Chuckie Thanyarat

June marked the birth and untimely demise of Chusak Thanyaratnangkul (ชูศักดิ์ ธัญญรัตนางกูร), affectionately known as Chuckie Thanyarat (ชักกี้ ธัญญรัตน์)—a Thai guitarist of extraordinary talent, revered on a global scale.

Chuckie Thanyarat, known by the moniker “Guitar Thep” (Guitar God),possessed an unmatched mastery of the guitar. Regrettably, his life was cut short, leaving behind a legacy that must not fade into obscurity.

Chuckie Thanyarat

It would be an immense tragedy if the memory of his virtuosity were to wane over time.

Chukie Thanyarat’s exceptional talent garnered recognition during his sojourn in America. In those days, he embarked on a scholarly pursuit at the illustrious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all the while moonlighting as a freelance guitarist in recording studios.

However, upon his return to Thailand, he immersed himself in the family business, luxuriating in the comfort of relative affluence. By all accounts, Chukie’s father dabbled in the jewelry trade. During this phase, Chukie intermittently found himself summoned to the recording room, lending his musical prowess to various projects.

Without a doubt, Chukie Thanyarat’s name might have slipped into the shadows had he not embraced Chatchai Sukhavati’s beckoning to collaborate with Rockestra. Their ground-breaking album, Technology, would prove to be a turning point for the rock scene in Thailand. 

Prior to this, the realm of pioneering Thai rock musicians remained confined to a close-knit circle. Many bands emerged alongside the GI military camps during the Vietnam War, entertaining crowds in the clubs along Phetchaburi Road. However, with the war’s conclusion, a hush fell over the rock landscape. Some sought solace in performing for tourists in far-flung destinations like Pattaya or Phuket, while others ventured abroad in search of greener pastures. Consequently, rock bands that dared to infuse their music with Thai lyrics became a rare sight in those days.

Rockestra’s debut album was a lively blend of foreign hits, tailor-made for a specific audience. However, it was their second release in 1984, Technology, that etched an indelible mark in Thailand’s rock history. This album, with its infectious energy, owed much to Chukie Thanyarat’s expertise in sound recording, which lent it a polished finish. Moreover, the guitar arrangements, while not overpowering, cleverly incorporated contemporary techniques of the time, like Chukie’s nimble tapping in the catchy tune “เพลง” (“Pleang.”) These musical choices showcased a remarkable sense of potential and an exquisite taste in selecting notes, surpassing the abilities of any guitarist from that era.

Chukie Thanyarat ascended to the esteemed title of “Guitar Thep,” or the guitar god, in the eyes of his fans. This honorific was bestowed upon him due to his deep reverence for Krishna (Hindu God), which led him to infuse the enchanting sounds of the sitar into Rockestra’s song, “กรรม” (“Karma”), Mind you, it wasn’t an actual sitar but the clever imitation of its melody performed on his trusty guitar. Legend has it that there was a whisper in the air, a mystical force compelling him to play with utmost devotion.

But that’s not all. When he jammed with his bandmates, something truly extraordinary unfolded. He possessed the uncanny ability to strum chords flawlessly, even for songs he hadn’t heard before. It’s possible that the chords of that era weren’t overly complex, allowing him to effortlessly tap into his musical intuition and conjure the perfect progression in real-time. Such a gift is a testament to his innate talent and his intuitive grasp of what the next chord should be.

Regrettably, Chukie’s collaboration with Rockestra spanned just two albums, namely Technology and Special #1 (a groovy remix of international tunes). 

I have read, somewhere, it’s been ages since then, perhaps since the days of crafting the album ศรัทธา. Chukie says he make a deal with Chatchai, the mastermind behind Rockestra, to serve as a hired guitarist and lend his musical prowess in the recording studio. But fate had other plans in store.

When it came time to rock the stage live, the guitarist that Chatchai had lined up fell short in matching Chukie’s skills. Either he couldn’t quite keep up or simply didn’t vibe with Chatchai’s musical taste. As a result, Chukie was unexpectedly summoned to step up and deliver a blistering live performance.

Ah, the twists and turns of the rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster! Sometimes you find yourself caught in the spotlight when you least expect it.

Chuckie Thanyarat

When the stars aligned, Chukie bid farewell to the band and gracefully transitioned back into the realm of the hired guitarist. He lent his musical talents to various projects, showcasing his versatility and passion. In the delightful melody of “Hiroshima” from the 1985 album by Caravan, he effortlessly strummed the guitar and played the synthesizer, adding layers of soulful sound. And in songs like “แม้เราจะไม่พบกัน” and “สาวน้อย,” his nimble fingers danced along the strings, infusing them with an irresistible charm. Not stopping there, he even graced the keyboard in the captivating tune “หวัง,” featured on the album อานนท์ by Caravan.

Amidst the ebb and flow of his musical journey, Chukie found solace in embracing different roles, creating harmonies that resonated with the hearts of listeners. His contribution as a hired guitarist continued to enchant and enthral, leaving a lasting imprint on the tapestry of melodic wonders.

Chukie embarked on a solo venture called “ศรัทธา” (Faith) With unwavering determination, he took charge of crafting every musical note, pouring his heart and soul into the creation. To shape the lyrical landscape, he sought the collaborative genius of trusted friends and relatives in the industry, such as Surachai Chantimathorn, Yuenyong Opakul, and Pansak Rangsiphramanakul. With such a lineup, one would assume that this would be his ticket to fame. Alas, reality played a different tune, for “ศรัทธา left fans feeling disheartened.

Now, let’s set the record straight. Chukie’s musical prowess in arranging and composing cannot be denied. His intricate melodies held promise, yet the overall direction of the songs seemed scattered, sadly diminishing the album’s value. It was a bittersweet revelation when he later disclosed that ศรัทธา was, in fact, an “unfinished” creation—a mere demo tape that had ventured into the world prematurely.

Ah, the unpredictable nature of artistic endeavours! Despite the fans’ disappointment, there’s something poetic about the imperfections and the untamed spirit of an unfinished symphony. And who knows what gems may lie hidden within those unpolished melodies, awaiting discovery by those with open ears and open hearts.

Let’s put a playful spin on things, shall we? Now, it’s no secret that Chukie’s vocal talents were not his strongest suit. But fear not, for where there’s a will, there’s a way! May be it’s just a “Demo Tape”, so Instead of searching high and low for a seasoned vocalist to add a touch of melodic magic, Chukie embraced a delightful workaround. 

Take, for instance, the whimsical tune “รักคุณเท่าฟ้า,” masterfully composed by the ever-talented Yuenyang Opakul. When, Thierry Mekwattana lent his vocals to the song, elevating it to new heights of charm and allure. Some would even argue that his rendition outshone Chukie’s own!

Now, my friends, just because Chukie didn’t showcase his vocal prowess in this particular set doesn’t mean he didn’t leave his mark. After all, the legends of his guitar god status still circulate, and there are catchy gems like the irresistible “มาลี” (Malee) that will make you tap your feet and hum along in delight and quirk some melodies, for it’s the colourful tapestry of musical journeys that truly captures our hearts. And who knows, amidst the playful dance of musical creativity, even the unexpected surprises can bring a smile to our faces.

Let’s infuse some playful energy into this tale, after a period of disappearing from the limelight, a phoenix-like resurgence took place in the year 1990. Chukie emerged from the shadows, ready to reclaim his rightful place in the musical pantheon. And how did he do it, you ask? Well, with a stroke of genius, he released the album พาฝัน (“Parfun”)and recruited the sensational singer Patapee Saisaeng, (affectionately known as Anon Sai Saeng Chan, the dynamic frontman of the Black Head Band). Talk about a match made in rock ‘n’ roll heaven!

Now, let me regale you with tales of the magic that unfolded within the confines of the recording studio. Legend has it that Chukie, a stickler for perfection, left no stone unturned when it came to capturing the finest sounds. The story goes that during the recording sessions, there were moments of high drama, where cries of frustration could be heard. It is said that even Patapee Saisaeng, bless his heart, momentarily threw in the towel and fled the scene, only to be lured back by the irresistible call of the music. Ah, the lengths we go for our craft!

Now, hold onto your hats, folks, because the vocals on this album are something special. Poo Anon truly outdid himself, delivering his best performance to date. And let’s not forget the infectious hard rock sound that pulsated through the tracks, beckoning listeners far and wide. It was an era when heavy metal music was surging in Thailand, with acts like The Olarn Project and Hi-Rock ruling the airwaves. Unfortunately, due to limited promotion, sales fell short of expectations. Alas, such is the unpredictable dance of the music industry.

As the story goes, Chukie’s musical journey took a different turn from that point forward. He left behind his own works, his guitar sorcery residing in the project known as White Magic (oh, how intriguing!) and lending his guitar wizardry to Dome Martin’s album, กุหลาบไฟ (Kulap Fai).

And so, my friends, it is with a touch of melancholy that I must inform you of Chukie Thanyarat’s passing. On that fateful day of 10 June 1997, he succumbed to kidney failure, leaving behind a legacy of musical adventure and a trail of rock ‘n’ roll magic for us to cherish.

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