Longform

The Birthday Party That Changed Guitarist Peter Stelling's Life

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Stelling moved to Colorado in 1996 and spent eight years running his own contracting company. During those years, he also belonged to a few local bands, but by the time he met his future wife, in 2004, his stage appearances were limited to an annual gig as Eric Clapton in a popular re-creation of The Last Waltz and a handful of sit-ins with local bands. A career in music was not in the forecast. "None of the bands were trying to go anywhere. We were just writing and playing music for fun," he says. "My life was more about my wife, my career, and the birth of our daughter, Lyric, two years ago. Music was on the back burner for a long time." But about a month before his wife's party, he started playing with friends in Denver again.

And that's a good thing, because on that night in July, Osborne asked him to sit in on a couple of songs. Stelling didn't think much of the gesture, figuring Osborne was just being nice. But once he started playing, Osborne's outlook changed. "I didn't know to what extent he could play at all," Osborne says. "So when I went to play Annabel's party, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see what he had. I need to say this: I adore Peter. As a human being, there really aren't many like him. He is honest, straightforward, sensitive and solid, all qualities that are important to me in a person.

"When he played those first couple songs with us at the party, I heard him play the same way. The sounds that were coming out reflected the amazing qualities of his personality. He listened really well to what I was doing and responded gently but with complete confidence, and his tone sounded much more experienced than I expected."

Osborne asked Stelling to stay on stage for the entire two-set performance. "It was the highlight of my life up until that moment," says Stelling. "Here I was, playing with Anders Osborne, for my wife, in our own house, on her birthday. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
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Brian Turk
Contact: Brian Turk