I have a long, loving yet troubled relationship with the guitar. When I was a kid, I took a few weeks of lessons with a longhaired dude from a nearby guitar shop who mostly told me sad stories about getting kicked out of Sha Na Na. At age twelve, having learned as many as two chords badly, I quit my lessons in order to pursue songwriting and rock fame full-time. I wrote exactly one song -- a horribly moldy imitation of a Bread ballad that I called "Baby, It's-A-Time That I'm A-Leaving." I only wish that I was kidding.
As a failed musician with absolutely no discernible talent, I did what such retched figures tend to do -- I became a rock critic. Writing for Rolling Stone over these past few decades and eventually writing the scripts for countless music shows including the Grammy Awards, I have had the pleasure of getting to know many of the world's greatest guitarists. I've talked guitar with Keith Richards and Johnny Depp on a Pirates set, which was cool. I've had Jimmy Page chew me out for a Rolling Stone review for the first Led Zeppelin record written when I was a little kid -- still cool. Thanks to Jann Wenner's generosity, I've even flown in a private jet across the country with Eric Clapton and Robbie Robertson, only to have Eric pull out a concert review I'd written in the magazine in which I described his playing as "nearly God-like." Eric crossed out the word "nearly" then wrote "Get it right, David!" (P.S. I flew back across country coach, singing the blues the whole way)
Truth be told, I have never gotten my relationship with the guitar quite right -- until right now. See, over the past decade, I've had the pleasure of writing for many of music's biggest music TV shows, including the Country Music Association Awards, known to friends and million of others as the CMA's. Loving great songs and great players, I found what feels like second home in Nashville. The raw talent in Music City is still stunning to me. When I first started working on the show, the host was Vince Gill, a great singer-songwriter and one of the true monster guitar players on earth. These days, the CMA show is hosted by Carrie Underwood and my friend and world class guitar god, Brad Paisley.
Brad and Carrie have been a dream to work with, and eventually Brad (AKA @BradPaisley) and I (AKA @wildaboutmusic) began to continue our CMA conversations throughout the year in plain sight on Twitter. One day one of Brad's many followers who decided to follow me too because I was BA -- Brad Adjacent -- tweeted something like, "You two should do a book together!" And so we now have. Diary of a Player: How My Musical Heroes Made a Guitar Man Out of Me is the story of Brad's life with strings attached, and a very open and personal love letter to the guitar from one of its finest practioners today.
It's the story of the path I didn't have the talent to take. The old guitar Brad's grandfather gave him as a Christmas gift when he was eight years old changed his life forever. As Brad puts it so beautifully, the guitar has since become for him, "A crutch, a shrink, a friend, love interest, parachute, flying machine, soapbox, canvas, liability, investment, jackpot, tease, a safe, a gateway, an addiction, a recovery, a church, a voice, veil, armor, and lifeline. . . When life gets intense, there are people who drink, who seek counseling, eat, or watch TV, pray, cry, sleep and so on. I play."
I still don't play worth a lick. Chances are, even if Brad gave me a few free lessons, I will never be a guitar god -- though my younger son looks like he just may get there someday. In the meantime, I'm very thankful to be a literary roadie to a true player. Please read Diary of a Player, and play along.