guitarguitar Heroes

Published on 30 June 2024

7 minutes


As you know, customers are everything to us here at guitarguitar. We want to create a place that makes you excited about visiting and talking guitars with team members who live and breathe the subject. We love hearing the stories and anecdotes that you bring in with you, and as part of guitarguitar’s 20th anniversary, it seems correct to share some of those amazing stories!

We reached out recently to you, asking for your personal guitar journeys, your special moments with the instrument, and the times where life, music and guitars have converged for you in life-changing ways.

With your permission, we’ll be sharing these stories throughout the coming months alongside some wonderful portrait photography by Aaron Parsons. Keep an eye out for these guitarguitar Hero stories, but in the meantime, here’s the official press release. Thanks to everyone who took part!



  • Globally renowned music photographer captures amazing stories of UK guitarists for 20th Anniversary of UK’s largest retailer, guitarguitar 

  • Powerful photo series highlights incredible impact of the instrument, with stories of guitars helping people overcome grief and adversity, viral fame and rock and roll proposals  

  • The employee-owned retailer, which has placed over one million guitars in the hands of musicians since 2004, is hoping to inspire a new generation to pick up and play  

Twenty customers with incredible guitar stories have been given the front cover treatment as part of a special anniversary photo series released today from independent retailer, guitarguitar. The series shines a (spot)light on the incredible impact the instrument has had on British lives. 

Globally renowned music portrait photographer, Aaron Parsons, took time out from snapping Arctic Monkeys, Taylor Swift and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to photograph some of the most passionate and talented players to have come through the retailer’s doors over the last two decades.  

The powerful photo series, titled “Guitar Heroes”, features guitarists from as young as 13, to seasoned strummers at 70 in a striking collection of images. It includes emerging young viral talent, heavy metal rock stars, ex-Premier League footballers and many more for whom music has helped overcome adversity and grief. 

Since its first store opened in 2004, guitarguitar has placed over one million guitars in the hands of musicians across stores from Glasgow to London. The employee-owned business hopes the powerful stories will inspire a whole new generation to follow in their footsteps by highlighting the incredible role music can play in people’s lives.  


The series includes stories from: 

  • Ethan Heer, 19 – an autistic young man who discovered a gift for playing guitar after buying his first from the Birmingham store. He now tours the UK playing with the National Open Youth Orchestra. 

  • Peter Odemwingie, 42 – a blues-loving former West Brom football star and three time PL Player of the Month who’s finally pursuing his childhood passion for music after retiring in 2019. 

  • Steve Bateman, 51 – a dad-of-two whose late wife bought him an “engagement guitar” from the Birmingham store when they decided to get married – and a gorgeous Fender when they tied the knot. 

  • Ava Kelly, 13 – a talented teenager whose love of Taylor Swift inspired her to take up guitar at 11 and has already seen her take to the stage to show off her skills. 

  • Horse McDonald, 65 – legendary Scottish singer-songwriter who has toured the world, opening for Tina Turner and BB King in the 1980s and becoming a powerful voice in Scottish music. She first turned to music to escape the homophobia she experienced in her youth and is a passionate anti-bullying campaigner. 

  • Jackie Nelson, 55 – a seasoned performer who's been playing for 45 years and at one point auditioning for Stars in Their Eyes as her hero, Chrissie Hynde. She met her wife in 2007 when she returned to gigging after a 7-year hiatus, and now they perform together side by side in a successful Pretenders tribute band. 

  • Roger Penny, 70 – a self-taught guitarist who first began playing 60 years ago, and has found friends, joy and fulfilment through the guitar ever since. Just two years ago he began to record and release his own music under the artist name Heatherstay, enjoying the thrill of knowing his music is being streamed across the globe. 

  • Rhys John Sygal, 16 – a prodigiously talented young blues guitarist whose jaw-dropping skills have amassed him a vast online following. As an autistic young person who once suffered with extreme anxiety and isolation, Rhys credits the guitar with helping him find his place and understand his purpose. Still only 16, he now regularly plays to audiences around the world, and even joined blues legend Buddy Guy and young star Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram on stage in Phoenix, Arizona, in front of an audience of thousands. 

  • Miles Reed, 34 – a lifelong music fan whose guitar took on a deeper significance for him when he lost his father at a young age, becoming a powerful source of comfort and therapy as he worked through his grief. 

  • Kirsteen Harvey, 25 – an up-and-coming Glaswegian singer-songwriter whose Scottish trad renditions of famous pop songs have earned her TikTok fame. She was inspired to make music by her fiddle-playing grandfather, and by her dad, who performs with a ceilidh band and plays banjo alongside her.

Adam Speck, Marketing Director at guitarguitar said: “Buying a guitar is a special moment for any person, but the journey our customers go on with that instrument is why we are so passionate about what we do here.” 

“The 100,000’s of guitarists we’ve inspired over the last two decades all have their own incredible relationship with the guitar. And whether they are playing with it in front of thousands, benefitting from it as a form of therapy during difficult moments in their lives, or even proposing with one – that’s the magic of this great instrument. We want our anniversary to be a chance to inspire future generations to pick up a guitar and create their own special story with one.”  

Due to their versatility across genres, guitars remain the number one1 most played instrument around the world, with the benefits of playing an instrument on people’s mood2, as well as brain health3, continuing to be recognised in leading studies. Many of the stories in the series reflect its positive impact on players:   

“I’ve gone from a kid who couldn’t even go to the supermarket with my mum to playing on stage in Phoenix, Arizona next to blues legend Buddy Guy and young blues hero Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram in front of 2500 people. Guitar saved me – it was a language I understood immediately.” 
(Rhys John Stygal) 

“After my dad’s death, the guitar took on a whole new meaning. It became a way for me to express what I was feeling when words failed me. The act of strumming chords and creating melodies allowed me to release pent-up emotions and find moments of peace amidst the chaos.”
(Miles Reed)

“My wife loved it when I played the guitar – well, that’s what she told me! – so it’s my way of keeping some great musical memories alive and remembering some great times at open mics and parties together over our 15 years of marriage.”
(Steve Bateman)

Aaron Parsons’ career has seen him photograph some of the most influential artists in recent years for the likes of Rolling Stone and Attitude magazines. His portfolio includes the Arctic Monkeys, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Self Esteem, Miles Kane, Thundercat and many other music icons. A regular photographer at Glastonbury, his work aims to encapsulate the emotion and energy of those in front of the camera. 

Aaron said: “Whether I’m photographing John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Taylor Swift, or any of the 20 incredible people behind the stories in this series, the relationship I see these musicians have with their guitars is incredibly special and unique. When they pick up their guitar, the room, or stage, lights up. My job is to try and capture that unique energy in just a single image.”


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I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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