Revered as one of the top guitar players in Alberta, Amos Garrett has spent over four decades building a reputation that spans the Prairies while reaching into the U.S. and overseas. Born in Detroit, raised in Toronto, Garrett moved through piano and trombone lessons before finding the guitar at the age of 14. Within a year, Garrett was gigging. “I just sort of took to the guitar – it suited me. I was getting little jobs playing within a year of picking up the guitar,” remembers Garrett. Although known world-wide as a jazz and blues cat, Garrett’s eclectic style of playing has allowed him to transcend those genres that lie closest to his heart, rooted in childhood, into country-rock, pop and folk.
By the time he had reached college age, Garrett began learning about early acoustic Delta blues players from the 1930s such as Robert Johnson and Leadbelly. And while Garrett was hard at work developing his own sound and playing in bar bands in the Toronto area, the acoustic folk duo known as Ian and Sylvia Tyson were conjuring up a new sound of their own. “My first break and ticket to the U.S. was courtesy of Ian and Sylvia Tyson,” says Garrett. The Tysons went to work with Garrett, taking their new band, Great Speckled Bird, and their new sound to Nashville to record and spend the next two years touring.
During this time, Garrett was rapidly developing his own technique: a method of bending more than one string at a time, which he teaches to students and through online lessons to this day. This innovation gave Garrett the ability to sound like a pedal-steel guitarist at times, while remaining rooted as a jazz player. “Amos does that multi-note string bend like no one else…. You can put on a disc with a dozen world-renowned studio guys and pick his solos out no problem. Totally unique,” remarks contemporary Calgary bluesman, Tim Williams.