In our last installment of this popular literary series, it was February 1990 and I was just learning to play La Grange by ZZ Top, thanks to a copy of the magazine Guitar for the Practicing Musician. The next magazine on the pile is from September 1990, it presumably haven taken teenage Schooley seven months to figure out a song with one chord. Finally time for a new guitar magazine, then.
Being a big weirdo compared to the rest of the population, even as a youngster I was interested in blues music. So when I was at the grocery store with my mom and I saw a copy of Guitar World in the magazine rack with a cover that boasted “THE ULTIMATE GUIDE: HOW TO PLAY THE BLUES” you better believe that my reaction was: “Fuck yeah!”
And of course, who better to pick for the cover of THE ULTIMATE GUIDE on HOW TO PLAY THE BLUES than the guy from the movie ROAD HOUSE?
Seeing as how Jeff Healey is on the cover of a magazine proclaiming it contains THE ULTIMATE GUIDE on learning the blues, making fun of it would be easy. And being a guy who apparently took half a year to learn a song with one chord, obviously I should stick to easy things. However, in spite of the Jeff Healey cover story, and perhaps at the expense of your comedic expectations, I have to be honest here and admit that this issue is… not bad.
There are actually some pretty good articles. There is a big piece on Albert Collins (cool!), some actual quality longform journalism looking at the death of Roy Buchanan (depressing!), and a “Blues Who’s Who” that gives a picture and paragraph about a number of blues guitarists active at the time. Sure, there are some wankers like Robert Cray listed, but also quality players. I’m pretty sure this was the first time lots of bedroom guitar slingers ever heard of Gatemouth Brown, Hubert Sumlin, or Lowell Fulson. There is some tab that shows the basics of 12-bar blues, rhythm, leads, turnarounds, and pentatonic scales. The cover also mentions a pull-out poster of Robert Johnson, but it is missing from this copy, leaving it in less-than-mint condition (sorry, collectors). Did this Robert Johnson poster hang in the bedroom of teenage Schooley? YOU GET ONE GUESS
So yeah, it would be easy to make fun of this magazine for putting the dude from Road House on the cover, but in spite of that, you really could have done a lot worse trying to put together an introduction to the blues aimed at the 1990s junior high guitar player. Slow golf clap for the editors at Guitar World, everybody.
Another endearing thing about Guitar World, as opposed to Guitar for the Practicing Musician, is that the magazine actually seems to have a sense of humor. There is an interview with Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, completely in character. Nice! I bet the folks at GFTPM looked down their mixolydian modes at such frivolities.
But don’t worry, despite these positive qualities, there is still plenty of stupid shit to make fun of. There is a large letters section, for example. Back in covered wagon days, you couldn’t just post a smartass comment on an internet article, but instead had to send a letter and wait patiently to see if your thoughts regarding more coverage of U2’s The Edge found their way into print. I can only hope that all of these letter writers went on to have blogs today. And though the 80s were over, 80s hair metal was still the primary form of guitar wank, and 80s hair metal wankers were still prominently featured in all the ads. Yngwie Malmsteen gives his best Blue Steel. Meanwhile, some session guy “whose playing has been heard on The Young and the Restless” looks like he invented cocaine. Guitar World also seems to have more ads for learning to wank on guitar through the use of sumbliminal messages. I guess if it works for spreading the messages of Satan, why not use it to play like Yngwie, too?
Anyway, here’s a bunch more scans of stupid shit from an old guitar magazine. Enjoy!