Neil at the La Honda Fair 2010
by Craig Eddy
I can't think of any local musician that shows the depth of local talent here in the greater La Honda area. It might be said of Neil Panton, "he does everything".
Like many youngsters Neil was pretty much forced into piano around age five. His parents were both musicians and when they realized he had perfect pitch they signed him up for piano lessons. He never really took to the traditional teaching methods. Once his parents gave up trying to force it on him he started doing it his way and continued playing. At nine years old he took up oboe and by twelve he was performing with orchestras. He continued playing oboe for the next three decades playing in some of the best venues around the world. However his passion became playing Boogie Woogie and Rock n Roll piano. Once he discovered the bands that featured more sophistacated arrangements he realized this was his calling. With his background in classical he dove headfirst into bands like Genesis, Jethro Tull and Sting. I first met Neil when he was interning at the Music Annex in Menlo Park and Neil now has quite a list of composing and enginering accomplishments. His main recording work involves composing as well as arranging for background music for video and television. One of his bigger successes is one of the theme songs for the Garfield kids show. Neil perfected his engineering and production skills by donating time to Mountain View public access station KMVT.
Neil's latest full time band was Ruthie and the Gents which is one of his favorite projects as they always played with the idea of drawing the crowd into the experience. Getting people excited about the music and establishing a raport with the audience is what makes it all work for Neil. He also enjoyed his stint in the funk band Disfunction. He loved this band because it got him out to the front of the stage as a sax player rather than hiding in the back as a keyboard player.
Neil currently doesn't have a fulltime band but is enjoying the depth and variety of the local music scene and sits in with The Remnants, Saxyman and the Lads, Bundy Brown, and This Way Up.
Of all the musical possibilities in our area Neil could be said to be one of, if not the most talented and versatile musicians around. Having played with him many times in informal jam situations I can say his low key and humble approach makes him one of the first to call when a jam is forming. It's not hard to check out Neil as he plays all around the area from the General Store in San Gregorio, Apple Jack's, Sullivan's, to Alice's up on the hill.