First Fret: Laurie Morvan, guitar
Morvan writes from personal experiences, and one cut
on her new CD, Cures What Ails Ya, came directly from
Where Are the Girls With Guitars tells the
story of her bringing home Wynonna Judd's Girls
With Guitars ripping the plastic wrap off, anxiously
waiting to hear string bending by females. As the
song tells, the record left her a bit disappointed.
"That song is a true story," she said.
"It happened to me just like the song says.
I really, really thought there were going to be girls
playing guitars on that song." Instead, she
saw the names of some of Nashville's finest
studio players. All males. Laurie says that sort of
disappointment and the lack of opportunity for women
guitarists helped fuel her drive to start her own
"For me it just seemed like the most natural
thing in the world to pick up the guitar and play
it. There have been times in my career where it's
been challenging to get gigs. I called one ad and
the guy on the other end said, 'You sound like girl.'
I thought, 'Very good, you're one-for-one.' And then
- and I'll never forget his quote - he said to me,
'Girls have innies, boys have outties, and it just
"How do you answer that? After that, I thought,
'The only way I'm going to be successful,
it appears, is if I grab the tiger by the tail and
put myself in charge.'"
Morvan has done just that with the new CD chock full
of great songs and lead guitar that might even grab
the attention of ol' Mr. Innie.
"I was real focused on making a record that
would introduce me to the world as a songwriter, a
guitar player, and a singer," she said. "I
feel really, really good about it. We chose the high
road; when you're making a record, you have
a lot of choices to make, a lot of expenses, and decisions
to deal with. I can genuinely say we took the high
road on every turn and just said 'What's
going to make this a better record?'."
Her music days started back in Plainfield, Illinois,
when she was a teenager playing flute in the school
band and drums in the marching band... And then a
buddy showed her his guitar. "I just went, 'Oh,
my God! This is way better than a flute!'" Time
in the marching band helped develop her guitar style,
she says, "I think it was good for me, rhythmically."
up, Morvan's philosophy toward music was the same
as it is now. "I listened to everything I heard,
and I still do. I'm a very, very open listener. I
always say I'm a sucker for a good song, regardless
Asked her about influential guitarists, and her answer
is a bit surprising to those who hear her clean percussive
"Stevie Ray Vaughan was my gateway,"
she said. "Me and about 800 million other players!
I don't try to emulate him, but his music just
sort of opened that whole door to the blues."
While her music is firmly entrenched in rock and
blues, country players also have influenced her playing.
"Guys like Danny Gatton. I like that clean,
chicken pickin' sound. Guys who I don't
even necessarily know their names. I don't always
learn the music, but because it's bouncing around
in my head, I go after that technique."
The guitar Morvan used on Cures What Ails Ya - a
Fender Custom Shop '56 reissue Stratocaster - came
to her as a result of a search up and down the West
"My friend, John Vestman, who is the mastering
engineer on the record, has a '55 Strat. It's a beautiful
guitar that just sings. So, we took it shopping with
us all over Southern California, trying to find a
guitar that sounded like it. I tried tons of Strats
and even several other '56 reissues from the Custom
Shop. Finally, we were in a store, and there was one
nobody had been able to play because of a broken piece
on the bridge. The guy says, 'We just got the piece
in for that one. You want to try it?' I played the
'55 first, because that's how we would do it, so our
ears would be tuned up. When I plugged in the '56
reissue... it was the one! And I was beginning to
think I'd never find one. The guitar means a lot to
me because I went through a lot to find it."
For acoustic work, she uses a '72 Martin D-28.
"I bought it in about 1981. I had to live on
rice cakes and peanut butter to afford it, but it's
one of the greatest investments I've ever made.
It stays pretty much at home and in the studio these
days. I don't take it to live shows."
Her amp of choice is a Tone King Meteor II combo,
a 40-watt head with a separate cabinet. The reissue
Strat and the Tone King have given her the sound she's
always wanted. "I love my tone and have been
getting a lot of comments at gigs lately about the
sound," she noted.
Morvan and her band have been gigging up and down
the West Coast, and hope to expand that with the release
of Cures and the word it's spreading.
And as far as the gender issue goes, she says it's
nowhere near as big as it was in the past. "The
audiences don't care at all. They're happy as a clam
I'm female. It doesn't bother them. I can't get mad
about that stuff. My job is just to go out and be
undeniably good. I just have to do my thing and try
to write great songs and go out and play great every
And thanks to Vintage Guitar Magazine's review of
Laurie Morvan, we now know how one Girl with
Guitar does it!