“Right from the start, one of the major tenets of the group was that we wanted to go beyond song-form type material whenever we could.”
Pat Metheny is one of the most intriguing musicians of the past four decades. As a solo artist and also as a part of the Pat Metheny Group, he continues to defy musical categories. He has been called one of the most influential people in jazz music, but that statement doesn’t quite capture his impact. His amazing style of blending musical genres has impacted almost every aspect of music that people enjoy today.
THE EARLY YEARS
Pat Metheny was born on August 12, 1954, in Kansas City and grew up in the suburb of Lee’s Summit. His musical family exposed him to a wide variety of musical influences as a child, which made a huge impact on his development. He was playing the trumpet at age eight and then switched his focus to guitar at age twelve. He proved to be such an adept musician that, by the time he was in his teens, he was already playing with some of the best musical groups in the Kansas City area.
RISE TO FAME
Unlike many musicians who finally get stage experience in their twenties, Metheny was already a stage veteran in his teens. By the age of eighteen, he was already teaching classes at the University of Miami to students much older than him. Not only was he the youngest teacher in history at the Florida university, he also became the youngest teacher at Boston’s Berklee College of Music at age nineteen.
At age twenty, he was already well known in musical circles, but he did not have household name recognition. He spent the next three years touring with
Gary Burton and playing for packed houses all over the country while releasing small solo albums. The exposure as a backup artist expanded his horizons and
gave Metheny the experience he needed to move to the next level: the frontman of a band. He released his first solo album Bright Size Life in 1975 and began a “constant musical tour” that has consumed his life over the past thirty years.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
Metheny was always fond of large musical arrangements, so he made the bold move of adding a large number of musicians to his act and formed the Pat
Metheny Group in 1977. Part of his unconventional approach to music was to add instruments that weren’t normally associated with jazz, including the 12-string guitar, the guitar synthesizer, and the forty-two-string Pikasso guitar. The popular sounds helped develop an immense following, with the band releasing an album nearly every year since the mid-1970s to keep their fans happy.
His style is so unique that many music aficionados claim he is the most copied performer in the industry. His success can also be measured by the amazing number of awards he has won. He racked up three gold albums and an amazing sixteen Grammy Awards, including seven years in a row for seven consecutive albums. His Grammys include awards for Best Rock Instrumental, Best Contemporary Jazz Recording, Best Jazz Instrumental Solo, and Best Instrumental Composition.
Metheny and The Pat Metheny Group continue to churn out albums in the 2000s, making him one of the most resilient and biggest selling artists over the past three decades. He also ranks as one of Missouri’s greatest entertainers of all time.
*His older brother, Mike Metheny, is also a professional musician.
*Pat received an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.