Any famous guitarists that learned to play late in life?

Discussion about guitar playing from a diverse group of people with different tastes and levels of experience.
User avatar
Posts: 10
Joined: February 15th, 2005, 6:20 am
Location: Marysville, California

Any famous guitarists that learned to play late in life?

Post by Nick0512 » April 20th, 2005, 9:00 pm

Are there any famous guitarists that learned to play guitar a bit later in life? It seems like you have to have started at an early age (like 5-13) in order to have a successful career playing guitar. That doesn't leave much hope for me because I turn 18 next month... and have yet to get my first guitar.
I wanna be an elite guitarist. :)

Full Member
Posts: 226
Joined: July 7th, 2004, 9:17 am

Post by dcarroll » April 20th, 2005, 10:10 pm

Wes Montgomery started when he was 20 I think. He was playing in c.c solo's in clubs in a year later though.

I also started when I was 20, but I'm not any good.
I've been imitated so well I've heard people copy my mistakes.
- Jimi Hendrix

Guitarnoise Addict
Posts: 2293
Joined: March 11th, 2005, 12:23 am

Post by kingpatzer » April 20th, 2005, 10:15 pm


There are plenty of examples of musicians who have had very successfull careers starting playing as an adult. Of course, not many of them are elite super-stars with household name recognition, but that doesn't mean they aren't very proficient guitarists.

The first person I think of who learned guitar fairly late in life was Randy Bachman. He played violin as a kid, but didn't pick up a guitar until his late teens. Of course, his first mentor was Lenny Breau, so your milage may vary! :)

It helps if you have some musical education already, but there's nothing saying you can't go on to have a very successfull career.

Oh, and as an almost 40 year old still waiting for his first big break, I don't want to hear about how at 18 it's "later in life." :)

User avatar
Senior Member
Posts: 889
Joined: March 9th, 2004, 3:06 am

Post by mattguitar » April 21st, 2005, 1:53 am

Clapton started early, gave up on it, and came back much later.

There's hope for us all!! ha ha


User avatar
Vic Lewis VL
Albus Dumblechord
Posts: 10862
Joined: April 28th, 2004, 2:54 pm
Location: Newton-le-Willows, England

Post by Vic Lewis VL » April 21st, 2005, 4:50 am

If you look under the "meet and greet" thread in the Guitarnoise lessons forum, you'll find plenty of GN members took up playing the guitar after their 40th birthday....

Age has got nothing to do with it, the only thing that's important is how much you enjoy it and how much ime and effort you put into it....

Someone once told Jack Nicklaus how lucky he was, his reply was something along the lines of "Yep.....and the more I practise, the luckier I get!"

Vic (47 and three-quarters)
"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)

User avatar
Posts: 20
Joined: October 3rd, 2003, 3:58 pm

Post by Ezmo » April 21st, 2005, 7:41 am

Thank you, Vic, for that. Being nearly 44, I feel a little better now! :-)

User avatar
Full Member
Posts: 117
Joined: July 19th, 2004, 2:47 pm
Location: Denmark

Post by Illicit » April 21st, 2005, 8:11 am

Jerry Cantrell (Of Alice In Chains) started playing at like 18 and they shipped their praised debut when he was 20. Something like that.
Behold! The great northern viking's pinnacle of evolution! Behold my wavy blonde locks, my icy blue eyes and my muscular physique! Behold my.. screw this, I'm going to McDonald's.

Posts: 31
Joined: March 9th, 2005, 9:24 am
Location: Ft Myers Fl

Post by CrackerJim » April 21st, 2005, 8:55 am

Just to make some of you feel better. I started playing guitar at 52. I had dabbled on keyboard off and on earlier but nothing serious. I figured I'd wait until I retired (or at least the kids were out of the house) so I would have time to get with it.

Then one day on a weekend getaway, my wife and I were killing some time and wandering into a guitar store. Over the next few days I realized that although I had keyboard in mind that all of my instrumental only cd's were guitar music.

I have no aspirations for fame or professional work but really enjoy playing. I have a five year plan. That is, in 5 years, friends and relatives would say I'm a guitarist if asked. I saw on another thread a "time frame" for advancement in skills. This would put me at intermediate player at 5 years and possibly advanced by the time I retire. Beyond that, just have to hope my hands hold up and can contiue to play.

Have fun. Make music.


User avatar
Full Member
Posts: 484
Joined: July 5th, 2003, 9:00 pm
Location: Orlando, FL

Post by StormyMonday » April 21st, 2005, 10:44 am

I wouldn't exactly call 18 late in life. A 40 year old and an 18 year old could start at the same time, practice the exact same way and be more or less even after two years I would think. I think it depends more on how much you practice than when you started. Kids generally have more time to practice than adults. I mean, when you're in your younger teens obviously you have much more time to practice since you probably don't have to have a job, you have summers off, etc. The main benefit I think in starting younger is that you just have the time to spare and don't have to worry about as much other things as adults. But that doesn't mean you can't make it happen as an adult, you just have to schedule your time--something I as an old 23 year old am not very good at.

User avatar
Full Member
Posts: 365
Joined: July 17th, 2004, 12:10 am
Location: lincoln, ca

Post by sirN » April 21st, 2005, 10:57 am

I'd swear that I read an interview in which Frank Zappa claims to have started around 18 years of age.
check out my website for good recording/playing info

User avatar
Guitarnoise Addict
Posts: 4906
Joined: June 2nd, 2003, 11:07 am
Location: New Britain, CT

Post by cnev » April 21st, 2005, 11:02 am

I would think you could become a fairly proficient guitar player at any age but the chance of you making a name in the business definitely gets smaller and smaller the older you get.

There's not a big market for 40-50 rock stars unless you've already made it and are doing a nostalgia tour.

Country music seems to be more open to older musicians, but even with that you can see that they are starting to market the "new" younger artists more and more.

There's alot more than guitar playing that goes into becoming famous.

User avatar
Junior Member
Posts: 88
Joined: April 12th, 2005, 11:55 am
Location: Louisville

Post by Rush2112 » April 21st, 2005, 11:32 am

I'm eighteen and just started. And two of the greatest guitarists that haven't been mentioned yet, joe walsh and jimmy page, both started in college I believe. But you can be much older and start and become great. Ever heard of Grandma Moses?

User avatar
Senior Member
Posts: 964
Joined: October 12th, 2004, 5:48 pm
Location: Oregon

Post by undercat » April 21st, 2005, 10:17 pm

No matter when you start, it's so easy to become better than "average". One of the guys who taught me when I first started had been playing since he was 12, and he was teaching me at 19. Now at 22 I can run circles around him, and he'd tell you that too. I just put in the practice time. Consistently practice guitar an hour or two a day, you'll be way ahead of the game before you know it.

You'll be amazed at yourself if you just practice hard and don't make excuses to not do it.
Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life...

User avatar
Full Member
Posts: 228
Joined: October 14th, 2003, 8:39 pm
Location: St. Paul/Minneapolis area (MN)

Post by spacedog03 » April 22nd, 2005, 9:55 am

It depends what you exactly have in mind by "succesful career." I think there are many very highly talented musicians out there that have a hard time finding a succesful career in the music business. That has more to do with the business than with a persons talent. But as far as becomming an excellent guitarist, 18 is definitely not too old. Absolutely not.

User avatar
Guitari Lama
Posts: 8582
Joined: September 15th, 2002, 6:20 am
Location: Nutopia!

Post by Musenfreund » April 22nd, 2005, 10:23 am

sirN wrote:I'd swear that I read an interview in which Frank Zappa claims to have started around 18 years of age.
You folks crack me up. From where I sit at 49, 18 hardly seems later in life! :)
Well we all shine on--like the moon and the stars and the sun.
-- John Lennon

Post Reply