Let’s face it: If you’re a fan of the Fretboard Journal and are following us, chances are you like to read. With that in mind and summer in full swing, here are some of our favorite recent (and not so recent) books for guitar lovers.
Portrait of a Phantom, Zeke Schein
In June of 2005, guitarist and guitar dealer Zeke Schein stumbled upon an old photo on eBay that, to his eyes, looked a lot like bluesmen Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines. What happened over the next decade is fit for a book (this very book) and includes the photo’s appearance in Vanity Fair, pissed off blues scholars, sage advice from rock stars and more. Is it Johnson in that photo? Is it not? Ultimately, this book is about a lot more than that. It’s a big love letter to music and guitars and why we get obsessive over our heroes… (out this August)
Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark, Tamara Saviano
When he was alive, Guy Clark let his songs speak for themselves. Now that he’s passed, we finally can read the true and unbelievable life of the legendary singer-songwriter (and let’s not forget luthier), written by one of his closest confidantes.
Beyond Words, John Prine
A must-have for fans of John Prine (and great songwriting in general): A songbook with chords, never-before-seen photos and even photos of the handwritten lyrics. We wish all of our favorite singer-songwriters would use this as a template and create books like this.
Johnny’s Cash and Charley’s Pride: Lasting Legends and Untold Adventures in Country Music, Peter Cooper
Peter Cooper is easily one of Nashville’s finest music scribes (no small feat). In his latest book, he shares some of his favorite encounters and character studies of that city’s best-loved songwriters and country artists. It’s a bit like the book equivalent of Otis Gibb’s podcast, brimming with information, plenty of diversions and a ton of personalities…
My British Invasion, Harold Bronson
There are plenty of books about the Beatles out there. Harold Bronson, co-founder of Rhino Records, does the opposite: He turns in a lively memoir about his encounters with all those other British pop and rock acts, from Herman’s Hits and the Yardbirds to the Spencer Davis Group. It’s a fun glimpse into the music industry as it will never be again…
Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music, Jas Obrecht
Jas Obrecht is a legendary music journalist and one of the most memorable voices from the heyday of Guitar Player magazine. In this book, we get to read freshly transcribed versions of some of Jas’ most important interviews, from Ry Cooder to Nick Lucas to Jerry Garcia and Eddie Van Halen. (Note: If you love hearing about the old days of GP, you may also dig Guitar Player: The Inside Story of the First Two Decades of the Most Successful Guitar Magazine Ever.)
Of Potato Heads and Polaroids: My Life Inside and Out of Pearl Jam, Mike McCready
It turns out that Mike McCready hauls more than just his ’59 guitars to all those Pearl Jam arena gigs; he’s also toting an instant camera. This hardcover book of his behind-the-scenes photos may be mostly for Pearl Jam aficionados but it’s still a captivating read.
Complete Guide to Gibson Mandolins, Paul Fox
You may have missed Paul Fox’s hefty tome on Gibson mandolins as it came out towards the very end of 2016. Fox goes deep into the world of Gibsons, from the man himself (Orville), to the role of Lloyd Loar, the evolution of various mandolin models, Gibson oddities and more.
Grand Complications: 50 Guitars and 50 Stories, William “Grit” Laskin
Granted, a pricey (and hefty) coffee table book perhaps isn’t the best to tote to the beach. But Grit’s book, showcasing his thought process and the countless steps he goes through when doing his legendary guitar inlay work, is a must-have for fans of the handmade acoustic guitar movement.
From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars, Virginia Hanlon Grohl
Dave Grohl’s mother writes the definitive book on what it’s like to raise a rock star, interviewing the moms of Michael Stipe, Dr. Dre, Geddy Lee and many others. This is just about the definition of a “summer read,” but it was plenty entertaining.
Notable (but not quite so recent) guitar reads: Clapton’s Guitar, Allen St. John; Kalmazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson’s ‘Banner’ Guitars of WWII, John Thomas; Banjo: An Illustrated History, Bob Carlin; Wild Punch, Creston Lea (a book of fiction short stories by former FJ subject and guitarmaker Creston Lea).