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‘People are desperate for live music’: The CEO of Fender on playing guitar and bagging his dream job

Former heavy metal axeman Andy Mooney made waves at Disney before jumping into the hot seat at Fender. He talks to Andy Martin about learning to play online, Snow White and making room for all his Telecasters

Sunday 09 August 2020 12:54
There are real rarities among the 50 guitars Mooney owns
There are real rarities among the 50 guitars Mooney owns

Andy Mooney started playing classical guitar when he was 10 or 11. At high school in Scotland his dream was to be a rock star. Now, after fifty years of playing the guitar, he’s the CEO of Fender, who produce the legendary Stratocaster and Telecaster.

He was born in Whitburn, a small town between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and his father was a miner who played the piano. “Being a rebel, I picked up the guitar,” says Mooney. While still at school he started teaching guitar. “I would get teenage girls turning up with a 12-string steel guitar. I couldn’t even tune it let alone play it.” Now he recommends to raw beginners that they should start with the ukelele, progress from there to the six-string acoustic guitar, and only then have a shot at the steel-string electric guitar.

According to a recent survey commissioned by Fender, as many as 90 per cent of novice guitarists give up the instrument in their first year. Which is why Mooney has made it easier – with Fender Play, the online guitar tutorial system, now in its third year, with a base of 930,000 users, about a fifth of them in the UK. I wish I’d had this when I was learning (and failing) many moons ago. “When I was teaching guitar and somebody didn’t turn up,” says Mooney, “I had no idea what had happened to them. Now we have the data.”

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