Local musician Larry Carver will tell you that guitar players love their guitars. That includes Carver. He loves his 2016 Gibson Les Paul. He loves his 2004 Fender Stratocaster. He even loves his first electric guitar, a nameless “little red thing” as he remembers, a guitar that still sits in his closet decades after it was purchased, refusing to stay in tune.
He keeps busy with those guitars, playing alongside Nina Sasaki in Black Velvet, playing an annual run of summer shows in Durango with his old rock band Void Where Prohibited from San Francisco, or playing blues, country and folk alongside Jack Ellis, who will play Feb. 26 as well as every Friday in March at the Diamond Belle Saloon.
When Carver’s not holding a guitar, he’s likely holding a camera, making a living as a freelance photographer and snapping photographs for numerous nationally recognized magazines including National Geographic. If you’ve ever caught a glimpse at a magazine, calendar or coffee-table book featuring photos from national parks of the West, chances are some of those photos are Carver’s.
But the man loves his guitar. When the Beatles showed up on Ed Sullivan in 1964, they arguably influenced scores of kids nationwide to pick up a guitar, including Carver. He had taken a few piano lessons, then some guitar lessons, and his first band was a folk-trio called The Tridents. He was a teenager. Then Jimi Hendrix came along.
“I picked up the electric guitar, probably because I saw Hendrix,” Carver said. “That was it for me; I never went back to the acoustic.”
Carver’s three bands find the musician dipping into the canon of classic and current rock ’n’ roll. He’ll bang out Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin tunes in his bands, while remaining influenced by the heavy hitter guitar players who got the rock ’n’ roll ball rolling. Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck and Michael Schenker remain influences, and his guitar playing remains a pursuit of trying to figure out the instrument.
“One thing every guitar player will tell you: No matter how good you get, or the better you get, the more you realize you don’t know,” Carver said. “Jeff Beck will say this. Hendrix would say that. Both those guys and everyone else you want to name looks up to somebody else that they think is much better than they are. And they will admit about how much they don’t know about playing guitar, and how much better they wish they could be.”
Carver has connected the social dots between music and photography. He spent the ’90s traveling to far-off places with his photography buddies, hiking and climbing while taking photos. If he wasn’t doing that, he was on a stage with his musician buddies playing music.
“I do a lot of things that are fun, whether its taking pictures, or climbing mountains or skiing,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s anything as much fun as being on stage playing guitar for people who appreciate what you’re doing.”
Fun aside, his guitar playing is mentally satisfying. Some people may do yoga, hike or jog to wind down – Carver will play the guitar.
“At any time of the day, you can walk into your music room, pick up your guitar and play it and instantly transport yourself into a zone where you’re completely happy, being creative, doing what you want to do, and it will be that way for as long as you sit there and play it,” Carver said. “Whether it’s 10 minutes to relax, whether it’s an hour to get your jones, whether it’s two or three hours to learn a new song. All those things, it will make you happy for that time you’re picking up the guitar.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at [email protected]