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Guitar player returns home to teach
Well-respected guitarist and teacher Dave Cleveland Sr. back in area to teach.

 Dave Cleveland, longtime studio guitarist and opening act for many bands, has returned to Fredericksburg.
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Date published: 8/9/2007


A career that has included brushes with Chubby Checker, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash started with a Sears and Roebuck guitar.

It was around 1957 when Dave Cleveland Sr. borrowed that first guitar. He played the same chord over and over at his home near Mount Vernon. It was the start of a lifelong love for music.

"The sound of it, the tone of it, I just loved it," Cleveland said.

Fifty years later, Cleveland has moved back to the Fredericksburg area, where many of his seven children live. He will soon resume teaching guitar, the instrument that has taken him all over the Southeast.

One of Cleveland's early musical heroes was Elvis Presley. At Mount Vernon High School, he got involved with music in any way he could. But the guitar was always his favorite.

He saved up to buy one of the earliest Fender Jaguar electric guitars. His band, "The Imperials," played parties and clubs throughout Northern Virginia, including in the Fredericksburg area. He started playing professionally by the age of 16.

Cleveland's father saw his son's passion and sent him to the Washington School of Music, where he studied classical guitar.

Famous musical artists came into town and asked for background players. That's how Cleveland ended up sharing a stage with Chubby Checker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and The Platters. He played a private party for Elizabeth Taylor.

Eventually, Cleveland was discovered by Roy Clark, the host of the television variety show "Hee Haw." Cleveland and his guitar traveled throughout the South, meeting musical figures of the era including Johnny Cash.

Life eventually slowed down, and Cleveland went to study jazz at St. Petersburg College in Florida. He became a Christian and got involved with Christian music.

During the whole time Cleveland was touring and studying, he was also teaching guitar. Regardless of the style of music his students wanted to play, Cleveland insisted on teaching them to read and appreciate music.

"Something about teaching people how to enjoy music gives me a kick," Cleveland said. "Always has."

Cleveland taught privately and also went into Florida public school systems. He has also taught in Fairfax County schools. Every year, his best seven students were invited to join the "String Busters." That group would play recitals and other public events in the area.

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To inquire about taking guitar lessons with Dave Cleveland Sr., contact his assistant, Michelle, at 540/582-6525.