Larry Handwerger Interview

Larry Handwerger Interview
"King of Jammers Larry Handwerger"

Interview by Roger Zee (02/22/16)

RZ: When did you first pick up the guitar and who inspired it?
LH: When I was about sixteen, a few friends in High School played. So I got a nylon string guitar and joined them. Soon, we were making some noise and having fun. Simple chords, good times. Lots of practice and jams in my parent's basement in Elmont, Long Island, NY. And it went on from there.

RZ: Have you ever taken guitar lessons and if so, with whom?
LH: I took a bunch of lessons from a few different people over the years including Geoff Hartwell and Toby Wine.

RZ: Which guitars, amps, and pedals do you currently use?
LH: My favorite go-to guitar is my 2000 teal/green Fender Stratocaster Deluxe. I also use a 1999 Gibson SG Deluxe, a 2006 Fender '59 Telecaster reissue, and a 2009 Fender Stratocaster Sunburst that's been modified with lace sensor pickups and the Eric Clapton mid-range tone boost circuit board with bass/treble cut potentiometer. I string them all with D'addario 10 gauge. I own a 2003 Fender Blues Jr. Tweed amp which I always used to bring to jams. But now, many people bring their own and just let me use theirs if I'm not playing with the house amp. My pedals include a Fulltone Distortion Pro when using my Teal Strat, a Fulltone Fulldrive for my SG or Tele, and a seldom used Zen Drive.

RZ: How and what do you practice?
LH: Well, I should practice more. When I do, I play scales in different keys and in different positions. I work on new licks that I have either heard or made up and get them down as smooth as I can. I play along to songs and try out different feels. I also practice bending notes and checking the pitch on my tuner.

RZ: When and where did you first start going to jams?
LH: I first started going to Jean Jacques in Pleasantville, NY in 2004. I walked in, observed, and talked to Geoff Hartwell who ran the jam. I asked him a bunch of questions about how it worked and if I needed to be experienced. He was very encouraging and explained the format. The house set of 20-30 minutes would start the night. Then people would be matched together and called up to perform a set of three songs. It took me two or so visits of just listening and watching before I attempted to play my first jam session. And the rest as they say is history! I found out about other weekly jams and started going to them all. It was fun and I was building experience.

RZ: How did you get the title, "King of Jammers?"
LH: By you Roger, a number of years ago, during one of your "The Working Musician" Cable/Internet Show tapings. Really because I went to so many jams!

RZ: What do you look for in a good jam?
LH: Well, the various nightly jams usually draw different crowds. I like playing with diverse musicians. It challenges me and keeps things lively. I look for places that mix and match the players well.

RZ: Which jams do you currently attend?
LH: I go to Johnny Fed's jam, yours [Roger Zee], and a few others run by Gary Schwartz, Will Van Sise, and Dan Chopper Carillo in the Westchester/Connecticut area depending on my mood. When I visit my parents every March in Delray Beach, Florida, I always bring a guitar and check out a few sessions there that I find through the South Florida Blues Org Web site.

2016 Roger Zee