It’s National Guitar Day: 7 Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask Jesse Dayton About the Guitar

Originally from 16th century Europe, and upgraded to electric in the American ’30s to help jazz soloists rise above the fray, the guitar has long been a staple of popular music. Coming in all shapes, sizes and attitudes, the guitar manages to be the equal underpinning of varied musical cultures, from grungy punk rock to mellow indie ballads.

And yet, there is perhaps no more rockin’ a sound than the one that reverberates from those six strings; and that’s why we’ve decided to bring in rockin’ Blue Élan artist and guitar expert Jesse Dayton to talk all things “axe” on this national holiday.

Oh yeah, and you can take 30% OFF all Jesse Dayton merch in our store this week only from 2/11 – 2/14. That’s right. All Jesse Dayton merch in our store from The Revealer to  Mixtape Volume 1 is on sale. So get at that Mixtape Volume 1 work shirt you’ve been pining for, or that limited red gram vinyl for a real good price. Or, if you’re still holding onto that cassette player in your car, you can cop a tape for just $7 bucks.

It’s dinner time. Name three guitar players you’d invite as your guest?

“If could have dinner with any 3 guitar players it would be Jerry Reed, Jimi Hendrix & Lightning Hopkins & I’d ask them all 3 million questions about tone, technique & who inspired them.”

How many guitars do you own? 

“I’m at a real low point on the guitars I own right now with only 11. I used to have over 30 but have grown increasingly disinterested in collecting because I don’t think it matters much. I sound like myself on a cheap Japanese garage sale guitar or a 51’ Fender Broadcaster. But this could all change at any moment & I could fall back into collecting.”

Name a guitar player that has inspired you most. Why?

“The guitar player who inspired me the most is a coin toss between James Burton & Buddy Guy. Out of all the guitarists I’ve seen live, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray & Jimmie Vaughn, Albert King, Reggie Young, Jerry Reed, Redd Volkhaert, Dick Dale, Mick Taylor, Link Wray, Billy Gibbons, Paco De Lucia, Grady Martin, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Eldon Shambling, Billy Zoom, any of them, Burton & Guy are the two most emotional guitar performances I’ve ever seen live.”

Do you have a hot tip for someone learning to play? 

“The best tip for someone just learning how to play, in my opinion, is to learn 3 different styles. One 12 bar blues song, one country or folk song & one rock song. Something easy with 3 chords. Keep your mind open to different styles, it will make the whole experience a lot more fun!”

What’s the story behind your first guitar?

“My very first guitar was a beat up Sears Silvertone archtop guitar w/ super high action that I mowed yards to earn money to buy at a neighbors garage sale. The action was so bad that I started off just playing bass parts on it & finding the single root notes on the fret to play along w/ records. I was immediately hooked. Eventually I got the action lowered & started placing stacks of quarters on the needle of my parents record player to slow down the record so I could figure out the licks Hendrix or Jerry Reed were doing.”

How would you describe your guitar-playing style? How did you develop it?

“My style is a country & blues & rock hybrid. We had country music, rock music & blues records playing in the house, so it just turned out that way. I was always into dirty slide playing like Elmore James & Billy Gibbons more than I was the more perfect Duane Allman style. I studied Merle Travis finger picking for years & was passable but never great at it. I studied Wes Montgomery Grant Green & Charlie Christian jazz stuff & was just okay at that too. I also was a rockabilly freak & that came pretty natural. I loved punk rock, but my technique was advanced so I listened to that more for the energy & the lyrical message. But when I studied blues players & the chicken pickin country stuff, that felt the most natural.”

What’s the first song you ever learned to play?

“I learned 3 songs the first day & they were the 3 Heys. “Hey Good Lookin” by Hank Williams Sr., then “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix & then “Hey Hey My My” by Neil Young. Those 3 songs opened up a whole world to me and I’m still playing variations of those til this day. Playing the guitar for myself & other people has given me a life I would’ve never had otherwise, so I never take it lightly & always try to do extensive homework on whatever material I’m playing before I show up to the gig. All my favorite guitarists practiced & took lessons their entire lives & growing & learning new things is what’s kept me passionate about it all these years!”

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