Gilland: A sailor, a guitar, and a local radio appearance

Almost 20 years have passed since a seemingly routine stop at George’s Music in Casselberry to pick up some strings. Playing throughout the store was a video of some unknown guitarist, who was absolutely tearing it up.

I had never seen this man before, so at checkout I asked who he was. “Oh, that is Doyle Dykes…and he is going to be playing tonight at our other location!” After seeing this man play on that video, the opportunity to see him in person at a free guitar clinic was simply too much to pass up.

My son joined me for that evening, and together we talked over all things guitar the entire way to George’s. Once we parked, we noticed another man had joined us in our walk to the store, and it only took me a moment to realize that he was the guy from the video. As we walked, I introduced David and myself to him, and we were immediately struck by how down to earth and genuinely friendly Doyle was, even to perfect strangers. I knew this was going to be a special night. I had no idea…

Doyle Dykes and Mike Gilland

Simply stated, Doyle Dykes is one of the most accomplished and recognized guitar players in the world. The late great Chet Atkins himself was a fan of Doyle. He once said, “Doyle is one of the finest fingerpicking guitarists around. I sincerely admire him as a person and as a musician.”

Doyle and Chet became friends and played together on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. So respected is Doyle’s playing that he is featured on Gretsch Guitar’s Memorial Tribute to Chet Atkins that featured many other artists inspired by Chet, like Steve Wariner, Duane Eddy, Richard Smith, the late Jimmy Capps, and others.

Doyle grew up in Jacksonville, the son of a church-going guitarist dad and a mom who specialized in cooking and hospitality. Doyle had an experience with God at age 11 that was to mark his entire life, and soon after that, he somehow knew that his Dad’s passion for guitar was to be something big in his own life.

Together, they both admired the recordings of Chet Atkins, and marveled at his unique style. But it was a Sunday visit to their church from a sailor at the nearby naval station that completely changed the course of young Doyle’s life.

That young serviceman politely asked if he could play Mr. Dykes’ guitar, and to everyone’s surprise, he played Chet style. Never had the Dykes seen this style of “thumbpicking” up close.

Immediately, Doyle ran to his Mom, and asked her to invite him over for lunch, and throughout the entire afternoon, that young sailor patiently taught Doyle some fingerstyle patterns.

It didn’t take long, and Doyle found himself invited to travel the nation with the famous Stamps Quartet, the gospel singers that became the backup group to Elvis Presley.

Later, Doyle left music, and became a pastor in Jacksonville. The love of God was (and still is) a major motivation in Doyle’s life, but he felt his calling was on the road, so he left church ministry to return to music as a career. Now he takes the gospel with him into concert halls.

There is an old saying I heard years ago that stated, “A gift will make room for itself.” That was so true for this amazing gift inside Doyle. Opportunities to play were coming in on all sides, and eventually he was invited to join Grandpa Jones (from Hee Haw fame) as his lead guitarist. The world of country music opened up to Doyle, as he played on stages around the nation, including the Grand Ole Opry.

Doyle has represented the nation’s top guitar manufacturers, and served for many years as an official Taylor Guitar clinician, touring and doing workshops (like the one I attended) around the world. He has also represented Guild and Godin guitars, and was granted his own signature models from all of these companies.

When Doyle was inducted into the National Thumbpicker’s Hall of Fame in 2014, the first person he called after the ceremony was “Barry the sailor,” that young service man who showed him his first fingerstyle patterns.

“It is amazing how in one afternoon you can change a young person’s life, just by showing them something,” Doyle said.

Today, Doyle Dykes is still traveling as a full-time musician, recording new material and performing concerts in churches, conventions and music festivals. He is a regular on the Grand Ole Opry, and is author of a book entitled “The Lights of Marfa,” an autobiography that tells of his adventures with music and his amazing encounters with God.

Doyle is my guest on today’s “Afternoons With Mike” radio show at 3:05 PM and 9:05 PM, heard on The Shepherd Radio Network on WTMN (1430 AM and 96.3 FM) in Gainesville. In Ocala, you can hear The Shepherd on WRZN (720 AM and 103.5 FM).

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