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Teaching Myself While Teaching Others: Jason Lee Takes His Surf Gretsch Sound to Italy . . .

Teaching Myself While Teaching Others: Jason Lee Takes His Surf Gretsch Sound to Italy . . .

. . . and learns more about music than he imagined!

(Special thanks to Jason of Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides for this “Gretsch Guest Blogger” submission!)

Jason Lee

We had already known close to year prior that we would be traveling to Italy to perform at the Surfer Joe Festival in Livorno, Italy. We were to play the prime spot after the 5,6,7,8’s (Kill Bill), I was thrilled! But when promotor Lorenzo Surfer Joe asked “Hey, while we’re at it, can you give one of your surf guitar classes on Saturday?” I was scared, but I jumped at the chance to bring my particular Gretsch style of surf to a region known for its offset body fascination. I had no idea at the time agreeing would change my appreciation and perspective of the power of music.

Upon arriving in Livorno we soon learned that we weren’t in California anymore, but . . . we were! Everything from tikis to hot rods and a true American-style diner were built right into the event on the coastline of Livorno. Simply amazing!

I still had a lot of work to do on my class as I had the stupid idea of changing things up while on the plane over from Germany. Gretsch Guitars had sponsored my class with free shirts and swag and I didn’t want to let anyone down, so back to my iPad I went, laying out a whole new approach that was sure to be different and honest.

I had been giving interactive and fun Surf classes at Tiki Oasis in the States for years, but I had to make sure this was a change up. So get ready for this! I went for the slow route utilizing my Gretsch Country Club and a Bigsby for everything!  Slow Surf!??? How was this going to go over with all the die hard players of Europe who traveled so far to see my class? It was a gamble. And on a giant hollowbody Gretsch!

On Saturday afternoon, the 3rd day of the event I went on stage to a crowd way bigger than I had imagined. The room was packed! Some were my own idols from over the years. I opened up the class with an honest introduction saying I was completely nervous and that I was probably going to screw up right and left, so they should bear with me. This relaxed me as well as the room. And then, I just went for it, explaining that the day’s class was going to be completely different than what they thought! With original lessons in the realm of sleepwalk, etc., and a slow and pretty reverb on a large body Gretsch. It gave the most smooth and buttery tone that filled the room!

Where everything changed for me was when I honestly opened up on stage about the reality that all guitar players are the same–in that we all want to just create music and have fun! It’s simple when you think about it. But I had to come to my own realizations before I could dare express the topic in an open and honest way. After that moment my day was flooded with the most amazing stories of struggle, joy, pain, and relief, all lived through the guitar.

I was no longer a California boy in Italy. I was a guitar player hangin’ out with other guitar players. No language barrier could stop our connection and I learned more about myself that day than in the whole year.

— Jason Lee


Find more photos of Jason on Instagram and check out his Facebook page.