George Cole (musician)

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George Cole
George Cole in 2007.jpg
Background information
Born (1960-10-10) October 10, 1960 (age 61)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
GenresGypsy jazz, bluegrass, rock, pop
Occupation(s)Musician, producer, teacher
Years active1977–present
LabelsGeffen Interscope, Atlantic, Ocean View, Acoustic Oasis

George Cole (born October 10, 1960) is an American music producer, composer, lyricist, vocalist, session musician, and guitarist. He fronts his own Gypsy jazz/Uptown Swing band and since early 2014 has been the guitarist for the David Grisman Quintet. Before his 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 Forever Blue album. Cole is also a teacher, and his students include Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt of Green Day; Ethan Roberts, and Danny Jones.

Early life[edit]

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 childhood band was the Benny Goodman Quartet. He 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 and Eurocana, Yoshi's, December 2012

Cole has taught guitar lessons to promising musicians for nearly 30 years. He began teaching guitar lessons in California in the 1980s. He taught 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."[1] He helped arrange their first recording session 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 new guitar 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."[1]


George Cole, September 28, 2012

Cole was lead guitarist in the pop rock band Beatnik Beatch from 1984–1988. In Beatnik Beatch he performed with Warren Zevon and Buster Poindexter.[2] Beatnik Beatch has a music video on VH1 which features Cole. The group won a BAMMY – Bay Area Music Award for Best New Major Label Artist.[3]

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.[4]

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. Cole 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.[5] The band performed at a San Francisco Chapter of National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences's (Grammys) celebration.[2]

In 2010–2011 Cole released his most recent recording Riverside Drive and toured extensively in the United States with a quintet.

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.

As of 2013, Cole performs Gypsy Jazz and Uptown Swing with various highly skilled musicians. In January 2014 Cole performed with David "Dawg" Grisman[6] as part of the David Grisman Sextet. Cole 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.


Cole 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.[7] Cole plays guitars made by master luthier Bob Holo as well as Eastman, Martin, and Gibson guitars.


As leader[edit]

  • George Cole (2004)
  • Riverside Drive (Oceanview, 2010)

As sideman[edit]

  • Beatnik Beatch, At the Zula Pool (Industrial, 1986)
  • Beatnik Beatch, Beatnik Beach (1988)
  • David Grisman, The David Grisman Sextet (Acoustic Disc, 2016)


  1. ^ a b Spitz, Marc (2006). Nobody Likes You: inside the turbulent life, times, and music of Green Day. Hyperion. pp. 11–14. ISBN 9781401302740.
  2. ^ a b Thomas, Michelle. "Biography of George Cole". Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  3. ^ Beatnik Beatch, George Cole (1986). Beatnik Beatch. VH1.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Marc (May 2008). "Amplifying the Gypsy Jazz Guitar". Just Jazz Magazine. 55: 179–184.
  5. ^ "Home".
  6. ^ "David Grisman Sextet | Freight & Salvage". Archived from the original on July 22, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  7. ^ Swift, Sheila. "Selmer Acoustic Guitars". Archived from the original on February 7, 2009. Retrieved January 13, 2009.

External links[edit]