Growing Genius

Where does genius grow? How does it happen? Is it in the big cities, with all the varied and marvelous cultural stimulation and opportunities galore, that genius is most likely to grow? Is it, perhaps, in the watermelon patch, the ballroom of a Western saloon or the back yard of a small town?

Your browser may not support display of this image. Last night I watched a documentary about Charles Wadsworth, the amazing man behind the huge popularity of The Chamber Music Series at The Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. There was much that I found pleasing about this man, and there were surprises, but the biggest surprise was that this impressive man and talented pianist was born and grew up in Newnan, Georgia. That’s “NOO-nan”, for those who are not proficient in the dialect of this part of Georgia.

Just as Newnan, Georgia, nurtured and supported a budding talent and germinating genius, so has the small town of Greenwood, South Carolina, provided just the right mix of timing, support, opportunity and numerous stages upon which the previously put-aside musical genius of Bob Kilgore could once again play his guitar and experiment with new compositions.

For readers who are YouTube fans, you may already know Bob Kilgore, “the guitar guy”, who (to date) has had over a million views, a whopping 1,289,151, to be accurate. For others who are MySpace members, you may have a friend called Bob Kilgore who is a guitar-playing inventor, and for the few musically gifted of you who are guitar-players, you surely know about Bob Kilgore, the inventor of the harmonic capo. You know about him and his capo, because you’ve seen tremendous reviews in many major guitar magazines nationally and internationally!

A Yankee transplant, Bob Kilgore is the genius behind some amazing guitar compositions, unbelievable guitar work (which you can view on YouTube and MySpace) and the greatest thing in the guitar-playing world since, well, since the capo. Bob had an idea for the harmonic capo, worked up a prototype and sent it out to a number of professional guitar greats for feedback. A few years later, Kilgore is the new best friend of guitarists around the globe.

You don’t believe me? This is what the April 2008 issue of Vintage Guitar
Magazine said:

"The Harmonic Capo is one of those ingeniously
simple gizmos that makes you smack yourself on
the forehead and say, 'Now why didn't I think of
that!' It's a darn clever tone tool and one that's
sure to reinvigorate the acoustic-fingerstyle scene."

Why, they even called it “Accessory of the year!” And if that’s not proof enough for you, how about Guitar Player Magazine, who said:

"...the coolest capo - and maybe the coolest gadget
of any type - that we've seen in a long time..."

"It's incredible - you can combine fretted notes
and harmonics in ways that would be flat-out
impossible by any other means."

But don’t worry, none of these accolades have gone to the head of our small-town genius, quite the opposite, actually. While he will now accept compliments, he is still a humble and rather down-to-earth person, who is interested in finishing the newest guitar composition, working on the new classical guitar version of his capo and in improving his guitar playing skills.

The good news for those of us who cannot use the harmonic capo is that Bob is soon to release a new CD, “Back in the Day”, a joint effort by Weaseltrap Records and Homemade Genius Productions. You can hear some of the music now, by visiting Bob’s MySpace page.

Bob’s musical influences are quite varied. Having grown up in a house filled with musicians and music of all kinds, it’s no wonder that he shows signs of Steve Reich and John Adams in his compositions, as well as the influence of a personal connection to Michael Hedges.

Kilgore says that he has had more than one musical epiphany on his musical journey. “My first was in 1974, when I saw the Mahavishnu Orchestra.” He adds that, “they had to peel me off the wall after that show. It changed my life.”

Bob’s second epiphany came with the music and guitar playing of Michael Hedges. “Michael opened the door to the whole Windham Hill catalog,” Kilgore says, and then came his exposure to Steve Reich. “Here was intense, pulsating counterpoint like I had never heard before,” he tells us, and adds, “People don’t have much trouble hearing Steve Reich and Michael Hedges in my music, but all the others are there…”

With the making of the new CD, came a family reunion of sorts when Bob’s brother, Tim, joined him on the keyboard for the recording of 10 of the 16 tracks on “Back in the Day”. They had not worked together for 18 years. Joining them on some of these is Sarah Morris, co-founder of Greenwood’s Homemade Genius. (Look for more about Homemade Genius in a future edition.) Sarah plays the cello and violin on the recording. Tim Kilgore played keyboards and percussion on Bob’s first two CDs, “Phoenix Song” and “Epicycles”, which are also being re-released this July, along with the newest CD, “Back in the Day”. Each of the first two CDs will include three bonus tracks for the original 1988-90 recording session, but which were never released.

For those who can make the trip to Greenwood, South Carolina, there is a CD release party on Thursday, July 2, which is free and open to the public (details on Bob’s MySpace site). Do it—you won’t regret it, and you won’t believe your ears. Such genius, and so close to home. Why don’t you make this your first live Bob Kilgore performance, then when you are 90, you can tell your great-grandchildren, “Back in the day….”

> You can find out all about the Harmonic Capo, including how to get your own, at www.weaseltrap.com, and you can view videos of Bob’s guitar work by going to www.youtube.com/bobkilgorevideos. Or you can visit Bob Kilgore at his MySpace page and chill out by listening to some of the loveliest guitar playing anywhere today. Try it out, www.myspace.com/bobkilgore

You will be able to purchase the new CD from his website www.weaseltrap.com or at www.homemadegenius.org, and at amazon.com. If you prefer instant gratification, mp3 downloads will be available at itunes.com and many other sites.

Hey, folks, stay tuned!

-- Despina Panagakos Yeargin is a writer and owner of Alpha Publishing & Communications, a writing and marketing consulting business, which also provides on-line book downloads. Despina has a broad background which includes being the Director of The Museum in Greenwood (S.C.) and a VP of marketing for Health Related Products; additionally, she has served on many community and arts related organizations, including the SC Arts Alliance.

An archive of Despina's articles is located here.

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