By P Raymond
Friday, May 4th from every corner of the U.S., the best young guitarists make their way to Texas for the Dallas International Guitar Festival in hopes of snagging the crown as the best in the country. On Friday, at a special pre-festival jam invite at the Canton Hall in downtown Dallas, sponsored by PRS Guitars and International Guitar Show founder Jimmy Wallace, Anthony Cullins steps up to cut with some of Texas’ best Guitar players. Now, this isn’t a young gun jam, this is the real deal. Anthony is pitting his chops with national veterans such as Bosco France, Amboy Dukes singer and guitar player Derek St. Holmes, Simon McBride, and Justus West.
What must be going through his head as he walks out on the stage, panic, nervousness, trying to remember his parts? Not even close. From the beginning to the end, Anthony’s cool, calm, jovial big smile shines as bright as the stage lights. Like a seasoned pro, his foothold and total understanding of where he is and what is required does not escape him. Just a few hours after landing in Dallas and the Fallbrook Kid looks right at home on the Stage. Even after meeting with sponsor and endorsers, he keeps his eye on the ball with his trusted gold Gibson Firebird never far from sight.
Saturday 1:00 pm, at first, the venue is almost empty at the Keeley Electronic Stage, but after the first song, I look around, to find an almost standing room only audience. Not that the young Mr. Cullins needs a packed audience to feel secure, because he would bare his soul to an audience of one and he would be just fine. He steps up to deliver his performance of original songs and slides right through with pinpoint accuracy and he was playing on “All Thrusters”. Later that evening, on the events main stage, Anthony again, joins Jimmy Wallace an Ally Venable to rip through a smoking hot set of Allman Brother songs. As each seasoned and young gun player steps up to show their talent, Anthony is truly happy to on stage with his peers soaking up every moment.
Sunday 10:00 a.m., the excitement of the day’s event is mounting amongst the young players. They are all focused knowing that it is a do or die moment. The crown jewel sits in the hands of five seasoned Texas guitar veterans and all sit incognito. They observe intently at a discreet distance and watching the Young Guns step and play their hearts out. Calculating points to see who will knighted as the next International Guitar Show Young Gun winner.
Backstage the young lads pace the floor with axe in hand in preparation for their call to the altar to shred and shine.
One by one they step onto the stage and bare their souls to family, friends, spectators and of course, the judges. It all comes down to this moment.
The master of ceremonies steps up to the microphone, next up “The Fallbrook Kid, Anthony Cullins.”
Without any signs of ware, he addresses the waiting audience, “I’m from California so I’d like to play a song called “Pipeline.” Now, this was an easy choice for The Fallbrook Kid because he has played it a hundred times and he knows how to navigate that song. As I sat there observing, I have to admit, I had a moment of trepidation as to the song selection. Anthony knew exactly what he was doing. Knowing that the venue assigned him a young drummer and bass player and it would be up to him to cue them to changes on stage and still give a flawless performance. His song choices proved to be very smart and tactical.
Now, I have seen Anthony play over the years so, I know what to expect, however, was it going to be enough to get him to the top?
From the first note of the Chanty’s iconic song, something took over him, something channeled through him to deliver a flawless performance and I mean flawless!
It is now time to announce the winners. Who will be crowned the 2018 International Guitar Show Young Guns King? It all comes down to this moment, all the work and cost to be invited. After the third and second are announced they step up and receive acknowledgment and prizes.
“And the first place prize goes to…..Anthony Cullins!” The standing room only crowd erupts!
In speaking with him, before the show, all he wanted to do was to hang out with his peers and learn, share and exchange ideas.
He walks up to claim his prize but, without hesitation, Anthony gives praise and thanks to his musician friends, giving them the recognition they all deserve. In addition to his title, he was also awarded some excellent sponsor equipment and the grand prize, a $10,000.00 scholarship.
In closing, I say this. It is not because I’ve watched Mr. Cullins grow his craft over the years or widen his deep understanding of music along with his quest to be better every waking moment of the day. It’s because in becoming friends with him, I see that he has applied singular study to his craft that has forged a new path. Now, he is seeing it through step by step. I believe that his new title will elevate his Zen approach to his music and take him to that next level.