Pete Herzog started playing at the age of 8 on a lap steel. He learned the slide and playing using all the harmonics and overtones he could wring out of an instrument. As a teenager he switched to a regular guitar, but eventually was drawn to playing bottleneck in various open tunings. Pete discovered blues, bluegrass, and other roots type music, most of which are played finger style, not knowing any better, ignorance being bliss, he learned to play this style with a flat-pick, not traditional but giving him a different style and sound. When he first heard the blues he was instantly taken with the style, so similar to Hawaiian music in approach yet so different in sound and effect. Both types of music use the instrument as another voice, using all the harmonics and overtones to make the guitar sing.
Pete uses several different guitars often tuned in several different modal tunings. One of his favorites is a Kay arch top from the 30’s that he uses for slide. A friend of Pete’s bought it in the 40’s in a Chicago pawn shop and gave it to him before he passed on. “I’d clean it up but the essence of all those who have played it before me colors the tone, sometimes I think it knows more about the blues than I do.”
Pete spent time working on the railroad as a gandydancer on a traveling steel gang, learning arhoolies and steel driving songs sung as they were originally given voice. He learned “linin track” while lining track. He learned call and response style songs while driving rail road spikes into hard wood ties. As in blues, the beat and the rhythm are the most important thing’s, it’s dangerous to get mixed up swinging 12lb. Hammers.
Pete has always been attracted to a common sound that reaches back through the ages and touches all people at a basic level. Even when composing a contemporary song he strives to make connections with those ancient places and feelings. Born in the city but living most of his life in the country he relates strongly with rural music, the delta and country blues and the roots of bluegrass and jug band styles. “I’ve lived most of my life in the country on a dirt road and spent countless hours pickin guitar on the back porch. To me the blues have always been more than three chords and twelve bars, sometimes one chord is plenty to tell the story and convey the feeling I’m trying to put out. The blues is mostly about a man and woman, the yin and yang, the light and dark, the tension and release, but it doesn’t always have to be sad. Some of my favorite blues are more about, I’m happy to see you, let’s do something about that.”
Pete has played for many years, tried bands, but they had too much drama, did some solo stuff, finally became disillusioned with playing out and just spent his time pickin on the porch. After a hiatus from music he’s come back to it. Now as an older and wiser fellow he’s back to playing music in public. It’s been especially gratifying for him reconnecting with old friends and making new. Now he has a CD that has had many helping hands along the way from many friends whom he can’t possibly thank enough.