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5 Guitarists Who Got Started on Christmas Presents

5 Guitarists Who Got Started on Christmas Presents
Photo by Prokopenya Viktor

Odds are those of you reading this are music fans, and if not, congratulations on having been driven here by reading everything else online! It's also possible that you're musicians yourselves, and since any instrument besides your voice, hand claps, and armpit farts is generally a major purchase, I'll bet at some point an instrument or an accessory to an instrument was wrapped underneath your Christmas tree.

The thing is you're not alone at all. Many of the greatest guitar players in the industry began just as the rest of us did, by having mom or dad shell out some dough for a high-end toy that in all likelihood would be forgotten by Easter. The difference is of course they kept up with it and now they're famous.

Who owes their career to a willingness by parents to brave a music store during the holiday shopping season? Well...

5. Alex Lifeson: On the Rolling Stone list of 100 greatest guitarists, Rush's Alex Lifeson comes in at No. 98. He is a founding member of the group and currently uses custom-made Les Pauls, but back in the day as a kid, he was actually a violist. He abandoned the instrument when his father gave him a six-string Kent classical guitar for Christmas.

4. Jerry Only, The Misfits Only is best-known for his bass work with the Misfits, though he does occasionally play the guitar as well. He was 18 years old when his family gifted him with his first bass.

Two months of practice later, he was apparently good enough for Glenn Danzig to replace Diane DiPiazza with him in the Misfits. I'd make a simplistic bass player joke here, but I've met Only and he is a man I definitely don't want mad at me.

 

5 Guitarists Who Got Started on Christmas Presents
Photo by Ueli Frey

3. Steve Howe, Yes (etc.) Steve Howe doesn't get nearly enough credit in the guitar world. A lot of that is the fact that he's moved in and out of various projects over the course of his career. He introduced a groundbreaking style of playing on Yes' Close to the Edge that revolutionized progressive rock for years to come, but he's also played with Asia, Queen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and many more acts.

He got his first guitar, an f-hole acoustic, for Christmas at age 12, . It was good enough to get him into gigs at local concert halls, but five years later he would purchase the Gibson ES-175D, a guitar that he is still playing to this day.

2. Eddie Hazel, Parliament/Funkadelic Listen to that solo, and I mean the whole damned thing. It's one of the greatest pieces of guitar music ever birthed screaming into the world, and the man behind it is Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic. He was the living embodiment of rock star cool. Talented, flamboyant, in trouble with the law, and living fast until internal bleeding and liver failure cut him down in 1992.

Until that happened, Hazel was the face of funk guitar, and all because his older brother thought his sibling might enjoy a guitar for Christmas. By the age of 12 he'd already met Billy "Bass" Nelson and formed the backbone of what would eventually become a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-level musical institution.

 

1. Ace Frehley, KISS The lead guitarist of KISS grew up in a very musical family. His parents and grandparents were all pianists or organists, and his brother and sister play as well. When he was 13-years-old in 1964, his haul from the family Christmas was a pipe, a box of condoms, and his first electric guitar. Because he grew up poor, in and out of school and making his way through life in street gangs, Frehley's guitar gift not only launched a legendary career, he credits it with saving his life.



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