Great guitarists who learned later in life
You’re never too old to pick up a guitar and start learning! Although most guitar greats started playing their instruments as children, there are some musicians who started playing in college or later and still found great success in music.
Here are some guitarists who learned later in life:
Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello started playing guitar at age 17 – not an advanced age, but later than many famous guitarists. Morello told Q on CBC that he had only heard of one guitarist who had made albums who started playing that late – Robert Johnson, the blues master rumored to have sold his soul to the devil for musical prowess.
“Given my Catholic upbringing, that was not an option on the menu,” Morello joked. Instead, he devoted himself to practicing six to eight hours a day as an undergraduate at Harvard University.
Judas Priest guitarist Glen Tipton learned piano from his mother at an early age, but didn’t start playing guitar until he was 19. Tipton’s brother played guitar, and Tipton said he would sneak into his brother’s room to play the guitar when he was gone. His unique guitar technique includes classically-influenced solos inspired by his piano background. Tipton has never had formal guitar lessons.
The Father of Rock and Roll had an early interest in music and performed at his high school, but his musical career was interrupted when he was arrested for armed robbery and sent to a reformatory until his 21st birthday. After being released, Berry married and had children, worked various jobs and bought a home in St. Louis. He was in his mid-twenties by the time he picked up a guitar again and started playing nightclubs with bands. His song, “Maybellene”, helped him land his first record deal. It’s considered the first rock ‘n’ roll song by many music historians.
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Boston’s remaining original member, Tom Scholz, was a classically trained pianist and an MIT-trained engineer who built out his own recording studio. He was 21 when he started learning guitar, a skill he originally thought would just be a hobby. But while working as an engineer at Polaroid, Scholz worked on original music that eventually resulted in a record deal.
As a child, jazz guitarist John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery learned on a four-string tenor guitar, but had to start over on a six-string years later. Montgomery was married and working as a welder when he heard a Charles Christian record for the first time – inspiring him to buy a six-string guitar the next day. By age 20, he was playing in clubs with a day job at a milk company. A self-taught guitarist, Montgomery’s string-plucking with the side of his thumb and extensive use of octaves gave him a one-of-a-kind sound.
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