Guitarist Gerry McGee Inspires Next Generation Of Musicians At INNOV8

The Daily Advertiser

Pat Mire and Gerry McGee Take Center Stage at AcA for INNOV8

By Megan Wyatt

Guitarist Paul Domingue Jr. of the local band Roaming Signals sat front and center Sunday in the Acadiana Center for the Arts' theatre.  He and his band mates hoped to soak in as much as they could from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Gerry McGee.

"To meet an idol and influence of that caliber and to learn how he came to create his own voice, I'm kind of at a loss for words," Domingue said.

The Sunday event, called stART Learning from the Life of a Legend, was an intimate one that included a 20-minute excerpt from Eunice filmmaker Pat Mire's feature-length movie on McGee.  It also featured a Q-and-A with McGee and performances by him.  McGee, 75, spoke humbly about his accomplishments and hardly would admit to the group at the AcA that he served as an influence to such musicians as Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

"It's a growing process," McGee said. "You learn as you go. I've been playing 50-some-odd years, and I'm still learning."

A Eunice native and son of a Cajun fiddler, McGee has a unique guitar style that is heavily influenced by blues. He performed as lead guitarist for The Ventures and has played with Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Barbra Streisand and Jerry Lee Lewis.  "Gerry slept in cars, on people's couches, wherever to follow his passion, and he never gave up," Mire said. "And that's what this whole thing is about."  

McGee recently moved to Lafayette get back to his Cajun roots, and hopes to play solo at local venues and explore the music of his heritage.

While Mire said the people who know McGee the least are the very people from his home state of Louisiana, those at the AcA Sunday spoke to McGee in reverend tones and gave the artist a standing ovation.  

"The road ain't fun," McGee said to the audience. "But if you love what you're doing, go for it. That's the main reason we play is to get that feedback from the audience. That feedback is a thanks."

Part of Innov8 Lafayette, an eight-day festival of innovation and creativity, the stART series began Friday with a discussion by Peruvian sculptor Grimanesa Amoros. It continues today with a workshop led by an intellectual property attorney on legally protecting music.  The event concludes Tuesday with a course in creating press kits.

"To hear a member of The Ventures play 'Classical Gas' on an acoustic guitar is something I'm going to remember for a long while," said Innov8 co-chair Chris Allain, who hosted Sunday's event.  Members of Roaming Signals, a Lafayette band less than a year old, felt inspired after listening to and speaking with McGee.  "Our goal is just to bring all our different influences together as one," said Jesse Zénon, who plays saxophone and keyboard for the band. "We just want to bring all our different influences together as one and see how we could be innovators like him."

And that's exactly what organizers of Innov8 are hoping for —not only to showcase local innovation but to inspire new innovation in Acadiana.  "What Innov8 is doing, I think they're onto something big," Domingue said. "I think Lafayette is ready for it."

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