AL'S BIOGRAPHY (so far)
Al Petteway has played music professionally since he was twelve years old, performing nearly every type of popular, folk and classical music. Though his primary instrument has always been the guitar, he has also studied lute, string bass, percussion and music composition. His compositions for acoustic fingerstyle guitar are strongly influenced by his love of Celtic music and his own roots in folk, rock and blues. His recordings, music books, and instructional videotapes have helped to win him international acclaim and appearances on National Radio and Television Programs. Al has won a GRAMMY and was awarded FORTY FIVE "Wammies" by the Washington Area Music Association including the top honors of "ARTIST OF THE YEAR" and "MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR". He was the recipient of two Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Awards for Music Composition and has performed at the Vice President's House and The White House. His playing is featured on more than sixty recordings by some of the World's best known Folk and Celtic musicians. He has been Artist In Residence at The Kennedy Center and at Warren Wilson College. He performs both solo and with his wife, Amy White, records and teaches private lessons in their home studio in Weaverville, NC and is the Guitar Week coordinator for the world famous "Swannanoa Gathering" music camp at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, N.C.
The First Guitar - 1958
Al's first real band "The Nomads" in 1966 - Al is the second from the left
Between Classes at
ODU 1971 Warming up for a Madrigal
Performance Al rockin' out in the early '70's
Circa 1973 playing with The Jan Davis Group
Al's First Solo Acoustic Gig - Circa 1974
1963 - 1980
Al began his professional music career at the age of eleven during the height of the British Pop Invasion. He played guitar, drums, and string bass with a variety of rock and folk acts in the Washington D.C. area during the 1960's. In 1969, he went to the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival. The following year, he went to school to study String Bass and Music composition. During that time, he performed with the Old Dominion University Madrigal Singers, the school's Jazz and Symphonic Bands, and the Norfolk Ballet Orchestra. The next few years found Al performing with night club dance bands until 1977 when he took a job with The National Geographic Society. His years as Supervisor of Picture Editing for the society's Image Collection, gave him the artistic freedom he needed to discover his own musical style on acoustic guitar.
Al and mandolinist Akira Otsuka became "house musicians" for The Birchmere, a world-renowned folk club in Alexandria, VA, where they backed up many nationally known folk and bluegrass acts. They were also founding members of "Grazz Matazz", an exciting group that became one of the premier "New Acoustic" acts of the time performing a mix of bluegrass, jazz and rock styles on acoustic instruments. Their landmark album "Delinquent Minor" featured guest appearances by top acoustic musicians like Bela Fleck, Jethro Burns, and Mike Auldridge. It won a Washington Area Music Association "Wammie" award for Best Album in 1985, the first of forty five that Al has received to date. His subsequent studio and live performances with Peter Rowan, Debi Smith, The Smith Sisters, Grace Griffith, Susan Graham White, Cheryl Wheeler, Jonathan Edwards, Tom Paxton, David Wilcox and others, have helped him gain a reputation as one of the best accompanists in the world of acoustic music.
With Jethro Burns Vassar Clements, Mike Munfort, Peter Rowan, Akira & Al
Larry Atamatuik (hidden) "The Free Mexican Air Force"
Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, Jimmy Arnold
& Al - 1985 Berkshire Mts. Bluegrass Festival
Al with daughters Sarah & Julie singing at a National Geographic holiday party.
1987 - 1994
In 1987, Al's first solo recording, "Dryad Dance," recorded by his good friend and luthier Larry Sifel on a four-track cassette deck in Larry's living room, sparked the formation of The Al Petteway Quartet, an all instrumental acoustic act featuring Al, Akira Otsuka, Fred Smith, and guitarist John Jennings of Mary Chapin Carpenter fame. His self produced follow-up album "Whispering Stones", a collection of Celtic inspired original compositions and unique arrangements of traditional music from the British Isles, caught the attention of Maggie's Music, an Annapolis based label that specializes in Celtic music. In 1993, they signed Al and released "Whispering Stones" and "The Waters and the Wild" exposing his music to an international audience for the first time. Trey Anastasio of the group Phish heard Al's music on the radio and requested that Al open for the band at one of their DC performances which exposed him to an entirely new audience.
In autumn of that year, The National Geographic Society presented "The Waters and the Wild" as a multi-media event that showcased Al's music and photography. Images of fresh-water locations in the mid Atlantic region that served as inspiration for Al's compositions, were projected during two live performances of the music at the society's Grosvenor Auditorium. During the same week, he swept the Washington Area Music Awards, winning the highest honors of "Artist of the Year" and "Musician of the Year." In 1994, the environmental aspect of Al's music and photography attracted the attention of Vice President Al Gore. Gore asked him to perform for a private dinner at their home where Tipper had placed a copy of "The Waters and the Wild" at each place setting as gifts for the guests.
On March 17th, 1995, Al met Amy White at the annual St. Patrick's Day concert at National Geographic's Grosvenor Auditorium, the beginning of a lifelong spiritual and musical partnership.
Al left the National Geographic to become a full-time musician in the spring of 1995 just before the release of "Midsummer Moon." An interview with Noah Adams on NPR's "All Things Considered" featuring the music from this recording, generated more tape requests than any other music segment ever aired on the program.
In July 1996, Al became one of the first instructors chosen for The Swannanoa Gathering's Guitar Week in Asheville, North Carolina. After a week of teaching at this world renown music camp, he was offered the position of Guitar Week Coordinator and gladly accepted.
On September 21, 1996 Al and Amy were married in a ceremony on the banks of the West River in Annapolis at the Eco home of Maggie Sansone and Richard Crenshaw.
As a Maggie's Music recording artist, Al played and and recorded regularly with Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout and Hammered Dulcimer player Maggie Sansone. Their 1996 collaborative effort "A Scottish Christmas," led to internationally broadcast appearances on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR 's Performance Today and was one of the most popular touring shows of the holiday season.
The 1997 release of "Caledon Wood" put Al into a new and more elite class of musician and Composer. Original pieces recorded on this album won him the 1997 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for Musical Composition. This album was co-produced by Amy White.
On March 17th, 1998, he was invited by fellow musician Myron Bretholz to perform for the annual St. Patrick's Day celebration at the White House during the historic Northern Ireland peace talks.
During 1998 and 1999, Al continued playing and touring nationally with Amy White, Bonnie Rideout and Maggie Sansone. During the holiday seasons "A Scottish Christmas" would take them across the country and back, performing at the country's most prestigious concert halls and opera houses.Al and Amy recorded and produced Amy's solo piano album "Bittersweet, An American Romance" and released it on their own label, Fairewood Studios. In 1999, Al and Amy were Artists in Residence at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts where they began writing material for their first duo recording. They completed work on their home studio and began recording "Racing Hearts." Both of these releases were received well by the public and won them acclaim from critics and radio personalities from around the world. On Thanksgiving Day, music from "Bittersweet" was featured on NPR's "All Things Considered" with Noah Adams. Amy and Al along with Amy's Father and Sister played music live on the show and talked about music in the family.
In January 2000, Al began playing and recording full-time with Amy. The success of "Racing Hearts" led to a recording project with Solid Air Records, a West Coast label that specializes in acoustic guitar music. "Gratitude" was volume 3 of the label's successful "Groovemaster" series and features Al and Amy playing groove oriented duets on acoustic guitars. Music from these two albums won each of them another Maryland State Arts Council award for Composition. The National Park Service began using Al's music for video releases to be sold in their park stores nationwide.2003 - 2006
In August 2000, the duo signed up with well known Asheville, NC based talent agency, Loyd Artists and in May 2001 they won the prestigious "Indie" award for best album in the acoustic instrumental category for "Gratitude." By the end of the summer of 2001, Al and Amy had firmly established themselves as a performing and recording duo. In November, they released "A Holiday Sampler" with fellow acoustic instrumentalist Robin Bullock. The album was so well received that they sold out of CD's two weeks before Christmas. The Dorian Group quickly picked up the album and the three musicians recorded more music for the new label's release of "A Midnight Clear" in the fall of 2002.
In January 2002 Ken Burns' "Mark Twain" aired on PBS nationwide and featured three of Al's compositions. In the spring of 2002, Al recorded a solo acoustic guitar album for Solid Air Records featuring the different Blues styles that he had grown up with. "Shades of Blue" was released in August 2002. The Dorian Group released " A Midnight Clear" in November 2002 just after Al & Amy moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina, outside of Asheville.
Al & Amy performing at the National Geographic Society on Earth Day 2005
Al in 2005 at Warren Wilson College
Al and Amy in early 2005
Al with the 2005 Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album
In 2004, Al began a residency at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, NC. Warner Bros. released his Celtic, Blues, and Beyond Book/CD combination and a Book/CD from the Grammy Winning album on Solid Air Records "Henry Mancini, Pink Guitar." Al and Amy's "Land of the Sky" CD was released by Maggie's Music in April 2005. Their album release concert at the National Geographic Society, which included projections of nature photos taken near their mountain home, was a huge success.In 2005 Al won a "Grammy" in the Pop Instrumental Album category for his recording of Henry Mancini's "The Thornbirds Theme" which appeared on the Solid Air release "Pink Guitar." Al was one of twelve solo guitarists involved in recording this collection of Mancini hits. Readers of Acoustic Guitar Magazine voted Al number 33 in the top 50 acoustic guitarists of all time. Later in 2005, Al began working with DREAM GUITARS.COM, a high-end guitar boutique that represents the some of the best Luthiers of this "Golden Age of Guitar Building"
In January 2006, Al and Amy upgraded their recording equipment at Fairewood Studios and released their sixteenth album, "Winter Tidings."
2007 - 2014
Dream Guitars began making instruction videos in 2008 featuring Al's original music. As more videos are released and appear on YouTube, Al's profile continues to increase worldwide. He won the Silver medal for Celtic Guitarist and the Bronze Medal for Fingerstyle Guitarist in Acoustic Guitar Magazine's Player's Choice Awards which in appeared in the February 2009 issue of the magazine. His CD "Caledon Wood" was included as one of the "Essential Albums of the Past Twenty Years" in Acoustic Guitar Magazine's 20th anniversary issue.
In the Fall of 2009 Ken Burns aired his new series on "America's National Parks" which featured Al and Amy's music throughout. The film was awarded the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Series. In addition, producer Dayton Duncan received the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming.
Al's instructional video "Appalachian Fingerstyle Guitar" was released by Homespun Video in 2011 and they released "Blues Styles in DADGAD Tuning" in 2012. Both DVDs have become best sellers. In 2014, vol. 2 of he Appalachian Fingerstyle Guitar DVD was released.
Al's solo CD "It's Only the Blues" was listed in the top ten essential albums of 2012 on two of the Acoustic Guitar Magazine's editor's year end lists.
Al's music was used in the Ken Burns film "The Dust Bowl" in 2012 and in the soundtrack for "The Roosevelts" in 2014.
In 2014, Al released "Mountain Guitar - A Musical Portrait of the Appalachian Mountains" and in 2015, the long-awaited "Dream Guitars, Vol. II - Hand Picked" was released
He continues to perform at guitar festivals and concerts both solo and with his wife Amy White, He also heads up Guitar Week at The Swannanoa Gathering each summer at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC., where in 2013, they gave Al the prestigious “Master Music Maker” award "in celebration of a lifetime of musicianship and teaching."
Mark Hanson, Chris Proctor and Al at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon - July 2007
Amy, Al, Alex Reidinger and Robin Bullock perform for the Swannanoa Solstice in December 2008
Sound Check at the Empire Arts Center, Grand Forks, ND
Al with his "Al Petteway Series" Tippin Guitar in 2009 - Photo by Peter Smith
Amy and Al - The Summer of 2009
The Swannanoa Gathering Guitar Week Concert 2010 - Photo by Kate McFadden
The Swannanoa Gathering Guitar Week Concert 2011 with Kathy Mattea - Photo by Kate McFadden
Performing at the Swannanoa Gathering Guitar Week staff concert - July 2012 - Photo by Kate McFadden
Woodstock Luthiers Showcase - October 2013 -
From L to R, Bill Payne (Little Feat), Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm), Happy Traum, John Sebastian, & Al Petteway
Photo by Alexander Storm
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please email Al directly at alpetteway (at) mac dot com
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P.O. Box 1093
Weaverville, NC 28787
alpetteway (at) mac dot com