On this episode of Eclectic Soundtrax Podcast, hosts Skunk Manhattan and Victor Ramos chat with Texas guitar legend Chris Duarte. Born in San Antonio, a young Duarte became interested in music after seeing Fiddler on the Roof on TV. He initially wanted to play violin and then clarinet, but circumstances led him to playing his brother’s guitar, where he discovered an innate talent to pick up tunes by ear.
By age 14, Chris obtained his own guitar — a Supro — and became further immersed in music.
He began exploring different genres and learning jazz standards (in the once ‘illegal’ Real Book) by musical idols, such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. In 1979, he moved to Austin and purchased a 1963 Fender Stratocaster. Soon after, he found himself gravitating towards the blues stylings of players like Howlin’ Wolf and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Duarte continued to develop his chops and gained a reputation as a road dog, both with his own band and as a sideman, widening his touring circuit throughout Texas and the south. As the Chris Duarte Group‘s popularity grew, Chris found himself in a bidding war between labels; ultimately, CDG’s first record — 1994’s Texas Sugar Strat Magik, featuring John Jordan on bass and Brannen Temple on drums — was released via Silvertone Records and became a highly acclaimed success among fans and critics alike. Chris quickly gained national recognition and won “Best New Talent” in Guitar Player‘s 1995 Reader’s Poll. He finished fourth in the magazine’s “Best Blues Guitarist” category, behind some of his biggest blues influences (Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King). His second album, 1997’s Tailspin Headwhack, followed with the hit “Cleopatra”, but that would be the last record with Silvertone.
Since, Chris has recorded a wide variety of albums with various producers, including the legendary Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records. He has traveled the U.S. and the world many times over, playing everything from small clubs to headlining major music festivals and nearly everything in between. After moving to Atlanta for several years, Duarte returned to Austin, where he currently plays with girlfriend, Beth Lee (and The Breakups), as well as consistently touring with his trio. The current incarnation of CDG primarily features Dustin Sargent on bass and John McKnight on drums, and the band has a new album release ready, recorded with producer Dennis Herring (of their TSSM days).
Although genuinely humble and somewhat soft-spoken, Duarte’s stage performance and guitar playing are mesmerizing and out of this world. He has remained recognizable in his sound even though he has crossed many genres and he gives every record and performance 100%. In many interviews, he has stated “music must evolve”… With such a vast catalog of recordings, there are no two shows alike. Every setlist is different and each song may be offered distinctly based on the feel of a show and the audience. Did we happen to mention you can catch this legend in action at ESP’s Skunk Manhattan’s Austin-based festival Skunkfest for 2022?!
About the podcasters
Skunk is a musician, primarily known as the frontman and guitarist for eclectic heavy-rock band A Good Rogering. Since moving to Austin in 2004, he has recorded and performed with a wide variety of bands and solo artists over a career spanning more than 20 years and has shared the stage with notable acts, such as Skid Row, Marty Friedman, Uli Jon Roth, George Lynch and Metal Church among others. Skunk not only works as a performing musician and recording artist, but also as a producer and music teacher. With two decades of insight into what it means to be a professional musician and a passion for not only music, but comedy and general chatter, Skunk was quick to jump at the opportunity to co-host a podcast with longtime friend, Victor Ramos.
A Texas native, Victor’s early musical influences are a mixture of classic rock albums played by his Vietnam vet father and a whole lot of ‘the Fab Four’ via his Beatles-loving mother. Sprinkle in some classic country and Motown, and you have a man that would say “¿que?” when other Tejanos would ask what his favorite cumbia was. After a stint in the Marines, Victor moved to Austin in 2000 and began working in the tech industry. He met Skunk in a Spanish class in 2005 and the two discovered a shared passion for not only beer, but music. After years of collectively attending concerts and talking music, the idea to start a podcast centering around such topics seemed like a logical endeavor.