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Guitar World
Guitar World
Matt Parker

“I chipped my tooth – my mom was so mad at me!” John 5 says playing a Jimi Hendrix-inspired version of Star Spangled Banner with his teeth as a kid led to a dental mishap – and shows he can still nail the tooth-picked tune

John 5 playing with his teeth.

Mötley Crüe man and guitar virtuoso John 5 has revealed that he once chipped a tooth while practicing a Jimi Hendrix-style take on The Star Spangled Banner as a kid.

John 5 is set to appear as a guitar-wielding guest host in Howard Stern’s upcoming Howard 101 special – picking the tunes in more ways than one – as he shares both the tracks and demonstrates the guitar playing behind them.

In a trailer for the special (below), 5 can be seen demonstrating Queen, Rush, AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne licks and discussing the magpie ear for guitar lines that powered his development as a guitarist.

“Everything I heard, I learned,” enthuses 5, appearing with his Fender Ghost Telecaster signature guitar in-hand. “I just learned every AC/DC riff, anything I heard on the radio.” 

Among the tunes that fed into the young 5’s head was the national anthem, as performed by Hendrix. Later, following an inspirational encounter with footage of the guitar icon’s tooth-picking technique, he put two and two together.

“He was playing with his teeth,” says 5. “And I was like, 'Well, I know how to [perform the Star Spangled Banner]!' And so I did this [plays] – and I chipped my tooth and my mom was so mad at me…”

As 5 demonstrates in the clip, the dental mishap didn’t put him off – and he’s still able to floss out the main lick, albeit in a way that’s somewhat more restrained by the studio setting, compared to the aural/oral carnage unleashed in Hendrix’s performances.

Hendrix himself did not play the Star Spangled Banner with his teeth – at least, not as far as GW can ascertain. However, his tooth picking did play a frequent part in his live repertoire – alongside a number of other attention-grabbing tricks, like playing behind his head.

Of course, on his own way up, Hendrix, too, paid the price for such showboating. Last year, Graham Nash recalled the fall-out after a gig in which his band The Hollies supported an irate Little Richard in New York.

“He came off screaming [at his guitarist],” remembered Nash. “‘Don’t you ever play your fucking guitar behind your head again, don’t you upstage me, I’m fucking Little Richard!’’

The guitarist in question, of course, turned out to be Hendrix – and his stint with Little Richard was far from the only example of the icon getting upbraided for his onstage antics as a (somewhat frustrated) sideman. 

Such moves are more at home onstage with Mötley Crüe, of course – this is the band that invented the drum riser rollercoaster. Either way, we hope John 5’s mother now considers the dental bills a worthwhile investment.

Keep an eye out for the special over at SiriusXM

Meanwhile, for more from the guitarist, check out our 2023 interview, in which John 5 talks us through his stunning Fender Ghost Telecaster signature model.

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