Image courtsey Blackmagic Rollercoaster
In May 14, in front of a live Web-streamed audience of thousands, Austin resident and former Richmond music-scene staple David DiDonato smashed the world record for the longest continuous guitar solo by playing for 25 hours and 55 minutes. Remarkably, even with all his newfound fame — the Guinness World Records folks have yet to return his email, though Time magazine hailed him and warned Eric Clapton to step aside — DiDonato still remembers the town where he truly launched his 20-year musical career, in such faintly remembered bands as the Jolly Mortals, HRM and Ultimate Dragons.
In the interest of full disclosure, Dave and I played together in an early lineup of the Jolly Mortals at Bruton High School in Williamsburg, providing me unique access to a man whose mercurial shot to fame inspired Slash of Guns N' Roses fame to remark of his astounding achievement, "I'm actually surprised it's that short. I thought it would be way longer." Slash added charitably: "God bless him for hanging in there."
RM: What do you do to prepare your fingers for an undertaking like this?
DD: They're actually totally fine, which is surprising. They're not even really calloused or anything. My wife, she was great during this. She brought me food. She's a nurse, so [afterward] she was like, "You need to ice this and keep it elevated."
RM: So it wasn't that bad?
DD: I did a couple things where I pretended like I was going to pass out and stuff. It was for the people. I got most tired in the early afternoon. Like around lunchtime. I had no idea if anyone was even watching. I found out afterwards there were over 40,000 people who tuned in.
RM: As someone who takes seriously your adopted city's "Keep Austin Weird" slogan, how does Richmond stack up in the weird department?
DD: Richmond is a lot weirder than Austin. Like Dirtwoman. Remember that guy? That guy was really weird.
RM: I knew you pretty well in high school and remember you always had a Guinness book around. I seem to recall you trying to beat some record with Mountain Dew cans you'd drunk.
DD: After high school, I stopped drinking as much Mountain Dew because I started having to pay for it. [But] I remember thinking about it when I was a kid — "I want to break that record," like grow my fingernails long or get a twin and get really fat and ride motorcycles. So I Googled longest guitar solos. This guy Paul Wanyae Smith Jr. who had the record at 24 hours and 8 minutes or something kept coming up. He was 15 years old, and his fingers bled afterwards. I figured it must be legit. I figured out after I did it that [Smith's record] was probably made up. I don't think that guy even exists. All that exists about him is just that one sentence about him on the Internet. There's no video footage. Turns out the record before that was only six hours.
I quadrupled the record without meaning to. I hope it will hold up for a while. Slash with Guns N' Roses … was relatively unimpressed. But he's Slash — he's playing guitars on top of a mountain with no shirt on. You can't impress that guy.
RM: Have you thought about product endorsements? Mountain Dew? Other stimulant drinks?
DD: If they asked me to do a commercial, I'd do it. Or maybe Ernie Ball [guitar strings]. That's what I used. I broke one high E string. If you consider 24 hours of continuous playing, that's pretty good.
RM: Any particular style that you tended toward during your extended solo?
DD: I tried to switch it up as much as I could. I used five different guitars plugged into four different amps. And so for each one of them, it was a sort of a different kind of style. One was a seven-string guitar that I tuned all to E and A and plugged it into a bass amp so I could strum that and make it drone — so that nobody could say, "Oh, he stopped." There were some mean Internet comments, but nobody ever said that
I stopped. One was like, "Oh, after 17 hours his technique is sloppy."
RM: Are you bothered that your name can now be linked through Guinness to circus freaks and a disturbing menagerie of medical curiosities?
DD: When you put it like that, not at all.
RM: So do you still like guitar?
DD: Here's the funny thing, for a couple of hours after I played, my ears were ringing because everything was really loud. For a couple hours, I was done. But I went home and I did my Wii Fit and I went to bed and woke up — and was ready to do it again. I'm actually playing tonight with my band, Modok.