Robert Knight Launches Brotherhood of the Guitar

Robert Knight Launches Brotherhood of the Guitar

Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford and his son, Harrison, who is a member of the Brotherhood.  Photo by Robert Knight.

Name some legendary guitarists, and photographer Robert Knight has probably shot them at some point during his prolific career.

Jimi Hendrix. Eric Clapton. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Joe Perry. All of them have appeared in Knight’s lens.

For the past year, Knight has focused much of his efforts on finding the rock stars of tomorrow with his latest project, the Brotherhood of the Guitar.

In this new endeavor, he is committed to finding young guitarists — those with promising and special talent — and giving them an outlet to grow.

The idea came from 2009 documentary Rock Prophecies, which chronicled Knight’s hand in the rise of youthful blues-rock guitar sensation Tyler Bryant.

Bryant was a teen guitar prodigy from Honey Grove, Texas, when he met Knight.  Now, Bryant has shared stages with B.B. King, Aerosmith, Joe Bonamassa, Pat Benatar and the great Jeff Beck.

It’s Knight’s mission to make sure that the torch is passed.

Fender.com recently caught up with Knight, who talked about the Brotherhood.

Q: What led you to proceed with the Brotherhood?

A: After the movie, I started to get about 300 kids a month sending me demos, hoping that I could do for them what happened to Tyler Bryant. Out of that 300, there would be a few amazing kids each month. I started talking to the people at Fender, and they said, “Why don’t we get them some guitars?”

I said, “What they really need is a spotlight. Someone to put the word out and let others know who they are.” In some cases, you can upgrade their gear and all that, but they really need the information and a stepping stone. That’s where we went forward building a website and honing it down to a few at the beginning to see where it goes.

Q: How has the Facebook page helped the Brotherhood grow?

A: With the Facebook page people can submit their own videos and show me what they do.

As it’s grown, more and more opportunities have arisen and more and more kids have been getting picked off. They’re getting management deals; Disney is looking at them. It’s working.

Q: Have you seen members of the Brotherhood of the Guitar interact with each other?

A: More than anything, I’m trying to get all these kids to network with each other, and that’s happening. They’re sharing files; bouncing ideas off each other; getting together with each other. It’s really great to see.

The Brotherhood also includes Jamie Walker (above) and Hayley McLean (below).Photos by Robert Knight.

Q: Any new young guitarists we should know about?

A: I was recently with Buddy Guy, and he’s working with a kid named Quinn Sullivan that he’s pushing. He spent, like, 20 minutes that night talking about how we need to reach out to these young kids and how the blues has to survive through them. I’m going to be adding him to the Brotherhood. This is a nine-month labor of love. It’s not a money-making endeavor at all.

Q: You’ve travelled the world scouting candidates. Did you think it would get this big?

A: I was in Scotland, Ireland, England and Canada. I’ve been all over the place to see these really talented young guitarists. Going all the way to Wicklow, Ireland, and shooting these kids, it made the Sunday paper. Because of that, six record companies are chasing this kid, and the U2 organization is helping me now.

The same thing happened in Indianapolis.  I was representing the Brotherhood and Fender, and it made the paper there.

Q: Were you consciously trying to make sure the Brotherhood covered all genres — rock, country, metal, etc.?

A: Daniel Donato is getting more hits than anybody, and he’s a country-picker. I love the blues, and I personally knew Jimi Hendrix; I knew Stevie Ray [Vaughan]; I knew Albert Collins — all the greats. But for whatever reason, I don’t know what it is — whether it’s easy or the passion — but the entry level for guitarists around the world seems to be Stevie Ray; Joe Bonamassa; that kind of people. Those are usually the number-one influences. They’re skewing young in what they like. The blues seems to be what’s roping them in. 

When I meet the parents, my advice is that at this moment in this place and time, the blues is a dead-end street. It’s great that your kid is passionate, and it’s great that they know every Eric Clapton song or every Stevie Ray song, but that does not impress me. What I’m looking for is a kid that knows that history but is starting to develop his own sound. I turn them on to other guitar players that they’ve never heard of. I make them listen to just completely off-the-wall guitar playing.

I’ve got a kid in England that can actually play Jeff Beck songs better than Jeff Beck. Those are the hardest songs, and this kid can play them better. He’s actually a keyboard player. The guitar is kind of an afterthought for him. He’s, like, 19 years old in a small village outside of London.

Q: Any young guitarists in the Brotherhood who stand out in particular?

A: I would say the most promising person in the Brotherhood — for many reasons, obviously including his abilities as a guitar player — is a guy named Harrison (Harry) Whitford; Brad’s kid (Brad Whitford, Aerosmith guitarist). I don’t play guitar, but when I see a new kid, I say, “Give them the Harry test.”  They have to get through Harry before I put them up. He’s really insightful, and that’s leading me to let the kids make more of the choices. I just want to introduce them and get out of their way.

For more info, visit brotherhoodoftheguitar.com


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