The Guinness Book of World Records lists a group of 953 people in Beijing, China, as the record holders for the world’s largest rock band. But the largest guitar ensemble was composed of 6,346 guitarists in Poland.
A week ago Thursday, on a warm night, residents with and without instruments enjoyed the music of Tom Petty, with the Manhattan skyline in the background. Volunteers held up signs with the different chords used.
Petty died last October, officially due to an “accidental overdose” of opiods, which led to a heart attack. He was the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, formed in 1976 and was later a solo artist. His hits included Runnin’ Down a Dream, Refugee, Learning to Fly, American Girl, Free Fallin’, Don’t Do Me Like That, and Walls. The group even performed his oldest hits like Breakdown.
Those with guitars, banjos, ukuleles, and more registered in order to be counted officially.
“If you look at the faces in the crowd while we are doing it, it’s really all the reason we need.” –Jim Mastro
Jim Mastro, the owner of the Guitar Bar, is a former guitarist for The Bongos and has played with many other performers.
He said they decided to honor Petty for a couple of reasons. He said he was “a pretty influential songwriter and someone everyone who works at the shop loves.”
He said they teach a lot of his songs to their Guitar Bar students.
Mastro said that every year leading up to the annual world record attempt, he thinks it will be the last, “but as soon as we get started all the anxiety and trepidation goes away. It is such payback for us to see their faces. If you look at the faces in the crowd, it’s really all the reason we need.”
Mastro said playing music brings people together in more ways then one.
“If you’re playing and someone’s listening, there is that instant response you get that smile out of someone or get an emotion out of someone,” Mastro said.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.