Melbourne E. Bay was born on February 25, 1913 in the little Ozark Mountain town of Bunker, Missouri. He bought a Sears Roebuck guitar at the age of 13 and several months later played his first “gig.” Bunker didn't have a guitar teacher so Bay watched the few guitarists he knew and copied their fingering on the fret board, teaching himself chords. Once he felt he knew the rudiments of the guitar, he started experimenting with other instruments, including tenor banjo, mandolin, Hawaiian guitar and ukulele.... After the war, Mel was asked to write instructional materials on guitar for GIs wishing 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 for Guitar. This book is still in print under the title Rhythm Guitar Chord System. His Modern Guitar Method was penned shortly thereafter. For years Mel traveled from town to town talking to guitar teachers and players and showing them his publications. At one time, Mel claims to have known virtually every guitar teacher in America on a first name basis. The guitar and Mel Bay books caught on in a big way in the 1950s. His method books grew in popularity worldwide and helped establish the foundation for most of today’s guitar pedagogy. Guitar Player magazine referred to him as “the George Washington of the guitar.”I have blurbed all of the CD/DVD performances by modern classical and jazz guitar masters on the Mel Bay label, and they are fantastic (e.g., John Pisano's Guitar Night or any of the Jimmy Bruno items).
Above: Mel Bay, in 1928 with his National Triolian guitar, his first "good" guitar. Below: Mel in 1959, with a big ole archtop, and a lovely excerpt from a Jimmy Bruno DVD.