John Sheldon’s candy apple-red Fender Stratocaster is emblematic of not just decades of popular music but of his life journey, mental health issues surmounted and of the healing potential of music.
The Red Guitar, The Space @ Niddry St (Venue 9) ****
Which is a lot for one guy sitting in a small, dark auditorium with two guitars, one acoustic and the other that shiny classic Strat.
Noodling resonantly as we file in, the Massachusetts-based guitarist embarks on the story of his love affair with the instrument, commencing with the Fifties, when Fender introduced the Stratocaster. He learned his first chords at summer camp, and later from James Taylor, for whom he would eventually write such songs as September Grass.
Sheldon is endearingly warm and funny, and those of a certain age and musical disposition will empathise as he name-checks the sounds that fed his enthusiasm – Buddy Holly, the Beatles, the Yardbirds. There’s a wonderful sequence concerning Booker T and the MGs’ hit Green Onions: the youthful Sheldon wrote to their guitarist, Steve Cropper – and got a reply. A lifetime later, he slickly layers up the familiar organ riff and guitar stab for our benefit.
An adolescent breakdown hospitalised him, but by 17 he was playing guitar in Van Morrison’s Band – he deftly enacts the evolution of the lithely swinging Moondance – and while recounting a brief, almost dreamlike encounter with Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze howls from under his fingers.
Hendrix, as well as Steely Dan drummer Jim Hodder, with whom Sheldon played in a psychedelic rock band were famous rock casualties. Sheldon won through, however, to share with us this heartfelt testament to his belief in the transformative power of music.
• Until 25 August, 9:10pm