Blues from the Top profiles: Eric Gales lets his music do the talking
Special to the Sky-Hi News
Blues guitarist Eric Gales can’t always tell people what he’s thinking. But after decades of performing he knows one thing: What he can’t express in words will always come out in his music.
“Sometimes I can’t speak what I want to say,” Gales said. “But I can play it.”
Gales, who grew up in Memphis, Tenn., the youngest of five boys, began that conversation on the drums. He started playing when he was just 4 years old.
“I grew up in a home full of musicians,” Gales said. “I loved it.”
Soon after, one of brothers handed him a guitar.
“I picked it up the wrong way,” said Gales. “I’ve played that way all my life. Two of my brothers played left-handed. It got comfortable to me. I didn’t know I was playing upside down and backwards. Even now, I use my right hand to write, but I play left-handed.”
The technique worked for Gales. When he was 15, he and his brothers entered a local Battle of the Bands contest. A producer for Ardent Records heard the group and immediately asked them to record a demo.
“We played four songs, and 13 different record labels called, wanting us to sign with them,” Gales said.
Gales chose Elektra Records, and his first album was released when he was just 16 years old.
“I didn’t search for it,” he said. “It came to me.”
The response to his record was overwhelming, turning Gales into an overnight sensation. He played with famous guitarists like Carlos Santana, and performed on the Arsenio Hall Show five times in three years.
Looking back, Gales says he took his newfound fame in stride, keeping many of his performances a secret from his own friends and family.
“I didn’t want people at school to know what I did,” he said. “I didn’t want anybody to know. I wanted them to know me for who I was, not what I did.”
Gales continued to perform and record albums with his brothers. He loved what he did, but after a few years, the pressure began to build.
“In 1999, and well into the 2000s, I was still making records,” Gales said. “But I was heavily involved in drug activity. I was in a deep depression, and prison even came into play.”
Gales credits his wife, LaDonna, for helping him through that dark time.
“She opened my eyes,” he said. “I had to leave Memphis, to get away. I met her and moved and we got married in two months. I hit the lottery with her. You look at her, and she is unbelievable.”
The couple now lives in Greensboro, N.C., where Gales teaches lessons and continues to tour.
“This life is hard,” Gales said. “She sings in my band and we’re on this journey together. She supports me, tells me ‘you go be you.’ That’s important.”
Gales has played in Colorado many times and is excited to come back.
“You can hear the music, but you need to see me in person,” he said. “I’ve got great things planned for Colorado.”
Gales, and his band take the “Blues from the Top” stage on Sunday, June 28. The group will be playing other Grand County venues throughout the weekend as well.
For more information, visit http://www.grandblues.org.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles of musicians who will be performing at Blues from the Top in Winter Park on June 26-28.
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