On July 19, 1947, Harold and Ruth May from Twickenham, England gave birth to a son, Brian Harold. Little did they know that their son would grow up to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time. In fact, Brian had initially stated that he wanted to be a surgeon, then later, an astronomer. Brian doesn't remember ever wanting to be a surgeon, but he did actively pursue astronomy in college.
Harold and Ruth were not without clues of their son's latent talents. Brian began to shine musically when his parents started him with piano lessons at the tender age of five. But they didn't stop there. They bought him a ukulele when he was six, and his father taught him how to play it. On his seventh birthday, Brian received his first acoustic guitar, which he immediately began altering and manipulating, adding his own pick ups to attain an electric sound.
That acoustic guitar somewhat appeased Brian until he was a teenager, but then he wanted a real electric guitar. His parents couldn't afford to buy one, so Brian and his father decided to build one themselves. They were the ideal team for the job, too, because Harold was an experienced electronics engineer while Brian was an adept physics student. Also, they were both experienced in wood and metal working.
They began their project in August 1963, when Brian was sixteen years old. The materials they used were both unusual and incredible. Just picture them discussing:
"Hmmm, what shall we use for the neck?"
"I know! The mahogany from the fireplace!"
"Splendid! And we must use oak for the body, but what about the tremolo?"
"That's a tough one... Maybe we should sleep on it."
"By jove, I think I've got it! We'll use the old bicycle pump."
"Have you gone mad? I was thinking along more practical lines, like the motorbike valve springs and a knife edge."
"Okay, okay. But let's definitely throw in some of these these pearl buttons for the fret markers."
(Tosses pearl buttons into the pile)
"Okay let's do it."
"That could make a brilliant lyric one day."
"Some day, one day...."
When the guitar, later known as the "Red Special," was nearly completed, Brian tried using his own pick ups, but ended up buying some Burns. He still wasn't satisfied with the microphone sound, so he filled them with epoxy. Then, after much experimentation with picks, he decided that an old sixpence would do just fine. That sixpence stopped circulation in the early 70's, so Brian eventually got the Royal Mint to make some more to be used as picks. He later sold them while on tour, and of course they sold out.
The Red Special eventually became a hit in the guitar world. Guild Guitars produced replicas, including the BHM1, the Brian May Standard, and the Brian May Signature (which was nearly identical to the original and sold for $2000!)
Soon after Brian and his father began building the Red Special, Brian formed his first band, called "1984." He then went on to Imperial College and eventually got a BSc honors degree in Physics and Math. He began to work on a PhD in astronomy, but never completed his thesis. Something more interesting had come up...
In 1968, Brian and his old band mate from "1984," Tim Staffell, decided to form a new band. They advertised for a drummer, selected Roger Taylor, and named themselves "Smile." Mercury Records signed them on, and they used Trident Studios to record their sessions. Tim introduced a college buddy of his, Freddie Bulsara, to the band, and Freddie soon became an avid fan. But Smile didn't have enough going on, so they called it quits in 1970. Tim joined another band called Humpy Bong, which became the highest selling pop/rock act of all time - GOTCHA! Meanwhile, Freddie quit his band, Wreckage, to join up with Brian and Roger, and changed his name to Freddie Mercury. He had loads of eccentric ideas for the new band and didn't hesitate to convey them. Thankfully, those ideas were taken seriously, including insane attire, outrageous stage shows, and the regal name of "Queen." The band advertised for a bass player and eventually hired John Deacon, which made Queen complete.
By 1971, Brian wrote Queen's first single Keep Yourself Alive. It wasn't released until 1973, and frankly, it bombed. The world was just not ready for the likes of Queen! Seven Seas of Rhye was their first real hit, and in 1974 Queen embarked on their first US tour, opening for Mott the Hoople. The tour was cut short when Brian collapsed from a case of hepatitis. Though sick as a dog, Brian managed to play a killer guitar - and sing! - in the studio for Queen's third album, "Sheer Heart Attack," the album that truly launched Queen's 20-year-long career.
In the beginning of 1983, during the midst of Queen's success, Brian got a notion to fly to Los Angeles and gather some friends together at the Record Plant studios for an all-out jam session. Eddie Van Halen, Alan Gratzer, Phil Chen and Fred Mandel joined Brian and inadvertently created a mini-album known as "The Starfleet Project". One of the tracks included a twelve-minute blues session between Eddie and Brian called Blues Breaker, dedicated to Eric Clapton. The album went out of print, but is available on the Japanese CD, "Resurrection."
Brian spent most of the next few years immersed in Queen's success and engaging in various cameo appearances. Then, in 1991, when Queen was sadly coming to an end due to Freddie's illness, Brian was approached by a London advertising agency to write a song for an advertising campaign for Ford cars. The song, Driven by You became so popular that Brian decided to release it on its own merits. It made the top ten in the UK, but Brian couldn't glory too much in its success because Freddie died of AIDS around the same time, a great loss for Brian both personally and professionally. The night before Freddie died, Brian wrote a poignant song while thinking about his dear friend, called Nothin' But Blue
The following year, 1992, was met with much activity for Brian. There was the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness and the release of Brian's first successful solo album, "Back to the Light". The album included the title track, plus an array of songs Brian had written throughout the years - including Nothin' But Blue and Driven by You. It also included songs written especially for the album, which quickly reached double gold status.
Brian and several of the artists who appeared in "Back to the Light" toured the next couple years as The Brian May Band in places like South America, North America, Japan, Europe, and the UK. They mostly headlined, but opened for Guns N Roses a few times. One headliner gig would become Brian's next album, "Live at the Brixton Academy." A video was also released.
In 1995, Brian returned to the studios with the remaining members of Queen to finish an album titled "Made in Heaven." This album was released exactly four years after Freddie's death, and became a beautiful tribute to the flamboyant legend. Queen got together a few years later and recorded another Freddie tribute, No One But You, which was also written by Brian and was the only original track on the 1998 album, "Queen Rocks." Meanwhile, Brian was also working on a new album, "Another World," which was released on June 1, 1998. This long-awaited album featured drummer guru, Cozy Powell, who was tragically killed in a car accident shortly before the release of the first single. Brian released the single, The Business (Rock on Cozy Mix), in May 1998 as a tribute to his close friend. "Another World" also includes the title track, new versions of One Rainy Wish and On My Way Up as well as some original tracks written by Brian.
Brian May is a remarkable and extremely talented musician with a huge, loyal following. He is known for his unique guitar style and sound, as well as for his poetic songwriting abilities and incredible voice. He has won four Ivor Music Awards for Flash's Theme, Driven by You, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Too Much Love Will Kill You. In 1986 he also won the PRS Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award. His fans are eagerly awaiting news of a world tour, which may occur as early as September 1998!
Brian May is more than a musician, though - he is also a devoted father of three children: Jimmy, Louisa, and Emily. Jimmy was born in 1978, Louisa in 1981, and Emily in 1987. Brian adores the Beatles, and his favorite song of all time is I Wanna Hold Your Hand. He also ranks Tracks of My Tears by Smoky Robinson and the Miracles and Without You by Nilsson as being among the top three greatest songs of all time. His biggest musical influences were the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, and his favorite actor is Clint Eastwood. Brian enjoys drinking Guinness, eating vegetarian food, and listening to heavy metal music. A man of many talents, a man of many tastes, and a man the world has grown to love and finally appreciate.