If the idea of a one-man band has inherent creative limits, then Keller Williams has broken all the rules. In his quest to show audiences just how much music one man can make with a few guitars, some crazy effects and a whole lot of creative genius, he has redefined the term "guitar virtuoso."
His is among the most unique concert spectacles in music, and if you think "spectacle" can't possibly be equated with serious musicianship, you haven't met him.
Though his popularity thus far has been most prominent in the granola and tie-dyed jam band crowd, Williams charms soldout crowds on a regular basis.
When the Fredericksburg, Va., native performs, surrounded on stage by eight or more different guitars, percussion instruments and effects gizmos, the effect is as much a visual jaw-dropper as it is an aural one.
He often plays continually, melting one composition into the next or interpolating bits of other tunes into longer songs. In addition to virtuoso guitar chops, he uses electronic overdubs and his own incredible ability to emulate instrument sounds with his voice to create a joyous cacophony.
One tune could quite literally find him simultaneously strumming bass lines and attacking a high register guitar melody, while creating an instant electronic tape loop so he can improvise. All that, while singing lead vocals and then switching his warm tenor to a pitch-perfect imitation of a trumpet or trombone.
While his sets mostly feature original material like the funky instrumental God Is My Palm Pilot or the humorously poignant One Hit Wonder, Williams also manages a wide range of covers _ everything from the Bee Gees and Billy Joel to the Grateful Dead and Little Feat.
All six of Williams' major releases have one-word titles such as Laugh, Dance and Home that, like Williams, are freely simple and descriptively complex.
Williams, 33, grew up in Virginia, where he took to the guitar as a young teen.
"I was always singing as a kid, in little school and church choirs and children's musical theater. And I've always been interested in rock 'n' roll on the radio. As soon as I was able to put three chords together, G, C and D, I could go through 10 Eagles songs and a bunch of Beatles songs and then make up my own songs," he said in an interview with the Denver Post last year.
After college, Williams moved to Steamboat Springs, Colo., in the mid 1990s, a self-described ski bum. His friendship with the members of the String Cheese Incident led to countless opening gigs, which exposed him to the jam band community.
"It all started with the love of playing," he said. "We don't want to go to an office with fluorescent lighting; we want to make a living doing what we want to do _ just however much we can make doing the gig. If we just get fed, we're still having a good time. I always kept having fun first in the list of priorities."
_ Information from the Denver Post was used in this report