Normans Terry Buffalo Ware is essentially a human jukebox. The veteran guitarist has toured with names like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jimmy LaFave and John Fullbright, and has served as the leader for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festivals backing band since its inception.
The catalog runs deep in this one.
I dont know how many songs I know, but I know its a lot, said Ware, a veteran session player for acts coming through The Blue Door. A lot of times, I play the gigs with someone just 15 minutes after I met them. You put on your big ears.
To do what he does involves more than an expansive memory; the gut proves to be as fundamentally important.
Ive done it long enough that I can listen to whats going on and can kind of hear whats going to happen, he said. What you are doing is serving the song, whatever you can to add to it. Theres certainly an intuition involved.
For all his talent, the instrumentalist is more than content to step back from the spotlight and quietly contributing his impeccable guitar playing for others. Hes the perfect role player, and most musicians familiar with Ware will tell you that.
I do it well. Im not bragging, Ware said. I just really enjoy it. Im not the best singer in the world. Of course, I had the dreams of being a big rock star when I was younger, but I truly enjoy being a sideman, contributing what I can to what they are doing.
Ware has indulged his inner front man with his work with The Shambles. Largely instrumentals with a base in surf and blues, their songs let him assume creative control while allowing his backups to shine. With a new album, they play a free show Sunday as part of the Performing Arts Studios Summer Breeze concert series.
Its a vehicle for me to play the things Ive written, or songs that I just like to play, he said. I do it because I love that music. If I can keep recording it and playing it when I can ... thats enough to keep me happy.
On it is one of Wares favorite pieces hes ever done. A longtime Jimmy Webb fan, he covered Webbs Skywriter. An encounter with Webb at a recent Blue Door show gave him the opportunity to present the track to his hero.
Long story short, he liked it, Ware said. He was nodding to the song over by the speakers, then looked over at one point and gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up. As far as career highlights, thats about as big as Ive had.