At 26 years of age, Rick Washbrook found his own voice and songs. It was 1985, and in his mid-twenties, Rick’s natural story telling ability and contemporary song writing foretold he was someone who would definitely hit the charts. Building his ever growing fan base in Ontario, Canada his fans have not forgotten his debut album, Summer Roads, and today, Washbrook is more recognized for his virtuoso guitar playing.
From 1985 to 1986, four of the top songs from his debut album received great exposure i.e., "Little Bit," "I Don't Believe," "Summer Roads" and "Burgundy Girl." The songs charted well in Canada, especially "I Don't Believe," reaching number nine on the charts and his debut single "Little Bit" in the top 20.
In the early 90's, Washbrook co-wrote an instrumental song "Rescued by the Arms of Love." The song reached number three on Billboard in the U.S. and out of thousands of CDs submitted to CBC radio, it was in the top 10.
Following in the success of his two California brothers, the famous child stars Johnny and Donald Washbrook (Johnny appearing in" My Friend Flicka," and Donald appearing in "Petticoat Junction) Rick followed their footsteps in the entertainment industry. His mother, Joyce Washbrook, was a positive light for all her son’s success. "Mother had a never-ending light of hope in her eyes for us boys in the industry," says Washbrook. "She was a diamond in the rough, always tap dancing in the family kitchen. I’ll always remember her positive love and inspiration."
The baby of the family, Rick Washbrook was destined to write and perform. He displayed an unusual dexterity and natural talent for the guitar from a very young age. Growing up in California, he remembers attending summer camp at Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear, singing songs around the campfires at night. The fires seemed to speak to him, he says, saying the guitar was going to be his life.
After releasing his debut album in his mid-twenties, Washbrook toured and performed in Canada to promote his music. "People would sing along with the words to my songs," says Washbrook. "It was so overwhelming; I still remember that image so clearly today."
In 2001, Washbrook released a tribute CD to the late, great, Canadian musical genius Lenny Breau. The feedback and support he received from this effort was exuberant. It led him into the big arenas performing with top guitarists here and abroad. He was invited to attend the Chet Atkins Festival in Nashville to perform and teach guitar clinics. It was here he met and jammed with Tommy Emmanuel, John Knowles, Bill Piburn and so many other artists. He got to hear Mason Williams, composer and performer of the 1968 hit guitar instrumental Classical Gas, and talked to his all time hero, Les Paul. An outstanding guitarist, Les Paul was also the inventor of multi-track recording, the echo machine and reverberations units; the man that changed the music industry.
In 2004, Washbrook returned to his song writing roots like his first album Summer Roads. This project was called Tapestry of Soul. The project was co-produced by Sharon Arnaud, who also co-wrote some of the songs on the album. Washbrook says, "That was the year of my melt down. The music industry was getting tougher, and I lost two brothers to cancer, lost my wife and lost my home. As a musician and entertainer, I had to be ready to spin like a top, jump on stage and spark the audience night after night, but the late nights and emotional losses really got to me. I became a traveling, wounded soul, walking around on auto pilot."
Not realizing it at the time, Rick was at a crossroad, experiencing one of life’s greatest lessons where the sorrows and emotions of the past can lead down a path of destruction or become a turning point of wisdom and renewal. Without even realizing it, a spiritual, well-seasoned gypsy spirit was growing inside Rick and oozing out into his music.
It was down one of these paths where Rick played a few shows at the Sir William Mackenzie Inn in Kirkfield, Ontario, far north of Toronto. It was a mansion built by Sir William (the man that built the Canadian railway and had a huge beginning investment and involvement in the progress of Canadian electricity) a popular romantic spot for wedding ceremonies and nature, right near Ontario's Balsam Lake. "This was a year I needed so much," says Washbrook. "I am grateful to owners Sharon Arnaud, the wife of Jeremy Peirpoint. Like guardian angels, they befriended me and took me in just in the nick of time."
Sharon Arnaud had a history of being a good counselor. "She is the most amazing woman I have ever met," says Washbrook. "She had a way of turning my insides out and took me down all the past roads I thought were never there; like the old saying. ‘Places you can’t remember and those you can’t forget.’ She really put me back into boot camp. I thank the Lord we crossed paths, and her good-hearted, understanding husband has a pure heart. It was a time for healing and I am so great full to the both of them."
It was a great place for Washbrook and his music, a place where this wandering gypsy would rest and repair. He had a regular solo guitar gig in the Gate House next to the Inn, and the chores he gratefully did around the mansion were physically and emotionally healing. He talked to Sharon all hours of the morning, peeling off the wallpaper of his soul while working, painting, talking and laughing.
During that year, he had the opportunity to write with Sharon. "Sharon kicked me in the butt to record a vocal CD," says Washbrook. "It was an awesome time and I was bullet shy of singing my songs because I had to say what I was feeling. Sharon set up a half inch Tascam recorder and two microphones. She was the engineer and when she pushed record, oh God, she pushed me and at times held me down!" Out of all this angelic caring and love came Wash brook’s appropriately titled CD, Tapestry of the Soul.
Rick went back to Toronto with positive thoughts from all the healing love he received to release his new CD. His longtime friend, Dana Stone, had an independent label called Dirty Ice Cream Music through which Tapestry of the Soul was released. Together since 2006, they released projects Rick had previously recorded, but had no money to produce. Meanwhile, another good friend, Jim Lauder, a former guitar student of Washbrook, invested a handsome amount of money to finish two more of Rick’s CDs, West Mystic and Moonlit Solace. "Jim is such a good man; it was spooky at times for me, but Jim was there walking beside me, like he felt my pain and my joy. I am so grateful to all the people that were there to help me onward," he says.
Washbrook’s flamenco, gypsy solo guitar released in 2007 was in the top ten, out of thousands of Canadian CD submissions that year. He is working to finish a new CD called Labyrinth. The interesting thing about this project is that it was originally recorded in 1992 just after his parents died and is a tribute to them. He is also working on another new project, Hot Sauce, a solo guitar Flamenco/Gypsy, Hot Club CD. You can find a few of his live performances on youtube.com; "Hot Sauce" and Solearas "Moms Cookin’."
At age 51, Washbrook is a true survivor. Although he has suffered from illness over the past six years and suffers from nerve damage to his left arm, wrist and fingers, his never-ending California smile is still there. He has to be gentle with not over practicing and is not playing live. He says his 50's are his time for composition and healing. Rick says, "Doesn't the saying go ‘you have to pay your dues to get recognized?’ Well my mother’s saying was, ‘Ricky, if you made a quarter for every hour you practiced that guitar, you would be the richest man in the world.’"
For Rick, however, he realizes it is time to pay it forward. "I play my guitar and teach, passing down my knowledge to other young guitarists," he says. "It's what I love to do. If my music or teaching helps someone, it makes me feel great. To see other guitarist’s faces light up is very rewarding, and I can’t see myself doing anything different."