Guitarist Brad Whitford—of Aerosmith and Whitford/St. Holmes fame—recently sat down for the “seven questions” treatment. It went a little something like this.
What influenced you to pick up a guitar?
Like many, many players from my generation, I would have to lay it all on the British Invasion—the Beatles, the Stones, everything in the early Sixties. It just caught my ear, my soul, everything. I was just so drawn to it. Yeah… There was no escaping that.
What was your first guitar that you owned?
My very first guitar was a Japanese guitar called a Winston. At the time it probably cost around $25. It was one of those early Japanese guitars with the strings somewhere up in the stratosphere from the neck. But you know—it was a starter.
What was the first song you learned?
There was, obviously, the initial, you know, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and all that stuff. I’d probably go with maybe “Wipe Out.” Something by the Ventures.
Tell me what you recall about your first time playing live?
I remember going onstage and being scared to death, then walking off the stage feeling like I knew what I wanted to do with my life. It was actually like a recital for music school, so it was somewhere near my hometown in Massachusetts.
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment onstage, or a nightmare gig?
Oh, I’m sure I’ve had some embarrassing moments. I remember being given a guitar that virtually couldn’t be played—while I was onstage. The strings were actually sitting on the pickups, and I don’t know how it got past my guitar guy, but it did. So that was pretty interesting.
What is your favorite guitar or piece of gear?
You know, when I really got serious, I had a Les Paul, and I scoured the land to find a Marshall. And this is back in the late Sixties, so they were not easy to find at that point. But I would say that combination, which is exactly what I’m using right now onstage. It’s a 50-watt Marshall with a Les Paul. From that day until this day, it’s just been so much fun to work with. And it’s just a sound that I guess I will never grow tired of. The Les Paul and the Marshall, just—whoa. It’s been 40-somethin’ years and it has not failed me yet.
Do you have any advice for young players?
I guess most people that are probably gonna read this are serious, so I usually tell them to keep it fun. And if you really want to learn about the guitar, the best thing to do is learn songs. Don’t concentrate so much on technique. Of course, technique is important, but learning about what makes a good song is such a helpful tool. All through your playing career, it will always be a great way to learn stuff. Don’t just learn the solo—learn the song, learn the chords, learn the melodies, learn the rhythm.