Roots: Gus & Me by Keith Richards
Before there was "Satisfaction" and "Brown Sugar," there was "Malaguena" and Grandpa Gus.
Keith Richards, rhythm guitarist and co-writer with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, first heard a guitar played by his grandfather, Theodore Augustus Dupree, "Grandpa Gus" to Keith. An only child. little Keith loved to spend the day with his grandfather "who lived in a house full of instruments and cake." Gus, who had led a dance band called Gus Dupree' and his Boys, played piano, violin, and saxophone, but it was his guitar that sounded best to his admiring grandson. Gus like to take Keith for long walks with his dog, Mr. Thomas Wolff, sometimes talking, and sometimes just singing or humming, symphonies or jazz ballads or hot dance tunes. Once they walked all the way to London, to a shop that made and repaired musical instruments, and Keith was never the same.
MY EYES FOLLOWED A LINE OF GUITARS THAT SNAKED AROUND THE ROOM ON A CONVEYOR BELT. IT WAS MAGIC. AND RIGHT THEN, RIGHT THERE, I FELL IN LOVE WITH INSTRUMENTS.
WHEN GUS AND I GOT BACK TO HIS HOUSE, I TOOK A LONG LOOK AT THAT GUITAR THAT ALWAYS SAT ON TOP OF THE PIANO. IT SEEMED MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN EVER. ALL I WANTED WAS TO MAKE THE STRINGS GO. BUT I COULDN'T REACH IT.
"WHEN YOU'RE TALL ENOUGH, YOU CAN HAVE A GO," GUS SAID.
ONE DAY I FELT LIKE I WAS TALL ENOUGH TO GRAB IT.
"ALL YOURS," GUS SAID.
HE SAT BESIDE ME. "WHEN YOU CAN PLAY "MALAGUENA," HE SAID, "YOU CAN PLAY ANYTHING."
With Gus's lessons, Keith worked day after day at the difficult Spanish song, until at last Gus nodded.
"I THINK YOU'VE GOT THE HANG OF IT," GUS SAID.
And indeed he had. Keith Richards' lovingly crafted memoir of his Grandpa Gus, Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar (Little, Brown, and Company, 2014), portrays the story of how a grandfather passed along his love and his love of music to his talented grandson, and the rest is, as we say, rock and roll history. Richards' writing has its own quiet rhythm and harmony as he reveals through the eye and voice of a child how a grandparent gave him the best of himself, his time and his talent and his love for music. Paired with the evocative illustrations of Richards' daughter, Gus's namesake Theodora Dupree Richards, and with family photos and a CD which features Keith's performance of "Malaguena," just as Gus taught it to him, this is a memorable book for youngsters who perhaps don't know they are music lovers yet. "Told so naturally and with such sweet verve, readers may not notice that this is the legendary guitarist of the Rolling Stones." says Kirkus in their starred review. "A beautiful example of artistic bookmaking, a story of family love and lore, and the magic of music personified in a way that's utterly accessible to children."