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100th Anniversary of Mel Bay’s Birth

1 February 2013 33,843 views 6 Comments

This month marks Melbourne E. Bay’s 100th birthday. To celebrate we are offering a free download of  ”The Mel Bay Story”.

Melbourne E. Bay (1913-1997) was born in the tiny Ozark mountain town of Bunker, Missouri.  He moved to St. Louis in the early 1930’s, right after high school.  He bought his first guitar at the age of 13 and several months later played his first “gig.”  He wanted to be an engineer but could not afford to go to college.

In 1933 Mel Bay moved to St. Louis and began his professional career.  He played with numerous local and traveling bands.  Additionally, he landed staff guitar jobs on several radio stations.  Mel fronted his own trio (piano, bass and guitar) and played steadily for 25 years.  He was equally adept on most fretted instruments and played mandolin, uke, Hawaiian guitar, and tenor banjo professionally.  While Mel was actively pursuing his playing career, he continued to teach as many as 100 students a week.  He decided to begin writing instructional material due to the difficulty encountered by guitar students at playing good-sounding chord forms as necessary in classical, rock, blues, jazz and folk styles.

After World War II the U.S. Government contracted Mel to write instructional materials on guitar for GI’s wanting to learn music under the “GI Bill.”  In 1947 Mel formed his own publishing company and wrote his landmark initial book titled The Orchestral Chord System.  His Modern Guitar Method was written in 1948.  For years Mel traveled from town to town talking to guitar teachers and players and showing them his books.  At one time, Mel claimed to have known virtually every guitar teacher in America on a first-name basis.  The guitar and Mel Bay books became popular in the 1950s and have continued to grow ever since.

Mel Bay changed the world of guitar instruction beginning with his cornerstone Modern Guitar Method.  He established the structure for modern guitar education and by so doing, helped create the foundation for the continued growth and advancement of the instrument. 

Click to download “The Mel Bay Story” by Ray Dankenbring.

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  • Peter Sundic said:

    It wasn’t until I moved to the states and saw the mountains of material there was on helping guitarists get better and play different styles.

    I have bought tons of Mel Bay Chord books and method books as well as videos and it all started with the passion and comitment of a man 100 years ago. He was a typical trail blazer and as all of us have walked through the door of the chuck berry riff, we have all been touched by a Mel Bay product.

    Thank you to a great man and thank you to the company he created and how it has been able to keep that comitment to guitar education and moving with the new styles that have come along.

    He needs to be inducted into the Rock n Roll hall of fame! If he isn’t already there!

  • Mel Bay’s 100th Birthday! | GuitarRW.com said:

    [...] his centennial, Mel Bay Publications has made is biography available for a free download here. http://blog.melbay.com/the-mel-bay-story/ [...]

  • Rob MacKillop said:

    I started, aged 8, with the Mel Bay Have Fun With The Ukulele, and 45 years later I am a Mel Bay author, with ten books. Mel Bay the company is unquestionably the most major guitar publisher in the world.

    I’ve also played some arrangements by Mr Bay – he really knew how to get the best out of a guitar. I highly recommend his Masters Of The Plectrum Guitar book – a major publication in the history of the guitar.

    Thanks, Mel…

    Rob MacKillop,

  • Catarino Aquino Calderón said:

    Hace poco compré en la
    ciudad de México un método
    de guitarra,se titula “en
    señate a tocar la guitarra

    clásica” muy sencillo y fa
    com de entender,muy buen me
    todo.Gracias a Mel Bay.

  • Matt said:

    Came back to Mel Bay after abandoning the Modern Method as a young teenager because it wasn’t “cool” enough for me. I went off and learned the cool stuff on my own and really became quite a good ear player. But, in my adulthood an opprotunity came to play with a Jazz ensemble. Problem. I had heard very few of the tunes and had no recordings to reference. So, I got the sheet music and was surprised I still had a rudimentary memory of how to read the dots and how to align them to a position or a chord form. It made me want to finish the whole thing. Bought the expanded edition complete set and I should finish it (all 7) by December 2014. Thanks MB.

  • Daniel Witt said:

    Hello all you people at Mel Bay,
    thanks a lot for doing such a great work for guitarists all over the world! I’m a guitar player in Hamburg, Germany and i can say, that i’ve bought more than 10 Mel Bay books and all of them are a very valuable source for studying. I hope, your work will continue another 100 years! If not, please let me know and i’ll talk to the one one floor up ;-)

    Best whishes, luck and fun!!

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