Swinard Brings Old-Time Rock-N-Roll to Texas
In the land of country and western music he’s a rare gem and a real treat for those who like that old-time rock-n-roll. Playing guitar and singing favorites of the 60s and 70s--such as Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Dire Straits, Steely Dan, Santana, the Eagles and Neil Diamond to name a few. Holly Lake Ranch resident Gary Swinard has quickly acquired a die-hard following of fans playing at venues in Winnsboro, Gladewater, Kilgore, Tyler, Hawkins and Holly Lake Ranch.
Those attending any of Swinard’s gigs are likely to spot among the patrons a large table of self-proclaimed “Gary’s Groupies” consisting of a dozen or more neighbor friends who enjoy supporting him as much as they enjoy hearing him play guitar and sing.
“He’s so talented and a rare combination of part performer and part entertainer with a unique style, fantastic voice and he’s one mean guitar player,” says neighbor David Erler, a regular at Swinard’s gigs.
Swinard not only interacts with the crowd but often calls on them to participate in an “air guitar” contest or offering five minutes of stage fame, handing out bongo drums, tambourine, and other instruments then inviting patrons to join him on stage to play along.
While Swinard prefers performing solo, he is also a member of two bands, playing keyboard for The Big Hotel, performing regularly in Tyler, and a newly formed funk rock-and-roll band premiering this fall.
Born in England, Swinard began his music career at the ripe old age of 11, learning and eventually mastering guitar, keyboard and vocal. Four years later he joined a classic rock band, began playing on major stages, touring extensively throughout Europe, opening for wildly popular performers such as Deep Purple, and Jethro Tull, and getting to know fellow musicians like Jeff Beck, Freddy and the Dreamers, and many more.
Though not considered a country western performer Swinard was invited in 1985 to play at Gilley’s in Pasadena. He made the trip from England to the world-famous Texas venue and played his heart out for the cowboy crowd before returning home.
It was during a trip to Florida that Swinard met and fell in love with Robbin, his wife of 17 years. While living in Orlando, Swinard formed a successful band and over a 14 year period played at major Orlando hotels as well as Bally’s in Las Vegas, Nashville’s Opryland Hotel and the Daytona Speedway.
Wanting to get closer to family, the Swinards moved to Holly Lake Ranch last summer, purchasing a home tucked away on a quiet cul-de-sac surrounded by towering trees and visiting wildlife.
The couple says they’ve never been happier and never lived in a more beautiful, tranquil place.
“We consider this paradise. I never thought we’d live in such an unbelievable place,” Swinard says. “I pinch myself all the time to make sure I’m not dreaming. And East Texas people are the friendliest we’ve ever encountered. This is truly home sweet home in every aspect.”
In between performing, practicing, writing songs and working in his yard, Swinard is found at Lake Hawkins retreat center Allaso Ranch, where as a part-time “outdoor university teacher” he enlightens kids about the great outdoors and of course he also gathers them around the campfire, plays guitar, sings and shares his love of music with the next generation of music lovers.
See Swinard’s upcoming performance schedule on www.garyguitarist.com.
Patti Pfeiffer is an author, freelance writer and former weekly columnist and city reporter.