Thursday, June 09, 2011

Every Bunny Gets Drunk After Easter #13

This week, Bill asked for a rundown of my favorite guitarists and their styles. I could effectively take over his entire blog for a week or two if I were to really delve into this topic, so I'm going to give you all a rundown of a few if the guitarists that are currently influencing me and that I've been listening to way too much lately.

We'll get the big two out of the way first: Keith Richards and Jimmy Page. Keith, "The Human Riff", is known as one of the all-time great rhythm players and Page is one of the all-time great lead guitarists, but the two share one thing in common that I think really makes them stand out from the the crowd and I think their combined record sales will testify to their powers. Both guys have a killer instinct for the riff. A lot of guys can move around the fretboard, just throwing lick after lick at you (I won't mention any names), but these two guys keep it pretty simple and it pays off. I recall both mentioning in interviews that it's not all about what notes you play, but the space you leave in the music. That space creates anticipation in the listener and allows room for the skills of the other band members to shine. Both the Stones and Zeppelin were "bands". Every member contributed and the sum ended up greater than the parts. And there was no weakness in any of the parts. Forty-plus years later and both their licks hold up and are instantly recognizable. Listen to these guys, learn what they're doing, try your hand at it. You'll be better for it. The great thing about learning these guys' stuff is that the riffs are simple, they sound great and they make you feel like you feel a bit like a real guitar hero when you play 'em.

A little solo Keith: Whip It Up.

And a classic Page riff. You all know it, and it's not hard to play:
The Ocean

Another legend everyone should be listening to and picking apart what he's doing is Chuck Berry. An influence on so many that followed, Berry's playing is fabulous and he's playing licks that should be played on a horn, not a guitar. Chuck was one of Richards' big influences and I think it's telling that maybe Keith's most famous riff from "Satisfaction" was originally meant to be a horn riff.
Johnny B. Goode

Next up, Albert Lee. An English-born guitarist, (damn, how many greats did that place produce?) you probably have heard a ton of his stuff and may not realize who he is, but he's tremendous and known for his finger-style and hybrid picking technique. He's mesmerizing. Just watch the video of him with Emmylou Harris and see him just kill it on the Telecaster. By the way, I think I'm in love with Emmylou again after this clip, but that's neither here nor there:
Luxury Liner Forty Tons Of Steel

Oh, and the Tele, that guitar known for its twang and held in esteem by generations of country players, is the guitar Page used for Zeppelin I. That still amazes me he got that heavy a sound out of it.

Next, Albert King, the Velvet Bulldozer. I can't even begin to explain Albert. Great player and a huge influence of everybody from Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Just tasty lick after tasty lick. Here he is with Stevie Ray playing possibly his most well-known song:
Born Under a Bad Sign
[note: bonus Stevie Ray Vaughan in this clip]

I've been entranced by Hound Dog Taylor lately, as well. Hound Dog played a lot of slide guitar on cheap Japanese Teisco guitars, proving that it's not the equipment, it's the soul being fed through that equipment. Take pleasure in the pure joy that is Hound Dog. You won't be able to help smiling and tapping your foot.
Wild About You Baby

Next, Freddie King, the Texas Cannonball. One of the "Three Kings", along with Albert and B.B. A style influenced by both Texas and Chicago Blues, Freddie was taken away from us at the age of 42. Such a shame. Listen, enjoy, and pray you ever get to play like Freddie.
Freddie King

Now a guy that, in my mind, isn't appreciated enough may be best known to many for his role as "Snowman" in "Smokey and the Bandit" and for the theme song to that movie is Jerry Reed. He could play a variety of styles, all of them well, and usually injected humor into his songs, but don't let that fool you. The man could flat out play. Here's "Amos Moses", Tell me Primus didn't get their sound from this. By the way, Primus covered this song. How could they not?
Amos Moses

Don Rich. Played with Buck Owens and his Buckaroos for years and Buck was never the same after Don died an early death in a motorcycle accident. Don got every bit of twang a man could get out of a Telcaster and I try every day to do the same, with pretty poor results. An integral part of Buck Owens' Bakersfield sound and the guitar sound of the country music of my youth, before it turned into just a bunch of hat acts. Multi-talented and just one of country's greatest guitar players. I give you Don Rich:
Wham Bam

We'll wrap it up with James Burton, the Master of the Telecaster. The man can play country or rock and is one of the greatest guitarists of all time. I dare you to find one greater. He's played with just about everyone and influenced them all. He's been around since the beginning, playing with Ricky Nelson and Elvis. I'm going into a year's worth of mourning when he's gone. I'll let some of the greats tell you about James Burton:
Master Of The Telecaster
Keith Richards - About playing with James Burton

I could go on and on with a list of guys for you to get turned on to, but jump off here with these guys. I'm sorry I didn't fit more in here, but you can spend years just learning from these guys. I apologize if I've left anyone's favorites out. I've left out plenty of mine, so don't feel badly.

Enjoy it. Listen, love, and learn.

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