Rodney Branigan One For The Money, Two For The Show

Submitted by Don Graham

While performing at the LillaBy Festival in Rinkaby , Sweden in August I got the chance to see the headliner, Rodney Branigan, for the first time. I had heard of him but never seen him perform. When he walked outon  the stage with two guitars my first thought was the Texas native  must have the guitars in different tunings for different songs. What happened next caught me by surprise. As he started playing a lightning speed, fingers flying guitar fill  he suddenly reached over with his left hand and started tapping a solo on the second guitar in the stand next to him , all while continuing a pounding rhythm on the first guitar with his right hand. Now I have seen two guitar players each playing their own and  the other player’s instrument as part of a novelty act and it was impressive but not mind bending. However Rodney was playing independent solos and rhythms on two guitars all by himself as if if was two separate players. I had to ask him, “ how would you even think to try that? “ His answer was “ I was teaching a lesson to a guitar student who wanted to learn a Sound Garden song in open C tuning. We got to talking and I told him I could draw two different pictures with two hands at the same time. He asked if I could play two guitars at the same time. I’d never tried but soon found out I could!” And rest as they say is history. A great singer and songwriter as well Rodney soon began incorporating the dual guitars into his live performances, much to the delight of spellbound audiences. 

Billed as an Americana Folk Roots artist,  Rodney’s style is trademarked as ‘Full Contact Folk Music’ and his career has been carving out the path that eventually led to his being invited to some of the most pretegious festivals in the world. But the road that led to that stsrted in the West Texas town of Amarillo. 

“Music has always been a part of my life” he explained. “It stsrted back in in the 1950s  with my great uncle, Elmer Evan, who  was in the Texas wireless band the KYOB Cowboys. They were Lefty Frizzell’s session band and played live dates with him. Lefty wanted them to tour with him but  Uncle Elmer and the band were making a good living at the radio station. But he did get to perform at the world famous Nat, The Natatorium , in Amarillo. One of the highlights for me many years later was getting to perform on that very same stage. “

How did it all stsrt for Rodney? “When I was 10 my  dad introduced me  to the guitar and I got into  Stevie Ray Vaughan and other classic rock bands.”  He soon started making his way through the many music venues across Texas, wowing audiences with his particular blend of country music and humour. While on the road, Rodney was discovered by “Mischa” Hedges, the son of late guitar pioneer Michal Hedges. “Mischa” recognized his father’s influence in Rodney’s playing and made a video of the talented Texan.

Rodney’s touring circle expanded, as he started getting more and more invitations to perform in venues like the Whiskey a Go Go and The Cat Club in LA, where he met bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Steve Vai, Sons of Apollo) and the two became friends. This led to Rodney opening for Billy at the NAMM show, where a chance meeting with Yamaha Guitars landed Rodney an endorsement deal with the global music giant.

Shortly after, Rodney found himself at another expo, the Music Messe in Germany, where an introduction to Marco Mendoza, led to another key brand partnership, this time with D’Addario Strings, which gave Rodney new avenues to expand his acoustic guitar sound. A talented songwriter, Rodney was offered a position at EMI in Nashville, co-writing with Dave Loggins, who penned hit tunes for Reba McEntire, Billy Ray Cyrus, Don Williams, Kenny Loggins, and many others.

Nashville was wearing thin and Rodney soon heard the  call of the road again. He was  booked to headline a festival across the pond, at Hampton Court Palace UK. and he  never left! Besides crisscrossing the island, Rodney was booked on tours in Asia, Africa, and Europe. A short tour of China allowed  him to perform in the Forbidden City, jamming with artists from Mongolia.  From there he went to  India, where he was  the first international artist to perform at Naila Bagh Palace in Jaipur. 

In 2016 Rodney was invited to the most prestigious guitar festival in Europe; ‘Les Nuits de la Guitare de Patrimonio’ where he opened  for legendary French singer and guitarist, Francis Cabrel. The impressed festival director dubs Rodney ‘The Discovery of Patrimonio’.

In 2018 he caught  the attention of Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis who offers Rodney to headline the Glastonbury, at Glastonbury Abbey. It is a double bill alongside Tom Odell. The response is immediate and Rodney lands a spot on the coveted, at the Glastonbury Festival Acoustic Stage. Rodney performed  to a jam packed crowd , knocking it out of the park. 

To  sum up the journey so far, Rodney Branigan learned to play in Austin, performed  in Los Angeles, crafted  songs in Nashville, and put it all together in London and  has played all types of music in all types of venues in his storied career. earning him the title “The Two Guitar Man” . One for the money, two for the show. 

If ever see the name Rodney Branigan on a marquee or poster don’t miss the chance to see this amazing act.