When he was 14, Paul Steward got his first electric guitar, purchased at a pawn shop, as a Christmas present from his father.
It turned out to be a very good investment on Dad's part.
As the leaders of the band Twice as Good, Paul, now 29, and his father, Richard Steward, 62, now play some 120 shows a year across California and the rest of the country.
Many of those performances are at American Indian casinos, including the Graton Resort and Casino, which is gratifying to the Stewards, because they're Native Americans from the Elem Indian Colony in Clearlake Oaks.
“We've received a lot of great praise, help, encouragement and support from the Native American community,” Paul Steward said. “It's been a blessing to us. We're proud and honored.”
The Stewards moved away from the Elem Indian Colony in 1995 but remain active members.
A couple of years ago, Twice as Good — sometimes known as 2XG — performed at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, N.M., drawing tens of thousands of attendees from more than 500 tribes of indigenous people from the United States, Canada and other parts of the world.
The band made its professional debut at a Santa Rosa barbecue restaurant in 2003.
“Since then, we've gone from playing for our friends and relatives at house parties on various reservations, to getting gigs in clubs and working our way up to casino stages,” the younger Steward said.
“We play wherever the work is,” said the father, Richard, who plays rhythm guitar.
The Stewards perform both as a duo and as a quartet, often backed by bassist Rob Watson and drummer Bobby Gaviola, and occasionally by others.
The group plays a mixture of original material, rock, jazz and classic blues. The younger Steward traces his love for the blues to a B.B. King record, brought home by an uncle when Paul was a boy.
“I said, 'Wow! That sounds cool!'” he remembered.