In two memoirs, one for adults and one for kids, Keith Richards celebrates his grandpa, Gus, a factory worker and “all-round musician” who gave him his first guitar.
Richards writes that his birth was “a big moment” for Gus, who had seven daughters and no sons.
“My earliest memories of Gus were the walks we took, the sorties we made, mostly I think for him to get out of the house of women.”
“And we’d go for miles and sometimes, it seemed, for days.”
One night, they climbed a hill to look at the stars, and Gus said, “Don’t know if we can make it home tonight.”
“So we slept under a tree.”
Gus had a guitar, but he kept it on top of a piano, just out of his little grandson’s reach.
“And I just kept looking at it, and he didn’t say anything, and a few years later I was still looking at it.”
Gus said, “Hey, when you get tall enough, you can have a go at it.”
“So I was being teased in a way … Gus was leading me subtly into getting interested in playing, rather than shoving something into my hand and saying ‘It goes like this.’”
Eventually, “he took the guitar down and said, ‘Here you go.’”
“Gus wasn’t much of a guitar player himself, but he knew the basics. He showed me the first licks and chords, the major chord shapes, D and G and E.”
“I took that guitar everywhere. I went to sleep with my arms wrapped around it.”
It wasn’t long before Gus said, “I think you’re getting the hang of it.”
“God bless him—I owe so much of my love of music to him. I write him notes frequently and pin them up. ‘Thanks Granddad.’”