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Bert Weedon

Bert Weedon, guitarist and author of the multi-million-selling Play in a Day guitar manual, died on 20 April 2012. He was 91.

All the national quality press mention his first guitar, bought for him by his father in Petticoat Lane Market for 15/- when he was 12 years old. The Guardian goes a bit further, revealing that

In 2003 he received an apology and damages from the BBC after the publicity for a radio programme had inexplicably claimed that he learned to play the guitar while in jail.

Both The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph mention health problems in the 1940s, although they give different causes; whereas The Guardian blames tuberculosis (and cites Weedon’s doctor as telling him to avoid smoky dancehalls and nightclubs, inducing Weedon to switch to records and broadcast performances), the Telegraph puts it down to his war service:

During the Second World War he volunteered for the rescue services and served with them through the worst of the London Blitz. Fumes from German bombs are said to have given him lung problems , which he cured by sitting at the end of Southend Pier and breathing the beneficial vapours from the mud below.

All the obituaries cite various rock musicians who acknowledge Weedon’s influence, notably Sir Paul McCartney and Brian May, as well as John Lennon (although the Telegraph says that Lennon took “a dim view of his twangy sound”). The Independent notes that the admiration wasn’t necessarily always reciprocated:

in 1997 Weedon said he had been horrified by the guitar-destroying antics of the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Who’s Pete Townshend. “I can’t understand why anyone should want to smash a cup and saucer, let alone a guitar,” he told Russell Newmark.

Although Weedon was an accomplished musician and performed with and for many of the stars of the 1940s and 1950s, he had only one Top 10 hit of his own, “Guitar Boogie Shuffle” in 1959. The obituaries note that it was his manual, Play in a Day – first published in 1957, that made his influence so far-reaching. The Independent quotes Play in a Day‘s exhortation to practise regularly:

Nature did not fashion our fingers for guitar-playing specifically, but nature has given us a mind to think with, willpower, patience and determination.

(Herbert Maurice William Weedon OBE, born 10 May 1920 in East Ham, London, died 20 April in Beaconsfield)

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