Guitarist, historian, and author John Teagle passed away March 26 in New York at age 66 after battling cancer.
Teagle recalled being “Born at the height of the original rock-and-roll era” in Akron, Ohio, and came of age in the late ’70s/early ’80s “Akron Sound” era, working in music shops and venues, including running sound for local bands Devo and The Dead Boys.
Teagle’s first guitar was a ’66 Gibson Melody Maker before he acquired the ’59 Gretsch Model 6120 that became his lifetime companion. Seeped in early rockabilly, surf, and twang styles in the early ’80s, he formed the Red Rocket Gang, which became Johnny Clampett and The Walkers. The band built a local following and opened for the Stray Cats, Smithereens, and Los Lobos. Re-named The Walking Clampetts in ’85, they mostly covered ’50s and ’60s rock songs, but recorded original material in the late ’80s for an unreleased album.
The group disbanded in 1990, when Teagle moved to New York, working for a time at Chelsea Guitars, in Manhattan. A voracious collector of vintage instruments (especially pre-war solidbody electric guitars) and related catalogs and publications, he did groundbreaking research into the early history of the electric guitar and co-authored (with John Sprung) Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years and Washburn: Over One Hundred Years Of Fine Stringed Instruments. He also contributed to several magazines, including VG, and was gathering material for a book on the origins of amplified sound.
Teagle’s later bands included the Vice Royals and Purple Knif, a surf/twang outfit. He is survived by his wife, Mary, a daughter, and three siblings.
This article originally appeared in VG’s June 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.