Rockstar Origins: Brian May

The Queen Genius

Brian May is not your average rock ‘n roll musician. As if his accomplishments in the music industry are not enough, he went ahead and pursued other endeavors like photography and studying astrophysics. And while we can go on and on about his achievements, let’s go back to his humble beginnings instead. It’s intriguing to say the least – being an astrophysicist and a legendary axeslinger are things we can only dream about but for May, he grabbed both titles and somehow made it look easy.

Born on July 19, 1947 in Hampton, Middlesex, he was the only child of a Scottish mother and an English father. While attending a state-funded school, he has always been imaginative and innovative. And at a young age, he managed to build his very own homemade guitar with the help of his father.

He called his first axe “The Red Special” also known as The Old Lady and it was mostly made of firewood. May even used a sixpence coin in lieu of a pick. Interestingly, he also used this while playing his iconic riffs in Queen.

He formed his first band called 1984 which he named after George Orwell’s famous book. But while he was playing music on the side, he never neglected his academe and went on to become an exceptional student raking in high grades in Physics and Mathematics.

In 1968, he formed Smile with Tim Staffell and Roger Taylor while attending the London Imperial College. Taylor joined after May put up an ad on a school board looking for a “Mitch Mitchell/Ginger Baker type” drummer. After realizing he can’t serve two masters at the same time, he put off his Ph.D so he can concentrate on making music with his new group. They recorded a few songs and even hit the road.

Farrokh Bulsara who later went by the name Freddie Mercury became a fan. After two years, Staffell left and Freddie suggested they changed the name to Queen. And after their debut, the world was never the same.

Hailed as one of the greatest guitarists in rock, Brian May is on another level of genius. Take it from him, you can multi-task and still excel in all aspects.