Paul Guy by himself

With Eddie & Tony Juracka, Mosebacke, Sept. 2005
Guy Guitars 25th anniversary bash

The only child of an ordinary, hard-working young English couple, I grew up in a small town in Gloucestershire with the sounds of early rock'n'roll all around me. My mother had 78's of Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock" and Tommy Steele's "Singin' The Blues", amomg many others, which she often put on the "gramophone"... Very often I would go to sleep with the hard-to-dial-in, interference-saturated sounds of Radio Luxembourg "on 208 metres in the Medium Wave Band" crackling away in the earpiece of my Philips "transistor".

My grandfather on my mother's side played the banjo and mandolin, and I'm told he was never happier than when working with his hands. I never knew him, as he died when I was about 3. But I must have inherited whatever small musical talent I have from him through my mother, because hardly anyone in the family on my father's side was particularly musical. Mum, though, had a lovely voice when she was young. My earliest infant memory is of sitting in my high chair in the kitchen, with Mum washing up at the sink, singing away.

My love affair with the guitar began when I was 9 years old. The first guitar I ever saw, apart from on the TV, was at my "Uncle" Norman's house. "Uncle" Norman played piano in a semi-pro trio. His wife "Auntie" Myrtle, herself an accomplished pianist, was helping me with my piano studies (I had been taking piano lessons since age 5). But when Norman brought a borrowed guitar home one day - a big old Höfner archtop, as I recall - I was hooked straight away, and lost interest in the piano practically overnight. (Today I really wish that I had kept it up.)

I nagged my parents incessantly for two years before Dad finally capitulated and bought me a second-hand Egmond "Six-Five Special" acoustic guitar for Christmas, 1959. He got it from my Uncle Les (Mum's brother) on Christmas Eve, for four pounds. It had two broken strings, an action like a cheesecutter, and didn't tune for spit, but I was as proud as punch of it. I had been practising assiduously in front of the mirror with a tennis racquet, so this was going to be a walkover. (Or so I thought...)

As soon as the shops opened again after Christmas I went out and bought new strings, a plectrum, a guitar sling with a tassel (it looked more like a curtain pull) and a how-to-play-the-guitar book called "Play In A Day", by Bert Weedon. (I should have sued that bloody Bert Weedon for false representation.) I started plinking away for hours on end. It didn't sound that much better than the tennis racquet at first, but it looked much much cooler in the mirror...

We moved to London a couple of years later (1961) and I soon found a Saturday job in a department store for twelve shillings a week. I wanted to save up for an electric guitar... I managed to scrape together £18 after about eight months, and made a beeline for Ivor Mairants' Music Centre in Rathbone Place, just off Oxford Street. I bought a second-hand Guyatone (!!) guitar, complete with strap, plywood case and a great long cable, for £17.10s. With my initials in self-adhesive gold letters on the guitar, and a pair of Hank Marvin glasses on my face, I was in business.

My very first electric guitar, 1962

Back home in Kingsbury I plugged the Guyatone into the "crystal" input on the back of an old Philips valve radio, and the unfortunate neighbours suffered through endless stumbling versions of "Apache", "Runaway", and "Johnny B. Goode". The Saturday job was a drag, but I stuck it out and saved up another six pounds for a used 30 watt Linear Concord amplifier, which looked like a birdcage with knobs on. Four months more, two 12" Fane speakers in a home-made box for another eight quid, and I was fully equipped.

By then I was playing in my first semi-pro band (or "group", as we called it then). "The Vigilantes" were into Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and James Dean. The bass player and pianist, the infamous Pantlin Brothers, were a couple of years older than me, had motorbikes, Brycreeemed hair and leather jackets, and Dad had kittens. But I was having fun, and playing my first gigs. After that things just gained momentum. I left school, to Dad's disgust, and alternated between a series of day jobs and any gigs as I could get.

Gigging at the Hope & Anchor pub, North London, c:a 1972

I kept that up until eventually I could turn pro, continuing for about 15 years. I came to Sweden in 1975 to join a band, and liked it here so much that I ended up staying. I played with a few bands, and did some work as a live PA engineer, until I grew tired of life on the road and opened a guitar workshop with another bloke in 1980. You can read about how that played out at this link:

Paul Guy: Excerpts from interview by Ulf Zackrisson in "MusikerMagasinet", (Sweden) October 1990

© Paul Guy 1998 - 2007