1948 – Born on this day, Nigel Tufnell, guitar, Spinal Tap

Spinal Tap

Spinal Tap

1948  – Born on this day, Nigel Tufnell, guitar, Spinal Tap, (1984 film ‘This Is Spinal Tap’).

Nigel Tufnel (1948-) is the fictional lead guitarist of the rock band Spinal Tap featured in the 1984 mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap. He is played by actor Christopher Guest.

Nigel’s hobbies include collecting guitars; particularly noteworthy is his foam-green six-string Fender Bass VI with the price tag still attached, which he has kept in mint condition by not allowing it to be played, touched, looked at, pointed at, or talked about. He also has a Gibson Les Paul 1959 model, whose acoustic properties and carved flame-maple top he praises. He also plays mandolin, piano, and does backing vocals. His character has two signature guitars made by the ernie ball musicman company called mr horsepower and the global warming silhouette. He is currently writing a classical piece which he feels combines the musical characteristics of both Mozart and Bach (a “Mach piece”) in D minor, which he claims is the ‘saddest of all keys’. The piece is provisionally entitled ‘Lick My Love Pump’. According to Christopher Guest, Nigel has not yet completed the trilogy, and is still working on it.

Nigel has a great love for Gumby, carrying a figurine in his shirt pocket and wearing Gumby shirts frequently. He is also a self-proclaimed ‘fish nut’, liking cod and canned tuna because it has ‘no bones’. Nigel currently sits on the Editorial Board of his preferred in-flight periodical, Car and Driver. His favorite cookies are Oreos, but without the filling. The rider in his contract requires a large plate of Oreo halves without frosting backstage (similar to Van Halen’s request for a bowl of M&M’s without the brown ones.)

Tufnel was born in Squatney, East London. He got his first guitar from his father at the age of six, a sunburst ‘Rhythm King’. His life changed when he met David St Hubbins (Michael McKean) who lived next door. They began jamming together in a toolshed in David’s garden, influenced by early blues artists like Honkin’ Bubba Fulton, Little Sassy Francis and particularly Big Little Daddy’ Coleman, a deaf guitar player, and wrote their first song, (Cry) All the Way Home. Before long they had formed the Thamesmen and the rest is history.

Tufnel has stated that if he wasn’t in the music industry he would like to either enter the field of haberdashery or become a surgeon: ‘I like surgery’.

Tufnel’s work outside Spinal Tap includes his appearance on the 1979 album “Lenny & Squiggy sing Lenny and the Squigtones”, released on Casablanca Records. Lenny & Squiggy were fictional characters on the TV series Laverne & Shirley, and Lenny, like Spinal Tap’s David St. Hubbins, was played by Michael McKean.
Soloing techniques

* Using a violin (as opposed to a violin bow, as made famous by Jimmy Page) to play his guitar
* Playing another guitar with his foot
* Classical music inspired solos
* Facial harmonics
* Turning amps to 11, which is ‘one louder’ than 10
* Playing another guitar from a distance using horseshoes (as in the Return of Spinal Tap)


* In September 2002 the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary included the entry: “Up to eleven: Up to maximum volume”, a reference to Nigel’s amplifier that had controls that went beyond the usual maximum setting of 10.
* In homage to Nigel Tufnel Marshall Amplification released a version of the classic JCM 900 amplifier head with controls from 1 to 20. The advertising material featured Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel saying “That’s nine more, innit?”
* In 2006 Tufnel appeared in an American television commercial for Volkswagen, for a car that came with a First Act electric guitar and could be used as an amplifier.
* Nigel Tufnel is one of the many pseudonyms used by Dean Winchester in the TV series Supernatural.
* Mozart actually wrote a musical piece called Leck mich im Arsch which means “Lick me in the arse” in English.

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