“Rick Washbrook is one of Toronto’s hidden treasures” ~ Toronto Jazz Society reviewer, Brian Blain
Rick Washbrook has been playing guitar, doing studio work, and teaching for 36 years now, and is an active recording artist. He has experienced, as many artists do, low times in the business and also, numerous high times in his career.
His signature is sensitive but can deliver a raw gut wrenching feeling in his performance. Washbrook has virtuoso guitar-manship, a personal lyric-writing side, and a heap of stories to tell. Through his experimentation with different genres, Washbrook has become, over the years, a very eclectic guitarist. Rick has created a sound, and it feels uniquely his own.
Born the son of Dorothy and Bert Washbrook in 1958, he came from a family with two brothers that were child stars. Johnny Washbrook in “My Friend Flicka” and Donald Washbrook in “Petticoat Junction” back in the late 50’s. The early success of his brothers was guided primarily by his mother Dorothy who championed the careers of her talented sons, which included Rick in later years. At age 10, Washbrook’s first musical inspiration was encouraged at a Christian camp he attended on Big Bear Lake, in California. He stared into the fire, singing songs, feeling the magical sensations that ignited his passion for music.
Raised in California from 1958 to 1970, Washbrook sang in the famous Saint Michael’s Choir. He had a very unique mezzo soprano voice for a young boy. Washbrook’s voice was higher than the girls. As he grew up it turned into more of a baritone. He studied in his younger days from records, using his ear to figure out the parts, and developed a good ear doing this. The first time he touched the guitar was in 1970, he knew it was his path and inner vocation. He is definitely self taught, but is not afraid to study with others, he would trade licks at any chance he could get to converse with another guitarist coming through town.
The Washbrook family moved to Canada in 1971 where Rick studied music. Washbrook received outstanding honors grades from the Toronto Royal Conservatory in his theory rudiments 1 and 2. The well known Italian icon John Perone was Washbrook’s first real classical guitar teacher, so Washbrook was a finger style guitarist right from the start. He studied from Perone weekly at “The Royal Conservatory” in downtown Toronto. In his early days he studied many classical composers and many graded types of material, intermediate to more challenging works. Persone was also very helpful with developing and planting the seed for Washbrook to later develop his strong right hand technique. After high school, Washbrook attended Fanshaw College and studied record production and engineering in 1979.
From 1981 to 1982, after studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music and then Fanshaw College in London, Ontario; Washbrook ventured west. He accepted odd jobs to earn money so he could travel the Alaska Highway with his guitar. He played gigs at roadhouses along the way, whilst learning the ropes of playing professionally. After a year of being out west, Washbrook returned to Markham, Ontario where his folks lived and studied privately for 3 years from a great teacher at Humber College, named Paul Reid. He studied harmony and voice leading from the Gordon Delamont books 1 and 2. Paul Reid was into getting his students to balance left and right brain activities.
Washbrook has maintained a library of all the books and videos he has studied from and references them to this day.
Between 1986 and 1987, Washbrook released his first recorded singles, among them “Summer Roads”, which was the title track of the cassette album which generated four adult contemporary/country hits on Canadian radio. “I Don’t Believe” went to #9 on adult contemporary radio across Canada.
In 1992, Washbrook co-wrote “Rescued by the Arms of Love”, released by the Canadian band “Glass Tiger”. The record went to #1 in Canada and #3 on the Billboard Charts in the United States. This hit opened a lot of doors for Washbrook as a recording artist, teacher and producer. Washbrook won a Canadian Socan Award for co-writing the song.
Sadly, Washbrook’s luck turned in 1990 with the death of his father and mother, only 22 months apart, both from cancer.
He then lost his brother, Mike to kidney cancer in 1996, and later that year, his wife Maria Dawn Tree returned to her native home in England. In 2001, his brother Donald was also lost to cancer.
Washbrook has performed a lot of shows. He made his bread and butter from bar gigs, and traveling the circuit from 1983 to 2004. He played professionally in bars, lounges, cruise ships, and traveled the world as an entertainer. He continued to work hard at growing his craft, playing locales, such as Tahiti, Costa Rica, Switzerland as well as throughout Ontario. Washbrook once played for Prince Philip… that was an honor for him. With a new found spiritual conscience, Washbrook grew as an artist, but struggled with grief. He was playing in the good and bad rooms throughout this period and the late hours and stress of having to carry a crowd took their toll.
In the year 2000, Washbrook recorded a CD tribute to the legendary guitarist Lenny Breau called “A Gypsy’s Bed”. After the main cats down in Nashville heard his guitar playing they invited him to play and teach in Nashville at the Chet Atkins Festival in both 2004 and 2005. This was an awesome experience for Rick as he got to meet and play with some of the most outstanding guitarists in the world.
In 2001, his tribute to Lenny Breau CD was reviewed in the famous “Guitar Player” USA magazine. This is like winning the Olympics for a guitar player as they receive thousands of CDs per year from around the world, and can only publish reviews for a very few.
After the release of his tribute to Lenny Breau, Washbrook was going to promote and tour his new CD, but unfortunately contracted adult chicken pox. This resulted in him being bedridden for eight months and he lost almost all movement in his left arm from ulnar nerve damage. He had to stop performing live.
It was more than two years before he played live again and did studio work. This illness was devastating to his immune system, which was weak to start with from doing three to four shows a week for over twenty years.
From 2001 to 2008, Washbrook studied with the famous Toronto jazz piano player, Bob Erlendson, who is now 77 years old. He studied advanced arranging concepts, harmoney, re-harmonization skills, and improvisation. Washbrook feels it is truly an honor to have studied with such a great man.
From 2004 to 2008, Washbrook has been teaching, recording and doing fewer live shows, but has plans to change that. In 2006, he released “Roncevalles Tango” to great critical acclaim and earlier this year “West Mystic” was released featuring Bob Erlendson. He is a dedicated teacher, loves doing studio session work, producing and is branching into writing music for films. Washbrook teaches privately and also online.