Guitar Hero: Play in a Day's Bert Weedon dies at 91

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 20, 2012 7:03 AM
Guitar Hero: Play in a Day's Bert Weedon dies at 91

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Bert Weedon, whose "Play in a Day" guitar guide set some of the biggest names in rock and roll on the road to greatness, has died. He was 91.

The man who also inspired millions of others to pluck away at the strings in their bedrooms died at his home in Beaconsfield, southern England, in the early hours of the morning after a long illness, his agent and long-time friend Johnny Mans told Reuters.

Play in a Day, released in 1957, has sold more than two million copies and helped inspire a generation of budding musicians, from teenagers playing in school bands to the likes of Eric Clapton, Brian May of Queen and the late John Lennon.

May once referred to Weedon as the "Guitar Wizard" and "a legend", while Clapton, in a 1970s interview, said:

"I wouldn't have felt the urge to press on without the tips and encouragement that Bert's book 'Play in a Day' gives you. I've never met a player of any consequence that doesn't say the same thing."

Weedon, born in London in 1920, was an accomplished player in his own right who accompanied stars including Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland during a long career in music.

According to his official online biography, he convinced his father to buy him his first guitar in London's Petticoat Lane market when he was 12 years old. It cost 75 pence.

Initially Weedon learned classical guitar, a grounding that equipped him to adapt to a range of musical styles, from jazz to dance music, later in life.

He featured in some of the biggest bands of the day and landed prominent television slots including four years on the BBC's Show Band show.

As well as his participation in early rock recordings, Weedon enjoyed success on his own, becoming the first British guitarist to get a solo record in the Hit Parade with "Guitar Boogie Shuffle".

He played for Cliff Richard and Billy Fury, among others, but his biggest influence came through Play in a Day.

"Bert was the man who wrote 'Play in a Day', and everybody seemed to follow that book -- Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Bill Wyman, among others," Mans said.

"He really was the 'king of the guitar'," he added. "He was also one of the nicest, most genuine guys you could ever wish to meet."

Weedon was awarded an OBE in the 2001 Queen's Birthday Honors List for services to music. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)