My First Guitar – Tales of True Love and Lost Chords Reviewed

If you’re a guitar player, or if you’ve ever owned or purchased a guitar, you have a story.  There’s something romantic about owning a guitar and especially about your very first guitar.  It’s kind of equivalent to never forgetting your first kiss.

Julia Crowe captures this feeling beautifully in My First Guitar (published this month by ECW Press). A well-known guitarist herself, Crowe has written numerous columns and feature articles for several international guitar magazines, so she knows her way around a six-string.

Find out more about the book after the jump!

My First Guitar by Julia Crowe

My First Guitar is an easy read with short chapters that follow a similar template:  a legendary guitar player tells the story of their first guitar, their first gig, and highlights from their road to success. Crowe interviews no less than 70 international guitar heroes from every genre of music.  The best of blues, folk, country, jazz, classical and rock guitarists go back to day one with their instrument, and Crowe does a great job capturing that moment when the musician realizes they had found their passion.

What struck me most about the artists’ stories was the incredible detail they recalled about their first guitar.  From where they were purchased to how much they cost (right down to the penny) every single artist recalls the moment they became a guitar player.  They remember small, almost insignificant details about their instrument from paint colours to the number of frets and all points in between.

While I wasn’t familiar with many of the classical, jazz or international players, it was interesting to read about the humble beginnings for guitar gurus like Les Paul, Scottie Moore (Elvis Presley’s guitar player), Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), Steve Vai, Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) and many others.

While reading these guitar stories, I realized that I had my own.  My story doesn’t end quite the same as theirs, but the beginnings are very similar.  I took piano lessons for years and decided in my early teens that I wanted to play guitar.  It was the late ‘80’s and the singer/songwriter/piano player wasn’t really en vogue at the time and I never did get good at programming synthesizers, so I asked my parents for a guitar.  My dad had a buddy at work who played in bar bands and was in need of some cash, so we paid him $500 for a very well-loved black Fender Strat with a blonde neck.  I remember that guitar well and I also remember the cigarette burn marks on the neck and that the case reeked of smoke.  It was really cool. A few years later I ended up selling the guitar back to the guy because he missed it so dearly…that’s the kind of love guitar players have for their instruments and I totally get it.

Overall I enjoyed reading My First Guitar because you can read it in small spurts and totally out of order.  I won’t give anything away, but a definite highlight of the book is Crowe’s final chapter, a totally star-struck cup of coffee in London with none other than Jimmy Page.  It doesn’t get much better than this for guitar players, music lovers or just anyone who appreciates what it’s like to sit across from one of your heroes.

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