John was Johnny Tillotson's guitar player and musical director for 26 years.
I met John Pechickjian about ten years ago when I got a call to play bass with Johnny Tillotson. I had been a fan of Johnny's since I was a teenager with a transistor radio stuck to my ear. I listened to Poetry In Motion about a million times. Without You was one of the first records I ever bought.
So I jumped at the chance. There was no band rehearsal on that first gig I did. But there was a bandleader / music director. He came up to my house alone to go over the show with me. It was one of the more casual rehearsals I've ever done. We blasted through the songs and charts and when we did the gig, he really helped get me through it all, and made it easy and fun. That was what working with John was like: Fun.
I must have done all right, because after that, whenever Johnny had the opportunity to use an L.A. band, they called me. And one of the things I most looked forward to was being able to play music with, and to hang out with Cheeks.
John, you were a fine guitar player. You had good tone and good taste. You played and entertained and directed the band at the same time. Blues, rock, country, or pop, you played great grooves and burning solos…and in all these years, I don't ever remember hearing you make a mistake.
Some people say funny things, and some people just say things funny. On stage, you were the perfect foil for Johnny's comedy moments. You brought life and magic to old jokes and bits that were performed over and over again, with just a smile and an expression of bemusement that cracked us all up. I never got tired of hearing the jokes, because your reaction and your expression were always fresh, and always funny. Offstage—same thing. You looked like you had just heard a joke …maybe you were thinking about telling it. I was using my video camera in a tourist shop in Thailand, shooting scenes of all the exotic items and knickknacks on display. I stopped at a huge display case of mounted insects, hundreds of creepy, crawly six-legged creatures under glass. I panned over the length of all these beetles, wasps, and all and then, noticing you were standing by me, up to your face. Without skipping a beat, you looked right into the camera. “These bug me,” you deadpanned.
You were one of the sharpest dressers I have ever known. You were always immaculately groomed, and perfectly haberdashed. The day after our first show in Bakersfield, I asked you to come to a mall with me to help me find some better clothes. You improved my look quite a bit, although I knew I'd never match you. Now when I go shopping I ask myself, “Is this shirt up to John's standards?”
It's been a few months since we worked together, so I was hoping for a call from you or Nancy or Johnny telling me that there was a gig we could go do together. That's not going to happen now.
From Thailand to Malaysia to Japan, from San Diego to Bakersfield to Nevada I enjoyed every minute with you. Playing music, playing golf, sightseeing, finding good restaurants, having a drink together… and above all, being onstage with a real professional…a real class act, and a really nice guy.
Who ever thought we'd have to say goodbye so soon, or that you would leave so suddenly?
Goodbye, John, and thanks
The band in Japan
L to R: Paul Marshall, Jeff Winter, John Pechickjian, Ralph LaMagna, Johnny Tillotson, and our friend, Jimmy Angel
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