By:  Krista Doran

ajslickLike many of the people who read this feature, music has always been a big part of my life.  As a kid, I remember how exciting it was to go buy a brand new album.  I would get home, jump on my bed, tear that thing open and would study every picture, read every word from cover to cover, inside and out.  The stories about the artists and their songs simply fascinated me.  To me, getting to know a musician or band through their music is so interesting.  You get to share in their joy and their pain. Like Mick Jaggar sang, “If I could stick my pen in my heart and spill it all over the page,” musicians certainly have that unique ability to express themselves.  As a musician myself, I know that it takes a lot to write and perform from the heart and behind every musician there is always a great story.  This fact holds true for the artist I am writing about in this month’s issue, AJ Slick.

For anyone that knows AJ, you know what a humble, yet extremely talented musician this man is.  Born right here in Philly and growing up in the true rock and roll era of the 60’s and 70’s, AJ was first influenced by some of the best music ever written…by The Beatles, of course!  He heard the song “Revolution” and his desire to play guitar was born.

AJ’s great talent developed early and by the age of 14 he started playing local clubs in Philly and New Jersey with his bands Destroyer and the 5670 Band. In the mid 80’s, AJ was noticed by a couple of Philly’s major acts and had the opportunity to share the stage with Cinderella and Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers. “Tommy is such a great guitar player and a really cool dude,” AJ told me.  By the late 80’s, when AJ was just 18 years old, he went full force into his style of Texas Blues and Southern Rock and started playing at many Blues festivals all over the East Coast and down South.  While in Texas playing at the Crazy Horse Saloon Blues Festival, he got to meet Blues legend Sonny Rhodes.  Once Sonny heard AJ, he asked him to accompany him on a short tour of the East coast playing guitar for The Sonny Rhodes Band. AJ told me “I learned so much from that tour.  Sonny showed me a lot of great things.  It was definitely a pivotal point in my career.”  After that tour, AJ decided to go on touring with his own band playing the first Woodstock Festival back in the early 90’s and things just progressed from there.  AJ was really starting to get his name out there as a musician, and had some great opportunities to play with many well-known artists.  AJ told me “one of the coolest things that ever happened to me was when Rick Danko from The Band approached me and asked if we could play some songs onstage together.  That was a really incredible experience for me, one that I will always remember.”

Over the years, AJ has been inspired by some of the best music out there such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, C.C.R, The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, Jimi Hendrix and Yngwie Malmsteen.  When you hear AJ play, you can hear all of this influence erupt into a whole other unique style, all his own.  “I play what I want to play, not what people expect me to play.  I just feel like it comes across so much better and people really seem to enjoy it.”  Whenever AJ plays, you can believe it all comes from the heart.  He is a very intense player, whose movements are fluid, as if the guitar is part of his body.  He plays with so much feeling and it always comes across so genuine.  AJ told me, “I play every show like it’s the last time I’ll ever play and I always play with one goal and that is to play the best I can.”

Even with all that he has seen and done over the years, AJ still remains modest yet confident in his abilities as a musician.  He spoke very highly of several of the local musicians he knows and truly believes that Philly has some of the most talented musicians anywhere and I have to agree with him.  AJ’s “Northern Rock” attitude is a no holds barred, tough but fair Philly attitude, which keeps him focused on playing the music he wants to play and not become a sell-out.

Of all the great music that has influenced AJ, there is definitely one artist that has had a major effect on him, and that would be the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan.  AJ started his SRV Tribute band, appropriately named Soul to Soul with band members Stevie K on Bass and Bill Beck on Drums.  This trio also performs AJ’s original music, and along with top notch female singer Eileen Silverman, they gig as The AJ Slick Band, performing Classic Rock covers.  You can catch AJ’s Stevie Ray Vaughan Tribute every couple of months at one of the venues in Philly that definitely supports local music, whether it be original, cover and especially Tribute band, Sweeney’s Saloon.  The next stop for AJ Slick and Soul to Soul will be at The Pennypack Park Music Festival on Wednesday 6/23, along with Joe Coyne’s Eric Clapton/Cream Tribute and Axis (Jimi Hendrix Tribute).

AJ’s love for music has gone on to inspire many others that he now teaches at R & M Music Studios in Langhorne, PA.  In fact, two of his students recently won Guitar Center’s King of Blues contest.  AJ is also a great dad and he tries to spend as much time as he can with his kids which includes helping to coach their hockey teams.  AJ told me, with a smile, “My kids are my life and I love hanging out with them.”

AJ has had it tough at times, having to overcome many trials and tribulations through the years.  He was very candid during our interview and out of respect for him I did not mention everything here.  But I will say that all of these experiences have molded him into a strong-willed, unique individual who will, if nothing else, always be true to himself.  This man is worthy of our admiration.  Not just for his music, but for the person he is – husband, father, teacher, and friend.  You can get more information about AJ and where he will be playing next at www.ajslick.net or by calling 215-437-1219.  See you all at Pennypack Park on 6/23!

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