MILTON, Ga. — Long hair covers his eyes and face like so many of his idols before him. He sits on his couch in a Van Halen T-shirt and picking at the strings of his guitar while he talks.
At 9 years old, Milton native Ben Bluestein has battled George Lynch on stage as well as mastered some of the most iconic riffs and songs in the rock and roll era.
It all started two years ago after his sister had shown interest in the drums.
“My sister was in a drum store,” Bluestein said. “And I saw a guy playing a nice guitar, and he was like shredding. And I thought, ‘Maybe I can be like that one day.’”
After about a year of lessons, he found his groove, and that’s when words like “prodigy” started to circulate, said Rob Bluestein, Ben’s father.
“During the summer, I’d drop him off at a guitar store on the way to work,” Rob Bluestein said. “I’d drop him off at 10 a.m. and pick him up at 6 p.m. He’d stay there the whole time. His teacher said he couldn’t even stay focused for that long. But Ben was in the zone.”
A couple weeks ago, Ben went out to Las Vegas, Nev., to be a part of Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. There he met some hall-of-fame guitarists like Kip Winger, John 5 and Alice Cooper, who all signed his light brown Ernie Ball Music Man guitar.
Ben fit right in with these rockers, as he is an avid listener to Dokken, Racer X and Van Halen — sounds sort of lost in our current mainstream music.
“I don’t really listen to any newer bands,” he said.
His father smiled as he echoed his son’s words.
“He doesn’t like pop at all,” Rob said. “He listens to some alternative because that’s what I listen to. But he’ll find songs back from the 1970s and 80s that I’ve never heard of.”
Ben formed his own band, In Trouble. There are four members, and they started about three weeks ago.
In part, his skill comes from a knack of picking up a song on the guitar after listening to it only a few times. Rob called it “photographic memory with music” in an earlier interview. At the camp in Las Vegas, he woke up at 9 a.m. and learned three songs a day.
Also at the camp, he spent time with former Ozzy Osbourne bassist Phil Soussan who became a mentor of sorts for Ben.
“This guy loves Bennie,” Rob Bluestein said. “He’s telling us exactly what to do and what not to do. A lot of people like Disney and Nickelodeon wanted him for this or that and said Ben should try out. But Phil told us not to do it because they’ll own our lives.
“He wants Ben to do what Ben wants to do and not let everyone else dictate what Ben’s going to do,” he continued. “It’s pretty cool. I didn’t think about it like that.”
Last month, Ben also tried out for America’s Got Talent. Soussan advised against, according to Rob. And if he is accepted, the Bluesteins are still debating whether or not they’ll enter the competition.
Another Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp comes around the first week of April, and Ben is signed up to learn from Def Leppard and Soussan again.
When asked if he’s ever nervous playing on stage or matching riffs with famous musicians, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “No.”
Ben then bent his head and started playing his guitar again.
To see a video of Ben playing “Crazy Train,” visit www.northfulton.com.
Also visit www.benbluestein.com to keep up with Ben and watch more videos of the 9-year-old guitar hero.