Brian Harold May was born on Saturday, July 19, 1947 in Hampton, Middlesex to Harold and Ruth May. At the age of five, Brian's parents enrolled him in piano lessons. Brian hated those lessons-he had to practice on Saturday when he would rather be out playing.
Brian's father was a practical man who enjoyed making things from furniture to toys and models. He was also a capable musician who was proficient in both piano and ukulele. Brian took after his father in his dexterity, making toys and models.
At the age of six, Harold decided that Brian was old enough to play the ukulele. Brian showed amazing aptitude and soon wanted to take up the guitar. On his seventh birthday, he got his wish as his parents presented him with a Spanish acoustic. The guitar was unfortunately too large and needed to be modified for Brian. With the help of his father, they began to carve down the wooden bridge to make the strings lower. Brian also craved an electric sound and created himself a pickup by winding copper wire around three small magnets.
Brian also began to take an interest in photography and astronomy. He was given a camera of his own and also constructed a small telescope. To this day, both astronomy and photography play a key role in Brian's life (he is a collector of early stereographs and still partakes in astronomy).
Brian's interest in music grew when he started listening to albums by such artists as buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. He would play along with these records, starting with chords and gradually moving to improvised solos. He began to dissect each song as if it was a "keychain puzzle". "I would listen to the songs and want to know everything-how the harmonies worked, what made one harmony affect you in a certain way".
Although he hated the piano, he took lessons until the age of nine, passing the level four theory and practical exams. Then Brian decided to give up the piano lessons. As he was not forced to practice now, he began to enjoy the instrument a bit more.
Brian kept up with the guitar, but was finding that his own acoustic guitar was inadequate for the music he was listening to and trying to emulate. Money was short at the time, and Brian could not afford a new Stratocaster or Les Paul that many of his friends had. As both Brian and his father were great at making things, they came up with the idea to build a guitar exactly to Brian's specifications. A small bedroom in the family house was converted into a workshop in August of 1963.
Finding the parts for the guitar was an endeavor in itself. The neck was hand carved by Brian from an old mahogany fireplace mantel that a friend was throwing out. The body was made from a piece of oak and whatever wood he and his father could find. His mothers button box was raided for fret markers. A problem arouse when Brian tried to make pickups. He could not get the sound he wanted so he resorted to buying three burns pickups, which of course he modified himself. The bridge was hand carved out of steel and the tremolo system included two springs from a motorbike. Brian and his father had created a masterpiece. A guitar that would be known as the Red Special.
Brian finished school in 1965 with 10 O levels. He soon applied to study astronomy at Imperial College in London. During this time, Brian was regularly playing gigs with a band called 1984. 1984 supported everyone from a Snake Dancer to Jimi Hendrix.
1984 continued playing through 1968, when they eventually decided to disband. Brian threw himself into his work and even organized a research trip to Switzerland to study zodiacal light. Of course, music was still part of Brian's life and discussed many a night.