Acoustic guitar virtuoso Billy McLaughlin will perform at Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines on Sunday, November 22. Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jeff Arundel will open the show. Doors at the venue will open at 8:30 p.m., and the music will kick off at 9 p.m. The show will be restricted to those 21 or older, and it will have a $10 cover charge.
Billy McLaughlin’s life has been a rollercoaster so epic that it has been made into a movie. McLaughlin graduated with honors from USC with a degree in music. The Minnesota-born musician built a promising career with his unorthodox acoustic guitar style that focused on using both hands on the fingerboard and using altered tunings. McLaughlin signed a deal with Virgin Records and his first major label release, Fingerdance, reached #7 on the Billboard New Age chart in 1996. However, by 2001, McLaughlin could no longer play the guitar effectively due to an incurable neuromuscular disorder called Focal Dystonia. He had lost his recording, publishing, and distribution deals, as well as his agent, his manager, his marriage, and his home. By 2002, his career was effectively over.
However, McLaughlin did not give up. After more than 20 years of playing guitar, dating back to his teenage years, McLaughlin simply taught himself to play his distinctive style of guitar left-handed–despite warnings from his doctor that he could develop Focal Dystonia in his remaining functional hand as well. By 2004, a film crew had begun documenting McLaughlin’s attempted comeback. In January of 2007, McLaughlin published a limited release of Into the Light, a concert recording of compositions for acoustic guitar with string orchestra in collaboration with Grammy-nominated arranger Eugenio Toussaint. The recording was McLaughlin’s first as a left-handed guitarist. He has since recorded three albums of holiday music with the group Simple Gifts. The award-winning documentary on his comeback, Changing Keys, came out in 2009. The man who had won numerous awards (five Minnesota Music Awards and three National Campus Entertainer of the Year Awards) as a musician during the beginning of his career is now adding awards as a speaker and philanthropist as he rebuilds that career. In 2010, McLaughlin was awarded the International Leadership in Public Neurology Award at the American Academy of Neurology Conference in Toronto. Check out an amazing excerpt from McLaughlin’s Coming Back Alive DVD above.