Musician, sound engineer and recording studio owner;

Born: August 22, 1944; Died: December 8, 2011.

John Sutherland, who has died aged 67 following a heart attack, was the most influential electric blues and rock guitarist the Highlands have produced.

Known by the stage names Johnny Fats or J Fats, Sutherland led a succession of ground-breaking blues-inspired bands on stage in England, Europe and North America as well as in his native Scotland for over 40 years.

In the early 1990s he converted redundant lighthouse-keepers' cottages on the 400 feet cliff-top at Dunnet Head, Caithness, the British mainland's most northerly cape overlooking the Pentland Firth, into a comfortable home for his family.

The conversion included a recording studio with live house performance space attracting, amongst others, internationally renowned blues, rock and folk musicians. The QPQ Productions facility now has 64-track capability and Sutherland's 31-year-old musician son Isaac is production manager.

A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter with a powerful on-stage voice, Sutherland had a deserved Scotland-wide reputation as an outstanding mentor, facilitator and instructor to successive generation of young musicians, some of whom have had lengthy careers.

Tributes have poured in from musicians including Benny Gallagher (of Gallagher & Lyle) and singer Jim Diamond as well as, from America, Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett of Little Feat. They played at a Dunnet Head house party in 2008.

Sutherland was brought up on the Glebe housing estate in Thurso, where neighbour Ian Simpson, a Stroma island native and a Royal Navy man and Scrabster-based fishing boat skipper, introduced the young schoolboy to guitar. Simpson had bought the instrument while ashore in Canada to cheer himself up during dangerous North Atlantic crossings on merchant ship convoy escort duties.

After leaving Thurso High, Sutherland worked at nearby Dounreay nuclear plant, before embarking on a professional music career. He was an eager student of electric guitar techniques and as a leader of local 1960s backing groups, such as The Federals and Aktual Fakts, he picked up playing tips from the likes of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck.

Keeping music live became a lifelong passion; he felt empathy for American black bluesmen descended from servitude, a background which he considered to resemble the lot of pre-emancipation Highland crofters, liable to be evicted on a whim.

By the mid-1960s his horizons had broadened and he took his playing to Aberdeen and Edinburgh and then with mainly young musicians, whom he had often helped to train, to Switzerland and a US bases tour of Germany.

There he accepted an invitation from a soon-to-be demobbed musician GI to join his New England-based rock band. After six months his visa expired and he hot-tailed it across the border to Canada.

The late 1960s saw a highlight of his young professional career when he played on stage with Arlo Guthrie, son of American folk musician Woody Guthrie.

It was while living in Quebec that he met Caroline Lockerbie, who kept in touch as Sutherland married primary schoolmistress Christine and brought up their young family in Caithness (sons Isaac and Edward and daughter Christina). Now the Rev Lockerbie, a Church of Scotland minister, she officiated at his funeral.

In the mid-1970s, Sutherland teamed up with tin whistle player Bobby Murray, then a pensioner. They played the round of Scottish folk festivals as a duo. More recently he recorded his boyhood mentor's brother, Jimmy Simpson, aged 80, playing guitar and singing the songs of his youth, once performed in the pre-TV era around peat fires in homes on the Pentland Firth island.

Sutherland had been a long-term musical collaborator with Martin Stephenson, the County Durham-born former leader of The Daintees. Along with multi-instrumentalist son Isaac, they recorded several albums at Dunnet Head.

He campaigned for the legalisation of cannabis for most of his adult life. This, and cultivating herbal plants, sometimes brought him into conflict with authority and on occasions, incarceration.

In the mid-1990s, High Court judge Lord Maclean passed sentence on him, suspended for two years, for growing marijuana plants. Later admonishing him, the High Court judge enquired what he had been doing with his life during the interval. Sutherland said he'd written 13 new songs for his forthcoming album, without revealing the CD included songs Free the Weed and Smoke up the Ganja.

In the run-up to the General Election in 2005, BBC 2 presenter Jeremy Vine attempted to take the political pulse of Britain, travelling from John O'Groats to Land's End via Dunnet Head. He met Sutherland who delivered the closest to a nationwide TV party political broadcast the legalise cannabis campaign has ever had.

As well as his family and memories of a life well lived, he leaves behind a lengthy back catalogue of recorded material. At least one memorial concert is planned.