I was a big Fahey fan, back when I could play guitar (I fried my left wrist about eight years ago). I still am a fan, I guess. I loved that sound, I loved all those funky old tunes like In Christ There is No East Or West and I loved it when he tuned his guitar to produce that droning roar (can’t remember which tunes right now - Dance of the Inhabitants of the Palace of King Philip XIV of Spain, maybe – can’t remember).
Plus, I could play lots of his stuff – he wasn’t huge on technique. I loved Fahey and I loved Kottke, but there were maybe three Kottke tunes I could sort of wrap my hands around, whereas I could play a dozen Fahey tunes.
Also, he brought lots of old stuff back to the fore. He travelled around, supposedly, in the 50s and 60s, hanging out with friends of Charlie Patton and various old blues and finger-pickin’ guys, learned a lot of their songs and always seemed to give them credit for inventing “his” sound. He supposedly also did a lot to encourage guys like Kottke.
On top of that, to people with a certain, I don’t know, rebellious nature, maybe, he was kind of a hero. He played solo acoustic guitar, and old-timey stuff at that, when everyone else was getting into electric, and putting together super groups, and filling stadiums, and worshipping the glam and the glitz. He topped that off with a certain self-styled academic approach to music and life. He did a masters or doctorate in mythology, if I recall correctly, and wrote his thesis on the mythology surrounding the old blues players. He coined amusing terms (or popularized them) such as KoonaKlastier Konfectionary (music store), and just went out of his way to be a bit of a disruptive, snarky, contrary ass. He disliked Chet Atkins, for example, because Chet played way too many notes.
His writing style (I mean prose, here, not music) was humorous, full of bizarre creatures and whatnot. He was amusing and different (and pretty pretentious, I must say). Still, he inspired me. I wrote about half a dozen pickin’ tunes (really simple things) and I did so by following advice in one of his books.
As far as I know, he later got heavily into electronic and experimental music, and got as far off the beaten path as he could. I’d stopped following him by then, so I can’t say much about his work and life at that point.
Of course, today there are about a million finger pickers who would blow him off a stage. But he was never more than mildly interested in technique. That was kind of rare, I guess, and still is, if the machine-gun guitar heroes I see on YouTube are anything to go by.