Those early days of when you are young and get your first instruments are full of rich memories that come rushing back in, and my early memories were certainly rich ones. I suppose it is certainly helped by the fact that guitar became and remained so important in my life, but there still is just something about those early impressions that are made, and how they seem to stay imprinted on your mind forever!
My first electric was certainly nothing to really write home about. It was a cheap Japanese “Ideal” guitar with 4, count ‘em FOUR pickups, and tons of chrome! I suppose I was seduced by its flashy looks, and I have to this day, never seen another one! (It was probably manufactured by Teisco, but I can’t be sure….the guitar saga continued after that of course, and in ’67 when I found my incredible ’52 Les Paul, I got to finally know what a real guitar was all about!
The most amazing thing about this moment was that here I was, an 11-year old kid in 1964 at Ben’s Music Shop, a tiny and crowded shop on NY’s famous 48th Street, otherwise known as “Beatle Boulevard”. Well, I was right up on all the latest happenings from England at that time, and sure enough, who was in the shop also, but none other than Charlie Watts, of The Rolling Stones! He was checking out some drumsticks, and The Stones were having their first NY appearance that evening at The Academy of Music, on 14th Street in Manhattan! I recognized him right away, and at the further urging of my father, asked him for his autograph. He calmly and nicely obliged, and signed it, “Charlie Watts, of The Rolling Stones!”
I was ecstatic, and walked out with his autograph, as well as my first electric guitar and amp! How was I to know that some 20 years later, I would be doing a guest “deejay” spot on Radio London with Stuart Coleman, and I happened to tell this story. Well, sure enough, the phone lit up in the radio studio, and it was someone who was actually with Charlie on that very day! He not only said they remembered me, but that Charlie said to him that I was the first kid in America to actually recognize him! Wow, what a blast! I was also performing that evening in London, doing a guitar clinic, and this fellow (name forgotten) came down, and we enjoyed a couple of “pints” together, and talked about the old (and new) times! Charlie was away, which was a shame, because I believe he would’ve shown up too! Maybe I can catch up with him on this upcoming tour, and maybe hang out with Keith too, since we are both on the new Les Paul Tribute album, “Thank You Les!” You just never know what those early moments of guitar buying can mean to you, and as you can see, in my case, the sage continues!
Gibson.com’s Arlen Roth, affectionately known The King of All Guitar Teachers, is music lesson pioneer and the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.