“You achieved more in one lifetime than most people could achieve in ten”: Renowned 12-string guitarist and vintage guitar expert Paul Brett dies at 76

Paul Brett
(Image credit: John Hornby Skewes & Co. Ltd.)

Paul Brett, a world-renowned 12-string acoustic player and guitar designer with Vintage Guitars, has died aged 76. He sadly passed after a short battle with a coronary illness.

The Fulham-born musician enjoyed a journeyman career spanning over five decades, which saw him record and perform with many big names, as well as stand as an industry guru. A fruitful partnership with the JHS-owned brand, Vintage saw him create more than 20 Paul Brett signature guitars.

Many of those builds were based upon many of Brett's favorite American ‘working men’s guitars’ of the 1930s. As such, affordability was a huge element to the guitars he helped create. One of the latest expansions to the series saw the creation of a super affordable dreadnought 12-string in a whisky sour finish, which came in at approximately $140. 

Brett's playing career included working with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown on 1967's Devils Grip / Give Him a Flower. He also played on Roy Harper's Sophisticated Beggar LP and took up lead guitar duties with Strawbs, before switching to the 12-string guitar in the ‘70s.

Away from playing and designing guitars, Brett also worked as a journalist, writing for Melody Maker, Sound International, and International Musician. In addition, he was also a prolific collector of art and memorabilia and an avid blues historian. It was a passion that turned him into a world-leading expert in vintage guitars.

Additionally, Brett was the director of the Llyn Acoustic Guitar Festival. The annual event in his native Wales featured masterclasses, live performances, and open mic nights as Brett sought to extend his love for the guitar into the community. Gordon Giltrap and jazz guitarist John Etheridge were among some of the names to have played alongside Brett at the festival.

“Everything Paul did in his storied life brought pleasure, positivity, and enlightenment to all who came in to contact with him,” reads an official statement from JHS marking his passing. “He approached life with gusto, intensity, a wicked sense of humor, and a propensity for ‘telling it like it is.’”

When he wasn’t working with or studying guitars, Brett was also an ardent fisherman. He is survived by his devoted and beloved partner of 42 years, Michele Breeze.

News of his passing had led to an outpouring on his Facebook page. John Dodd put it best, saying: “You achieved more in one lifetime than most people could achieve in ten. Now teach those angels how to play those harps properly.” 

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Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to Prog, Guitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.