Whenever I think of Bert Weedon I can’t help but seeing him as a kind of British Les Paul, maybe because they are both over 35 in the 50’s, or because they both started playing on Big Bands in the late 30’s, or because they both influenced to later generation Rock & Roll guitarists from their respective countries. Their influences were similar, but Les Paul was 5 years older than Weedon and his recordings influenced the British, and not the opposite. Although Weedon was influenced by Les Paul’s technique and music, his playing continued to evolve, and when the first Rock & Roll songs appeared in Great Britain, Weedon had no problem experimenting with these new sounds.
Most likely without Bert Weedon, Rock & Roll in England would be very different from how we know it. Although Weedon was in his 30s in the 50s, he had no qualms about putting his guitar at the service of Billy Fury, Tommy Steel, Johnny Kidd or Adam Faith, among many others, as a session musician in some of his most famous songs.
Weedon combined his work as a guitarist in the BBC Show Band with that of a session or accompaniment musician, during the 50’s and early 60’s Weedon accompanied American stars of the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Nat King Cole.
His 1959 song “Guitar Boogie Shuffle” made him the first guitarist to enter the UK Singles list, specifically peaking at number 5, something most unusual, being an instrumental song. Weedon was already a well-known musician before entering the charts, in 1957 he had published the tutorial book “Play in a Day” of which he sold a million copies, a whole generation of young rockers learned to play the guitar or improved His technique with the book by Weedon, Paul McCartney, Hank Marvin, George Harrison, John Lennon, Pete Townshed, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Mark Knofler, Mike Oldfield and a long list of other musicians have cited him as a key in his learning years. Paul McCartney once commented, “George and I learned to play together with Bert Weedon’s books.” Eric Clapton said, “I would not have felt the need to move on had it not been for the advice and encouragement Bert’s book gave me. I have never met a guitarist of my generation who does not say the same thing.” Brian May also commented on Weedon: “There is no guitarist of my generation in the UK who does not have a huge debt of gratitude to him.”
But of all these students, I think the one who applied his teachings the best and most faithful has been Weedon’s style is Hank Marvin with The Shadows. As everyone knows, the first big hit of The Shadows was the Apache theme, well, this song was recorded by Weedon in 1960, but Jerry Lordan, the songwriter of the theme, didn’t like Weedon’s version and ran to offering it to The Shadows who recorded it a month after Weedon, so teacher and students competed on the hit charts with the same song, with The Shadows being the winners as they placed the track at the top of the chart for 5 weeks, while Weedon only reached number 24.
Bert Weedon continued to enjoy great popularity during the 1960s, there are more than 5,000 performances on the BBC throughout his career, he also appeared on children’s television spots. In 1970 his Lp Rockin ‘At The Roundhouse ”appeared, a perfect album, where Weedon reviews some Rock & Roll classics such as“ Shakin’ All Over ”,“ Walk Don’t Run ”,“ Heartbreak Hotel ”and also songs from his usual repertoire, “Bert Boogie” and “Apache” plus the album includes some new track like the masterful instrumental that gives the album its title, the result is magnificent, and competes in quality with any of his recordings from the early 60’s.
In 1976, Weedon peaked at number 1 on the English album chart with the LP “22 Golden Guitar Greats,” a compilation album released by Warwick Records. Weedon passed away on April 20, 2012, leaving a great legacy of great instrumentals, essential to understand the sound of Rock & Roll that was born in England in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Juanmy “The Hunter”