Hometown guitar virtuoso Deke Dickerson returns for free concert

Friday, August 16, 2013 | 1:22 p.m. CDT; updated 12:28 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 17, 2013
Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics opened the show at Summerfest on Sept. 14, 2011, at the Blue Note. Dickerson will play tonight at Summerfest, a free concert on Ninth Street between Broadway and Walnut Street.

If you go

What: 9th Street Summerfest

When: Show starts at 7 p.m.

Where: Enter at the corner of Ninth and Walnut streets

Admission: Free

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COLUMBIA — Kitty Dickerson watched as her young son picked up the vacuum cleaner cord, held it to his mouth and began to sing.

Derek "Deke" Dickerson preferred older material, stuff from the 1950s or earlier. He couldn't yet accompany himself with the instrument he would eventually master, the electric guitar, but it was clear that music really meant something to the kid.

Friday night, more than four decades later, that same mother will be in the crowd that will witness roots rock guitar ace Deke Dickerson take the stage as part of the Blue Note's 9th Street Summerfest concert series. The concert will be held outside on Ninth Street between Broadway and Walnut Street beginning at 7 p.m. Friday.

It's been quite a journey for Dickerson, who moved to Columbia as a child but has been based in Los Angeles since the early '90s. Over the course of his career, he's recorded more than 20 albums, toured the world many times over and, most recently, written a book about tracking down rare guitars.

Growing up, Dickerson's father, Harman, was interested in antique aircraft restoration, and would spend a lot of his time digging around for old engine parts.

His son took note, and pretty soon started hunting for his own obscure relics of a bygone era, collecting little-known rockabilly, hillbilly and blues records. When Dickerson was 13, he got his own radio show on KOPN called "Bop Till You Drop."

By this time, Dickerson was getting serious about the guitar. His high school humanities teacher, Linda Harlan, remembers the fervor he felt for it.

"He told me, 'Mrs. Harlan, if I'm not playing music, I itch," Harlan said. "I said, 'Well you need to keep playing music then.'"

He followed her advice, and over the years Dickerson has gained a reputation as a song writer, performer and scholar of vintage American rock and country sounds. 

Kevin Walsh, a programmer at KOPN who has known Dickerson since the musician was 13, said he thinks his success is largely due to being raised in Columbia.

"Missouri kids do it themselves and do it their own way," Walsh said.

Dickerson's mother agreed, marveling at the single-minded vision her son has always shown for his craft.

"I'm very proud of him and truly amazed at what he's been able to do really on his own," his mother said. "We weren't connected to the industry to provide any special advantage to him. We couldn't afford to hire an agent for him or anything like that."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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