Throughout this highly personal paean to a gallery of godlike guitarists, Manband mainstay Deke Leonard often states that he isn’t the best instrumentalist in the world. However, while his assessment of his own abilities is overly harsh, it must be some consolation that no better prose stylist has emerged from rock’s front line. If any comparison can be made, it would be to the Nik Cohn of Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom, given Leonard’s lacerating wit, elegance of construction and exhilaratingly forthright opinions. Bryan Ferry’s ears must have burned to the ground for starters, while Leonard’s appraisal of the 1968 Elvis comeback special boldly rewrites a hitherto sacred text.
In an exhaustive, revelatory, wide-ranging and impeccably researched thesis taking in heroes from Scotty Moore and Django Reinhardt to Frank Zappa and Merle Travis, Leonard doesn’t skimp on the pithy epigrams, whether he’s lamenting Chuck Berry’s “almost transcendental meanness of spirit” or relating a drunken Gene Vincent’s repeated attempts to throw Little Richard off a tour bus: “I can see how this might have affected esprit de corps.”
The distressing chapter concerning the demise of bandmate Micky Jones supports Leonard’s contention that it’s a lousy world, but it’s considerably less lousy when books as inspirational as this exist.