sounded.
I always liked the low strings and that's all I played for the first few months.
Soon The Beatles burst onto the English music scene and I learned to play the
opening riff to "Day Tripper". For this you only have to use the bottom
3 strings so it was well within my ability. I was really excited when I saw
the film of the Fab Four at Shea Stadium on our little black and white TV set.
They were singing, playing and sweating, and the girls were screaming. Even
at that early age it seemed I knew just where my future lay. And I noticed that
they were playing all 6 strings on their guitars. I had some work to do!
Around the age of 13, I met my lifelong friend, David Visick.
We were both pupils at Hitchin Boys School and I would go to his house after
classes to listen to his extensive LP collection. That's how I got to know the
music of Fleetwood Mac (they were a blues band then), Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin,
Cream and Jimi Hendrix, among many
others. These were not bands that were generally played on the BBC radio (Radio
One) because it was rock music, not pop, but I loved it. I imagined myself as
Eric Clapton playing for thousands of screaming fans! When I saw the film of
the Cream farewell concert on TV I became enthralled at the sound of Clapton's
guitar. Yes, I was hooked. I thought that perhaps I could be just like Clapton!
I had more work to do. I tried to learn every note that he ever played, including
the magnificent solo in "Crossroads". All five verses I also started
letting my hair grow long, as all rock musicians had long hair at that time.
At 17, not studying real hard, with friends Don Sanders and
Dave Woolford. I'm the long haired guy with the hat! My first electric guitar
had a very short life. It was burnt in a fire unwittingly set by my brother
Danny in the bedroom that we shared. It was in this room that I kept my guitar
and also where Danny conducted his experiments with matches. After the smoke
cleared I was left with only my acoustic guitar for company, and as a result
I started developing my love of acoustic music. In fact now I play almost exclusively
acoustic guitar. Thanks, Danny!
At school I slipped away from classes any time I could to play
the grand piano in the assembly room at school. My interest in the piano had
been rekindled by listening to the music of Keith Emerson (The Nice, Emerson
Lake and Palmer). Even though guitar was my favourite instrument at the time,
little did I know how important my keyboard ability would soon become.
As I got more interested in playing music, my grades slipped
badly and by the time I was 17, I realized that I was going to be out in the
world very soon with nothing to show for all my years at school. I started studying
at home, and was amazed that everything I needed to know was in the text books
to which I had never given more than a passing glance. I caught up with about
2 years of schoolwork in a few months, and passed my final exams in 1973.
I could have gone to college - it would have pleased my mother
immensely, but the call of the music business was too strong. I was completely
obsessed by rock and roll. I was now 18 years old and on my last day of school
I remember thinking "Now what?" I had no plans, just dreams of stardom.
So I worked for a few months in a soup canning factory - waiting for my big
break. I took the job because I misunderstood the lady at the employment office.
I thought she said it was a suit factory. I thought "How hard can that
be, making suits?"
My first break came in the spring of 1974 when I was 19. I
met an organist who needed a guitarist for his band that was to play at a holiday
resort in the south of England. I told him that I was a guitarist and he hired
me on the spot, even though he had never heard me play. Thank you Graham - I'm
sorry I don't remember your last name! This was my very first professional engagement
and I was deliriously happy, playing songs like "Tie a Yellow Ribbon"
to holidaymakers! It was not exactly what I had dreamed about (joining Led Zeppelin)
but I was nineteen and having the time of my life - living away from home for
the first time, playing music, and getting paid for it!
After the summer season ended, I returned home dreaming of
more musical adventures. Through the back pages of the "Melody Maker"
magazine, I got some auditions, and ended up playing with the psychedelic "Principal
Edwards' Magic Theatre" group in London. The band broke up soon after I
joined, but the most important thing was that I had found a place to live in
London, and I actually had a telephone (We never had a telephone when I was
living at home). One day the phone rang - it was Al Stewart's manager, looking
for a keyboard player to join Al on a British tour. I had seen Al Stewart perform
and liked his music, so I auditioned for him on keyboard. He didn't even know
that I could play the guitar, and anyway he already had a guitar player. If
I had not kept up my piano playing, I would never have got that gig, and my
life would have been totally different.
Playing with Al was to become my introduction to the world
of recording and international touring, a gig which was to last almost 20 years.
Soon I was playing shows around England and Scotland and then all over the USA.
I was starting to feel quite famous! For the first time I was touring with an
artist who made records, and had an audience that knew his music! I was 20.
And I had made it to America.
I had only been playing with Al for a few months when he started
recording the "Year of The Cat" album. I was thrilled to be part of
the recording sessions, as I had never even been in a recording studio. I played
some keyboard and acoustic guitar (By then Al had discovered that I could play
the guitar). Most of the recording was done at the legendary Abbey Road Studios
in London, and yes I did bump into Paul McCartney one day in the hallway which
was a great thrill for me.
In 1977, after the release and subsequent Top Ten success of
the "Year of The Cat" album, Al decided to relocate from England to
the USA, and I followed soon after, only to keep my job! I helped Al put together
a new band in Los Angeles and so began my life in California. With members of
Al's band I formed the group "Shot In The Dark" and we made an LP
for RSO Records, who had just released the "Saturday Night Fever"
soundtrack, one of the biggest selling records of all time. It didn't stop them
from going bankrupt in less than two years however, which pretty much sealed
the fate of our band. We did a few more shows but never released another album.
Meanwhile, back in England, my brother Danny (remember the
guitar burning incident?), decided to start recording music of his own. He formed
a group called Matt Bianco, met up with a lady named Basia, and soon started
selling millions of albums. Yes, I was jealous! Luckily he never learned to
play guitar so I played on most of their recordings ("Time and Tide",
"London / Warsaw / New York" and "The Sweetest Illusion").
I enjoy very much recording and playing on-stage with Basia and my brother Danny.
People say that I argue with him too much, but all brothers do - and I just
see it as intellectually stimulating discussion.
In the late 1980's I began to get more involved with the Los
Angeles music scene, playing and recording with many artists, including Johnny
Rivers (the "Secret Agent Man"), Bernie Leadon (after he left the
Eagles), Susanna Hoffs (after she left the Bangles), Tori Amos (before she got
famous), and Janis Ian ("At Seventeen"). Most of the recordings were
for "demo" purposes and never released, but I had fun working with
all these artists.
I discovered that my neighbour, Skipper Wise, was also a musician.
He had a band called Windows and I played guitar and keyboards on some of their
recordings. When Skipper decided to make a solo album in 1988 I agreed to help
him. His CD, "The Clock and The Moon", came out in 1989. In return,
Skipper helped me record my first solo CD - "Reveillez-Vous" in his
Benedict Canyon studio. The title refers to something my mother (yes she's French)
said to me very often - it means "Wake Up" in French (I named my second
CD "Excusez-Moi" as an apology to all those people who couldn't pronounce
the title of the first one!).
The "Reveillez-Vous" CD came out in 1990. I was now
35 and had no idea if my songs would ever get any recognition, but gradually
the music spread. My friend Cliff Gorov, a veteran of the music business (www.allthatjazzinc.com)
used his influence to get my music played on the radio. I had met him when he
was working to promote Basia, and he told me to call him if I ever needed help.
Thanks Cliff! I soon found myself doing interviews, talking about my music and
my association with Al Stewart and Basia. This was very strange for me, as I
was not used to talking about myself to strangers!
I started playing with my own band, and developing my own show.
My friend, Steve Chapman, who was a drummer with Al Stewart, put down his drumsticks
and became my manager. He has guided me to this day. Since that first CD I have
made many more and toured extensively with my own band; with Basia (Basia on
Broadway live CD), with Al Stewart, and with many other musical luminaries.
In 1995 I was part of the first "Guitars & Saxes"
tour, together with Richard Elliot, Warren Hill and Craig Chaquico. Since then
I have played on many other "Guitars and Saxes" tours, as well as
doing numerous shows with my own band.
I met Robin, my wife at a show in Cleveland in 1989, where
she was living at the time. I immediately was attracted to her spirit and independence.
I visited her a few times in the converted loft where she was living. I was
impressed - I had heard of people living in lofts but had never seen one first-hand.
She soon moved to New York City to work for Time-Warner. We continued a long
distance friendship for quite a few years, from California to New York.
Her parents were initially dubious about their daughter becoming
involved with a musician, but more than that it was Robin's vow never to live
in California that was a problem for us. I did consider moving to New York for
a moment but decided that California was better for my music career. A phone
conversation in early 1996 changed everything. Robin inquired about the weather
in Los Angeles (there was a blizzard in New York at the time). I described a
balmy January day (I wasn't even exaggerating!). We were married in Cleveland
in November of that same year (during a blizzard).
My father, who started my interest in music, passed away in
October 2000, but I have many great memories of him - going to the local pub
for a drink, and then to his favourite Indian restaurant. We spent many hours
discussing politics, music etc. We should all cherish these moments with our
parents if we are lucky enough to still have them.
In the summer of 2001 Robin and I went to China to adopt an
11 month old girl who we named Charlotte. She is the light of our lives - a
very lively little girl. I give a special thanks to the members of my fan club,
"The Caravan", and especially Joan Lynch (the President) who registered
a star in her name, (yes a real star!) They also gave us a telescope with which
to find it in the sky. It is in the Ophiuchus constellation, close to Hercules
(Right Ascension 18h 21m 14s, Declination 08 degrees 37 minutes - for the astronomically
minded). Check it out next time you look up!
My mother is my biggest fan, and loves to see me perform, as
I do occasionally in England, where she still lives. My older brother John is
married with a daughter - Katie and works for the Social Services Department
in London helping older people. My younger brother Danny still works with Basia
on concerts and recordings. He is also married with two young sons - Jordan
and Niall. I am very close to my sister, Michele, even though she now lives
in New Zealand with her husband and 2 daughters, Faye and Rosie. I have visited
her many times, and we always go hiking.
In my musical career, I have achieved things I never dreamed
of. I have collaborated with numerous other artists, including Boney James,
Richard Elliot, Dave Koz, Chris Botti, Rick
Braun, Gerald Albright, Christopher Cross, Gato Barbieri, and the late great
Grover Washington Jr. I have been lucky enough to meet many of my idols: George
Benson, Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Les Paul and Jimmy Page, among others
(Some of these encounters are described in the Museum page of this web site).
I play up to 100 shows a year in the USA and also the UK. I
always love the diversity of the audiences I see at my shows - all ages and
all colours, both male and female. I like that - Smooth Jazz is a microcosm
of the world! I receive many encouraging email messages every week from people
telling me that my music has touched them and this keeps me going through long
recording sessions and rehearsals. Thank you!
I like to stay after shows (wherever possible) to meet people
and chat. So if you want to say hi after a show, just be a little patient and
I will usually appear. To all of you - my best wishes - I'll see you on the
concert trail... PW
You can contact my fan club at "The Caravan" (http://www.peterwhitefanclub.com),
named after one of my albums, "Caravan of Dreams".
More info here: