MY WORD: ‘The greatest guitar player in the world’

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By Horace Brown

In early August of this year, I noticed a small ad in the Sunday Louisville Courier-Journal concerning upcoming concerts at the old Grand Theater in Frankfort. Since I have performed as an entertainer, beginning at the age of 4, this quickly got my attention.

After going over the rather long list as well as the dates, my focus centered on a guitar player on the evening of Sept. 25, knowing this would also be a pleasant surprise for my wife, Iris, and we would in all likelihood also enjoy dinner at a nearby Frankfort restaurant.

I called on Monday to order two reserved seats for the guitar player’s concert. I asked the ticket seller about reservations, and she informed me that there were only a few seats available, which was surprising.

I then asked about the performer, and she said that the last time she saw him, there were 14 different kinds of guitars on the stage as the concert began, and he played every one before the night was over. This sounded somewhat impressive, and she sad that his name was Tommy Emmanuel.

I responded that I had never heard of him, but I did want two reserved seats.

As anticipated, Iris enjoyed the idea, and we had a delightful dinner on the evening of the 25th and walked across the street to the Old Grand Theater and were ushered to our reserved seats near the rear of the auditorium.

After being seated, a lady next to us leaned over and said we would be in for a real treat tonight. This guy is “The Greatest Guitar Player in the World.”

I said, “Oh really?” But down deep, I thought, this guy is probably going to be good, but “The Greatest Guitar Player in the World” at the Grand Theater in Frankfort? I had some doubts.

These doubts were totally erased as the night progressed. Song after song was an absolute masterpiece. As the concert moved along, the crowd and I did not want it to end. He came back out for his encore after the standing ovation.

Tommy then told a story about when he was one of six children in Australia, his dad received a job offer in Northern Australia and that it took the family six days and on into the night just driving there. They were so poor, they had to sleep in the car.

Upon arrival at their destination, the family moved into a house next door to a family, also with six children, from Kentucky. The father in the adjoining house had a little TV repair shop, and he noticed that Tommy was always listening to tapes of good guitar players, such as Chet Atkins, and out of the goodness of his heart, he ordered Tommy a guitar, knowing he couldn’t afford to pay for it.

But he got a job and paid the Kentucky man, a little each month until the guitar was paid for and that is how this genius, Tommy Emmanuel, got his start.

Even though he gives concerts all over the world, he will always have a warm place in his heart, for Kentucky.

Tommy will be involved in giving a workshop at Elizabethtown on Feb. 15, 16 and 17 of 2013, and this will probably include a concert.

To further get acquainted with him, if you have access to the Internet, pull up Tommy Emmanuel and his rendition of “Amazing Grace” as a starter.

I feel confident that you will agree that you have heard “The Greatest Guitar Player in the World.”


Horace Brown lives in Bagdad.