Arlen Roth on Typecasting
One of the last things any artist in this business of music would want is to be too “pigeon-holed” when it comes to the style they play. Sure, in this world of short-lived careers, and “one hit wonders” there are many who would beg, steal and borrow their way to a “pigeon-holed” existence, but those of us who are in it for the long haul and want to be known as good players must be more diversified in our music!
Most of the time, becoming “over-associated” with one form of music is not really someone’s fault, nor does it truly reflect their musical abilities. Usually, it’s the short attention span of the public and others who tend to “pigeon-hole” an artist because of something they associate them with, or a particular sound they are most identified by. For example, even though Wes Montgomery was a truly consummate Jazz guitarist of the highest order, he became so associated with his “octaves” that he found himself playing Top 40 hits of the day with that “Wes Montgomery sound!” Of course, this meant that he was now “pigeon-holed” because of his octave style, and to a large degree, it’s still the case!
You can take all the greats, right though Jimi Hendrix and many others, and by seeing how they are perceived by the public you can certainly identify whatever it was that ended up “pigeon-holing” them in the first place! Even when I first heard Hendrix, I was already a bit turned off by the whole psychedelic sound, which was so obviously meant for his “commercial” success at the time, but when I heard his soulful, clean and natural approach on “Wind Cries Mary” I knew I was hearing more of the real Jimi Hendrix!
I guess that being “pigeon-holed” in the long run means that you have had success, but if you look at artists who truly evolved along with their fans, such as the Beatles and the Stones and many others, you can see that fans are willing to follow their heroes right along the way, and right through their favorite artist’s evolution. This is key because bands such as The Beatles were never satisfied to just stay in one place. The truth is that that would’ve been their downfall for sure. Instead, they developed in such a way that they became true “trendsetters” and folks always waited with great anticipation to see what was coming next from The Beatles! It was as if we were all on this wonderful “ride” with them, and we could’ve gone on it forever!
It’s for this reason I find it difficult to listen to current-day guitarists who remain totally “stuck” in one “bag.” For example, I can understand the great Blues “founding fathers” staying in their styles, because way back when, it was a total statement of their life, where they came from and also all they really knew. These days, nobody can really have a good excuse for getting “stuck” in one musical bag, unless they have been so-directed to by a manager, record label or other outside influence. Stay true to you, and never let yourself lose that “restless” quality that will have you always learning more, and forever branching out. You deserve it!