Guitarist Tommy Daniels ends up playing quite a few different kinds of music depending on who he’s playing with, but there’s no question where his musical heart truly lies.
“I’m a lead guitar player, and I play a lot of different styles,” he admits, “but I lean mostly toward blues and classic rock. That’s where I live and breathe.”
It’s not just any kind of blues-rock that inspires him, though. He’s got his feet firmly planted in the long tradition of guitar playing you can only find in Texas. When you ask Daniels which players have had the biggest impact on his own style, you get a roster of musicians that could easily make up a Texas Guitar Hall of Fame.
“I’ve always been influenced by the great Texas guitar players,” he says. “ZZ Top was a big influence. There’s Doyle Bramhall, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ian Moore, and also David Grissom. He’s not a Texas native, but he’s been here long enough to be part of the tradition. All of those guys have had a big influence on me. “
He’s been doing it a long time, too. He picked up the guitar early, and he learned how to play it through scrappy determination, not a carefully planned academic approach. That part of his career is traditional, too; it’s the old story of a kid learning his craft just by doing it.
“I just turned 50, and I started playing when I was 12,” he says. “I’m mostly self-taught. I had, probably, a few lessons here and there, but I don’t read music. I know chords and keys, but I play mostly by ear.”
Daniels plays when he can, getting together with friends on stage when they have free time. His main gig these days is the Sean Kendrick Band, a group he’s been playing with since 2011. His work with that band has gotten him on some big stages with some big names.
“We’ve opened for Bruce Robinson and for Robert Earl Keen at the 4th of July celebration,” he says. “We won the Battle of the Bands in Kerrville, and from that, we got to open for the Texas Tornadoes, the Outlaws, and Mark Farner.”
The Sean Kendrick Band tends to lie low through the winter months, but things start to get busy after the turn of the new year when the gigs start rolling in and the calendar starts filling up.
Like most musicians who play the Hunt Store, Daniels appreciates the atmosphere that sets the place apart from glitzy venues with their big-name headliners and noisy crowds. It helps, too, that Daniels makes his home in Hunt and counts the Hunt Store as an especially familiar territory.
“I’ve played at the Hunt Store over the past three years or so,” he says. “It’s a real laid-back, family-friendly place. I’ve lived in Hunt since 1997, and you know most everyone you see there. It’s like playing in your own backyard.”