Shetland guitarist; Born 1921; Died May 22, 2007.

Jazz guitarists Eddie Lang and Django Reinhardt, the News of the World and Schenectady, the home of the General Electric Company, may sound like odd ingredients for a revolution, but they were all factors in creating the hugely influential guitar style of Shetland musical legend Peerie Willie Johnson.

For years, whenever Shetlanders mixed in musical circles almost anywhere in the world, the first question they were asked would be: "How's Peerie Willie?" Such was the reputation of the inimitable guitarist, who died on Tuesday at the age of 86.

Born on Yell in a remote settlement of just a few houses, Willie was a sickly child who, at one point, didn't look likely to see his ninth birthday. One day he picked up a copy of the News of the World which had a picture of a cowboy playing a ukulele and illustrations of some simple chords. Seeing his interest, his mother bought him one, which he soon taught himself to play.

Frustrated by the instrument's lack of bass strings, he moved on to guitar and by the age of 14 he was playing in a dance band. When short-wave radio arrived in Shetland in the 1920s, Peerie Willie became hooked.

He tuned into a station from Schenectady in New York State, which had produced the first round-the-world broadcast, and heard Eddie Lang playing these outlandish chords. He sat down and worked out what Lang was doing, added this to the western swing style of another favourite, the Hillbillies, and Django Reinhardt's gypsy swing, and applied the results to Shetland traditional music.

It was logical, really. Both Lang and Reinhardt had violinists as musical partners, Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli respectively, and the fiddle was Shetland's instrument. Soon the fiddlers Tom Anderson, the great Shetland fiddle teacher and catalyst with whom Peerie Willie went on to tour internationally, Ronnie Cooper and Willie Hunter were playing to a rhythm that swung like cow dung off a pitchfork, to use the polite version.

During the Second World War, Peerie Willie served in the RAF and was given an overseas posting - to the Shetlands. With 30,000 troops based on the islands and needing entertained, some of the best American musicians at the services' command were sent to the base at Sullum Voe. Peerie Willie made the most of this, adding to his musical knowledge through mixing with the bands, as he would do wherever he went.

In a BBC Radio Scotland programme dedicated to Peerie Willie, Aly Bain, who featured Willie on his 1980s television programmes, recalled being on tour with Willie and looking around to find him onstage - with the internationally-famous jazz attraction who was playing in their hotel.

The Peerie Willie stories are legendary. In Lerwick for a concert, renowned jazz guitarist Martin Taylor saw a familiar figure approaching with a guitar in a bin bag. When he told Peerie Willie, for it was he, that he should get a proper guitar case, Willie replied that the one he had was fine - and if it broke, he would just get another one from the council.

Such was his skill, Willie could have worked anywhere - he and Willie Hunter once stunned the engineers at Abbey Road Studios by recording an entire album in one take - but he loved Shetland and chose to remain there, influencing pianists as well as inspiring generations of guitarists and maintaining the Lounge Bar in Lerwick as his "office".

His swinging style influenced Scottish folk groups including the Easy Club and the Orcadian twins The Wrigley Sisters, and can be heard in the music of top Shetland band Fiddlers' Bid and, indeed, any traditional music group that plays to his trademark dum-chick rhythm.

In death, the tributes to Peerie Willie are flowing. But there was no shortage of appreciation for him while he was still alive, even if modesty made him wonder what all the fuss was about. He was among the first inductees into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame in 2005. He was celebrated in song through Michael Marra's Schenectady Calling Peerie Willie Johnson and in a tune, The Bousters Boy, by Shetland fiddler Debbie Scott. Most fitting of all, his name lives on in the annual Peerie Willie Johnson Guitar Festival, which was inaugurated in Shetland in 2005.