A Brief History of Great Guitarists with Less Digits

Categories: this weekend
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Django Reinhardt

This Friday and Saturday evening at Segerstrom Hall, guitarist Dorado Schmitt will present an evening dedicated to Django Reinhardt.

In the 1940s Reinhardt created and perfected the "gypsy jazz" genre leaving most anyone else playing that style of music to sit in his immense shadow, performing what amounts to a jazz cover band. Reinhardt's unmistakable drummer-less quintet featured the rhythm guitar work of his brother Joseph and the swinging strings of Stephane Grappelli's violin. Their unique sound laid the foundation for Reinhardt's inimitable acoustic guitar work.

What makes Reinhardt all the more incredible was the fact that he only had three functioning fingers on his left hand. While in his late teens Reinhardt was badly burned during a fire in his home. Although he did not lose his fingers, they were essentially useless. Reinhardt managed to pluck his fluid runs without the use of his middle and ring finger. Few men equipped with all ten of their fingers can create the sounds he made but he was not alone in his handicap.

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Jerry Garcia
Jerry Garcia, epic Grateful Dead noodler and failed heroin hobbyist, was missing the middle finger of his right hand. At the age of four, much like a disinterested Margot Tennebaum, Garcia lost two-thirds of his finger to an axe while holding a piece of wood steady for his older brother. His tender nubbin rarely prevented him from carrying on for hours at a time but perhaps that was his only way of giving the finger to those who objected to his lifestyle.

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Tony Iommi
Black Sabbath riff master Tony Iommi is also missing a few fingerprints. In the most Dickensian way possible he lost the middle and ring fingertips on his right hand to a sheet metal factory at the age of 17. Curiously Iommi plays the guitar left-handed forcing him to wear small caps on his fingertips. Since this happened long before his reign with Black Sabbath it is unlikely to prevent him from sparing us the impending reunion cash-in.

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Hound Dog Taylor
​Bonus! To balance out this rather morbid post it is important to recognize blues strummer Hound Dog Taylor. Unlike the aforementioned slingers, Taylor was born with an extra finger on his left hand! Unfortunately this did not result in any super-human strengths or even new chord formations but it did make his paws more memorable than his songs.


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Hound Dog Taylor's finger cap!


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