That’s the title you get when you’re the guitar in Guitar Hero.
For all but the most nimble-fingered guitarists, mastering the gazillion-note behemoth that is Megadeth’s “Hangar 18” is a pipe dream, one that requires time, diligence, and almost superhuman dexterity. For Marcus Henderson, it’s a job.
And because Henderson is so good at his job, millions of would-be shredders get to experience the sensation of re-creating “Hangar 18” from the comfort of their living rooms. Henderson, you see, was the first musician tapped to replicate the guitar parts for music featured in the wildly successful Guitar Hero series of video games. He has thumped his way through “Iron Man” and tangled himself in the “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ ” squeals. He might just be the most listened-to guitar player on the planet who isn’t a household name.
Guitar Hero] is a lot more than just getting the notes right,” says Outworld guitarist and online-lesson guru Rusty Cooley. “When I first heard Guitar Hero, I didn’t realize somebody else had re-recorded all the parts. That’s incredible.” Henderson, 35, dismisses the hype. “I feel like I’m contributing in some small way to the music scene, I guess,” he shrugs. “I don’t need an award. I just need to know that I didn’t suck.”
Like many would-be six-stringers’, Henderson’s road to guitar glory began with a tennis racket — a Don Budge wooden model, to be precise. He played it with a “pick” popped off the top of a milk jug and eventually smashed it to bits, à la Paul Stanley from KISS. He received his fi rst guitar — “an Explorer-shaped knockoff with a whammy bar and a complete indignation toward staying in tune” — for his 14th birthday.
Early influences included AC/DC’s Angus Young and Joe Satriani, though “Yesterday” is the first song Henderson recalls plucking out on his own. He was 16 when his fi rst band, Square Meal, played its first gig, at the legendary 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. He bought a hamburger with the $5 he received for his night’s work. He made a name for himself quickly, as much for his playing as for his warmth and generosity in a business populated by many a swelled head. His various bands found themselves on bills with Bay Area punk mainstays like Operation Ivy and Sweet Children, which eventually morphed into Green Day. While Henderson did what he calls “the struggling musician” thing for some time — he semi-fondly recalls serving coffee to 49ers legend Jerry Rice at 5:30 a.m. — he achieved a degree of success with Marginal Prophets, which won a California Music Award in 2004, and he did session work with acts like En Vogue.