Brad Paisley knows a thing or two about writing hooks for general music fans while still throwing in enough guitar pyrotechnics to keep his guitar-playing audience happy, if not slightly stunned.

Diary of a Player
Brad Paisley and David Wild
Howard Books


Brad Paisley knows a thing or two about writing hooks for general music fans while still throwing in enough guitar pyrotechnics to keep his guitar-playing audience happy, if not slightly stunned. He applies that same formula to Diary of a Player, a book he’s described as a “love letter to the guitar.”

Paisley is sometimes described as the wunderkind who crashed into country music with more than enough talent to spare, but that’s not the way he sees it. Sure, the passion was there, but so was the practice. Using the superhero universe as a metaphor, Paisley describes himself as Batman—a character with no particular birthright for the cause, who is also human, flawed, and actually lacks the kind of power that guarantees other superheroes of keeping their jobs.

Paisley’s history as a player would make a good Disney movie. He started with a Silvertone electric. He admired his grandfather, who was a pretty good picker, but regrets showing off in what he now realizes was the moment they both knew he was a better player. He felt the need to stop playing for an entire summer. He went from playing a church picnic to playing any gig he could find, which included nursing homes and fire-station Christmas parties. He worked hard to keep audiences interested, even resorting to playing the theme from Sesame Street or “The Hokey Pokey” if the situation called for it. He struggled with the decision of whether or not to perform his own material once he started playing bigger stages. He opened for other acts for years and once was even doused with beer while standing too close to a frustrated Vern Gosdin who was having issues with his monitors. Paisley even auditioned for a gig at Opryland and had a deer-in-the-headlights moment when they said, “Show us you can dance.” He did the moonwalk.

Paisley got G.A.S. at an early age, like the rest of us, so it’s interesting to read his recollection of gear acquisitions. After the Silvertone, he got a Gremlin acoustic before moving up to a Hondo Strat copy and then a Tokai Strat copy. He refers to his first vintage AC30 purchase, a direct order from a music store in England, as “The Great Vox Amp Crisis of 1987.” He had to make several trips to the hardware store to get it configured for US power and to replace blown fuses. Regardless, Paisley says that was the moment “I had discovered my sound. My tone.”

Paisley’s Diary of a Player lacks the addiction battles and contract scam stories that usually characterize books penned by famous guitarists. Paisley hasn’t misstepped and has no axes to grind, which leaves more room for tales about playing with John Jorgenson, hanging out with Little Jimmy Dickens, and sneaking into the recording studio at Belmont and literally playing all night.

Paisley never dwells on amp settings or Blues Driver mods, but there’s certainly enough guitar-specific insight to set this book apart from your typical rock star-penned musings. The 39-year-old country star has accomplished a lot in a short time, but he’s most proud of being a player, which is what this book explains.

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