If there were a Mount Rushmore of rock ‘n’ roll guitar, Pete Townshend’s face would be on it. Guitarist and principal songwriter for more than 40 years for one of the world’s greatest and most influential rock bands, the Who. Acclaimed solo artist. Prolific author. Erudite voice of a generation. His generation. The man needs no introduction, particularly among Fender fans.
It’s impossible to overstate Pete Townshend’s influence on rock music in general and rock guitar in particular. As the only guitarist in his band, he developed a rhythmically slashing yet highly melodic playing style that covered a lot of sonic ground and had the added benefit of being highly theatrical—he often seemed to be playing rhythm guitar and lead guitar at the same time; a style that stood in dramatic (and loud) contrast to the work of the Who’s two-guitar British Invasion contemporaries. It also inspired and influenced legions of guitarists to come.
Born Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend in London on May 19, 1945, he grew up in a musical family and was fascinated by music from early boyhood. Townshend received a guitar from his grandmother at age 12 and was influenced by U.S. blues guitarists throughout his formative years on the instrument. In the early 1960s, he formed skiffle/rock ‘n’ roll band the Detours with a school friend, bassist John Entwistle, and vocalist Roger Daltrey; in 1964 the band got a new name—the Who—and a new drummer, Keith Moon. After releasing one single as the High Numbers, the quartet once again became the Who and embarked on a legendary career fueled by Townshend’s prolific, intelligent songwriting and peerless guitar work.
Townshend’s hits and accomplishments with the Who could fill volumes; suffice it to say that recordings such as “My Generation,” “Substitute,” “I Can’t Explain,” Tommy, Live At Leeds, Who’s Next, Quadrophenia, Who Are You and others, in addition to the Who’s unrivaled reputation as one of the most exciting live bands ever and an acclaimed body of solo work, have earned him a lofty and enduring place in rock history as one of its finest songwriters, one of its most astute commentators and certainly one of its greatest guitarists.
While he has played many guitars through many amps since the Who’s earliest days, Townshend, in his later career with the Who and in various solo efforts, has been partial to a Stratocaster® guitar played through Vibro-King® amps and extension cabinets.