Tony Furtado

Notes by Rick Shubb

Before Shubb Capos was a fulltime job for me I made my living playing and teaching the 5-string banjo. One of my students in those days — one of my best students, I should add — was a teenager named Tony Furtado.

Still too young to drive, his father drove him to his first lessson. He had already been learning from tablature, and played a few tunes for me. I predicted that he would become (as he recalls) “one of the hottest banjo players in the bay area.” A bold prediction at the time, it now seems modest in retrospect.

But in order to achieve this goal, I ruthlessly dictated that he lock all his tablatures in a drawer, and we began a program of ear training and improvising. Sometimes we would trade breaks on a single tune, nonstop, for half an hour and I’d insist that he play it differently each time.

While I can’t take credit for the musician he would become, I’d like to think I played a key role in laying the groundwork.

I’ve since run into Tony a couple of times at NAMM shows, and found him to be the same likeable, unaffected guy …not so different from that kid I knew, except maybe for the beard and shaved head. And I was pleased to learn that he used my capos.

Teaching was sometimes a chore for me, and sometimes a pleasure. Much of the pleasure came from the gratification of students who really learned to play. Tony was a pure pleasure, and no one can deny that he really learned to play.

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