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Inquirer: Joe Perry

Originally published in Guitar World, May 2010

The legendary Aerosmith guitarist discusses his early days.

What inspired you to pick up a guitar?

My Portuguese uncle had a Portuguese version of a ukulele. The family would pull it out after dinner and play Portuguese folk songs on it. I couldn’t wait for him to finish so I could get my hands on it. I was seven or eight years old. And he used to have a Fender amp in his house and an electric guitar. I would spend hours making sounds.

What was your first guitar?

It was a Silvertone acoustic. It cost about $12.95 at Sears, and it came with a 45-rpm record that had instructions on how to play it. That’s how I learned to hold a guitar, which is why I’m a left-hander that plays right-handed. I was kinda shocked when I saw Paul McCartney playing his guitar backward.

What was the first song you learned?

It was a Roy Orbison song… one of his early hits. I can’t remember the name, but it wasn’t “Pretty Woman.” It was simple, three chords, and the rhythm guitar was really loud on the track, so it was easy for me to pick out.

Do you recall your first gig?

It was kinda nerve-wracking. There were three guys—two of us played acoustic guitar and the other played tambourine. We tried to harmonize.

Ever had an embarrassing onstage moment?

Yeah, that first gig. We knew we weren’t that good, but people were nice enough to listen.

Do you have a favorite guitar or piece of gear?

It varies. But if somebody asks me to sit in with someone, I usually bring the white Gibson [B.B. King Lucille guitar] that has that blond on it, wearing the red dress. That’s my wife, Billie.

Do you have any advice for young players?

Keep practicing. Don’t put it down. And always practice with a metronome.