George Cole (musician)

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For other people named George Cole, see George Cole (disambiguation).
George Cole
George Cole in 2007.jpg
Background information
Genres Gypsy jazz, Country, Rock, Jazz, New acoustic, Pop, Bluegrass, newgrass, folk, Americana, Great American Songbook
Occupation(s) Musician, producer, composer, lyricist, vocalist, guitar instructor, guitarist
Instruments acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, accordion, mandolin, ukelele
Years active 1977–present
Labels Geffen Interscope Records
Atlantic Records
Ocean View Records
Acoustic Oasis
Associated acts Beatnik Beatch
Big Blue Hearts
George Cole Quintet
George Cole and Eurocana
David Grisman Quintet
Notable instruments
Selmer Guitars
Holo Jazz Guitars
Eastman Guitars
Gibson Guitars
Martin Guitars
George Cole and Eurocana, Yoshi's December 2012
George Cole September 28, 2012

George Cole (born in San Francisco, California) is an American producer, composer, lyricist, vocalist, session musician and guitarist. He fronts his own Gypsy jazz/Uptown Swing band and since early 2014 is the guitarist for the David Grisman Quintet. Prior to his current acoustic music endeavors he played electric guitar for the pop rock band Beatnik Beatch and Big Blue Hearts. He played on Chris Isaak's platinum selling Forever Blue album. George Cole is a highly sought after music educator with over 30 years of experience. Some of his former students have risen to prominence. George Cole was the guitar instructor of Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt for eight years before they started the punk rock band Green Day. Other successful former students of George Cole are Ethan Roberts and Danny Jones. Ethan Roberts was guitarist/musical director for Katy Perry, Selena Gomez & The Scene, and Cheyenne Kimball.

Early life[edit]

George Cole grew up in Richmond, California. He attended Kennedy High School. He performed in the band "Young Country" in the late 1970s and The Upstarts in the early 1980s. His favorite band as a child was The Benny Goodman Quartet.[1] George also loved Louis Prima, Keely Smith, The Mills Brothers, Lawrence Welk, Alan Sherman, Dave Clark Five, The Turtles, The Zombies, Country Joe and the Fish, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, and the Beatles.

Guitar Instructor[edit]

George Cole has taught guitar lessons to promising musicians for over twenty-five years. He began teaching guitar lessons in California in the 1980s. Among his many students, he taught and mentored Billie Joe Armstrong for ten years and the bassist Mike Dirnt of the punk rock band Green Day. "Cole and Billie Joe would frequently spend afternoons jamming together, free-form style with the teacher winging off as many odd notes as his pupil.[2] He helped them have their first recording session at a studio at RDR studios in San Francisco in 1986. Armstrong received his first electric guitar, a Fernandes Stratocaster copy that he named "Blue", that his mother bought from Cole. Cole bought the guitar new from David Margen of the band Santana. Cole gave Armstrong a Bill Lawrence Humbucking pickup and told him to install the pickup in the bridge position. Armstrong then switched back to a Seymour Duncan JB pickup that he still uses today. "Armstrong fetishized his teacher's guitar, partly because the blue instrument had a sound quality and Van Halen – worthy fluidity he couldn't get from his little red Hohner. He prized it mostly, however, because of his relationship with Cole, another father figure after the death of Andy."[3]


George Cole was lead guitarist in the pop rock band Beatnik Beatch from 1984–1988. With Beatnik Beatch, he performed with Warren Zevon and Buster Poindexter.[4] Beatnik Beatch has a music video featuring George Cole on VH1. They won a BAMMY – Bay Area Music Award for Best New Major Label Artist.[5] George Cole was a member of the band Big Blue Hearts from 1997–2000. He toured with Joe Walsh of The Eagles, recorded with producer Roy Thomas Baker, and they performed with Robert Cray, Ringo Starr, and Boz Scaggs.[6] George Cole started the gypsy jazz band George Cole Quintet in 2006 and is the Producer, composer, lyricist, Vocalist, and lead guitarist. The band was a five piece acoustic gypsy jazz group. George performed a sold out performance at Carnegie Hall in New York as part of a world flute festival concert to benefit In Defense of Animals The band performed at a San Francisco Chapter of National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences's (Grammy's) celebration.[4] In 2010–2011 George Cole released his most recent recording Riverside Drive and toured extensively in the United States with a quintet. George Cole is the co-founder, curator, and director of guitar and violin for the Annual Esprit de Django et Stephane Festival that takes place at the end of January each year at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley California. This festival is differentiated from other Django Reinhardt festivals in that it honors the legacy of the great jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli and his collaboration with Django. George Cole (as of 2013) performs Gypsy Jazz and Uptown Swing with various highly skilled musicians. In January 2014 George Cole performed with David "Dawg" Grisman[7] as part of the David Grisman Sextet. George was asked to join the David Grisman Sextet, assuming the guitar chair first held by Tony Rice and subsequently Mark O'Connor, Frank Vignola, and Mike Marshall.[8]


George has owned and performed with acoustic Selmer Guitars 103 and 520. Selmer 520 was played by Django Reinhardt on a tour in Europe in the 1940s.[9] George plays guitars made by master luthier Bob Holo as well as Eastman, Martin, and Gibson guitars.

Selected discography[edit]

George Cole Quintet

  • Riverside Drive (2010) – Executive Producer, vocals, guitars

The Hot Club

  • Samois Faire (2007) – Executive Producer, vocals, guitars

George Cole

  • George Cole (2004) – Producer, guitars

Compilation (Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Lavay Smith...)

  • New Sirens of Song: Sultry Singers (2003) – Producer, guitars

Christie McCarthy

  • Everyday Real (2003) – Producer, guitar

Glassbrick Boulevard

  • A Ride Up The Mountain Where Miracles Live (2002) – guitars

Lee Seung-Hwan

  • Egg (over Easy) (2003) – guitars

Fred Horn

  • Steady Fready (1999) – guitars

Jerry Shelfer

  • Slipaway (1992) – guitars

Chris Isaak

Beatnik Beatch

  • At the Zula Pool (1986) – guitar
  • Beatnik Beach (1986) – guitar


  1. ^ Fields, Jack. "New CD: Samois Faire, by the Hot Club". Retrieved 2009-01-13. [dead link]
  2. ^ Spitz, Marc (2006). Nobody Likes You: inside the turbulent life, times, and music of Green Day. Hyperion. p. 11. 
  3. ^ Spitz, Marc (2006). Nobody Likes You: inside the turbulent life, times, and music of Green Day. Hyperion. pp. 11–14. 
  4. ^ a b Thomas, Michelle. "Biography of George Cole". Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  5. ^ Beatnik Beatch, George Cole (1986). Beatnik Beatch [1]. VH1.  External link in |title= (help)
  6. ^ Schwartz, Marc (May 2008). "Amplifying the Gypsy Jazz Guitar". Just Jazz Magazine 55: 179–184. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ David Grisman Quintet
  9. ^ Swift, Sheila. "Selmer Acoustic Guitars". Retrieved 2009-01-13. 

External links[edit]