64-year-old Kenny Petrie’s audition on Britain’s Got Talent got off to a slow start, as he gingerly opened a guitar case onstage, although soon judge David Walliams would be hailing him as a rock god. It turns out Petrie can shred like nobody’s business and he quickly got the crowd pumped up with the classic Aerosmith riff from “Walk This Way”.
The Scottish company director had a lot more than just riffs up his sleeve though as he began flying up and down the fretboard as he played a wild wah solo, and he even dropped in some lightspeed finger tapping, Eddie Van Halen style. He continued to play catchy lick after lick as the crowd went wild. Petrie did the whole performance with a big smile on his face and his infectious enthusiasm rubbed off on the room, with Simon Cowell seen grinning from ear-to-ear with childish glee.
Cowell said what everyone was thinking as the crowd applauded Petrie’s audition, observing dryly “Well we weren’t expecting that.” Walliams echoed this sentiment, saying “That was fantastic. It was unexpected as you seem such a mild-mannered guy. I mean sorry I didn’t think ‘oh, here comes a rock god.’”
Cowell followed this up with more praise, saying “We love being surprised. When the guitar came out I thought this isn’t going to go well, and you were actually brilliant.” Walliams then gave a “rocking yes”, and then Cowell, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon followed suit, giving the rocker a clean sweep for his audition. Earlier this year John Wines, who goes by the name Old Grey Guitarist online (yes, really), gave a similar surprise to America’s Got Talent, which you can check out below.
Petrie’s audition was a hit online, with 5.6 million music lovers tuning in to hear him rock Britain’s Got Talent’s socks off. Fans praised his fretboard fireworks in the comments, saying “Kenny is an inspiration, I was up on my feet throughout this whole performance with a huge smile on my face – it made my night. What a legend,” and “The best thing about Kenny is the fact that he clearly has so much fun playing the guitar.”
It’s no surprise that Petrie has such a deft hand on the guitar, as he regularly plays live with his band, as seen on YouTube. The Scotsman moved to England when he was 35, although his history with guitar goes back before even that. He first picked up guitar in 1969 after he saw Jimi Hendrix on television as a boy, and he begged his parents for a guitar and the rest is history.
Petrie’s band is a five-piece group that goes by the rather imaginative name of Mr Spankey and the Hipthrusters. He sometimes goes by the stage name The Reverend Kenny Petrie, although this seems to be just a nickname as he’s not known to actually be a clergyman.