The idea of a book on guitar cultures began to crystallize at the 1997 meeting of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music in Japan. Thanks must go to Toru Mitsui and all his team at Kanazawa University for organizing this conference. One evening during the conference we, the editors, found ourselves playing electric guitars onstage in a blues bar in central Kanazawa with guitarists and other musicians from Japan, Canada and the US. This unforgettable experience had a tremendous effect upon both of us it made us reassess our relationship to the guitar and to its role in our lives after all, we were ‘talking’ through and ‘moving’ with the instrument across cultures, time and space. Afterwards, in another bar, the talk naturally focussed upon the guitar, guitar players and guitar music. There was much to discuss. We found that, as a sociologist and ethnomusicologist respectively, we had skills and expertise that could perhaps be pooled to come up with quite a different study of the guitar. This would be a study that had, to our amazement, not been done before and one that was urgently needed given the ubiquity of the guitar in the musics of the world. It would be a study that looked at the role and meaning of the guitar in cultures and societies across the planet and one that looked at the cultures of the guitar as socially constructed and meaningful.
We were encouraged to pursue the idea by Dave Laing who suggested that we might consider procuring and editing a collection of papers on the subject. Indeed, over the next few days we mentioned the idea to fellow guitarists Peter Narváez and Denis Crowdy whose work on Canadian blues and stringbands in Papua New Guinea, respectively, seemed to compliment our own interests well. From this small nucleus of guitarists we built up a team of contributors over the next year or so. A book proposal was eventually sent to Berg and we received the go ahead. Thanks must go to Kathryn Earle and the team at Berg for their encouragement and foresight.
Andy Bennett would especially like to thank Moni for her support, the many musicians he has been privileged to meet and perform with over the years and his parents for their unerring interest in his musical and academic pursuits. Kevin Dawe would especially like to thank his wife Moira for all her hard work and support, especially during their field trips to Spain. He would also like to thank his parents for their love and support.