Beloved San Diego Jazz Guitarist Peter Sprague – Encinitas Magazine – Words & Photos by Kyle Thomas (Stories of Encinitas CA)
Beloved San Diego jazz guitarist, and favorite son of Encinitas, Peter Sprague, will be honored by the San Diego Music Association, with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The event is being hosted at Humphrey’s By The Bay in San Diego, this October 5th, 2015.
My personal memories of Peter, go back to our days together at San Dieguito High School in Encinitas, where by 1972 he had already established himself as one of the outstanding guitar players and musicians, as well as a respected top surfing talent in the San Dieguito area.
At that time, we were both living in Del Mar, and I had just turned 15. I recall taking walks every other week from my house in Del Mar Heights, carrying my guitar case, cutting through the canyon at Crest Drive, and down into old Del Mar where Peter lived, to take guitar lessons. He was the first person to really open my eyes to music theory, scales, and chord chemistry so that it all finally started to make some sort of sense. Peter told me years later, that I was actually his first guitar student.
Recently Peter welcomed me to his home and recording studio in Leucadia.
“We call it Spragueland,” says Peter, sitting in a comfortable lotus position in his chair, at the mixing console of his studio. “It’s an inspiration from Jimi Hendrix, who had a Studio in New York City, called Electric Ladyland. and I figured we needed a west coast cousin to that.”
Kyle – “So what’s new and current in Spragueland?”
“The most current thing… and I was going to give you this album,” says Peter handing me a CD “It just came out.”
“It is a record that Leonard Patton and I made. Leonard is a vocalist, and he plays percussion. The two of us have played a lot together and we are really excited about it. We are doing a lot of cover tunes of artists that we love, but we do it in our own way.
“So we do some Beatle songs that we do in a really unique kind of jazz way, some of them are straight up jazz songs, like Georgia on My Mind, but some of them are tunes like by Stevie Wonder and Blind Faith and Jimi Hendrix… we do some Jimi Hendrix tunes… some rock tunes… so anyway… that’s what’s new.”
Kyle – “So that’s coming back full circle to where you started.”
“It is, and you and I both grew up with that kind of music, and I really loved reconnecting with it and bringing to it this sort of jazz history that I have with it, and seeing if the two can meld, and we’ve had a lot of success with it and people really seem to enjoy it.”
“It’s weird, because when I first started playing jazz, at that time, we were playing a lot of jazz standards that older people really related to, because that was music that they sort of grew up with. Well now we’ve marched ahead for years, and now we’re kind of the old people, and the music we grew up with was Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, and so it’s kind of neat to bring a jazz angle on those guys.”
Kyle – “Who were your early band members, like in High School days?”
“Well in High School, it was John Leftwich… he’s a bass, a guy named Todd Brison, Kevyn Lettau, Rob Schneiderman, and one generation behind us was Ben Strausberg, Brian Allard, and Steve Firerobin.”
“Our whole gang… of course my brother Trip… we were all in the stage band at school and so that’s the kind of connection that we had with a lot of musicians. And at the time we were going to High School, we were auditing a class out at Palomar College… it was a big band. So we met a lot of musicians that way.”
Kyle – “So you grew up in Del Mar during your Junior High and High School Era, then from there you did some traveling.”
“The last year of high school I went to a music school in the Midwest… in Michigan, called Interlochen. That was a great experience. God, I really saw what it was, being around world class young musicians from all around the world, and that was really an eye-opener for me, having come from sort of… well, I wouldn’t say a big fish in a small pond, but a little of that, while going to Interlochen, all of a sudden I’m just surviving you know, by clawing in.”
“So after high school I came back and lived in Del Mar for a while, then after that I lived in New York City, Lived in L.A., but always felt a draw to be here and I’m so happy to be here.”
Kyle – “And what is that draw?”
“The draw for me, and this is what I discovered when I lived in New York and L.A. … L.A. not quite as much, and in L.A. you are close to the ocean… but in New York I really just felt that it was just an incredible place for music, it’s really the center of the world for a lot of things… surely jazz music… So to be in the middle of that… and it was kind of working out…. I was getting gigs and doing really well, but the thing that was missing was just the ocean basically.”
“I had grown up with it and having it still be super important to me in my life with surfing and just sort of a place where all the madness stops and it just becomes this expanse. That to me is something that I just really missed and even as good as the career could have been and as good as life could have been in these big cities, it still just wasn’t worth the kind of human toll you have to give up.”
Kyle – “You Found your garden spot in Leucadia to make your home.”
“I did. You know our daughter is 21 now, and when she was two, we were living in Del Mar still, and I still have a house there. We were living there and it was great, but we were right on that busy road, Del Mar Heights Road, so we decided to move here and I love it here… I just absolutely love it!”
“And I love Del Mar too… I don’t want to forget that place because it’s my home and I have so many good roots there… but this is a really cool place.”
Kyle – “So I see this sitar… Did you ever spend time with Ravi Shankar?”
“I got to play for him!” replies Peter in an excited voice. “There was a tribute for Ravi before he passed. I got to play in his honor. It was really a high point in my life.”
Photographer Kyle Thomas with Peter-Sprague’s Mom, Carol Harrington (far left).
Kyle – “Who are some of your favorite musicians in this area?”
“Oh, I love Gregory Page. He’s a folk guy. I think he’s fantastic. There’s a great pianist named Joshua White, that’s a young jazz pianist doing really great things. Danny Green, Darius Degher, Eve Selis… she’s a really good folk artist. There’re just a lot of good musicians here. I think it’s a very vibrant scene here in San Diego.”
Kyle – “So, what’s your philosophy on life?”
“Ahh…” Peter sighs, “I’m just so thankful to be living.” He says laughing, “A lot of times there’s a lot to complain about, but man… I’m really enjoying it. I love music, I have a great group of friends that I just really dig. I love this place. I just feel very thankful for everything that I have.”
Keep up to date with Peter at www.petersprauge.com