On This Day: March 6th, 1923 – Wes Montgomery was born. Today marks the 101st anniversary. Perhaps of all the musicians that Creed produced, Wes was the guitarist most lamented had “gone commercial”. Wes didn’t see it that way. He had a wife and seven children to support and was enjoying being able to play again with his brothers both at home and on the road.

Just 3-months before his death, Wes had a multi-night engagement playing at the Living Room in Cincinnati. Hap O’Daniel spoke to Wes and wrote the following for the Cincinnati Post, published in their Thursday March 7th, 1968 issue.

Wes Montgomery makes no claim to having a green thumb, but the thumb of his right hand – the one he uses to play his guitar – has brought him a lot of green in the last few years. The last time Wes played Cincinnati was four years ago. when he had a trio, at a tiny room on Reading road called the Cabana. Last night he opened at the Living Room with a quintet, and the house was packed.

What’s happened in the interim is that Wes Montgomery has become the most popular and best selling guitarist in the country. No.1 with jazz fans for many years, he now appeals to pop music, soul music and even country music devotees.

He now records exclusively for A&M, Herb Alpert’s label, but other companies — Verve, Fantasy, Riverside are issuing his older sides and selling them too.

“About three years ago I started to get more commercial, because that’s where it’s at today,” Wes related last night. He was watching hypnotist Traiain Boyer mesmerize his brother, bass player Monk, and thoroughly enjoying it. ‘‘Monk was a non-believer until now,” he chortled.

“I’M SORT OF on the line between jazz and pop.” Wes said. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Creed Taylor, my a & r (artists and repertoire) man at Verve and A&M. He’s been picking the right material for me.”

One thing Wes’s success has allowed him to do is expand to a quintet and get all the Montgomery brothers of Indianapolis together again. Monk, whom’ Wes says was the first jazzman to play electric bass, pianist Buddy, drummer Billy Hart and bongo drummer Alvin Bunn make up the rest of the quintet.

THE BOSS, of course, is Wes on guitar. As solidly built as an athlete, Wes has a self-taught technique which defies description and confounds guitar teachers His hands are so large that he can reach the low E string with his middle finger, freeing his thumb to help slide his left hand quickly up and down the slender neck.

He uses a thumb pick in short, choppy strokes, playing with an intensity that immediately envelops the listener and with a rapid tempo that leaves his sidemen perspiring. Yet he remains cool and dry, doing it all with a right thumb and a left hand, making it all look so easy.

His material for clubs is mostly up-tempo, although he’ll slip into a comfortable ballad from time to time. The listener will hear his recent hits like “Windy.” “Sunny” and “Goin’ out of My Head.” all pop tunes to which he has applied the unique Montgomery treatment.

Wes will be at the Living Room through Saturday.

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