Growing up with folk records spinning almost every hour of the day (The Limeliters, Kingston Trio, Odetta, and The Weavers), it was quite natural for a young, 10 year old Randy Stonehill to have an attraction for the sound of the acoustic guitar. It was learning to play that threw him the curves. He says his first guitar had 10 inch high action and razor-like strings.
Stonehill began taking tedious classical lessons from an instructor named Victor Grundy. Randy was his favorite student, but was clueless to the fact that all along his "pride and joy" was completely faking him out, memorizing songs by ear instead of reading and barely squeezing by each lesson. Eventually, Randy told his instructor the heartbreaking news about cheating his way through lessons. His time with Grundy did help him to develop left hand technique, basic theory, chording, and rhythm; while his love for the instrument helped him overcome the painful side of learning to play.
He remembers admiring The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, and was especially inspired by Stephen Stills. After hearing a performance by Paul McCartney, he sadly concluded, "I'll never be able to do that." A close friend immediately confronted him with these words, "You're not supposed to be Paul McCartney, he is. You're supposed to be you!" This idea strengthened his confidence and later defended his intentions when his father, and others, doubted his success.
Stonehill says his approach to acoustic guitar is fairly simple, "...one overwhelmingly big sound as raw as possible. When you're in situations where you are the band, you've got to generate a lot of sound." His choice of sound generators is a '68 Martin D-28 which he picked up in 1970. His performance tactics led to frustration though; he couldn't run all over the stage when the guitar was amplified by amic [sic] on a stand. So in the early eighties he had John Coruthers install a custom pickup system (a Sony condenser mic in the body and a pickup over the soundhole) that feeds a stereo chord to a "splitter box." This gives him the "...punch of an electric with the depth of an acoustic; big and sweaty!"
His advice to others: "God made you to be you. Don't try to be someone else. Enjoy who you are now; enjoy every step along the way while you still have the chance. Keep chasing the carrot dangling in front of you, and hold up what you're doing to the things that inspire you until it is competitive in quality. Life is not a dress rehearsal."