Gulf Coast’s Guitar Great Guthrie Trapp

C. D. Harvill

This past week I had the opportunity to meet with someone who is, arguably, one of the best guitarists to come out of the Gulf Coast. Many along the Florida-Alabama shore may have heard of Guthrie Trapp.

From a young age, Guthrie, was intrigued with music. He grew up listening not to the radio, but his family’s collection of bluegrass, folk, and rock and roll records. While hanging around his uncle, who was a self-taught musician, he started playing around with different instruments.

Although Guthrie did attend some workshops, he mostly honed his musical abilities by going to live shows, listening to different music, and hanging out with his uncle. “I just picked up on it. Those are the things you can’t teach somebody. You can’t learn how to play with soul or feeling from a school, you just have it.”

First Guthrie learned to play the harmonica. He quickly grew bored with the instrument’s simplicity and picked up guitar and later the mandolin.

Unlike most musicians trying to make a living along the Gulf Coastal region, Guthrie never had to play Jimmy Buffet covers. “Most people have to play cover music. I never did down there. I was so lucky I never had to. I was either playing with Gove (Gove Scrivenor), or with the Filthy Rich Band. We played all of our own music.”

Barely an adult, Guthrie was paired up with Nick Branch, playing original music in the Filthy Rich band. They shined throughout the region with their intense blues, roots, and swing guitar power. They even traveled overseas.

Being such an accomplished musician and having his pick of places to live, why did Guthrie pick Nashville to call home? Guthrie explained he never had a thought of moving to New York or Los Angeles, partially because Guthrie does not read music and the Nashville Number System is not frowned upon in its name sake town, but also because Guthrie, despite his success, is a laid back guy.

While kicked back on his couch he shared, “I just knew that Nashville was happening. I never had a thought of moving to one of those places… I never had a plan, it just happened, I was in my early twenties and it was time to move away from that hometown. I’m glad I did”, he also stated, “People here are from small towns, I’m from a small town”.

Due to his career really kicking off in Nashville, and his touring with Patty Loveless, some people pigeonholed Guthrie, as a guitarist, in the country/bluegrass genre. Guthrie made it very clear it’s just not true. His current personal project, “18 South”, where he has equal footing with the other members (including: Larry Atamanuik on drums, Mike Bub on doghouse bass, Jimmi Wallace with piano and vocals, Jon Randall with vocals and rhythm guitar, and Jessi Alexander’s vocals.) may give him a bit broader palette to express his versatile guitar skills, but it is still not a far cry from bluegrass, nor is it precisely what Guthrie would put together if given free reign. Guthrie opened his laptop and put on a video to help describe to me what he would enjoy playing the most. The sound I heard was more of a funk/experimental jazz, a description with which Guthrie agrees. Such a sound would truly give Guthrie the room a guitarist of his caliber needs to stretch himself as a musician.

If you don’t recall hearing Guthrie play with Allison Kraus, Jerry Douglas, Patty Loveless, Earl Scruggs or various other artists, then I suggest you check out “18 South” on Myspace. With Jon Randall having written a hit like Whiskey Lullaby, Jessi Alexander having written one of the latest Miley Cyrus chart toppers, The Climb, and Guthrie Trapp’s guitar runs, you better believe you will want to be at the front of this band wagon.