While Lindley had absolute command over a wide variety of instruments, steel is where he made his best-known contributions to many hit recordings.

Photo by Ken Settle

The great multi-instrumentalist, world music pioneer, and larger-than-life personality is warmly remembered by his friend, veteran music journalist and musician Dan Forte.

People often ask me, “Who was the best musician you ever met?” or, “Who was your favorite interviewee?” I always say David Lindley and David Lindley. Across 47 years and some 1,000-plus interviews, with such fascinating subjects as Frank Zappa and George Harrison and master musicians the caliber of Stéphane Grappelli and James Jamerson, Lindley takes the cake.

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Photo by Jim Bennett/Photo Bakery

Gold necklaces, contraband mags, and backstage near-run-ins: How the guitar god helped shape the life of PG’s editorial director in far more than just guitar playing.

My earliest memory of Edward Van Halen is from 1978, the year his band’s eponymous debut LP was released. I was 6 years old, and our family had just moved to a new neighborhood miles from everything I’d ever known. I was in a new school and didn’t know a soul. My shyness didn’t help matters. I felt alone and insignificant.

I remember standing in front of the big Sharp-brand record player in our hardly furnished, plush maroon-carpeted basement family room, in utter awe at the sounds emanating from the 2-foot-high speakers. The backward car horns, the foreboding Eb bass note, the behind-the-nut string plucks, all worming through a black hole and forever into my brain. As a goody-two-shoes (then) Mormon kid from Provo, Utah, I felt guilty for being so captivated by a song called “Runnin’ with the Devil.” But that didn’t last long, as the next track was “Eruption”—Eddie’s tour de force instrumental guitar track that blew minds around the world and changed the landscape of modern music. It didn’t matter that I didn’t yet know how to play guitar—in fact, the idea had never even occurred to me before that. I didn’t need to know a thing about the 6-string to echo millions of other music fans—including expert guitarists—in gaping, “How the heck is he even doing that? Is that really a guitar?

I wouldn’t lay my hands on the instrument myself for another six years, but the seed was planted. I’ve already shared how, as a kid, the only 8-track cassette I ever wanted to listen to in the family car was Van Halen II. And my older brother, Sam, and I spent countless hours lip-syncing to all the Roth-era albums. School art projects, workbooks, and folders were crisscrossed with striped patterns like those on Ed’s famed Frankenstrat, his Ibanez “Shark” Destroyer, and all those weird axes on the slipcover for 1982’s Diver Down.

Besides imprinting on my musical mind, EVH affected my very identity in other ways … some of which are pretty funny/embarrassing. The year Women and Children First came out (1980), the images of Eddie suddenly made me enamored with gold chains. I unabashedly drew pictures of myself on school stuff with long hair and a VH (“Van Hammond”)-logo necklace. Before long I’d gotten in trouble for absconding with Mom’s recently bought gold chain and wearing it to either a baseball practice or a scout get-together. I forget which it was, but I do know that once I’d gotten to the activity, Sam noticed the chain and made me take it off so it wouldn’t get broken. But he put it on instead, so he probably just wanted to look like Eddie, too.

I’m not ashamed to admit that the “Little Dreamer” in 12-year-old Shawn sat there, peering through the haze of pot and tobacco smoke, fantasizing about being called onstage to play alongside EVH, despite the fact that I could barely play a barre chord, let alone pull off blazing double-tapped runs.

On vacation that same summer, I pestered my parents so bad about getting my own gold chain that they finally acquiesced and got me a cheap fake-gold thing. I’d wanted one with a crucifix, too, just like the one clearly visible around Ed’s neck on the back of Women and Children, but Mormons don’t typically wear crucifixes and I knew not to push it with Mom and Dad on vacation. Dad was probably never more ashamed of me than he was when I donned a sissy piece of jewelry out of love for the greatest guitarist I’d ever heard—the guitarist responsible for music he insisted they’d be playing in hell. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t voice my desire for the jumpsuit Ed was wearing in the same pics.

By the time 1984 came out, new wave and synth-pop were all the rage. Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, A-ha, Depeche Mode, Alphaville, Men Without Hats, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, etc. were in, and to kids at school everything else was outdated garbage from a bygone, no-longer-cool era. I liked a fair amount of the new stuff, too, but I took all sorts of heat for being the die-hard Van Halen fan still decorating everything in sight with red-and-white stripes.

That year was a huge turning point in two ways. First, I finally started taking guitar lessons. I had no interest in “boring” ol’ acoustic guitar, but Mom said I could switch to electric if I stuck with it for a year. Second, I went to my first ever rock concert. Fittingly, it was Van Halen's 1984 tour. It was just me and Mom, in the nosebleeds at the Salt Palace arena in Salt Lake City. (Sam, despite being the one who slept in line for tickets, prioritized some school event that he’s probably kicking himself over to this day.) I’m not ashamed to admit that the “Little Dreamer” in 12-year-old Shawn sat there, peering through the haze of pot and tobacco smoke, fantasizing about being called onstage to play alongside EVH, despite the fact that I could barely play a barre chord, let alone pull off blazing double-tapped runs.

In 1985 I got my first electric, a 1983 Fender Strat the local shop had never been able to sell. I didn’t know anything about electrics except that I wanted one and a Strat technically was one. I began devouring every guitar magazine I could lay my hands on, and I’d only had my Strat for a few months before I realized it simply wouldn’t do. The interviews and ads clearly showed Eddie with cool-looking, brightly colored Kramer guitars outfitted with a humbucker and Floyd Rose tremolo you could endlessly wail on. Naturally, I had to start nagging Mom again. Within another year, I’d saved up for the best Kramer in the state of Utah, a Stagemaster Custom in “flip-flop red.” All because of my hero Ed, whose poster was over my dresser, bidding me good day as I headed to school each morning.

That year, Mom and I also hit the 5150 tour, and when OU812 came around, Sam took me to that show. As difficult as it is for longtime readers of my Tuning Up column to believe, the now-atheist author of those columns was a door-knocking missionary in Washington state when For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge came out. I wasn’t supposed to listen to anything but church or classical music during those two full years of proselytizing, but on days off I sometimes managed to convince my missionary “companion” (I know, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?) that it was okay to sneak off to the local music shop so I could play electric guitar for a little bit. On one of those visits, I saw Ed on the cover of a guitar mag for an interview about Carnal Knowledge. I bought it and voraciously consumed the contraband interview, against missionary rules. It was the only time I did so during those two years, and the fact that it was for the only EVH-related mag I saw during that period attests to the pull the man who “ran” with the Devil still had over me, even then. Naturally, I missed that tour, but Balance came out the year I married my wife, and she and I took Mom to that one, too.

Several years later, I had two windows to meet the man who’d turned me into a lifelong guitar freak. In 2011, while covering the Winter NAMM show for PG, I spotted Edward just a few feet away in Fender’s exhibition space. As you’d imagine, people thronged about him, as they must have everywhere. I’ve never wanted to be that guy, fawning and pawing for an autograph or a selfie. Plus, I was behind schedule for my next video appointment. I hoped someday I’d have another chance to say hello under better, less harried circumstances. I always held out hope we’d get to do a proper interview.

The following year, PG multimedia manager Chris Kies and I flew to Nashville in 2012 to do the closest thing to an interview or Rig Rundown that Van Halen management would approve. We got to sit in on soundcheck. Eddie played impeccably, and it was lovely to see and hear him and son Wolfgang having a ball together onstage, all while singing trademark Van Halen harmonies perfectly, unimpeded by Roth’s struggling vocalizations. Afterward, we got to photograph Edward’s gear and talk to his and Wolf’s guitar techs.

In the midst of all this, as I was walking back from a trip to the backstage restroom, I saw Eddie briefly emerge from a side hallway blocked off with a curtain and an “authorized personnel only” sign. Having been given strict instructions from Van Halen management to not exceed the bounds of the agreed-upon arrangement, I had a mighty internal dilemma. With a mind to both management strictures and my lifelong aversion to coming across like an ass-kissing wanker, I chose to play it cool. I smiled and gave a friendly wave, and within a couple of seconds he was gone. Ever since then I’ve held out hope for that proper interview. I’m sure he had no idea who I was. But I know who he was. He was and is my hero, Edward Van Halen.

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Maestro Julian Bream in 1964, the year of his first of four Grammy wins, for an album of Elizabethan music performed by his Julian Bream Consort. He was also awarded the Order of the British Empire in ’64.

Jason Vieaux remembers the “Dionysian” classical guitarist—arguably the ultimate classical musician and artist, and, perhaps, someone you could enjoy a few pints with.

As a kid growing up in Buffalo, New York, doggedly working on repertoire, English maestro Julian Bream was, more than any other guitarist, my role model as a practicing classical musician. Although I listened for hours to records by Andrés Segovia, John Williams, and Christopher Parkening (along with the new wave of guitarists like David Russell and Manuel Barrueco), I simply enjoyed Bream albums more. I really loved listening to him, and I didn’t understand why at the time. Sitting in the second row of the Buffalo Philharmonic’s Kleinhans Music Hall in 1988 for his lute/guitar recital was like sitting a few feet away from Paul McCartney. I was 14 then, and Bream was a god to me.

In spite of many advances and discoveries in technique, musicianship, and scholarship, two generations after Bream, I found that he was still the embodiment of the complete classical artist. As a young touring professional in the 1990s, I discovered that, for countless players I met everywhere, Bream was still the man.

Bream was 87 when he died at his home in Wiltshire, in the English countryside, on August 14, leaving a broad wake of influence established through roughly 100 albums, videos, and thousands of concerts during a half-century of performing. Arguably, Bream, for his wide-ranging and fluid approach and advocacy for expanding the classical-guitar repertoire, was even more important than Segovia in establishing the guitar as a serious solo instrument in the classical realm.

I must confess that back in the ’90s I had only recently recovered from a major case of Julian Bream Emulation Disease (JBED) during my teens. I was still insecure about that in my 20s. So, at that time, when answering a question from a colleague or interviewer, I was careful to name five to seven of my favorite classical guitarists in no particular order. Bream’s name was always there, but judiciously seldom topped my list.

A little context is needed here. For a time in the 1990s, it seemed the indelible fingerprints of Bream’s artistry became a little passé. His spicy and frequent use of color, liberal mix of both rest-stroke and free-stroke, elements of whimsy, fun, humor and surprise, the sense that he was inventing his interpretive ideas off-the-cuff and in the moment, etc., were not the aesthetic order of the day.

For many of the two generations of guitarists that came after Bream, there was a more conservative ideal. Now, through countless hours of personal wrangling, scholarship, and strife, we guitarists had to arrive at a “definitive” interpretation of a given piece of music. Rest-strokes were to be minimized or avoided entirely. A more clinical performance of a major work, whilst imbuing the music with stricter rhythm and time, very spare rubato, etc., was encouraged. This was probably an inevitable generational backlash to players like Segovia, Yepes, Lagoya, Presti, and, by extension, Bream. As my Cleveland Institute of Music colleague Colin Davin would say, here was an Apollonian versus a Dionysian approach.

I went through this phase myself, because as a young artist in the 1990s, I still wasn’t “all in” with the way I really wanted to play a given piece of music. Partly this was because of the great new players I met, with different and exciting (at least to me) ideas on interpretation and historical style. And remember that guitarists were steeped in scholarship relatively recently, compared to pianists and string players, and now able to earn advanced degrees almost anywhere. In the 1960s, the Peabody Institute in Baltimore was the first major conservatory in the U.S. to start a guitar department. Sharon Isbin founded the guitar department at Juilliard in 1989. Closer to home for me was inaugurating the guitar department at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, with my colleague David Starobin, only as recently as 2011.

Bream seemed like the guitarist equivalent of Austin Powers combined with “the Dude.” He did what he wanted, and it seemed like he couldn’t care less about what a colleague or contemporary might think.

This also was before the full flowering of the internet, which soon would allow instant learning and emulation via easy access. Gen-Xers and older had to make do with the public library and the local record store, or if a guitarist came through your 100-mile radius, which as a kid my parents and I didn’t miss. We respected anyone with the gumption to play an entire recital from memory, on a single guitar.

So, I self-consciously wanted to do the “proper” and “definitive” service with everything to which I put my fingers and mind. Many of my favorite contemporaries also supported this approach. At the same time, more established colleagues noted that I had an “instantly recognizable sound,” what some might call a style. This made me uneasy in my 20s, because I was, in my mind, playing this music the “right” way. (The reader is welcome to have a chuckle here, and this also reminds me of the famous quote from Wanda Landowska to Pablo Casals: “You play Bach your way, and I’ll play him his way.”) So, in comparison, Bream seemed like the guitarist equivalent of Austin Powers combined with “the Dude.” He did what he wanted, and it seemed like he couldn’t care less about what a colleague or contemporary might think. Bream was the wild foil to John Williams’ more reserved scholar. This was the vibe Bream always appeared to project to me as a fan. Segovia certainly had an air of confidence, in the way he comported himself. But with Bream, it felt more natural, genuine, fun, humble, warm. In my imagination, Segovia seemed dismissive or admonishing, and Williams seemed nice but fastidious. Bream was the guy you could have a pint (or three) with at the local pub.

Of course, I never got to know any of the “Big Three.” And really, my reservations toward Bream were pure folly. In truth, he was arguably second to none as a scholar, and fiercely conscientious in his way of playing, even as he had a totally personal sound and approach. But I got older, and as the amount of my own performance material ballooned to 8-9 hours or more per concert season (plus frequent recording deadlines), my youthful reserve toward Bream faded. I gradually realized that he was the ultimate classical musician and artist, regardless of instrument. He was the main role model for me the whole time.

Julian Bream is shown here with a student in Liechtenstein in July 1985. Photo by Georg Erlich / CC BY-SA 3.0

And hey, he could comp and blow over changes on American songbook lead sheets and jazz tunes. (C’mon, he named one of his dogs Django!) Bream was hip, sophisticated, and earthy, all at once. In hindsight, he was like a guitarist from the future. He shepherded new guitar pieces by Arnold, Britten, Henze, Takemitsu, and Walton, to name a few. He played lute for the first half of many of his recitals. If half the audience left after Part 1 of Hans Werner Henze’s caustic Royal Winter Music, Bream didn’t care. That right there is as rock or punk an attitude as anything within the pop world.

Albums like Classic Guitar, Popular Classics for Spanish Guitar, 20th Century Guitar, the 1978 Villa-Lobos LP, the Granados/Albéniz, the ¡Guitarra! video series—on and on it goes. I probably listened to his Villa-Lobos Concerto every day the summer after my senior year of high school, and it was as exciting and moving to me as that year’s Public Enemy record. No phony showmanship, cheap histrionics, or careful image manipulation. Just real confidence, vitality, artistry, musicianship, and a lot of killer guitar playing. This person actually existed!

Whether it’s a musician’s responsibility to the instrument, to the audience, to the repertoire, discovering unheard works from bygone eras, exploring contemporary repertoire, balancing year after year of concert performances, recording, or following a true voice and vision—Bream did it all. One could argue that no classical guitarist has done more for the instrument and its future. The number and scope of his contributions are staggering.

Julian Bream will always be a towering giant in my mind and in my heart.

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