Welcome to my first
post for Guitarplayer.com. Like a lot of you, my life revolves around a slab of
wood I cradle in my lap or sling across my shoulders like an overgrown infant.
As a longtime reader of GP Magazine, it is an honor to be asked to contribute
as a guest blogger and I’m looking forward to riffing on many topics relating
to my life as a guitar player.
Guitar Player. There are memories attached to these words
like a steel string wrapped around a tuning peg. I’m taken back to being an 11 year old in Northern California and visiting a local music store for the
first time. I’m pleasantly surprised to find, there in a rack next to the picks
and strings, a magazine just for people who play guitar. Its title describes
what I aspire to be: a ‘guitar
player.’ But being so young and
inexperienced, my confidence doesn’t yet allow these words to apply to me. I’m just a kid trying to learn how to
play this thing. Still, I spend my allowance on the magazine and hope that one
day I too can legitimately be called a ‘guitar player.’
Seven years later, I’m on a cross
country flight to record my band’s first album for Megaforce/Atlantic records.
The studio is located in the college town and hippy haven of Ithaca New York.
In a week or two, my life will change at a house in nearby Cortland, NY. where I will come into contact with
a pile of rare, unavailable back
issues of Guitar Player magazine. This will happen courtesy of some guy who’s
skipped out of town, presumably to join some cult or ashram, leaving behind an
unpaid electrical bill, few pieces of furniture and a stack of these colorful
paper gems in the attic of his former housemate.
Valentina, (*real name withheld) is an attractive woman in her 40s with a
long history of hanging out with local and visiting rock bands. In a few years,
we’ll be on tour supporting a legendary heavy metal band whose singer
originally hails from Cortland, NY.
He’ll stop by our dressing room for a quick hello and I’ll ask him if he
remembers Valentina. “Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time,” he’ll
say with a knowing smile. “We all remember Valentina!” Collective laughter will
engulf the dressing room as we say goodbye to Ronnie James Dio.
We’ll meet Valentina when one of my band
members drunkenly attempts to hit on her at a local bar. Unsure how to approach
a woman 20 years his senior, he’ll choose an opening line that equates her
to an attractive ‘older’ actress on TV. “You could be my ‘Joan Collins,’” he’ll
slur. It won’t work. Another band
member will manage to succeed using a more subtle approach and in the next few
days, we’ll begin to see a lot more of Valentina.
1988 Valentina is hanging out with us in the
recording studio. We’re on break and she’s telling me about these unwanted
magazines her former tenant has left in the attic of her house. “It’s ‘Guitar This,’ ‘Guitar That, “Guitar Something or Other,’ Maybe you want to have a look at them?”
day, I’m in her house climbing a wooden staircase, which leads to an attic that
smells like fresh pine wood-shavings. She points to a box filled with magazines
and I begin to flip through the stack.
that cardboard treasure trove are the first cover stories on my two favorite
guitarists Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. Both issues are in perfect condition. I look at some of
other covers: Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy
Page, Eric Clapton, Pink
Floyd’s Dave Gilmour, and Queen’s
Brian May. There is even the first ever GP cover story on Ace Frehley from
Kiss, the band that had been the reason I’d started guitar.
What is she planning
to do with these magazines? Frame them? Sell them? “I’m just going to throw them away, unless you want
“No!” I plead.
She looks at me funny. “I mean,
no, don’t throw them away!” I thank her and try not to look too excited.
For the next
few years, I’ll pore over these sacred scriptures and learn about every
noteworthy guitar player of the 70s and 80s. Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola, John
McLaughlin, Pat Metheny. Jim Hall, Andres Segovia, Roy Buchanan, Paco De
Lucia, Tal Farlow, Ricky Skaggs.
Who are all these guys? I’ll have to find out. I will read their interviews,
follow their advice and eventually pick up their albums and explore their
music. Each player mentions
someone else who’s been an influence on them and in turn, I’ll find myself
reading their interviews and checking out their music.
I’ll realize there is much
more to guitar than hard rock and heavy metal players. It won’t occur to me that there is
anything ‘unusual’ or ‘wrong’ with this even as I start getting odd looks and
offhanded comments from my bandmates.
We’ll visit CD stores and
they’ll be picking up albums by Angel Witch, Venom, and Celtic Frost, while I’ll
be stocking up on Wes Montgomory, Django Rheinhardt, and Charlie Christian. One
of them will snidely remark “What, you don’t like metal anymore?”
The era of guitar captured
in this little stack of magazines represents a golden period of enlightenment,
like a modern renaissance. It was a time before the mid-'80s, when solos became
over-processed, over-saturated, and overwhelmed by unnecessary notes. It was
before the '90s, when non-virtuosity became a virtue, and before our modern
age, where the technology exists to create the illusion of artificial
musicianship, causing a rash of ‘cookie cutter’ acts to dominate the music
industry. Jazz wasn’t ‘smooth,’
country wasn’t ‘new,’ and metal wasn’t ‘nu.’ Musicality was expected of
musicians and being in ‘Guitar Player,’ meant you were a real ‘guitar player.’
Today, in 2010, this
collection of Guitar Player magazines is still a stockpile of wisdom. Obtaining
them was, along with a few other key events from the period, like a divine sign
to open up my tastes, expand my horizons and explore different styles of
music. There will always be a
special feeling surrounding these classic issues of Guitar Player, like a
good collection of old LP’s or vintage guitars. For helping these hallowed
pages reach my hands, I’m forever grateful to an aging groupie and her deadbeat