In Memory 2012 Bert Weedon


One of my guitar heroes, Bert Weedon, died in Friday April 2012. For most people he was famous for his ‘Play In A Day’ guitar tuition book which eventually went on to sell millions of copies and inspired the likes of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Brian May to master some basic chords. On their first session with Bert’s manual, McCartney and Harrison learnt the chords D and A together. After that, well, history was made.

But I was always much more interested in his albums. Especially Top Rank Buy 026, ‘King Size Guitar’. Even though records were made of industrial strength vinyl in those far off days,  I nearly wore that record out. I was only five at the time and drove my mother nuts with repeated requests to play it again and again.

It would be nice to think that Bert went on to cut many more equally splendid albums, but alas, although there were many, by the time ‘Honky Tonk Guitar’ and ‘The Romantic Guitar of Bert Weedon’ were released, even I could tell that there was maybe something lacking in the good taste department. That said, Bert could play anything, and play it well. From rock and roll to romantic, from vintage tunes to country. He could play electric, acoustic, 12 string, it didn’t phase Bert one bit. He was Britain’s answer to Chet Atkins.

Bert Weedon was born in East Ham, London. on May 10th 1920, the youngest son of Bert and Elizabeth Weedon. Just as I wanted to listen to guitar from my very early childhood, Bert wanted to play it. When he was twelve years old he persuaded his father to buy him a  battered guitar off a stall in London's famous Petticoat Lane Street Market, for exactly 75p – or 15 shillings as it would have been then. And so began the career of one of Britain's most accomplished instrumental stars.

As a result of his solos on the early rock records. Bert was asked by Top Rank to make a record as a solo artist, and so Bert became the first British guitarist to get a solo record in the Hit Parade with "Guitar Boogie Shuffle".
 
He was about as unlikely a rock and roll star as Bill Haley. He was old fashioned even before he became outdated. In his 40s, clad in conservative suits and tweed jackets with a Brylcreemed short do, he was an anachronism in the 60’s, and I knew it, long before I knew what an anachronism was.
He had huge hits with "Apache". "Nashville Boogie". "Ginchy". "Sorry Robbie" "Tokyo Melody". to mention but a few. "Bert Weedon remembers Jim Reeves" (I suppose there are people out there who can still remember Jim Reeves) sold over 250,000 

Bert’s "22 Golden Guitar Greats" reached the No 1 spot in the Album Charts, and he once again made history by becoming the first solo guitarist to reach the coveted top of the Hit Parade - receiving both Gold and Platinum L.P.'s for his record breaking sales of over one million copies.

With the coming of rock and roll, Bert was soon in great demand. Early rock singers such as Tommy Steele, Marty Wild, Laurie London, Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and Billy Fury all asked for Bert to play on their records. His virtuosity in all fields of music also enabled him to accompany such artists as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland and many top British stars, while at the other end of the music scale he played for Gigli, Paul Robeson and many others. 

Sadly Bert quickly got shoved out of the way once the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had mastered enough chords. Incidentally, Keith Richards and Brian Jones mastered the guitar by half starving themselves to death in a run-down Chelsea flat with no central heating, just practicing day in and day out.
It’s highly unlikely that any modern guitarists learn from Bert Weedon’s ‘Learn In A Day’ book these days, but my hope is that some of his better bargain bin records might be re-released so that a younger generation can at least discover where rock and roll guitar in Britain really began. Rest in peace Bert, you’re a genuine guitar hero.

Biographical details borrowed and adapted from www.bertweedon.com

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