Dave Grohl has recently been making the rounds to promote his upcoming memoir The Storyteller. In it, in classic Grohl fashion, he recounts the life-changing moments with a kind of humour and humbleness that can only come from the legendary Foo Fighters frontman.
“Humble” is certainly an appropriate way to describe Grohl’s thoughts about his own guitar playing. “I was never taught how to play the guitar,” Grohl told Rolling Stone in 2014. “I don’t know what the chords to ‘Everlong’ are. I only know what happens when I put the fingers there. But that riff is a good example of how I look at the guitar.”
Despite this modesty, Grohl used his instinctual musical abilities to suss out how to make riffs and chords, eventually becoming proficient enough to start playing in bands. Guitar was originally the instrument that Grohl gravitated towards, and it wasn’t until he was in high school that he started to play the drums more regularly. As he described it Lauren Laverne at the BBC Radio 6 Music Breakfast Show, the guitar was the one instrument in his youth that was readily accessible.
“When I was young my father was a classically trained flautist, he was a musician as well,” Grohl explained. “He was given a guitar as a gift when I was maybe two or three years old and he put it in his lap once and then it retired to the corner of the rooms for years and years. And when I was about nine or ten years old I picked it up and it was covered in dust, it only had two strings left on it.
“I picked it up and I just instinctively went ‘bah bah baaah, bah bah bah bah’ [sings riff for Smoke On The Water, Deep Purple] and then I thought ‘Oh my god, I can do this! That’s all you need to do, I can do this.’ And that was kind of the beginning of me playing the guitar.”
Drums would be what initially brought Grohl to stardom. After his stint in D.C. hardcore punk band Scream ended with the band’s breakup in 1990, Grohl got a tip from Melvins leader Buzz Osbourne that a band out in Seattle had just parted ways with their drummer. They had a record deal and one album out already called Bleach. Grohl took a leap of faith, flew out to Seattle, and wound up being hired as the new drummer for Nirvana.