"I knew that I wanted to do this with my life from when I was 16", says Hunter about his musical career. His early recognition of this may have been influenced by the fact that he grew up in homes where his mother repaired guitars for a living in Berkeley, California where he has lived since he was eight years old. Charlie picked up his first guitar when he was twelve years old for $7, and a few years later was taking lessons from Joe Satriani, who at that time was just another guitar teacher. "People can't believe that but I was just another Berkeley kid and every Berkeley kid took lessons from Joe Satriani. He must have had a hundred students. He's a great teacher."
Charlie graduated from the same Berkeley high school whose music program produced saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Benny Green, but Hunter did not participate in the school's prestigious music program. "I really wasn't an institutional-type person. I had to go out and do my own thing. I was a naughty kid who went through the crazy angst-driven hysteria many teenagers experience," says Hunter, who doesn't deny not making it to class much. "Because I was from a low-income family, I was tracked into the lowest level of academic courses. You didn't get a chance to develop much self-esteem there, so I decided to focus on something that made me feel good. I graduated by the skin of my teeth."
"I was into everything at that point - blues, rockabilly, funk and soul...", but it wasn't until Hunter turned 18 that he discovered jazz. "My friends said, 'You got to get into jazz, you've got to listen to Weather Report.' And I thought, 'This is fusion. I'm not really into that.' So then somebody told me I should listen to Wes Montgomery, but the album I got was one of those with strings, and I was totally turned off. Finally, somebody said, 'You need to check out Charlie Parker and Charlie Christian and John Coltrane,' and it was like boom! I was instantly turned on. Their total sound and the reality of their playing just cut through everything. I suddenly wanted to play like that."
Hunter soon discovered and became heavily influenced by such organ legends as Jimmy Smith, Larry Young, and Big John Patton. Mix this with some of his favorite artists from other genres such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Little Walter, and you can see where Hunter's sound came from. But it was the exposure to so many various genres of music that Charlie is thankful for. "Growing up in the Bay Area had a profound effect on my music. I was exposed to everything from the Dead Kennedy's to P-Funk to Art Blakey. In the Bay Area, you have all of these different musical cultures living together and all of these different musical cultures and their music gets semi-assimilated into this non-polarized state of being where hybrids are free to grow, and there are all of these genres and cross genres to play in and around."Read more
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