I didn’t want the opportunity that Hugh has given me here to pass and not fulfill what I think is the smallest of tributes to a friend and musical companion.
My pal, former business partner, repair guru and my sometime musical co-conspirator Eric Pykala passed away recently.
This Sunday, a few of Eric’s family, friends, former co-workers and ex-bandmates will gather in a small room in Newmarket to celebrate the life of a well-liked soul.
We will play and sing, tell stories of Eric to use as a balm on our own souls to ease the grief of his sudden passing.
Eric was part of the fibre of the southern Ontario music scene for decades. Whether it be by playing and singing his heart out at a gig, providing sound and lights to touring bands, serving customers at the 12th Fret in Toronto, repairing guitars at The Arts in Newmarket or arriving at your door with his roving “Guitar Doctor” setup to massage your beloved instrument into a finely tuned, purring baby. Eric literally was everywhere. A couple of years ago, he had moved to London to be near his parents and help them out in their day to day needs. More recently he was employed by Walter’s Music in London as their tech.
Eric and his brother Paul were best friends and musical partners for their entire life. They had a band for any type of gig required and a song list that numbered in the hundreds. Eric and Paul were the guitar, bass and voices of the band and then they would fill in the blanks with talented players that fit the gig.
We have lost some of the glue that binds us as a community of musicians and music lovers by Eric’s passing. Eric was always promoting and supporting his musical friends and colleagues. Giving them respect, promotion and admiration that is all too often lacking in our circles. I have to add a anecdote of my own here. A couple of years ago, my nephew Chris, went into the Arts with a couple of guitars to be setup and repaired for his boss at the time. Chris was directed to the basement of the store where lessons and guitar repairs resided. Not knowing each other, Chris handed Eric the said guitars to be worked on. Chris looked up and saw a picture of myself posted on the wall in the shop. He asked Eric, “Do you know that guy in the picture?“. Chris told me he said, “Of course I do and that my boy is one of the best guitarists in this country”. To which my nephew said, “That’s my uncle”.
Which brings me another enduring quality of my pal Eric……..colourful stories. Eric could tell ’em with the best of them. A raconteur of the highest level. Mr. P could keep you enthralled for hours telling tales of ……life on the road, rare sitings of vintage instruments that he held in his hands, playing dates with rock deities, new gear love, custom builds and thoughts on their improvements over stock and how he had just got off the phone with…….well, anyone from Paul Reed Smith, to Aspen Pittman, to Sterling Ball, to David Gilmour and on and on. He could command a room for hours and you would vary between dis-belief, jealousy (oh how I wished it had been me that did/saw/held/played that) and hilarity.
Eric and I shared a passion for music, guitarists and guitars. We were even business partners for a while. He was part of a small team that brought PRS guitars to prominence in Canada, Soldano amplifiers into the country, that made Groove-tube and Hipshot products accessible in Canada, and more quality high-end products available to Canadians.
He was a totally positive fellow. Always thinking about the good side of things. He could elevate the mood in a room with his booming voice and infectious laughter.
One of my favourite memories of Eric was from the 93′ NAMM show. Eric was a huge rockabilly fan. We had tickets for the Fender Concert one night with Buddy Guy and Danny Gatton. He was so excited to see his hero, Danny Gatton that night. Well, not only did we see Danny but as it turned out, Danny came and sat right beside us for Guy’s set. We introduced ourselves and I took a picture of him and Danny together. The smile on Eric’s face was incredible. I’ll always remember that.
Eric had a few lines that are like signature phrases for him. One I love is….”We’re having WAYYYYYY too much fun“.
Well, we’ll try Eric, to have WAYYYYYY too much fun in your honour on Sunday. I’ll be bending a note for you.