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Obituary: Gilroy Blues Guitarist John Garcia

In Music
The late Gilroy blues guitarist John Garcia died over the weekend. Photo by Andy Nozuka.

The late Gilroy blues guitarist John Garcia died over the weekend. Photo by Andy Nozuka.

The longtime blues musician and South Bay native John Garcia has died. The Grammy-nominated guitarist—who performed with the likes of John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Paul Simon and Bonnie Raitt passed away over the weekend in Gilroy, where he was born.

Garcia’s loyal following knew him as much for his guitar finesse as his humble humor. He approached the blues with an innovative touch, crafting surprising riffs that often coaxed a smile out of listeners, who may have wondered why no one else had thought up such a lick before.

He’s been on Metro’s map for quite some time. Music writer Sammy Cohen dubbed him “Gilroy John” Garcia in a 1985 piece that credited him as a key figure in keeping the South Bay’s blues tradition alive. In recent years, he recorded with John Lee Hooker’s daughter, Zakiya Hooker and his son, John Lee Hooker Jr.

And Brad Kava of the Gilroy Dispatch once wrote of Garcia: “This guy plays the guitar like a classic Porsche. Beautiful and melodic one minute, then leaning into the curves at 210 miles per hour the next.”

John Garcia received Grammy nominations for his blues guitar work on John Lee Hooker Jr.’s 2004 album, Blues with a Vengeance and his 2008 effort, All Odds Against Me.

He taught guitar to many local musicians over the past three decades as a music instructor at Gavilan College, South Valley Music Conservatory and the Morgan Hill Adult Community School. He also served on the faculty at the School of the Blues in San Jose and the Gilroy Music Academy.

Lamenting Garcia’s passing on Facebook, local blues harmonica player Andy Just identified the late Garcia as one of his favorite guitarists. “He could literally play anything and everything,” Just wrote. “I especially admired and enjoyed his take on blues-jazz style of guitar playing. I’m just so fortunate that John was part of my life.”

Garcia is survived by son Aaron Django Garcia, who resides in Lodi. In keeping with his wishes, no funeral services will be held on Garcia’s behalf. However, there will be a “John Garcia Celebration of Life” concert at Poorhouse Bistro on Oct. 30. The event will feature Wally Schnalle on drums and Steve Smith on bass. The pair were longtime bandmates of Garcia’s. 

John Garcia Celebration of Life
Oct 30, 6pm, Free
Poor House Bistro, San Jose

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