December 14, 2011 12:00 PM

Becoming a serious guitar player, says Brad Paisley, is no solitary craft. “It’s like becoming a Jedi-you have to have your Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Or, in Paisley’s case, an entire Jedi Council, many of whom he honors in his new book Diary of a Player.

Chief among those musical guides was his grandfather Warren Jarvis. After buying his grandson his first guitar when he was 8, the two spent hours dissecting the signature picking styles of Roy Clark, Les Paul and Chet Atkins. “He didn’t start playing until he was 40 or so, but he realized this was an instrument with so many nuances that playing it is almost like handwriting,” Paisley says. “You grow up with that, you can’t help but absorb it.”

The singer went on to study under guitarist Hank Goddard, with whom he developed fleet fingers on the strings but also learned about generosity of spirit when Goddard agreed to play in his student’s backing band. “He was way better than what I was doing, but he cared about me. He couldn’t say no to doing something helpful.”

Soon the guitar prodigy was meeting virtuosos like Steve Wariner (“He had a red Stratocaster and a bus with flames on it!”) and Vince Gill, who opened his eyes to possibility. “Seeing those guys, it was like, ‘That’s who I want to be!'” he says. “A lot of people collaborated to get me to this point, and I’m thankful for that.”

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