A Little Bit of Lefty Love

In the early days of rock n’ roll and left-handers were at a severe disadvantage, considering only 10 to 15 percent of the world’s population are left handed, guitars are in limited supply for leftys. Aspiring left-handers couldn’t get their hands on left handed guitars early in their careers because many learned play on passed down or starter guitars. Here’s a tribute to some of the greatest left handed musicians who learned to cope with right hand dominated world we live in.

1. Albert King

One of the greatest legends of the blues guitar played the right handed guitar in quite possibly the strangest ways of them all. King played the right handed guitar upside-down where the low E string was the bottom most string near the floor. Also, King experimented with everything basically in reverse guitars, stringing, chord spacing, and bending techniques. King created his own unique voice because he knew he couldn’t play the same way a righted handed player could.

2. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix’s beginnings with the right handed guitar may be stranger than most other left-handers. Jimi’s father Al was a religious practitioner and believed left-handers were a sign of the devil because “sinister” in Latin means “left” and in modern days sinister is connected with evil. Jimi’s father forced him to play the right handed guitar, but Jimi didn’t exactly learn to play the right handed instrument. He first started by reversing the stringing on right handed guitars to play almost as a natural lefty. Restringing the guitar for a lefty requires a couple of different things the nut must be changed to manage the string widths, and the bridge needs to change to make the lower strings than the top strings. When Jimi’s father would come around Jimi would simply flip the guitar over playing like Albert King teaching him to play basically both handed. Being trained in “both handedness” it allowed him to create a concept now known as The Jimi Hendrix Rhythm Effect. Jimi played both lead and rhythm guitar to make an influential rhythm guitar style facilitating the painting of broad strokes with guitar.

3 Paul McCartney

When the youngster from Liverpool bought his first cheap guitar he thought something was wrong with it, but he didn’t know he was a lefty. Throughout his learning process he couldn’t quite seem to get it write even re-stringing the guitar for lefty playing it didn’t click. He powered through the awkwardness and started adapting to both styles of playing and in some videos has been seen playing right handed (leading to some crazy conspiracy theories that he had died). McCartney was quoted in 1963 saying “The only thing I couldn’t cure myself of was being left-handed. I do everything with my left hand, and no matter how I try I can’t change the habit. I just seem to do everything back to front. I used to even write backwards.”

(It gets really good 5 minutes in)

Fun Fact I almost cried along with all the sixty year old women around me when he played Here Today and dedicated it to his dear friend John.

4. B.B. King

B.B. King was one of the greatest guitar players to grace the earth’s ears with complex soloing, part of the made B.B. amazing was the fact he was a lefty, but played a right handed guitar. B.B.’s solos ushered in a new era of how musicians thought to play the guitar. His dominant left hand bellowed out vibratos while gracefully incorporating string bends, earning him the Rolling Stone #6 guitarist of all time in 2011. B.B. would forever revolutionize the world of electric blues guitar with the “voice” he gave to his playing. B.B. spoke about the connection between his voice and his guitars voice saying “When I sing, I play in my mind. The minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”, Lucille’s the name given to all B.B.’s guitars (usually black Gibson ES-355’s).