Each month in 2021, we will be featuring a member of the worldwide Gretsch community as our spotlight “featured player” of the month!
Our featured guitarist for August is . . . Charles Pykus!
Charles Pykus is a guitarist, songwriter, and sound engineer. Charles picked up the guitar at around the age of 12 and has been playing ever since. His musical upbringing involved lots of classic rock and modern fingerstyle. He began his musical career in the small town of Honesdale Pennsylvania, with the help of the “Keep On Rocking” music club at his high school, and The Cooperage Project, a local venue dedicated to serving the community.
Throughout high school, Charles performed at open mics and worked as a freelance musician for several local venues. In 2015, with the help of his guitar teacher at that time, Jason Brian Merrill, Charles released his first album of original music titled The Colors of Music.
In 2016, Charles went off to Mansfield University of Pennsylvania to study Music Technology and Guitar Performance. During this time, he began working on recording a second album in his dorm room. During the summer of 2018 with the help of Merrill, Chevron was finished and released later in the year.
Charles currently lives in Philadelphia, PA where he works an AM shift as a package handler, and is a freelance musician and sound engineer during the day. He is currently in the process of recording a third album.
We asked Charles . . .
How old were you when you knew you were interested in becoming a musician?
Funny enough, I started out as a young child not being interested in music at all. This changed in elementary school, when we were taken to see a Philharmonic Orchestra. Classical music was something I had never really heard before, so it was a whole new thing for me to explore and enjoy. We were given a CD of a bunch of pieces the orchestra had performed, and I would end up listening to it every night before bed. A year or two later, our elementary school’s choir concert theme was The Beatles. I remember my favorite song being “Yellow Submarine,” and that’s when I decided I finally wanted to make music.
Why did you choose Gretsch?
I chose Gretsch because they always seemed to stick out to me. I would always see pictures of these big beautiful guitars, and read how they were referred to as the “cadillac of guitars”. I admired the sound that Chet Atkins would get out of his guitars and I wanted the tool that would help me do that. I am also a larger/taller guy, so I wanted a bigger guitar that would fit me!
What Gretsch gear do you currently use?
I have a Georgia Green Gretsch G5622T-CB (3-pickup version). I took out the original super-trons and put in TV Jones filter-trons and super-tron. I also replaced the original Bigsby handle with a Chet Atkins handle.
Which musicians were the biggest influence on you and why?
Like many others, The Beatles were a giant influence on my musical upbringing. However, it wasn’t until I discovered South Korean guitarist Sungha Jung that I started putting serious time in practicing guitar. I was in awe of how a person so young could cover so many melodies and rhythms on a single guitar. Being a young guitarist at that time as well, his music served as fuel for me to learn fingerstyle guitar. It was around this time that my uncle showed me a video of Tommy Emmanuel playing “Classical Gas” and I told myself, someday I want to play like that. In high school, I was introduced to Led Zeppelin, when my aunt gave me a DVD/CD of the Led Zeppelin reunion in 2007 for my 15th birthday. I was instantly hooked and became a big fan of other classic rock groups like Van Halen, AC/DC, ELO, Grateful Dead, and so on. In college I listened to William Ackerman for the first time and also saw Mike Dawes open for Tommy Emmanuel at a concert. I admired the beautiful and more simple melodies Ackerman composed and was blown away at the crazy talent Dawes has on the 6 string.
How did you adjust and stay musical during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Throughout the pandemic, I’ve gone through some highs and lows, but I always had my music to turn to. Despite my hometown being rather small, we have a big music scene that adapted to COVID-19 by having social media pages dedicated to online concerts and performances. Seeing these helped me pursue my music despite not being able to go out to open mics or concerts anymore.
You could be featured in 2021 just like Charles. Click to find out how!