Guitarist is
a man of balance

The life of guitarist Doyle Dykes is one of balance. He is a Christian who shares his music in churches, yet also likes to play for secular audiences. He enjoys the challenges of recording, as well as the instantaneous feedback that comes when playing before an audience. Dykes also enjoys the give-and-take that is part of the guitar workshops he conducts as a representative of Taylor Guitars.

Doyle Dykes

The 21st Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival also features Nathan Aweau, Ernie Cruz Jr., Barry Flanagan, Raiatea Helm, Michael Kaawa, Moon Kahele, David Kahiapo, Dennis Kamakahi, Raymond Kane, Ocean Kaowili, John Keawe, George Kuo, Patrick Landeza, Makana, Maunalua, the Native Hawaiian Band, Cyril Pahinui, Jeff Peterson and Owana Salazar.

Where: Kapiolani Park

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free:

Information: 239-4336 or www.hawaiianslack-

>> Also fingerstyle guitar workshop 7 p.m. Monday at the Kaka'ako Room at Ward Warehouse. Admission is $5 or $3 and two cans of food for the Hawaii Food Bank. Call 591-2910 for more info.

Now place all of this beside his role as a husband and father of four and the full breadth of his life comes into focus. Balanced, yes, but he is first and foremost a family man.

"I wish Mama and the kids could be there with me, but it's that time of year when my son is starting back to school, (so) I'll want to be able to come back again later and carry them with me," Dykes said last week on the phone from his office outside Cleveland, Tennessee. He's talking about his being the designated headliner here at the 21st Annual Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival in Kapiolani Park on Sunday, as well as his guitar workshop at Ward Warehouse on Monday.

"Our point (with the workshop) is not to come in with a two-hour infomercial for Taylor Guitars but to have fun with the people and do a mini-concert. We'll have a Q&A and some interaction with the audience. It's something that Taylor has wanted me to do (in Hawaii) for several years, and it seemed like it never did work out until now."

Dykes' relationship with the guitar manufacturer began in 1995 with a visit to the factory. He liked the instruments and the people who made them and Taylor, in turn, liked the sound and technique captured on Dykes' 1995 album, "Fingerstyle Guitar." The company offered him a sponsorship and endorsement deal.

MUSIC HAS always been part of the Dykes family line in Jacksonville, Florida. His grandfather was a choirmaster, his father played guitar, his mother sang and played harmonica, and his brother played piano. Christian and secular music blended early for him as well, although he wrote some of his earliest songs with the intention of singing them, but soon decided he preferred to express himself just on the guitar.

Chet Atkins and Merle Travis were his earliest inspirations and role models, and the experience of being able to share the stage with them years later rates high among his most cherished career accomplishments.

Dykes played Christian music with his family in churches throughout Florida while still in his teens and was playing gospel music professionally before he graduated from high school.

He was allowed to skip his high school graduation ceremony so he could accept a job playing with the Stamps Quartet, but decided, after spending some time in Nashville and on the road, that he missed his high school sweetheart more than he loved life on the road.

Dykes returned home and got married, but discovered after working a couple of day jobs that he missed playing music. With his wife's encouragement, he auditioned for a gig backing Grandpa Jones at the Grand Ole Opry, but returned to the Christian fold after three years. He became pastor of a Jacksonville church and shared his music with others and then he decided that he wanted to do more than "preach to the choir."

"It was frustrating, because I wasn't really reaching out much (by) playing in a church all the time, even though I loved doing that," he said.

The answer came to him in prayer, and Dykes began playing and writing secular music as a solo guitarist while continuing to play in churches across the South.

"FINGERSTYLE GUITAR," re-released last year with three additional recordings from the original sessions, is a perfect introduction to Dykes' music. It includes two of his favorite Christian standards, three pop songs rearranged for solo acoustic guitar, songs written for his wife and children, and a song he says was inspired by one of his early encounters with Hawaiian slack key.

"A lot of fingerpicking is (like that), because it's sort of derived from a piano-esque thing -- like a stride piano player would play is the way I think Chet (Atkins) or Merle Travis would have described it. Of course Merle got more on the honky tonk piano side of it, but (the similarity is that) you're playing the bass and the rhythm. The touch that the slack key players have, with the different tunings and all, adds a different flavor to it. Although it's a very unique style, I think it's similar to some of things that I've heard come out of Kentucky."

Some of the other songs on the album reflect Dykes' interest in Celtic music and his applying banjo techniques to the guitar.

"I haven't played (banjo) for years, but I use some of the techniques in my guitar playing, and I think that's the same kind of thing we were talking about with Hawaiian slack key guitar. It's amazing how people will take an instrument and experiment around with it. ... Nobody told (the Hawaiians) exactly how to tune a guitar... (but) they came up with so many different types of tunings."

And so, with parallel careers as a performer, recording artist and clinician in sync with his family commitments, Dykes is maintaining his life's balance.

"It's amazing how it all works together, because (with) everything I do, I just go in and I'm just myself. The beautiful thing about the folks at Taylor Guitars is they allow me to do that. I'm always somewhere doing a church thing almost every week -- it's something I'll always be involved with, because my heart is in that -- but I'm able to balance (the two) because the people I work with and the people I'm around allow me to do that."

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