The men in Adam Lasher's family gave him the greatest gift — music.
After his father died when he was 6, he missed having someone with whom to discuss cars, argue about sports or teach him how to tie a tie. Instead, his uncles and cousins exposed him to an array of melodies, developing his musical tastes.
One uncle who not only greatly influenced the guitarist's life but also perhaps his style is Carlos Santana.
"When I did see male elders in the family, they played music," said Lasher, 26, of Huntington Beach.
Now he is reminded of family trips to San Francisco when oldies and Motown tunes flowed from the radio and The Gipsy Kings recreated memories of snagging tortilla chips with hands wet from a swim.
Songs — there are too many to count, he said — unfurl vignettes from throughout his life.
Growing up, Lasher dreamed of being a ninja turtle. He was 6 years old when that bubble burst.
Given the omnipresence of music in his home, be it Latin, jazz or blues, Lasher's next career choice was instinctive — he became a musician.
"It was the only thing I was ever good at, besides disrupting class," Lasher said.
Diagnosed at 9 with juvenile diabetes, he said he was angry a lot and got into fights. His outbursts decreased when he started playing the guitar at about age 11. Santana had given him two prototypes coinciding with the release of "Supernatural."
Admiration creeps into Lasher's voice when he talks about his mother, who, he said, shared the importance of wisdom, honesty and determination and enabled him to stand solidly on his own feet. Although the artist soaked up such family advice, his primary goal is to master a unique sound.
He created the Adam Lasher Band as a student at Boston's Berklee College of Music — he pens all the songs anyway, he said. While members of the group come and go, Lasher remains the frontman, sharing the stage with everyone from Macy Gray to Robert Randolph and Mickey Mouse to Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion.
When opportunities arise, Lasher, armed with a never-say-no attitude to music, gladly takes the plunge.
"I just do it," he said. "I think I'll always be that way."
The same outlook helped Lasher enter Orange County's music landscape. The artist, who performed at the Sawdust Art Festival earlier this summer, started out at Rock 'n Fish in Laguna Beach and over the next three years, expanded to the nearby Marine Room Tavern on Wednesdays and the Rooftop Lounge at Casa del Camino on Sundays.
The turnout at these venues is of all ages, although most tend to be older than 21. Lasher said that guests enjoy his original numbers and remixes of hits from the 1950s until now.
Chris Keller, owner of the Marine Room and Casa del Camino, agreed.
"I think Adam's made a great name for himself," he said. "He's done a fantastic job at pulling in the crowd and bringing a good vide to the area."
Keller noted that guests return regularly to hear Lasher infuse popular songs with a personal and distinctive twist. Business has also picked up on Wednesdays, since he's taken over the Marine Room stage.
"He's not going anywhere," Keller said. "We're not letting him go."
Fresh off a tour in St. Barths, in the Caribbean, Lasher hopes that his life will continue to stay mostly the same — although larger gigs would be nice.
He places a higher value on raw talent than producers, labels and marketing. Consumers can be fickle, he said.
"If Bob Marley didn't exist, I believe someone like him would have," he said. "The world needs icons for messages of love, peace and art."
Lasher has taken his love of music a step further by becoming a guitar teacher. His students include youngsters who want to play for the fun of it and others driven by talent and passion. Providing lessons at home and Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, Lasher's approach combines nurturing and tough love, while always staying positive.
When asked about his favorite song to perform, Lasher said, "That changes daily and hourly."
With a new album and, possibly, a TV sitcom pilot in the pipeline, Lasher reflected that comparisons are unavoidable as the nephew and godson of Santana, who has 10 Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards to his name.
Unwilling to hide or announce their relationship, Lasher said, "I am proud of my uncle; I am proud to be a Santana. Yes and I'm proud to be me — it is just one of many ways to look at me."
According to Lasher, Santana is a joyful and passionate person who touches the lives of people he meets. He is also a great teacher — or in Lasher's words, "a Jedi with a guitar" and suggestions about women, music, happiness, family and life.
Their resemblance is strongest when Lasher picks up an electric guitar, especially one of Santana's hand-me-downs, the first of which he received when he was 16.
"[They] usually end up being some of the coolest gear I own," he said. "Where else can I get a 200-pound guitar amp with a speaker that spins around in circles?"
For the record, 4:45 p.m.: An earlier version of this story ran an incorrect photo of Adam Lasher.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun