Mexican guitarist "Mr. Pedro" Wyant talks about the California Dream, Robert Johnson, Lou Rawls & the Mexican scene

"Mr. Pedro" Wyant: Un Amigo Tiene El Blues

The diverse musical journey of Pete "Mr Pedro" Wyant originated in Colorado where he worked through his High School years playing lead guitar for the Titians. When the two key members, the Justice brothers, joined the military the core of the band was no more and the band collapsed. Pete entered a short musicial dry spot before joining a tour with the New Moonrakers and the Sliver Streak. Following a brief tour he joined the Spinning Wheel, an avant-garde musicial group that included a San Francisco style traveling light show - performing in night clubs and concerts through-out Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma Texas, and Arizona through the summer of 1966-67.


In 1968, Pete ventured to Los Angles, California with Hardwater, a talented group of song writers and vocalists who would record for Capitol Records. The Grammy winning producer David Axelrod, whose credits included producing Cannonball Adderley, Lou Rawles, Don Randi, etc. was contracted to complete the inaugural album for the group. Two singles were launched from the album, however the band was short-lived.

After several guest appearances on other nationally distributed albums and gigging with the GNP, a soul/blues band, and then a 50's styled band, the Rocket 88's, Pete experienced an epiphany.

He concluded that a formal education in music was a necessary foundation to pursue, if he was to seriously consider a career in music. Four years later, his dedication, tenacity and talent resulted in being awarded a degree in music from the prestigious Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.

Shortly after his college graduation, Pete returned to Los Angles where he landed a teaching position at the esteemed Musicians Institute where he remained for seventeen years. During this time Pete would envolve himself in a wide spectrum of musical projects. As a pet project, Pete formed Pedro and the China Men, a musical group that perform around the Los Angles area. During this same time frame, he wrote and arranged an inspired album of children's songs in both Spanish and English - intended help teach language skills for emigrant students.

As a result of the unique teaching methods he has developed an ability to teach and improve the language skills of children. Recently, Pete was invited to visit Chicago, where he presented his method of teaching language through music. A series of bilingual and pure Spanish classes were presented to immigrant children who possessed varying degrees of skills in English. The concert series presented to the Berwin Children's Bi-lingual Children's Center was enthusiastically received.

During the same period, Pete was also invited as a keynote speaker at Morton College, where an audience of preschool teachers were given a demonstraton on how to teach language, through music, to pre-schoolers.

Today Pete lives in Mexico City, where he teaches guitar and several classes, one of which is aptly titled, "Rock History." Additionally Pete has developed a history and playing workshop for blues, the beginings of rock, and jazz, along with a class on chord voicing and accompaniment.

Pedro continues recording his own musicial creations spanning a diversive range of music from down home blues to classic jazz.


Interview by Michael Limnios


Pedro, when was your first desire to become involved in the music & who were your first idols?

Since childhood, I always loved music. My father built a hi-fi and he always brought us classical records. When I was 15 years old, I had played the guitar a little but then decided to get more serious.  My 1st idols were Lonnie Mack, Freddie King, the Ventures and BB King.


Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

I’m pretty sure the best was doing the “Song of Innocence” sessions with Dave Axelrod on Capitol Records and having been accompanied by the best studio musicians in LA at the time.

I think the worst was one Sunday afternoon when I was playing jazz at a club on Venice Beach. The place was packed, everybody drinkin’ a lot and dancing.  People kept falling onto the stage and into my legs, almost causing me to fall; it was pissing me off a lot as I couldn’t concentrate. I got on the microphone and told the audience that the next idiot falling on me had better be ready to fight. Then it happened again. I put my guitar down and pushed the culprit to the floor. Then I heard the metal clanging on the floor. I had my fist doubled up and ready to smack the guy when I saw the metal clanging was his crutches, he was a helpless cripple. I WANTED TO HIDE MY HEAD IN THE SAND.


What does the BLUES mean to you & what does music offered you?

From about 1900 and on, blues has been the basis of all popular music. I take pride in having learned many styles, I even spent quite a lot of time as a jazz musician. But no matter what the style was, Ive always incorporated the blues in all of it. Eventually I returned to my roots, the blues, because it is the idiom that I can express myself best in.


Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?

I think it’s a combination of all those things. I interpret heart and soul to be about the same thing. But being heavily educated, I do calculate and analyze somewhat, which keeps me from playing just a bunch of licks tied together.


Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?

If I had a time machine, Id love to go to the 1920’s and talk to Robert Johnson and Blind Blake. So little is known about Robert Johnson and I would really like to know what he was really like and how he came about his creativity, his views on how to play the guitar etc. With Blind Blake I just ask him to show me his techniques.  And I would try to explain to them about the importance of what they creating, that , 60 -70 years later people would look at them as sheer geniuses, and if they had the slightest idea that what they were creating would be the basis of all popular music that followed.


Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best friend?

That’s a tie. Richard Whetstone is a singer-percussionist that is easily the most creative drummer Ive played with, and Ive played with the likes of Earl Palmer, Jim Gordon and Dave Weckl.  He has an uncanny sense to change the groove when my solos would come which would take me to another place creatively and have so much fun with what Im playing. He also is an incredible singer, basically from the Steve Winwood school but so much better. He sang on David Axelrod’s “Holy Are You” when he was with the Electric Prunes. The other is my bud, Buddy Zapata from LA. He started out as my student and when he came to me he could hardly even tune a guitar. But he kept with it and now is one of the most respected singer-songwriter dobro players up there. When he studied with me, he was into urban blues and the emphasis was in soloing. But he eventually changed to a more New Orleans crossed with the Mississippi Delta kind of style, which I didn’t teach him but I think I helped him with the creative process and learning techniques. Now he’s very active in the LA blues scene and recently finished his 2nd CD.


When it all began for the blues in Mexico?

Mexican blues is a little bit behind the rest of the world but catching up fast.  I am just starting to see some originality and creativity now, whereas when I first got here, it was all copies. One thing which I disliked at first, but now like a lot is that there is a lot of blues sung in Spanish. They also incorporate a lot of the culture here with traditional blues, like using latin percussion instruments. I think that currently is the best time for Mexican blues for the reasons that I mentioned earlier. There are a lot of younger players coming up that are very dedicated, and don’t have such a rock influence and preconceptions that a lot of the older cats have.


What were your favorite guitars back then, where did you pick up your guitar style? From whom have you have learned the most secrets about music?

I think I can answer both the same. I take a lot of pride in the originality of my style. I never really set out to see how original I could be, I just wanted to be good. Id learn, like everybody else in the dinosaur era, from picking stuff up off of records. We had no GIT or instructional videos or decent books in those days that were the only way. But Id never be content with just regurgitating other peoples ideas. I would always see how many different ways I could play it, other combinations of strings, how many variations, playing them backwards etc. So by the time I got on the stage, the idea was not only completely different, but was mine. I never realized how original it was until the guitar instructors at MI would mention it to me.


Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is?

As long as the blues are honest and is the voice of the common man, blues will always be there.  No other music, except for country music to an extent, talks directly to the people and are about the people, their desires, emotions, and history. And comes honestly from the heart.


Are there any memories of these entire GREAT musicians which you’d like to share with us?

I’ve been so lucky to have been at the right place and time to find myself playin with them.  Albert Collins showed me the power that is contained in one single note. Carey Bell, by chewing me out, taught me not to overt play. Willie Dixon showed me that I was good enough to play with the “big boys”, and Lonnie Brooks, whom I’ve played with many times, gave me all the confidence in the world. Dr. John taught me not to get fucked up when I play, (alcohol or drugs).  My resume is filled with “big” names and everyone taught me something that has stayed all these years.


When did you first meet Lou Rawls, what kind of a guy was Lou Rawls?

What can I say about him? One of nicest and most down to earth stars that I have recorded with.  One night, I inadvertently insulted his wife, didn’t mean to and he just laughed because he knew that I didn’t know that the woman I was talking about was his wife, he just laughed it off. Always had a big smile and a “Howya’ doin’” everytime Id see him.  Super nice guy.


Do you have a message for the Greek fans? Give one wish for the BLUES

I’m very impressed be the blues scene in Greece, I enjoy very much the site BLUES.GR. I am a member and have made many friends from it. I was going to come there for a series of gigs and seminars a few years back, but that’s when the economy over there tanked. I would have loved to come. But the Greek fans should keep doing what they’re doing and take pride in the fact they are the pioneers and keepers of the flame in that country. Continue to strive to make the blues grow in Greece, and have a lot of FUN while doing it.

Tell me a few things about your meet with Spinnin' Wheel 

I found my musical identity in this group. They showed the upmost confidence in my ability and let me just me be myself. I knew I could play when I was with them. Every night was a completely new musical adventure. This was my favorite of all that I have played with.


What is the “think” you miss most from 60s California?

I like a lot of things about LA, friends, the music scene, Musicians Institute. But my favorite memory is from the sixties and being involved with the music business and recording. I now teach a history class about that decade and the music. It was so creative, and the record labels were very supportive of that creativity. All the styles that followed have their roots in the 60’s. It was so exhilarating to be part of that and creating all the time, there will never be another period in music that will be like it.


Pete "Mr. Pedro" Wyant's website


 

 

 

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