BARRY FINNERTY, was born in San Francisco on December 3, 1951. My father, Warren, was an award-winning actor (he received the Village Voice Obie for Best Actor of 1960 for The Connection) and my mother, Ruth, was an excellent classical pianist who later got her PhD and taught English at UC Berkeley.
I began playing piano and reading music at age 5, then got my first guitar (a classical) for my 13th birthday. I got my first electric guitar, a Fender Jaguar, for my 14th birthday while living in Hong Kong (my mom had gotten a Fulbright grant to teach there for a year), and that same year my first band, The New Breed, opened the show for Herman's Hermits! I seemed to get some attention for my ability to play the guitar solos from the Kingsmen's Louie Louie and the Rolling Stones' Heart Of Stone note for note! The band also played songs by the Who, the Kinks, and the Yardbirds. Jeff Beck was my first real guitar hero.
I returned to San Francisco in 1966 and played in high school bands while absorbing the new hippie rock scene at the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms. Here I heard Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead, Mike Bloomfield with the Butterfield Blues Band, and later, Eric Clapton with the Cream, and Jimi Hendrix, along with virtually all the top bands of the time. Hearing Jerry Garcia's smooth melodic playing influenced me to trade in my Jaguar for a red single cutaway Guild Starfire. But I really identified more with Jeff Beck, so I traded that one in for a '57 cherry sunburst Les Paul...with a Bigsby tremolo! (I had it removed..I had worked hard on my finger vibrato and I didn't want anyone to think I was cheating!) The price of that guitar..500 bucks. Now it would be worth at least $25,000!