April is “International Guitar Month.”
Ok, but I’ve got five very good reasons why I think March should get that honor.
They are: Doc Watson, Wes Montgomery, Mississippi John Hurt, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Eric Clapton.
Why those five?
Each of those wondrous wizards of the fretboard were born in the month of March! (And here at sixstr stories, birthdays are a Big Deal!)
Allow me to elaborate.
Arthel “Doc” Watson was born on March 2, 1923 in Deep Gap, North Carolina.
Doc appeared on record for the first time in 1961, adding his considerable talents to the Folkways release, Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s. He signed a contract with Vanguard Records in 1961 and released Southbound – his 5th album for the label – in 1966.
“Sweet Georgia Brown” is the third track on Side 1 of Southbound and features Doc at his fabulous flatpicking best. Accompanying Doc are guitarist John Pilla and Russ Savakus on upright bass.
John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery was born on March 6, 1925 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Wes made his first recording as bandleader on the Riverside label in 1959. On August 4, 1961, he recorded the album So Much Guitar! for Riverside at Plaza Sound Studios in New York City. On this rendering of the 1945 Duke Ellington tune, “I’m Just A Lucky So and So,” Wes’s always-dazzling electric guitar playing is accompanied by Hank Jones on piano, Ron Carter on upright bass and Lex Humphries on drums.
“Mississippi” John Smith Hurt was born on March 8, 1892, in Teoc, Mississippi.
John cut his first record on February 14, 1928 in Memphis, Tennessee for OKeh Records. He recorded again for OKeh on December 21 and 28, 1928 in New York City. Then not again until his rediscovery in 1963 was the music of Mississippi John Hurt captured in a recording.
In 1964, Hurt recorded the 12 tracks that became the posthumous 1966 Vanguard album Mississippi John Hurt – Today! “Corrinna, Corrinna” – Side 1’s closing number – showcases his inimitable fingerpicking and vocals.
Samuel John “Lightnin'” Hopkins was born on March 15, 1912, in Centerville, Texas.
Sam made his first recordings for 1946 in Los Angeles, California for Aladdin Records. The guitarist was teamed with pianist Wilson “Thunder” Smith and the record company decided to thus call him “Lightnin’.”
Sam recorded prolifically as a solo singer/guitarist/songwriter for Gold Star Records in Houston, Texas between 1947 and 1950. In November of 1948, Sam recorded his version of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” a traditional Blues song popularized by Big Joe Williams in 1935. Gold Star released it on a 78 rpm disc in 1949 and in 1990, Arhoolie Records placed it as the second track on their CD: The Gold Star Sessions, Vol.1.
Eric Patrick Clapton was born on March 30, 1945, in Ripley, Surrey, England.
Eric started his illustrious and on-going recording career in 1964 as a member of the London-based R&B band, The Yardbirds. In 1966, the guitarist/vocalist formed the band Cream with bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker.
Cream recorded their second album, Disraeli Gears, in May, 1967, at Atlantic Studios, in New York. “Sunshine of Your Love” was released as a 45 rpm single in the United States in December, 1967 and in the United Kingdom in September, 1968.
This is one of those recordings that puts the “classic” in Classic Rock.
So, there you have ’em! My five votes for making March “International Guitar Month.”
Don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine The World of Guitar without those five.
(Did I miss any other noteworthy guitarist who was born in March? Please let me know!)
P.S.: The next “National Guitar Day” is February 11, 2023.