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Keller Williams One Man Band

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Imagine attending a concert in which if you were to close your eyes, you would assume that the music you are hearing is being created by a cast of band members, each playing their respective instruments. Contrary to your assumptions, however, this band only consists of one member. Keller Williams, dubbed by critics as a one-man-band, is one of a kind both in his musical talent and his solo act. Very few solo musicians have mastered such a multi-dimensional sound and captivating live show as Keller, making him standout amongst today's musicians. Keller's ability to perform improvisational live shows, form a large and dedicated fan base, and share the beliefs and attitudes of the hippie generation has given him the musical identity of the jam band genre in addition to his personal identity of being a solo act.

Keller grew up in of Fredericksburg, Virginia and first began performing at the early age of 16. Without any formal teaching, he taught himself how to the play the guitar, mimicking the styles of his role models John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and the late Michael Hedges. Williams started out playing in bars and restaurants in his hometown. He played in various bands to help him get a feel for his own skills. After doing so, he decided that a band would not suite the type of music path he was set out for and quickly decided to take a more solo-oriented route. The type of music Keller creates fuses elements of rock, funk, jazz, folk, bluegrass, and techno. His lyrics are "usually lighthearted, inventive and conjuring images of a twisted reality" ("Keller Williams Bio"). It is these characteristics, combined with the looping techniques that he uses to create a full-band sound with only himself on stage, which is what further distinguishes Williams from all other musicians.

Placed in the genre of jam bands, Keller is able to create a solo jamming experience with the use of his arsenal of various instruments. Keller was "introduced to looping techniques by 'Flecktones' bassist Victor Wooten," which he now uses "to build a full-band sound with only one man on stage" ("Keller Williams Brings"). A typical song will begin by Williams playing a guitar riff which he will then "loop" so that it repeats continuously. Next, he might pick up another guitar, of which he has collection numbering eight or so, and record another riff which he will loop on top of the original riff. Following that, he may sit down on his drum set and lay down a drum track. Additionally, he may add his signature mouth flugel to the loop in which he imitates a trumpet sound with his mouth. To conclude his musical creation, Keller uses his onstage synthesizer to alter or create practically any sound imaginable. When all is said and done, a full medley of sound is created in front of an overjoyed live audience. It is this technique of creating a solo act through the use of looping various instruments that has established Keller's personal identity of a one-man-band.

Jam bands are set apart from other musical genres by their performances of live, improvisational shows in which only the sky is the limit. The idea of experimentation and improvisation was first developed by the Grateful Dead and is the basis for the jam-band phenomenon. The idea of not wanting to be constrained by a four minute single was the original reason for this new change. Keller Williams embraces this same idea of improvisation and experiementation and not wanting to be constrained by short-lived singles. He does not feel that he needs to conform to mainstream society and fall under the category of pop music in order to get his music heard. His belief in staying true to himself can be seen by his unusual lyrics which he claims is "a blend of [his] imagination and life experience" ("Keller Williams Bio"). and his on stage experimentation and improvisation. His use of the looping techniques is a prime example of his jam band character since it entails experimenting with technology and on the spot creation of music. Essentially, Keller's live show could be defined as one big musical experiment. This is because the whole show is based on his ability to create a non-stop flow of music with the various instruments and technology he has on stage. Keller's music is basically musical experimentation and improvisation in its most primitive form.

Another characteristic of the jam band genre is a large and dedicated fan base. Lacking the radio play and television coverage that pop groups thrive under, jam bands need to seek other ways of making themselves known. These bands "compensate with relentless touring and by courting fans who seek alternatives to pop formulas" ("Today's Jam Bands"). Additionally, these bands keep their tickets affordable and try to play at smaller venues in order to make a better connection with their fans. Also, jams bands feel that by radically altering their set lists for each concert, fans are more likely to attend multiple performances throughout a tour knowing that each show will be completely different than any previous one they attended. Lastly, the majority of jam bands flourish by permitting fans to tape concerts so that the music can be spread in ways that radio play and television could not do for them.

Keller Williams has developed a substantial and devoted fan base by employing all the tools of a jam band. He is constantly on tour, whether it be headlining a single concert or part of a music festival, as he tries to stay under the pop culture radar. Furthermore, the prices of his tickets are reasonable and remain relatively stable. For the most part he only performs at smaller venues to create a more intimate setting with his fans. During touring, it is rare to experience two set lists that even remotely resemble each other. Last of all, Keller encourages the free taping and sharing of his concerts in order to better spread his music. By utilizing all the strategies that jam bands do in order to promote their music, Williams has successfully created a large and dedicated fan base.

The hippie persona that Keller has obtained stems from the jam band genre which shares a lot of the same ideals. The jam band genre can be viewed as a lifestyle in the way that the hippie role is perceived. Both lifestyles believe in a simplified



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