Tony Yardley says he fell in love with music the same as everyone his age, “I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and it just blew me away.”

Yardley, 67, remembers being fascinated by The Beatles, “The next thing that came to my mind was, ‘I need to be able to do that’ and ‘I want to have a thousand girls screaming at me,’” He laughed. “It didn’t quite work out that way, but my interest in music grew as I started aging.”

Yardley didn’t study music while attending Jacksonville State University in the 70s. “I was an art major. I was a graphic artist for a long time. But I still always wanted to be a rock star, then I wanted to be a studio musician, and now I just really just want to just write and teach.”

Teaching is where Yardley found his gift. He has taught some of the biggest names to come from Calhoun County including Will Owsley who played with Shania Twain and Ben Folds and who received a Grammy nomination for the first record he ever released. “I taught Will when he was 11 years old, and I’d love to tell you that I taught him everything he knows, but I just got him started really,” Yardley says. “It was all I could do to keep him in his seat. Most of his guitar lesson was ‘‘Will, would you please just sit down?’ because he was so full of energy.”

Yardley also taught country music singer Riley Green. “I taught him when he was eight or nine years old… I went to college with his mother and she called me up about giving him lessons. He was a scared little rabbit. Of course all of that’s changed now,” he says with a laugh. 

Yardley has been teaching guitar for more than 40 years. He taught at Hubbard Pianos for 14 plus years and has been at Chevalier Productions, 230 G Street, in Anniston for the last five years. “I tell my students, ‘All I can do is show you how to do it and make sure you’re doing it correctly and then you have to do the work.’” 

“I teach one student at a time,” Yardley adds. “I don’t teach classes because classes don’t work. Every student learns at a different pace.” Guitar lessons are 30 minute sessions and cost $25 per lesson. For more information contact him through Facebook; Chevalier Productions, 256-835-0360; or on his cell, 256-473-3883.

Yardley, born in Missouri, found his way to Anniston as a young adult. His father worked in the grocery business which meant his family moved several times during Yardley’s childhood. “At three years old, we moved to Peoria, IL and lived there for eight years,” Yardley explains. “That’s when I went to grade school with Dan Fogelberg, a very popular folk style singer in the 70s and 80s.”

As a teenager, living in Fargo, SD, Yardley says he really began to develop as a musician. And despite his feeling on the weather there, “It’s our version of Siberia. To say it snows a lot and it is very cold is an understatement,” Yardley says there was a great music scene in Fargo.    

From North Dakota his family moved to Minneapolis and then on to Anniston. Yardley enrolled at JSU and studied art. It was there that he met his wife of 40 years, Barbara, and a number of musicians who performed on campus. 

“When I was in college back in the 70s they used to have concerts at JSU all the time, and they had top names coming here,” Yardley says. “The Vice-President of the Student Government Association asked me to do posters for the concerts but they couldn’t pay me. I said yes on two conditions: one, I wanted to get in the concerts for free, and two, I wanted backstage passes to meet everyone of them.” 

Today, Yardley’s original posters include: Billy Joel and Kansas, The Buckingham Nicks, Bob Seger, Jo Jo Gunne, ZZ Top, Percy Mayfield, Billy Preston, It’s a Beautiful Day, Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, Wet Willie, and Charlie Daniels. In fact, the trio Yardley played with during college opened for Billy Preston, It’s a Beautiful Day, and Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose.

Reminiscing on the posters he created, Yardley adds that ticket prices were a bit less in the 70s. Student tickets for the Billy Joel and Kansas show cost only $3 while public tickets were a whopping $5.  

These days, Yardley still performs from time-to-time with a three piece group called The Conniptions. Jeff Hicks and Regina Musser join Yardley in performing 70s and 80s classic rock as well as some of Yardley’s original music. “They are fantastic singers. I sing ok, but we do a lot of three part harmony stuff.”

UPCOMING SHOWS 

              • February 14 – Courtyard Oyster Bar and Grill – Lincoln
              • March 17 – Hickory Tavern – Homewood

Over the years, Yardley has released three instrumental CDs. The first, Surface Tension, is a mix of jazz, rock, and instrumental while the second, Cottonwood Lullaby, is entirely acoustic. His third CD is a collection of Christmas covers. “Now I’m working on [a CD] of all the songs I’ve written that have lyrics,” Yardley explains. “I sing a little bit in a few of the songs, but mostly I’m getting my partners in the band to sing and I’m getting some of my other friends that I’ve made over the years that are going to sing on this thing. There’s probably going to be two CDs because I’ve got about 20 songs that I want to record.”

“I want to get all of this done while I still can,” Yardley continues. “My arthritis eventually will take it away, and I know that. It’s just a part of getting old. As long as I can do it, I’m going to do it.”

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