Peter White keeps Groovin’

Published on September 27th, 2017

By Jim Dail

In a sense, guitarist Peter White had an easy time thinking about his latest record, “Groovin’.”

“These songs are still everyone’s favorite songs,” said White, who will perform Sunday at Thornton Winery as part of the 2017 Champagne Jazz Concert Series. “That’s why you still hear them all the time.”

The record is a collection of covers of such iconic songs as “Here, There and Everywhere,” “I Can See Clearly Now,” and “I Heard it through the Grapevine,” to name a few.

One of the songs, the classic Santo & Johnny steel guitar tune, “Sleepwalk,” was actually a favorite of his, but as performed by The Shadows.

“It had been performed by my favorite English group The Shadows and that was really the first guitar music that inspired me, especially Hank Marvin on the guitar,” he said. “They never hit big over there, but they had a dozen top ten hits in England. They had a huge string of hits, and this was before the Beatles.”

Granted, the Beatles altered that course.

“By the time Beatles came along, they were like a tidal wave that washed away anything that came before them, and everyone forgot The Shadows,” he said. “But I still listened and thought they were fantastic.”

Speaking of The Beatles, they get representation as well with “Here, There and Everywhere” from the classic “Revolver” album.

“I’ve always said I shouldn’t do a Beatles song because their music seems so untouchable,” he said. “How can you do a Beatles song better? I always wanted to do ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ because I thought that one sounds so nice on the guitar. I finally did it, and that was the last song I recorded.”

At the same time, he considered an old song he wrote and did with Al Stewart.

“I was actually thinking about ‘Time Passages,’ and then I realized I wasn’t going to get it finished and I was up against my deadline,” he said. “I thought why not do something simple which is what I try to do on every album, just have that one song that just goes together with just the guitar and nothing else complicated. So, it was the Beatles song as it turned out.”

He is also very cognizant of not trying to just replicate the songs.

“My purpose in making an album of all covers is not to copy the original, the style or the arrangement but just take the melody and record it as though I had never heard the original,” he said. “If someone gave me the melody, how would I do it? Now, with “I Heard if Through the Grapevine,” I do start with that electric piano riff.”

As he points out, the classic Marvin Gaye song was released by Gladys Knight & The Pips before that.

“Motown didn’t want to release it, and Norman Whitfeld, who wrote it, re-recorded it and Motown said fine and a year later Marvin’s version came the DJs started to play it off an album, which wasn’t how it worked back then,” he said.  “It got so much play they were forced to release it as a single. It was such a haunting song for me. I was someone who was listening to The Beatles and Rolling Stones and then out comes this song.”

There is also the relaxing sound of the Otis Redding classic “(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay.”

“We heard it over in England, and it was just a simple pleasant, relaxing song,” he said. “Others have covered it but totally different, like Michael Bolton’s version, which was not at all relaxing.”

The title track was one of the most difficult for White to record.

“I almost gave up because it just wasn’t happening for me,” he said. “It’s good and simple and in my mind I thought there’s no such thing as too simple. I think that should be in every songwriter’s book: Don’t be afraid to be simple because there is much more effect.”

Of course, like other hits the label almost didn’t release The Young Rascals’ “Groovin’.”

“They didn’t think it was a hit because there were no drums and just a Latin Conga beat, but that really didn’t matter because it was such a great song,” he said. “A DJ, I think Murray the K, heard it and went to the record company and told them to release it and he turned out right.”

And for fans of White’s stage show, he did add “I Can See Clearly Now” to the album.

“That was actually very difficult because I did it in my shows all the time, but I only do one verse and one chorus and now I had to make a full song of it,” he said. “It was much more complicated than I thought.”

Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing.

“You can’t argue with good songs,” he said.

IF YOU GO

When:  5 p.m., Sunday, October 1

Where: Thornton Winery, Temecula

Admission: General admission $85, Gourmet supper $160

Information: Call 951-699-3021 or visit Website, www.thorntonwine.com

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