When you pick up an issue of Premier Guitar, you’re chasing music. And I’ll bet that’s something you and I have been doing, whenever we can, our entire lives. Driven by love, curiosity, and the excitement of discovery, we pursue the sounds that thrill us or might thrill us, and the more we learn or find, the brighter the flame grows.
For me, the first sparks happened in my parents’ kitchen, where my mother, Rose, listened to WEXT, a country station broadcasting from New Britain, Connecticut. There, I learned that music takes you places, like Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” and introduces you to the vastly different lives of others, via songs like Johnny Cash’s“The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” TV also became a path of exploration. I was only 6, but I remember seeing—and hearing—the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and not exactly understanding (all that screaming!), but grasping that rock ’n’ roll was something I should look into. Soon, Shindig! and Hullabaloo introduced me to the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Herman’s Hermits, and the giant whose birthday I share, Howlin’ Wolf. (June 10 … feel free to send cards!) The Johnny Cash Show spotlighted Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Derek and the Dominos. And The Midnight Special turned me on to virtually every major rock and R&B artist of the early ’70s, and sent me down a lifelong rabbit hole of blues and soul when Ray Charles and Ike & Tina Turner appeared. My first allowances—50 cents and eventually $2 a week—were spent on music. (First album: The Sound of Johnny Cash, for $2 at Woolworth’s, and I still own it. It features my first guitar hero: Luther Perkins.)
Shortly, I discovered there was such a thing as music journalism, and I fell for the writing of Robert Palmer and Lester Bangs, and found a magazine called Musician, where I would eventually make my bones as an editor. Each of these discoveries enflamed the chase, and by the time I got to college, I spent part of nearly every weekend combing new and used record shops from New York City to Hartford. I was also able to get to Manhattan easily from school in Bridgeport, to experience the punk revolution. And so it went, and still goes—that unquenchable pursuit of musical discovery.
Somewhere along the line, a guitar fell into my hands, and a new dimension slowly and painstakingly (I am far from a natural) developed—where I could be part of that great musical continuum in a deeper way, and where, eventually, I learned the wordless language of musicians. It’s a rich tongue that conveys so much emotional information without as much as a single vowel. The dialog of sound. It is amazing, powerful, profound, and unlike anything else. If there is real magic, it is in listening to and playing music.
That magic has taken me many places. I went from seeing bands at CBGB to playing its stage many times. I played the New England clubs that I would sneak into when I was underage, catching G.E. Smith with the Scratch Band and other regional heroes. Eventually, the music I played took me across the country and to Europe, and to the stages of Bonnaroo and Memphis in May and France’s Cognac Blues Passions and Switzerland’s Blues Rules and so many roadhouses, dive bars, and breweries and barbecue joints you’d think I wouldn’t remember them all, but I do.
The point is this: Music is a lifelong adventure. We are in the chase together, no matter how different we may seem. The sound of it thrills us, and I’d be surprised—shocked, actually—if it hasn’t taken you somewhere. As guitar players, even those of us who’ve never left the couch have been transported. Tell me you’ve never played a song, plucked out a melody, or slammed out a favorite riff and suddenly found yourself completely removed from your surroundings—in a kind of reverie. And make no mistake, even if you’ve never played a gig and have a hard time forming an open-position B chord, you’re a guitar player. No one should be judging you (although I know it’s hard not to judge yourself).
It’s an honor and a privilege for us at PG to offer signposts for your chase—to introduce you to new players or reintroduce you to ones you love, to turn you on to new guitar music, to shed light on new gear and how to use it, and make using the gear you own even better. We do not take this lightly. And we love the chase every bit as much as you do.