Sonic George: The Guy Who Picks the Guitar Music on Guitar Picks

Posted on: June 10, 2024
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Sonic George’s show has been on the KOOP air for almost 10 years, showcasing all forms of guitar music and sharing his extensive knowledge about the musicians and their recording histories. We spoke on June 5.

Michael A. Brown: What was KOOP like when you first went on the air with Guitar Picks?

Sonic George: Things were very casual back then, with less structure and orderly process than nowadays. It also was more individualized, with less community among broadcasters than there is today. Also, the ability to make audience connections was not in full force when I started. For example, there was no social media for promoting one’s show or communicating with listeners. Now we have those things and there’s a greater sense of community with the community and within KOOP as well.

MAB: How did you go about establishing your on-air persona and growing your audience?

SG: A lot of folks who join KOOP bring radio experience that I didn’t have. But I had been listening to KOOP almost from when the station first went on the air. One day, a light bulb went on in my head and I thought, “I can do that!” At the time, there was a lot of guitar playing on KOOP, with rock shows, and country and country swing. But there was nothing specific that zeroed-in on the guitar culture and the musicians and their music. So that’s what I chose to present and here we are, ten years later!

MAB: Your show features many different styles and genres of guitar music. How do you choose the style or styles for each show?

SG: About half the time, I choose a theme and the other half depends on what pops into my consciousness. One theme I have chosen was guitar manufacturers and the perfomers who play their guitars. I’ve also done many all-jazz shows. Other times, I’ll focus on a particular guitar style such as acoustic or all-electric. I’ve done shows with only guitar instrumentals and no vocals, because I like to have the guitars do the talking. But sometimes, the choice is almost at random. I’ll get an idea early in the week and think, I haven’t played anything like that in a while. Then I build the rest of the play list around that number. On many shows, however, anything goes. I do always identify the guitarist and guitar and perhaps some history of the recording, but I keep that to a minimum in favor of the music itself.

MAB: Which aspects of content and presentation should new KOOP music programmers pay special attention to as they launch their new shows? 

SG: When I was first developing Guitar Picks and deciding what I wanted to do, there were two things that helped me the most, and they probably apply to new programmers also. First, relax! There’s an early tendency to be very nervous, and that can come across in one’s presentation. Better to breathe and relax instead … you’re just playing records for folks in your living room. It’s fun! Second, don’t agonize about making mistakes or things going wrong. They’re going to happen. So pay attention, learn from any errors or glitches, and you’ll be better prepared to deal with stuff that happens next time. 

MAB: In the Austin live music scene, which guitar styles and performers attract the biggest audiences?

SG: Almost any Austin guitar player will attract an Austin audience, because it’s a specialty and there are some really great guitar players. As Albert King told young Stevie Ray Vaughan, “There’s a lot of good fiddlers out there!” There are separate audiences for the different guitar genres and styles. Some folks go to hear rock ‘n’ roll guitarists. Others prefer country and swing. And because Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World, some people go to both of those and maybe jazz and blues also. It’s why I play lots of Austin guitar music. 

MAB: How about a sneak preview of your next couple broadcasts … what can folks expect to hear?

SG: I’m planning an all-blues show, because blues guitarists are among the best who ever played the instrument. I also will be doing an all-guitar movie soundtrack show … all guitars that either were playing the theme in the movie itself or were playing it as a cover afterwards. There’s plenty of good music to fill the hour.

You can enjoy Guitar Picks with Sonic George every Monday at 10am.

Interview by Michael A. Brown