Mel Bay, in 1928 with his National Triolian guitar, his first "good" guitar. Mel Bay plays an early model D'Angelico guitar. In the 1940's he would have John D'Angelico make a model to his specifications, with a thinner neck and cutaway body.
Mel Bay, Aaron Shearer, and Chet Atkins at the 1996 Guitar Foundation of America International Convention and Competition held in St. Louis.
Mel, with son Bill and grandson Matthew (one of his six grandsons), posing for a catalog shot.
Mel Bay, founder and first president of Mel Bay Publications, Inc., died at age 84 on May 14, 1997. Mel Bay was born in the Missouri town of Bunker and raised in DeSoto where as a teenager he taught himself how to play the guitar and performed regularly with various Ozark region bands. His plans to study engineering in college were brought to a halt by the Depression.
Upon moving to St. Louis, Mel took up the tenor banjo and became a highly sought after musician and teacher. He began writing guitar methods in 1947. His method books grew in popularity worldwide and laid the foundation for most of today's guitar pedagogy. Guitar Player magazine referred to him as "the George Washington of the guitar." It is difficult to find a guitarist worldwide who has not, at some point, studied one of Mel's method books. Sales of his Modern Guitar Method series are estimated to be well in excess of 20 million copies.
Mr. Bay received many awards during his career which include the "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Guitar Foundation of America, "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Retail Print Music Dealers Association, the "Owen Miller Lifetime Achievement Award" from the American Federation of Musicians, "Certificate of Merit" from the St. Louis Music Educators Association, a resolution from the Missouri House of Representatives honoring his achievements, a proclamation by mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. making October 25, 1996 "Mel Bay Day" in the city of St. Louis and a letter of commendation from President Clinton. June 30, 2011, Melbourne (Mel) E. Bay was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Mel Bay established the structure for modern guitar education and by so doing, laid the foundation for the continued growth and advancement of the instrument.
See also the biography of Mel Bay elsewhere on this site. A full biography of Mel Bay in book form is also available, entitled The Mel Bay Story, by Ray Dankenbring.
Here is a video from KETC, LIVING ST. LOUIS in which producer Ruth Ezell profiles the life of Missouri musician, Mel Bay: (courtesy of KETC.org)