Preston Reed, The Guitarist

Born into a family of five as the youngest and only son, Preston Reed was born on 13th April 1955 in Armonk, New York in the United States.

Reed’s journey to becoming one of the most acclaimed guitarists in the world began one evening in 1963 when he came home to find his father tutoring one of his sisters on how to play certain chords on a guitar. Though Reed often watched his father play the guitar many times, he did not feel obliged to learn how to play but to watch his sister learn how to play on that afternoon compelled him into asking his father to teach him how to play. A day later, his father bought him a ukulele to train on.

Being left handed was a challenge but at the same time an advantage to Mr. Reeds. There was no left-handed ukulele, so he agreed to learn how to play with his right hand thereby developing his trademark integrated percussive style of playing.

It did not take him long to learn how to play on his ukulele even with his right hand. He quickly noted the first four string arrangements of strings on his ukulele matched the arrangement of his father’s guitar. Soon afterwards, he graduated to playing on his father’s guitar.

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Not long afterwards, Reed's parents bought him his first musical instrument. –A guitar. It is from this guitar that he made his first composition: The lonely night. The Lonely Night was a reminiscent of the classic rock and roll of The Ventures.

After noting his enthusiasm and ooze of talent, his parents decided to get him a classical guitar tutor. The learning process was strict, cumbersome and involved strict codes on how to play which discourage him. He put the guitar away and only played once in a blue moon until he was fifteen.

At fifteen, Reed bought a Hot Tuna album. Hot Tuna was a live-recording band with Jorma Kaukonen as its guitarist. Jorma was the lead guitarist for the Jefferson Airplane. Jorma was a self-proclaimed finger-picker who derived his style mostly from legendary Reverend Gary Davis blues.

Reed felt impressed and at the same time inspired by Jorma Kaukonen style of playing, he felt motivated and started learning by Kaukonen’s tunes.

He also discovered John Fahey’s blues-dominated album America and Leo Kottke’s 6-and-12-string guitar when he was sixteen and seventeen respectively. Though Kaukonen used standard tuning, Fahey and Leo used an alternate tuning. This three artiste’s music provided a very firm musical foundation for his alternate-bass fingerpicking style of playing as he also made use of open string pedal tones and droning bass on his 12-string guitar.

Reed began writing his compositions and after at a party in the fall of 1972 meant for his friend’s sister he was invited to play at a concert along Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg in Washington D.C at the Smithsonian Institute. It was his first concert, and it went well as was expected.

In 1973, Reed joined Wisconsin Beloit College where he mostly played at the college’s coffeehouse. As an institutional requirement, Reed moved to San Francisco to do a four-month project. His project was called Playing guitar in San Francisco.

He moved to Francisco in the fall of 1974 and worked as a delicatessen and played his guitar whenever he could. Six months later he dropped out of college after realizing that he thrived more in Francisco.

He regularly played at Holy City Zoo, which was a small intimate showcase venue where stand-up comedians would come and show their talent. He played at this club every Friday during his last days in Francisco.

He moved to Connecticut in 1977 and settled at Harford where his father was. Preston managed to land a job and played at community service shows and parties. It is during this period that he played before 120,000 people at the New England Fiddle Contest at Bushnell Park and another performance at the National Governor’s Conference in Boston.

He was able to put out his first album in 1979; it was called Acoustic guitar. It received positive and all-praising reviews from the press and critics alike. His second album came shortly after. In the period of between 1982 and 1986 he produced four albums and toured the world on numerous occasions.

His other albums include Pointing Up, Don’t be a stranger, Playing by ear, The road less traveled, Instrument Landing, Blue Vertigo, Preston Reed, Halfway Home, Border Towns, Metal, Ladies Night, Handwritten notes, History of now, Spirit, and Out there.

Preston Reed has inspired many people to learn the guitar - especially the percussive style that he has made popular again.