Guitar Player Feature (Part 8 of 8: Michael Molenda)

Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:

An Oral History of Guitar Player Part 8: Michael Molenda

By Steven Ward

  GP - Jimi psychedelia

An original punk who’s listed in Who’s Who in California Rock, Michael Molenda launched San Francisco’s first rock and roll multimedia show (Streetbeat), published the Bay Area’s first gear newsletter, opened two seminal “S.F. scene” recording studios, and has his name imprinted on a plaque hanging at Alcatraz (for his musical score to We Hold the Rock, about the Indian occupation of the island). Currently, Molenda is Editor in Chief of Guitar Player, co-owns Tiki Town Studios in Mill Valley, California (with producer Scott Mathews), and performs in The Trouble With Monkeys and the Eva Jay Fortune Band.

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“Teaching readers how to sound better and play better…”

“Ed Sengstack and Ross Garnick–the magazine’s publisher and associate publisher, respectively–were concerned about GP‘s industry reputation and circulation around 1996, and they contacted me about taking the Editor in Chief role. At the time, there hadn’t been anyone in that position for a while. Joe Gore was Senior Editor, Dominic Milano was Editorial Director, and the hierarchy of command, so to speak, wasn’t as clean or as explicit as Ed and Ross wanted it. Also, Joe was leaving–or reducing his responsibilities–to pursue his career as a guitarist. I was the Editor of Electronic Musician back then, and, thanks to the exploding home-studio market, I had a somewhat undeserved reputation as someone who could overhaul a magazine’s content to secure more readers and advertisers. I had always loved GP, so I was extremely flattered they were interested in me. And, yeah, I wanted the job! Sadly, the day of my big interview with the GP staff was the same day my then-wife informed me she wanted a divorce. I was devastated, of course, and I felt that two life-changing events at once might be a bit much. I turned down the offer, and Richard Johnston was ultimately moved into the top spot at GP. Fast-forward about two years, and Ed and Ross still weren’t satisfied with GP‘s reputation and circulation. In a deja-vu-like situation, they contacted me again, and, this time, I didn’t want anything to get in the way of my getting the best job I would ever be offered. Richard was moved over to the Editor in Chief position at Bass Player (which made sense, as he was/is a brilliant bassist), and I left Electronic Musician to become the Editor in Chief of Guitar Player. Thanks to a fabulous staff, we redesigned the entire magazine in one month, and, within a year, had expanded the subscriber base from under 80,000 to more than 100,000, and had also increased newsstand sell-through. Almost ten years later, I’m still in the Editor in Chief position, and loving every day!

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Guitar Player Feature (Part 7 of 8: James Rotondi)

Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:

An Oral History of Guitar Player Part 7: James Rotondi

By Steven Ward

James Rotondi was the Features Editor of Guitar Player from 1991 to 1997, and was later Senior Editor at Remix magazine, and more recently Editor-in-Chief of both Guitar World’s Bass Guitar and Future Music magazine. His writing has appeared in Spin, Rolling Stone, The Wire, Mojo, Pulse, and the Boston Phoenix. As a musician, Rotondi’s resumé includes tours and recordings with Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle, French electro stars Air, trip-hop pioneers the Grassy Knoll, as well as collaborations, sessions and gigs with Santana’s Michael Shrieve, horn gods Tower of Power, and pop legend Jason Falkner. An accomplished singer, guitarist and keyboardist, Roto has also played, sang and co-composed on over 200 TV commercials, from Olympus to Lexus to Quaker Oats. His new solo album will be released digitally and on CD this Fall ( and he continues to work on film music with his instrumental project, Jettatura (

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GP - Thurston Moore GP - Joe Satriani

“A serious background in metalloid shredding…”

“During the hot Boston summer of 1991, I’d been supporting my efforts as a struggling songwriter and musician by writing reviews for local free press publications like the Boston Phoenix and The Beat, and taking various temp jobs around town: filing, typing, moving boxes, making cold calls, you name it. One of the companies I got along well with was a firm called Miller-Freeman Expositions, which had a big publishing arm on the West Coast. One day while strolling past reception, I noticed that one of the mags on the little in-house news rack was none other than Guitar Player, which I’d read religiously from about age 13 to 19, but which I’d stopped reading during my college years.

“Well, as good as the old GP was, this wasn’t the old school GP I remembered; it was fresh and ferocious, with Metallica’s James and Kirk beaming from the cover and a big Richard Thompson Lesson across the banner. There could not have been a better representation of my own across-the-board tastes; a strong love of acoustic fingerstyle and pop songwriting, and a serious background in metalloid shredding. I devoured the issue, and Xeroxed the lessons to stick in my gigbag.

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Guitar Player Feature (Part 6 of 8: Joe Gore)

Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:

An Oral History of Guitar Player Part 6: Joe Gore

By Steven Ward

Joe Gore always seems to make half his living playing music and half writing about it. His studio and touring credits include Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman, PJ Harvey, Courtney Love, Aimee Mann, DJ Shadow, John Cale, the Eels, plus many movie and TV soundtracks. He has also composed music for such clients as VH1, HBO, Intel, Universal, and the American Museum of Natural History. For better or worse, his music writing work has drifted from consumer magazines to corporate clients, though he still pounds out a guitar story once in a while. He’s deeply involved in music software, particularly Digidesign’s Pro Tools and Apple’s Logic platforms. He does editorial and audio work for both companies, and he created the hundreds of guitar tones that ship with Apple’s recently released Logic 8. His fave project is Clubbo, a megalomaniacal music-fiction experiment he’s developed with composer/producer Elise Malmberg (AKA “wife”). It’s a mammoth web hoax that alleges to depict a legendary indie label with a checkered 45-year history, complete with downloadable music, album covers, photos, bios, and miscellaneous cultural debris. It’s all fake, down to the copyright info and “external” links. He recently completed a Clubbo novel, and he and his wife are currently planning more and better fakery for 2008. There’s additional info at

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“I regret being too self-serious more than I regret goofing off…”

“I was about to turn 30. My almost-was band had tanked. I was sick of teaching guitar, which I’d been doing professionally since my early teens. I pitched Tom Wheeler on a world music guitar column for Guitar Player. He declined, but offered me an assistant editor gig at the mag. I filled out my first W2 and joined the staff in the summer of ’88. Later I became an associate editor, then senior editor. During the latter period, the mag had no actual editor. I reported to Dominic Milano of Keyboard, who managed corporate affairs, salaries, personnel reviews, and the like, leaving me and my colleagues to screw up the editorial all by ourselves.

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Guitar Player Feature (Part 5 of 8: Tom Mulhern)

Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:

An Oral History of Guitar Player Part 5: Tom Mulhern

By Steven Ward

Tom Mulhern is a bassist with a background in electronic music. Mulhern is today a technical writer, user interface designer, and web developer.

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“I got intimately acquainted with The Elements of Style…”

“Although I started at GP in June 1977, I moved from the Chicago area to California in January ’77 to do freelance editing for their book division–to sustain myself while starting a band with my old friend Dominic Milano, the Assistant Editor at GP’s sister publication, Keyboard. The freelancing fell through, and over the next months I had a couple of crappy jobs elsewhere. In June, Don Menn called and asked if I’d want to come to work at GP. This was on a Friday; I started on the following Monday.

“I began as an assistant editor, which was probably better than I deserved, considering I was fresh out of school with a background in electronic music composition, rather than in journalism. Youth and enthusiasm, not to mention the needs to feed myself and pay the rent, motivated me to work very hard. I realized how green I was when confronted with a gibberish-like piece of text from one of our columnists, edited it, and got it back from Don with more red ink than black on it. I then got really intimately acquainted with my copy of The Elements Of Style–I didn’t want to lose this gig.

GP - ZZ Top

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Guitar Player Feature (Part 4 of 8: Jas Obrecht)

Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:

An Oral History of Guitar Player Part 4: Jas Obrecht

By Steven Ward

Since 1999, Jas Obrecht has lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He teaches creative writing, writes for music magazines, and owns a record label, Avabella Productions. Obrecht recently produced Buckethead’s Acoustic Shards CD and Young Buckethead DVDs, with more works on the way. His book with James ‘Al’ Hendrix, My Son Jimi, came out in 1999, followed by Rollin’ & Tumblin’: The Postwar Blues Guitarists in 2001. He currently writes the Jas Obrecht Music Blog. Life is good.

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“Even music journalists were mystified by Eddie’s fingertaps technique…”

“On Ascension Thursday, 1978, I literally ascended from Detroit’s rundown West Side to glorious San Jose, California. A few weeks earlier, I’d foolishly followed my father’s advice and wore a three-piece suit to an interview at Creem magazine, where the lady editors viewed me as some kind of a narc. For Guitar Player, I went casual. Good thing, because editor Don Menn showed up barefoot and uncombed, in jean cutoffs and a tattered King Tut T-shirt. I liked him instantly. Hanging behind his head was a numbered Les Paul guitar that had been smashed on stage by Pete Townshend. Within a couple of hours, I’d also met Jim Crockett, Tom Wheeler, and Tom Mulhern, and I’d been hired as Guitar Player’s new Assistant Editor.

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Guitar Player Feature (Part 3 of 8: Steven Rosen)

Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:

An Oral History of Guitar Player Part 3: Steven Rosen

By Steven Ward

GP - seventies

Steven Rosen is a professional music journalist with a career spanning thirty years. During this period he has published well over 700 articles appearing in major periodicals originating from around the globe, everywhere from the United States and Canada to Japan, Germany, France, England, Australia, and even Katmandu. Amongst the publications Rosen’s work has appeared in are Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, Playboy, Musician, Guitar Player, Guitar World, Musician, US, Creem, Circus, Player, Total Guitar, Classic Rock, Mojo, Drum!, and a myriad of others.

Rosen was the West Coast correspondent for Guitar World magazine for four years during the mid-eighties when he wrote seven cover stories (three lead features on Edward Van Halen are now recognized as pivotal pieces on that artist). As a contributor to Guitar Player, he wrote a prolific sixteen covers in a six-year span (one out of every four was his). The 1977 Frank Zappa front-cover contribution represented the periodical’s biggest selling issue to that date. Additionally, GP, in two special reprint issues, utilized his stories on Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page as cover material (Rock Guitarists published by Guitar Player Productions and Rock Guitarists Vol. II distributed by Guitar Player Books).

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Guitar Player Feature (Part 2 of 8: Jim Crockett)

Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:

An Oral History of Guitar Player Part 2: Jim Crockett

By Steven Ward

After leaving Guitar Player, Jim Crockett raced cars and wrote/published a monthly newsletter, “Autoracer’s Monthly,” for serious amateur racers.

Then Crockett and his wife moved to their Cayman Islands home for eight years. He had a five-person scuba shop that he ran for five years, handling marketing, training, taking divers on trips, etc. He also played drums in two rock bands, two jazz bands, a 22-piece swing band, a Dixieland band, a show band, a blues band–and had the time of his life. Additionally, he taught broadcasting, writing, and public speaking, and created an educational radio station, at the International College of the Cayman Islands. And there was a year or two as a news editor and announcer for the goverment’s Radio Cayman.

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Guitar Player Feature (Part 1 of 8: Tom Wheeler)

Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:

An Oral History of Guitar Player Part 1: Tom Wheeler

By Steven Ward

After freelancing for Rolling Stone during the seventies, Tom Wheeler joined the staff of Guitar Player and eventually became its Editor in Chief. He served in that capacity for ten years, was also the founding Editorial Director of Bass Player, and continued to provide a monthly column for Guitar Player long after leaving the office.

His first encyclopedia, The Guitar Book: A Handbook for Electric and Acoustic Guitarists (foreword by B.B. King), was published by Harper & Row in various languages over a period of 14 years; a new Japanese translation was published in 2000. His next book, American Guitars: An Illustrated History (foreword by Les Paul) was in print for more than 20 years and was called by one retail catalog “the best book ever written about guitars.” His 2004 book, The Stratocaster Chronicles (foreword by Eric Clapton), was named Book of the Year by Vintage Guitar magazine. Tom’s latest book is The Soul of Tone: Celebrating 60 Years of Fender Amps (foreword by Keith Richards).

Tom has interviewed Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Michael Bloomfield, Les Paul, Leo Fender, Keith Richards, and many others. He co-edited Richard Smith’s Fender: The Sound Heard ’Round The World, and also wrote the foreword. He wrote the foreword for The PRS Guitar Book, and contributed chapters to Gibson Guitars, 100 Years of an American Icon; The Electric Guitar; Electric Guitars of the Fifties; and Electric Guitars of the Sixties; among others.

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Guitar Player Feature (Introduction)

Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:

An Oral History of Guitar Player

By Steven Ward

GP - 1967 GP - Peter, Paul and Mary

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.

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