The Mystery Virtuoso Who Inspired Brian May’s Two-Hand Tapping Technique Recalls the Moment

by Madonna

In a captivating revelation, the enigmatic figure who ignited Brian May’s journey into two-hand tapping technique has stepped forward to recount the pivotal moment.

Brian May had disclosed in a 2021 interview with Guitar Player that he was spurred to explore two-hand tapping after witnessing an unnamed guitar maestro showcase the technique at a concert in Texas. Though never explicitly identified by May, sources hinted that the elusive virtuoso might be Rocky Athas, a Texas native renowned for his collaborations with music icons like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Johnson.


Confirming the speculation, Athas has come forward to share his side of the story in an upcoming interview with Guitar World, shedding light on the precise moment that sparked May’s inspiration.


Reflecting on the aftermath of May’s initial revelation, Athas recalls, “When Guitar World published the Brian May interview that mentioned it last year, my phone blew up! My friends… They all knew it was me.”


By the time Queen arrived in Dallas during their tour with Thin Lizzy in 1977, Athas and his band, Lightning, had already established themselves as a formidable force in the local music scene, renowned for their electrifying live performances. Athas vividly remembers the energetic atmosphere of their shows, where every member of the band pushed the boundaries of musical expression.

Recalling the fateful encounter with May, Athas recounts, “Brian came to Mother Blues [live music venue in Dallas] with the guys from Thin Lizzy, and at the end of our show, Brian walked up to me and said, ‘Hey, I dig that thing you do with your right hand.’ I was finger-tapping with my right hand. Then he says, ‘I’m going to nick that from you.’ I was cocky in those days and said to him, ‘Go for it!'”

True to his word, May incorporated two-hand tapping into his repertoire, showcasing the technique in iconic tracks like “It’s Late,” a move that May later revealed had influenced Eddie Van Halen’s tapping style as well.

Despite the passage of time, Athas and May have not crossed paths since that memorable night in 1977. However, Athas harbors a desire to reconnect with the Queen guitarist, if only to reminisce about the electrifying performance at Mother Blues. As Athas aptly puts it, “I would love to have a chat with him now if that could be arranged. I’d love to hear how he remembers that night.”


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