“Guitar Lessons” by Bob Taylor. This is a fascinating overview of how Taylor built his brand into one of the most popular and respected high-end, mass produced guitars in the world in a relatively short time. Taylor readily admits he is more of an inventor and technician than a player but that didn’t stop him from doing what he needed to do to succeed. It’s a fairly well known fact that he is not universally liked in the guitar world for various reasons but he makes a solid case for the decisions he made over the years. Not only a cool insight into the world of a guitar company but also a great overview of how to “grow” a company.
“Martin Guitars: An Illustrated History” by Jim and Richard Johnston. The most hallowed and respected American manufacturer of acoustic guitars from the 1840s to the present day. I found the evolution of Martin body sizes and materials particularly interesting. Martin continues to have the most devoted – some might say obsessed! – following in the world, with good reason. Still a family owned business, now in its fourth generation, Martin has endured the ups and downs of music trends and this book will show you why. Plus the photography is drool inspiring!
“The Mayor of MacDougal Street” by Dave Van Ronk (2013 updated edition). With the recent release of the Coen Brothers film “Inside Llewyn Davis” I made a point to finally read this book upon which the movie was loosely based. Originally published in the late 1990s, shortly before Van Ronk passed away, it chronicles his life in New York’s Greenwich Village at the height of the “folk era.” Just one GREAT story after another of famous folk and blues musicians met, the scene in the Village and much more, told in Van Ronk’s wonderful, self-deprecating style. I found myself saying “wow” more than a few times when I read it, as it was a time and place that put me on my own musical journey. Highly recommended if you have an interest in American folk music.
“Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life” by Graham Nash. Nash chronicles his life from humble beginnings in northern England to his days with the Hollies; Crosby, Stills & Nash; and his later adventures with David Crosby and as a solo artist. His concerns with environmental causes and his work as a photographer and painter are very interesting but his personal relationships with other famous musicians, especially his long relationship with Joni Mitchell are what make the book. All told in a light, breezy style, not unlike his music!
“Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards” by Al Kooper. Subtitled “Memoirs of the Rock ‘n Roll Survivor” this one was tons of fun to read. Stories of performing with and producing some of the most iconic musicians in American popular music, Al’s stories at times border on the unbelievable but I’m sure they’re all true. How he played the classic organ solo on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” is funny and amazing, alone well worth the price of the book.
If your fingers are sore from all that practicing, put down your guitar and pick up one of these books. You’ll be thanking me!
Peace & good music,