Recently, Josh Rosenthal, proprietor of Tompkins Square and author of Record Store of the Mind, reached out to us with news that acoustic guitarist Suni McGrath had passed. Introduced to many by the Imaginational Anthem, the acoustic guitarist’s work is treasured by guitar soli aficionados. Rosenthal, with a remembrance in his own words, below…
I don’t know why I’m so surprised when one of my obscure guitar heroes dies without a trace, and I have to find out through vague back-channels some three months after the fact. But guitarist Glenn Jones informed me this week that he heard via an online guitar chat group that Suni McGrath had passed. So I looked online and found this small obituary , like so many millions of others, with no biographical detail. No mentions on any music-related site. Nothing.
Suni was one of the first artists I tracked down when I started my label, and he recorded his first music in decades for Tompkins Square. He wrote me letters over a period of a year or so, with photos, details of his life. I was honored to know him and thrilled to get to record him. I felt compelled to write a proper obituary for Suni McGrath. Farewell to “the old fingerpicker”, as he used to sign off in his letters….
Harold J. “Suni” McGrath
July 7, 1943 – Jan 11, 2017
Harold James “Suni” McGrath, an innovative 12-string guitarist whose experimentation with exotic scales, modes and polyrhythms were captured on recordings in the late 60s and early 70’s, died January 11 in Richmond, IN. He was 73.
McGrath’s distinctive style earned him a reputation among instrumental guitar aficionados alongside his contemporaries John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and Leo Kottke, despite having a small, long out-of-print discography and limited live performing career.