John William Sterling
How does a guy compete with an older sister who is playing Chopin and Beethoven on piano at age 12, and a mother who’s a classically trained vocalist? He learns guitar. So in the spring of 1962, before my 8th birthday, my dad took me to a music store in Springfield, Virginia and bought me a starter Danelectro acoustic/electric guitar and some lessons. It had to be guitar, because I wanted to learn “Home On The Range" and play in Roy Rogers' band, The Sons of the Pioneers. By the next year I was living in Heidelberg, Germany with all the other military families stationed there and I was immediately “corrupted” by The Beatles. Soon after followed The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Wilson Pickett, Led Zeppelin, Yes, and on and on. My fascination for music has never stopped, not even for a minute, to this day. By age 13, I had returned to Northern Virginia and began my never ending exploration of improvisation and unlocking the mysteries of different music styles and what makes them distinctive. At the same time, I was drawn to working with other local players doing parties and private shows whenever someone would let us play. Right out of high school, I began being mentored by extraordinary big band jazz style guitarist Sam Taranto. He taught me the fundamentals of music and the fretboard that would expand into the large catalogue of music styles that I cover today. Further mentoring and coaching by local guitar legend Tom Principato allowed me to expand even further into rhythm chord comping, chord chemistry, and soloing over all sorts of various changes and rhythms.
The number of bands I've been involved with and the number of wonderful musicians I've been honored to work with and learn from is so large, I quit counting long ago. In addition to a constant line of gigs for over 30 years, I have been involved with a number of recording projects, recording CDs with The Passing Strange (1992), Idle Hands (1983 - 1993) The Incredible Johnsons (1995 - 97), The Deacons (2000), Switched at Birth (bass, 2009), Wildman (2005 - 2020) and Silver Lining (2013 - current). 12 years working with The Chris Polk Band, in conjunction with Tom’s teaching, gave me an indispensable feel for blues, funk, soul and R&B improvisation that I would never trade.
Currently I can be seen performing with Full Mesh, a collection of extremely talented session players dedicated to playing fun, audience-favorite party cover music with great gusto, and Wildman and/or The Deacons, five musicologists and music teachers with finely honed improvisational skills burning up music from many eras and many different genres. And look for the next new project, Silver Lining with former Stax Records drummer Morgan Norris and an "A" list of bass players including legendary Maryland session player Jay Feldman from Wildman, John O'Conner from The Deacons, or from Full Mesh and The Seeger Brothers Band, Bill (The Coach) Seeger.
Rocking Horse - Cheyenne - Avalon Hawk - Citizen - The Jazz Masters - Dayz - Idle Hands - The Passing Strange - The Incredible Johnsons - Cindy Ashland and Country Thunder - Big Money Grip - The Deacons - The Chris Polk Band - Switched At Birth - WildMan - Anthology - Full Mesh - Silver Lining - The New Deacons