Rock Reads: My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords from 70 Legendary Musicians by Julia Crowe

Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki

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The "Tales of True Love" portion of this book's title certainly rings true as many of the essays presented here are dripping with affection, if not for the actual guitar---Roger McGuinn (the Byrds) says his first guitar was better for slicing hard boiled eggs than it was for playing music---but more so in the way of looking back fondly at a nascent career and life-defining moment. Each selected guitarist offers a reminiscence of his or her chosen length but most are very short with three or four pages being the average. Generally it's just the basics that are covered; details about the guitar and a look at early inspirations and what was going on in the player's life at the time. Some are a little too brief; the very witty Graham Parker, for example, offers barely a page that's bereft of any real personality. Others, like surf guitar king Dick Dale (notorious for not speaking to the press) take full advantage of the situation; Dale entertains over many pages and includes anecdotes like how Jimi Hendrix once dedicated "Third Stone from the Sun" to him because he thought Dale was dying (Dale is still kicking and picking today at age 75.) Readers will also find out that the guitar was not the first instrument for many of these players; George Benson started with the ukulele, Peter Frampton began playing the banjolele when he was 8-years-old and Carlos Santana's first instrument was the violin. Ironically, guitarist/inventor Les Paul had his heart set on playing the piano but his mother wouldn't let him because she didn't think it was right to play an instrument in concert with your back to the audience. Crowe, who inserts her own essays at various junctures in the book, has picked a somewhat esoteric group to profile here, and that keeps the reading interesting. For every Jimmy Page, Marty Friedman or Steve Vai there's a Roland Dyens (Tunisian-French classical guitarist,) Wolf Marshall (editor-in-chief of GuitarOne magazine) or Dennis Koster (flamenco guitarist.) Taj Mahal, Rory Block, Richard Thompson, Lurrie Bell, Pat Martino and Sonny Landreth are some of the other talents who tell their stories along with the likes of Tracii Guns, Joe Satriani, Alex Lifeson, Steve Lukather, Melissa Etheridge, Steve Howe and many others.

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