This is a hard one for me.
Bert Weedon was a huge influence on all of us budding guitar players in the 50s and 60s. When Radio Luxembourg was channelling the first explosion of electric guitar-driven American Rock and Roll into our young ears, Bert was already an accomplished player, and could stand up beside these new stars on their own terms. Indeed he did, being generally the first phone call that many American artists made when they visited England to play. He was also a part of the birth of so many great British acts of the day – playing guitar for Adam Faith, Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard, and many other top new British artists of the day. He was the first successful British electric guitarist – and scored an instrumental hit in his own right with his Guitar Boogie Shuffle which ushered in a new era of electric guitar-led music in the British charts, and his number one album 22 Golden Guitar Greats established Bert as a leading big selling instrumental artist – a distinction he held all his life. However, the sad loss of Bert Weedon is only partly about his playing and his highly successful career. The other side of Bert was his hugely generous and supportive nature, and the legacy he leaves in terms of those musicians he encouraged and inspired is almost impossible to quantify. In fact, really it’s Bert who first showed us all that it could be done. When we were young, he was on TV, demonstrating first steps on the guitar, already sharing his insights and skills, and inspiring thousands of young kids to take up guitar playing. He wrote the surely the all-time most successful guitar tutor – a book called “Play in a Day” – I imagine copies of that will be very sought after in these days when we all have to adjust to Bert no longer being around. Teaching remained a big part of his activity all through his life, and Bert’s public generosity was matched by his giving nature in his private life. He was a member of the Grand Order of Water Rats, and as he rose through the ranks, he was a tireless worker for the Children’s and other charities the Rats support. Later on, it was Bert who invited me to become a Rat, a great honour for me, since in those days there were no Rock Stars as such in the Order – it was all about the Old British Music Hall – I was the new boy. Later on, Bert became King Rat, and on the big night of Bert’s departure as King, he organised a huge Ball, a Ladies Night, to which he invited all his guitarist friends. So at the end of the evening, I found myself on stage with many of my other heroes as well as Bert – Joe Brown, Lonnie Donegan, George Harrison, among others – one of the most memorable moments of my life.
Anita and I have so many great memories of evenings with Bert and his lovely wife Maggie. This is a terrible blow for her, of course, and we are hoping we can bring her a bit of distraction and comfort in the coming weeks.
RIP Bert – Great Man.