Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:
An Oral History of Guitar Player
When I was teenager in the ’80s, I used to buy Guitar Player magazine whenever I found a copy. In those days, that was usually in record stores. It seemed like the GP always had one of my music heroes of the time on the cover–Pete Townsend, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour.
Two particular Guitar Player interviews stand out from my high school days. The first was a 1986 cover story on Robert Fripp by Tom Mulhern. Mulhern’s interview had me searching for anything I could get my hands on by King Crimson. I was a very casual Fripp and King Crimson fan–if there is such a thing–until I read Mulhern’s piece.
The other interview in question wasn’t even a cover story. It was a 1985 interview Jas Obrecht did with then Robert Plant guitarist Robbie Blunt, my favorite guitar player of all time. To this day, Obrecht’s interview stands as the definitive piece on Blunt and it’s the only journalism out there (that I ever found anyway) that tells you how Blunt got those mesmerizing crystal clear guitar tones on Plant’s moody “Big Log” single from 1983.
Not that I ever played guitar. I was just a fan who wanted to know how my favorite musicians were making the sounds I loved so much and I wanted to know what it was like to be in the recording studio when they were getting those sounds onto tape. But I was probably the exception to the loyal and faithful Guitar Player reader. For 40 years now, Guitar Player has been put out each month for guitar players (guitar freaks “talking to, about, and with each other,” you might say). The magazine has always featured gear reviews, sheet music, articles about equipment, and “how to” columns by guitarists. But Guitar Player also managed to publish some of the best interviews with musicians in all of music journalism. Which is why I am thrilled to have seven former writers and editors–plus the current editor-in-chief of the magazine–tell the story of Guitar Player in this exclusive oral history.
And if all that isn’t enough, the magazine is celebrating 40 years of publishing with the recent release of a brand new book: The Guitar Player Book: The Ultimate Resource For Guitarists (Backbeat/Hal Leonard Books, $24.95). The book is a magazine best-of with exclusive interviews from the magazine’s past as well as 40 years of lessons, gear, and special moments in the history of the guitar. (Interesting as well, to note that GP‘s 40th coincides with Rolling Stone‘s 40th. How Guitar Player differentiated itself from more critic-oriented music magazines like RS is a subject that pops up frequently in the interviews that follow.)
Throughout the course of this week, rockcritics.com will run daily interviews with eight GP contributors, past and present. We’ll start in the next post with Tom Wheeler.