Apr 212012

This has been a rather grim week or two for the passing of rock legends, and today Bert Weedon, inspiration for many a guitarist primarily through his Play in a Day book, said goodnight as well.

I know practically nothing about his life, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of his records, but in common with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Brian May, I owned a copy of his book and at one time tried to learn to play using it.

My knowledge of music was so rudimentary (read non-existent) that the book was far too complicated for me, and I never returned to it. I eventually figured it out in my own way, but the act of buying the book and opening it with an untuned and probably untunable guitar in hand was enough of a statement of intent to lead me to find a doorway to the instrument even if it turned out not to be that one.

I eventually figured it out by making a set of flash cards with chords on one side and the name of the chord on the other and to keep shuffling them and pulling them out at random until I could not only play them but remember them all as well. I did do it in a day—New Year’s Eve 1978, when I couldn’t find anyone to stay up with, but which turned out in hindsight to be the most productive evening I’ve ever spent.

I wondered if anyone in the Hall ever did learn to play using Bert’s book? And please share any Eureka moments with instruments that you subsequently became at least passingly competent with.


  7 Responses to “Mr Play in a Day Departs, Having Left the World a More Musical Place”

  1. I don’t believe he was very well known in the US and I have never seen any of his books, though I’m not a guitar player either. He was immortalized, however, by the Bonzo Dog Band in “We Are Normal”.

    We are normal and we want our freedom,
    We are normal and we want our freedom.
    Wir sind gewhnlich, wir sind zufrieden.
    We are normal and we dig Bert Weedon, ha ha!

  2. Nice piece, Happiness Stan! I’d heard Weedon’s name somehow, somewhere before, but I don’t recall his books being available in the US. Our generation grew up with a series of books by Mel Bay, about whom I know nothing beside the fact that he made guitar instruction books.

    I’m still waiting for my breakthrough moment in learning guitar. I am the world’s worst musician when it comes to practicing. I tried the Mel Bay books when I was a kid. I guess I learned something, but usually I learned just enough so that I could figure out the rest of the tune by ear. My teacher once caught me pretending to read the music. Years later I was teaching a young girl in our family how to play guitar, and as my Mom always said, “You can’t snow the snowman.” I covered the page while she got lost in the music, playing whatever song it was she’d learned by ear. She didn’t even notice. It was fun getting her started on guitar.

  3. I’ve only heard of Bert through reading interviews with British musicians.Too bad someone didn’t teach a basic concept of rhythm to the audience in this clip before they started clicking those coins on their tabletops…Yikes!

  4. Sounds like he’s playing in a tin-roofed shack in the the middle of a hail storm.

  5. Happiness Stan

    I’ve been trying to work out which TV show the clip might have been taken from – it’s almost certainly a late-night ITV (British regional network) variety show from the early 80s. They used to be called things like “The Wheel-Tappers and Shunters Social Club” and would be set up as though in a northern English working-men’s club. I’ve only been to (southern versions of) northern English working-men’s clubs a couple of times, and even though they bore some resemblance to this set up, this show certainly seems to milk the Northern stereotype more than most, and was possibly designed by someone in London who believed that the film of Mary Poppins is a documentary.

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    Over on this side of the pond, the go-to incomprehensible teach-yourself-how-to-play-guitar book was written by Mel Bay. Like you and Bert, Mel and I parted company after about 10 minutes. I ended up figuring stuff out on my own — which, BTW, I don’t recommend in general. Now I have all kinds of bad habits that I’ll probably never un-learn.

    Anyhow: the idea of getting your audience to tap their beer/tip money in time with the music is GENIUS.

  7. tonyola

    I’ve been told that the best guitar instruction book was the Mickey Baker’s Jazz Guitar series, but they’re not for the rank beginner and require some commitment to dig through them.

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