July 6, 2006

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Rock wunderkind
The tale of Eric Steckel, 15
By Erica Febre efebre@hippopress.com

If you take Stevie Ray Vaughan, some Jimi Hendrix, blend it together with Eric Clapton and reduce the age of all three to an almost 16-year-old, what you have is a young musician by the name of Eric Steckel playing "spirited and soulful guitar-oriented blues."

The Eric Steckel Band is a name that might become familiar to music lovers everywhere. Performing this Friday and Saturday (July 7 and July 8) at Rocko's in Manchester, Steckel is sure to impress with his guitar skills and ability to sing the blues at such a young age.

This four-member band is made up of Steckel (who hails from Jacksonville, Fla.), on the guitar and vocals; Wayne Smith, 52, on the keyboards; Nick Franclik, 44, on the bass guitar, and Dwayne Trucks, 17, on the drums. Smith and Franclik have been with Steckel for almost six years now.

Trucks is relatively new to the Eric Steckel Band but comes from a musical family. His brother, Derek Trucks, is a well-known slide guitarist who plays with the Allman Brothers Band among many others and also has his own band, the Derek Trucks Band.

Steckel describes his musical talent as being influenced by the greats such as Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Freddy King and B.B. King. His roots are mainly blues but if you listen closely, there's a bit of rock, country and even a bit of a psychedelic undertone to his music style.

"I grew up listening to Southern rock and blues but there's so much other great music out there," Steckel said. "What's funny about music is, it doesn't matter where you come from or even how old you are. Music is like a language and what matters most is if you can speak that language."

Steckel has been speaking the language of music since before the age of 11, when he released his first album, A Few Degrees Warmer. He first started playing the guitar at the age of nine and his talent has developed over the years to bring him to his third album, Havanah. The second album, High Action, was released when Steckel was 13.

At the age of 12, Steckel went on tour to Europe with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers (that's right) in 2003. The legendary Eric Clapton, at the age of 17, got his first big break with The Bluesbreakers, being the youngest artist ever to play with the band, until Steckel stepped onto the scene. Steckel has quite a fan club in Europe and frequently tours Holland. He plans to return this year in late August, early September.

For those guitar fanatics, check out what Steckel jams on — a vintage 1965 pre-CBS Fender Stratocaster. In 1965 Leo Fender, the creator of Fender Guitars, sold his business to the United States company CBS for $13.5 million. It's said that the quality of the Fender slowly deteriorated at that point, not gaining back its level of respect until the mid 1980s.

"I have other Strats as well, but I stick with the 1965. It's vintage and it just sounds better. Besides the amount that I paid for it, its value is priceless to me," Steckel said.

Because Steckel is only a teenager, he has to split his time between school and music. He is an only child and his parents have dedicated a lot of time to his development as a musician. His father, Scott, handles all the bookings and acts as a part-time manager. Although Steckel's talent has pleased audience of all types, he has a backup plan to attend college and study music.

"I've seen so many artists and musicians who are really talented but making a career out of music is tough these days and I don't want to be 'a starving artist.' Music will always be something that I will do but I don't plan on relying on it to support me in the future," Steckel said.

According to his fans, including Kevin Walsh of Rocko's, where Steckel is scheduled to play, Steckel's talent is sure to deliver a big future.

"Eric Steckel is the biggest thing to happen to the electric guitar since Eric Clapton. This will be, by far, one of the biggest blues events to come to New Hampshire. He's a future legend, there's no doubt in my mind. Rocko's offers a cozy environment and an intimate setting. The vibe will be good. It's a chance of a lifetime," Walsh said.


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See Eric
The Eric Steckel band will play Rocko's, 253 Wilson St., Manchester, on Friday, July 7, and Saturday, July 8. Doors open at 8 p.m.; show starts at 9 p.m. There is a cover charge of $18.50. For more information, call 626-5866 or go to rockos.org.