HEY LOCO FANS – Happy BDay to David William Kearney, born September 8, 1934. You probably know him as “Guitar Shorty”. He is well known for his explosive guitar style and wild stage antics. Credited with influencing both Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy, Guitar Shorty has been recording and touring since the 1950s.
When he’s not turning somersaults, doing backward flips, and standing on his head, all while playing, Guitar Shorty is prone to cutting loose with savagely slashing licks on his instrument. Live, he’s simply amazing.
Born David William Kearney in Houston but grew up mainly in Kissimmee, Florida, He learned to play the guitar at an early age. At age 16 he received his nickname, Guitar Shorty, when it mysteriously showed up on the marquee of the club he was playing as ‘The Walter Johnson Band featuring Guitar Shorty.’ He steadily began to garner accolades from his peers and, soon after, he joined the Ray Charles Band for a year. He recorded his first single in 1957, “You Don’t Treat Me Right”, under the direction of Willie Dixon.
In New Orleans, Shorty played with T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner and Little Richard. He next played up and down the west coast where he met his future wife, Marcia, in Seattle. Marcia was the half-sister of Jimi Hendrix who was so enthralled with Shorty’s playing, he went AWOL several times from his Army base to see him perform. Shorty introduced Hendrix to the wah pedal and loaned him one when Hendrix could not afford to buy his own.
When he’s not turning somersaults, doing backward flips, and standing on his head—all while playing, of course—Guitar Shorty is prone to cutting loose with savagely slashing licks on his instrument. Live, he’s simply amazing—and after some lean years, his latter-day albums have proven that all that energy translates vividly onto tape.
Shorty’s career had its share of ups and downs—once he was reduced to competing on Chuck Barris’ zany Gong Show, where he copped first prize for delivering “They Call Me Guitar Shorty” while balanced on his noggin.
Guitar Shorty continued recording through the 80’s with releases as recent as 2020.
He died on April 20, 2022, in Los Angeles, at the age of 87.