Studio West longtime client Wayne Riker was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2017 San Diego Music Awards. Wayne, 66, has been making a living out of music his entire career, fulfilling a dream he had since he was 19-years-old. “I put a few things on my bucket list then” Wayne says, “but the biggest one was I didn’t want to have a day job. I just wanted to play gigs and teach guitar. All my dreams have come true. This award feels good, and the fact that 75 other musicians in town are equally deserving, makes it even more special.”
Wayne’s attraction to performing began in 1965, when he was fifteen years old. “My interest started with the Beatles,” Wayne said, laughing. “Four guys with long hair and all the girls screaming. A whole generation bought instruments to attract attention from girls. Whether they admit it or not, that’s the reason a lot of us got started.”
Wayne grew up in New York City and started playing guitar with his band in Greenwich Village in 1967, right as the psychedelic era started. His band did well, but his guitars did not. “The guitars were pretty cheap and the necks started to warp. They became unplayable,” says Wayne. Because of the bad guitars, he got frustrated and quit for about a year and almost gave up completely. Then he picked up his girlfriend’s nicer guitar and thought, “This guitar really plays well!” That prompted his decision to move forward with music and with his bucket list.
Military Draft and College
Wayne attended Fairleigh Dickinson University and earned a B.A. in English. “The military draft was breathing down men’s necks then,” Wayne says, “and college stalled the draft.”
After college, Wayne began gigging, and has played just about every genre on the professional stage, including Blues, R&B, Big Band, Musical Theater, Hard Rock, Jazz, and Country. “To make a living playing music, you really have to be versatile, so you can get different gigs and survive,” Wayne says. As for genres, Wayne doesn’t play favorites, and quotes Duke Ellington: “There’s two types of music: good music and bad music.”
Teaching & Writing
Wayne started teaching guitar right from the beginning, and he continued teaching when he moved to San Diego in 1980, working with students out of New Expression music store for 30 years. His educational work is one of the reasons he was given the Lifetime Achievement award. “It makes me happy and proud to have encouraged and influenced a lot of players,” Wayne says. “Most are hobbyists, but a few go on to do great things, and that really almost tops everything.”
Trained in journalism, Wayne has written many instructional guitar books and contributed to guitar columns in magazines. Last year he published his autobiography 50 Years, 50 Bands, 50 Bucks: Memoirs of an Unlikely Musical Journey.
Recording at Studio West
Wayne first recorded at Studio West when he was part of a musical theater show called Dixie Highway, and they recorded the entire score at the studio. So he knew where to turn when everything went south while he was recording a solo album in someone’s home studio in 2010. “I was dumped onto an assistant who had no clue what was going on,” says Wayne. “And the equipment wasn’t very good. So I insisted on taking the music somewhere else to get mastered.”
Wayne took it to Studio West, where it was mastered by Larry Czoka, who rescued much of the music, but couldn’t resuscitate it all. Wayne says, “I learned my lesson. I’ve recorded every CD since then at Studio West, one CD every year, with engineer Darrell Harvey. Darrell and I have become good friends and I trust him.”
Wayne’s process at Studio West is now so finely tuned that he usually only needs to spend one day in the studio, or at the most two. He hires professional musicians and preps them thoroughly before the session. “I’ve used 55 musicians over 7 CDs,” Wayne says. “My experience with Studio West has been great. They’re efficient and professional and deliver good quality. As with everything else, you get what you pay for.”
Lifetime Achievement Award
For over 50 years, Wayne has found success as a performer, teacher, and writer. His Lifetime Achievement award reflects what he’s done, and is still doing. “Here I am at 66 still fulfilling my dream,” Wayne says.
Congratulations Wayne Riker, for making your dreams into your reality. Your 19-year-old self would be proud.