By Doug Hill
Many musicians have time for a variety of side projects but Terry “Buffalo” Ware isn’t among them.
The guitar virtuoso has been busy playing concerts with wunderkind John Fullbright whose 2012 album “From the Ground Up” was nominated for a Grammy. Ware played on the disc and since then has also been a member of his touring band.
“Right now I’ve pretty much jumped into this head first and we’re so busy there’s not much time for anything else,” Ware said. “I’m still threatening to do another instrumental album of my own at some point.”
It’s just the latest chapter in the life of a musician who has been delighting audiences since his days of playing with band The Debtor Group in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles while still in high school. Ware formed an outfit called Sailor while studying at the University of Oklahoma and even found time to play trombone with the Pride of Oklahoma marching band. After graduating he wandered to Red River, N.M., and met Ray Wylie Hubbard. They performed together as the Cowboy Twinkies throughout the 1970s. Ware came back to Norman and played with the Sensational Shoes for several years. He’s recorded a half dozen albums of his own and appeared on nearly 20 other platters by other artists including Hubbard, the Red Dirt Rangers and the Banded Geckos. Ware has performed at every Woody Guthrie Folk Festival since it began in 1998.
Earlier this year Ware was part of John Fullbright’s tour in the United Kingdom.
“We did BBC radio shows and Jools Holland’s TV show which is the biggest music show in Europe,” Ware said. “'From the Ground Up’ just came out in March there in England and hit number one on the Amazon charts after we were on the Holland show.”
It’s been a wild ride since the Grammy show in February and Ware is thriving on the travel, performances on consecutive nights and meeting new people in places he’s never been before. During the off moments he reads books on his iPad and tries to maintain a healthy diet which he says is easier to do now than back in the 1970s.
“A lot of the venues feed us and there were some pretty nutritious food choices,” he said.
Some things about touring and performing live have not changed since Ware became a musician.
“One thing I learned early on, still holds true and always will is that the most important thing you’re doing is the song,” Ware said. “It’s what you’re playing at that moment. You have to realize that without the song you have nothing.”
He credited Ray Wylie Hubbard with teaching him the importance of being true to the song. Showing off hot guitar licks is not as important as serving the composition as written by delivering it in the best manner possible.
“You play as an ensemble whether you’re with just one other person or an entire band,” he said. “And be glad you’re there playing the gig.”
Ware will be bringing that ethos and attitude to the Summer Breeze concert Sunday. Norman audiences are familiar with his virtuosity from dates the freelance guitarist has played with vocalists Mary Reynolds, Camille Harp, Ellis Paul, Michael Fracasso and many others. At this show John Fullbright will be the lead singer.
“There will be some songs that John does by himself on guitar and piano,” Ware said. “Then there will be a full tilt band doing quite a few numbers from the album (From the Ground Up).”
They’ll be performing some of Fullbright’s new material as well. The full band will also include Giovanni Carnuccio III on percussion and David Leach on bass guitar.
“We’re really busy with touring,” Ware said. “I’m almost afraid to look at the schedule.”
Upcoming shows including Tulsa’s Mayfest, a benefit in Oklahoma City and lots of Texas gigs. Mid-June finds them performing at the controlled chaos that is the Bonnaroo music festival in rural Tennessee. Cheapest available tickets now are $269. See Fullbright’s band Sunday in tranquil Lion’s Park for free.
If You Go
What: John Fullbright Band in concert as part of the Summer Breeze Series.
When: 7:30 p.m. May 19
Where: Lions Park, 450 S. Flood Ave.
Terry "Buffalo" Ware has been a traveling troubadour this year.