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The Inspiring Stories Behind The World's Greatest Guitar Legends

Few people have the ability to inspire a generation, but if anybody can, it’s history’s greatest guitar legends. Kurt Cobain, Brian May and Jimi Hendrix are all in the pantheon of the greats. But how did our heroes get their start? Here are their stories. 

Jimi Hendrix 

Jimi Hendrix is probably the most influential guitarist of all time. His ability with the instrument was so great that he has almost become a part of the popular lexicon. “Strumming like Hendrix” is just as much a part of our vocabulary as anything else. 

Hendrix began his career playing gigs on the chitlin’ circuit but quickly abandoned that when his career took off the in the 1960s. His first guitar was a second-hand, $5 acoustic which he apparently learned to play by ear. 

Brian May

Brian May didn’t buy his first electric guitar - he built it. He decided to take this route after being inspired by one of his guitar idols, Jeff Beck. Beck was keen on feedback distortion, and so May set about building a guitar with this capability. He began his first bank in 1984 after learning by ear and taking no formal music lessons at all in his childhood. Though May started with acoustics, he quickly progressed to the electric guitar

J Mascis 

Have you ever wondered where the sound of grunge came from? Hint: it wasn’t Cobain. In fact, it was J Mascis, a man who was made famous for his work with Dinosaur Jr. Although Mascis started out on an acoustic similar to today’s Fender FA 100, he quickly gravitated to heavier sounds. Before long, he’s founded his own hardcore band. 


Why does Slash wear a top hat? Nobody knows. But there’s no denying that the man can play guitar. He was originally the lead guitarist for the universally acclaimed Guns ‘n Roses. The band had enormous success for nearly two decades both in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Like May, Slash’s first guitar was a Spanish style with only one string. During that time, he went to music school but preferred instead to teach himself. He emerged as one of the late-twentieth century’s best guitarists, inspiring hundreds of thousands to take up playing the instrument. 

Kurt Cobain 

Kurt Cobain is, unfortunately, remembered for all the wrong reasons. Though he was a force of nature in his time, his untimely death is what most people remember him for. Despite this, Cobain was a guitar legend in his own right, helping millions of grunge rockers rock out in mosh pits. 

Cobain got his first guitar as a present for his 14th birthday. He immediately became obsessed with it, strumming practically from the moment he got up till he went to bed. Unlike many standout guitarists, Cobain didn’t start off on an acoustic. His first guitar is believed to have been an electric by Harmony or Sears. It was a budget model, but that doesn’t matter. Before long, Cobain had started Nirvana, and the band was enjoying widespread success. The first song he played was Back In Black by AC/DC.

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