|Dodd's Music was in the white building|
I started taking guitar lessons when I was 13 years old; first at the YMCA in a group setting and then at Dodd’s Music Store, in Covington, Kentucky.
|One of the acts on WLW radio|
My teacher at Dodd's was an old guy named George Olinger. George made a living playing guitar in Country groups around town as well as being a staff guitarist on WLW radio, back in the days when the station played live music.
This got me to wondering, who was Mel Bay?
|Mel 1928 with National Triolian|
Mel grew up in a small Missouri town in the Ozark Mountains. He bought his first guitar at the age of 13 from a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Within months of acquiring the guitar, he was playing in front of people. Mel Bay never had a guitar teacher. He watched other guitar player perform and memorized their fingering on the fretboard.
That is the way I learned to play guitar. I stood in front of bands and watched the lead guitar player and copied his fingerings. I am certain many of you reading this article honed your skills in much the same manner.
Bay was not satisfied to just learn the guitar. No sir. He went on to learn fingerings on the tenor banjo, mandolin, ukulele and Hawaiian slide guitar. This was all back in the 1920's when he was still a young man.
|D'Angelico with "Melbourne Bay" |
engraved on the pickguard
He put together The Mel Bay Trio, which consisted of him, a bass player and a drummer. And this became his steady gig for the next 25 years. His career was briefly interrupted by a stint in the US Army during WWII.
|His custom D'Angelico New Yorker|
He determined some of the material availabe was flawed. It only offered students chord patterns; not the ability to learn notes on the guitar.
So Mel began writing his own instruction books. These books became the basis for the Mel Bay Publication House.
|Mel Bay's 1st Book|
|Mel Bay's 2nd Book|
By 1948 another book was published called Modern Guitar Method. Through the years Modern Guitar Method has sold more than 20 million copies in its original version.
|Mel teaching guitar to |
high school students
By the mid 1950’s Elvis Presley's career was the talk of the nation, and this caused the guitar to experience a surge in popularity. During these years Mel Bay traveled around the country talking to guitar teachers and their students about his publications with the goal of selling them as texts.
In doing this he came to know most every guitar teacher in the United States on a first name basis. Guitar Player Magazine dubbed him as The George Washington of Guitar.
|Mel Bay playing a mandolin|
Since first publishing guitar instruction books, his company has branched off into publishing method books for violin, banjo, mandolin, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, harmonica, folk instruments, and accordion. His books for guitar include methods for differing styles, including folk, jazz, classical, rock, blues and jazz.
|Mel Bay Book by Tommy Flint|
Mel Bay received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guitar Foundation of America from the Retail Print Music Dealers Association and he also received the Owen Miller Award from the American Federation of Musicians.
Bay received a Certificate of Merit from the St. Louis Music Educators Association, as well as a resolution from the Missouri House of Representatives honoring his achievements. He ever was sent a letter of commendation from President Bill Clinton, and was honored by St. Louis mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. Making October 25, 1996 “Mel Bay Day” for citizens of that fair city.
|Mel's D'Angelico New Yorker|
One of Mel's personal guitars was a New Yorker model with a cutaway and a slightly thinner neck custom made for him.
Mel Bay kept playing guitar every day until his death at age 84 in 1997.
|From St. Louis WOF Inductees|
|Ode To Mel Bay|
A song was written by Michael “Supe” Granda of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils called “Ode to Mel Bay”. It is featured on the album by Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins called The Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World. It sort of makes fun of Mel’s instruction books.
|Mel Bay Books|