You’re the father and King of the Surf Rock guitar sound. More so, you evolved volume working with Leo Fender and JBL speakers. What went into you playing guitar the way you do? How did you arrive at your sound?
I loved country music, and I always wanted to be a cowboy singer. So I followed people like Hank Williams and things like that. And in fact I even tutored Chet Williams’ daughter on how to be on stage. I’ve gotten to perform in the same building at the same time as people like Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, and Lefty Frizzell. I just did a memorandum song for Joe Maphis, who’s the father of the double-neck guitar. And at the same time it was Larry Collins and his sister Laurie, and I was sweet on Laurie at the time. And Larry, he was just a little kid, but could he play the double-neck guitar, because he was tutored by Joe Maphis. Larry was the one who taught me my first guitar lick. So anyway I did a dedication song they asked me to do on a thing called “Joe Maphis: Joe Maphis” [?], it was a dedication to him, on his album that they did, they took all his old songs, he’s been passed on now. So I did that. And I just did one for Glen Campbell, because he used to play the backup guitars for me when I recorded with Capitol Records. He was one of the most incredible guitarists that could play anything on a guitar, and stuff like that.
I came to California in 1954. Drums were my first instrument. I used to listen to the big band albums that my Dad would bring home, and that’s what got me to play the trumpet, like Harry James, Louis Armstrong, and stuff like that. And I’ve always been self taught. I used to bang on my mother’s flour pans as a drum listening to Gene Krupa, cans of sugar and stuff like that in the Depression days. My father would say, “Stop scratching your mother’s cans.” That’s where I got all my rhythm, and being left-handed. So when I first got my first instrument, I was reading in a Superman comic magazine. It said sell X number of jars of our Noxzema Skin Cream and we’ll send you this ukulele. Well I’d be out there in the snow banging on doors at night, “Buy my Noxzema Skin Cream.” I finally got the ukulele and it was made out of pressed cardboard or something, I was so disillusioned I smashed it in a trash can. Then I went in and took the Pepsi-Cola bottles and the Coke bottles in my little red wagon, went down and got six dollars. And I went to the music store and I bought my first six-dollar ukulele. It was plastic and it had screws going into the tuning pegs so they would stay in it. But the book didn’t tell me – “turn it the other way stupid, you’re left handed.” I was holding it to strum with my left hand ’cause all the rhythm was there.
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