Brad Chequer

Brad Chequer never even had a proper release. Drawn to the guitar at 12 after sneaking into a Cream concert in his home state of New Jersey, Chequer persuaded his mother to buy him a cheap plastic Premier; unfortunately, its makeshift construction nearly electrocuted the boy. With paper route funds, Chequer bought a Fender Stratocaster, then spent the better part of the1970s in and out of other people’s bands. It wasn’t until he relocated to Palo Alto, California, during high school that he stumbled onto the acoustic guitar, while hanging out at Gryphon’s Stringed Instruments. A bit of a loner, Chequer was drawn to the American Primitive style because it required no collaboration. Inspired by the scene’s DIY conviction, he picked up a Martin D35 and began to learn fingerstyle.

It was impossible to live in northern California at that time and not be influenced by William Ackerman’s Windham Hill label. Chequer had heard Ackerman and Alex de Grassi in a bookstore in 1977, and their albums quickly became an obsession. A few years later, he and his girlfriend saw Ackerman, De Grassi, and Robbie Basho in concert. Convinced that Chequer was as good, or better, the girlfriend pushed Brad to record a demo. Recorded in a friend’s living room on a TEAC cassette deck with a few low-cost Radio Shack microphones, “Warm River” was one of a dozen songs that eventually made its way to Windham Hill’s demo pile. The label sent a nice letter back, but no commitment to release anything was tendered. A few months later, Chequer was introduced to Windham Hill poster boy George Winston, prompting the rural folk pianist to remark, “You’re the fellow that plays in all the strange keys.” Twenty-five years after Windham Hill’s rejection, Winston still had that demo and gladly relegated it to Numero's care.

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