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Most influential guitarists

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    Just wondering what guitarist has had the biggest impact on you and the key songs from them that you learned from.


    Wow, tough question to keep from getting too big and broad. I don’t think I can give this question more than a minute or two because I think the more I give it the more I’ll come up with another guitarist that has imparted something on me. But I’ll give it a go.

    Right now I’m going through a pretty severe Charlie Christian period. Songs I’ve gotten the most out of (so far): Rose Room, Flying Home, Grand Slam, Wholly Cats, Seven Come Eleven, Air Mail Special.

    Other guitarist that I’ve gravitated to:
    Jr. Barnard: Basically anything he played on in the Bob Wills band (but the Tiffany transcriptions are the easiest place to start)–fatboy rag, milk cow blues, sweet jenny lee, etc.
    Pee Wee Crayton: Anything that swings or his slow blues
    Early BB King
    Jimmy Nolen (pre James brown)
    Oscar Moore
    Robert Lockwood Jr: the trix recordings, though his early 50’s is great education in rhythm playing (come to think of it, I need to revisit this stuff)
    Freddie Green
    Elden Shamblin: his walking chords. Pick any song that he is playing rhythm on.
    Tiny Grimes: All of it.

    There’s 10–I’ll stop now.


    It is really difficult to pin down just one player as it does change over the years. In my youth I listened more to blues / rock then worked my way back to the early players and stayed there. At the moment I’m listening to and learning a lot of t-bone walker and kid ramos tunes. I think kid is a master of the t-bone style.


    Man that is tough to keep short like Craner said. Especially for a lot of us, because I think a lot will be like Craner and I and have such a broad interest in what we like. If I had to pick one it would probably be Brian Setzer. Not only was he an influence on my direction, but he was also a big gate way into all of the old guys I discovered. All of these blues cats he quoted, the numerous swing guys (whether big band or Western) and of course the rockabilly guys. He was a big reason I found all of these guys. Rick Holmstrom is the same for me though, for the same reasons. Big influence on my direction, and opening up a whole new world at the same time. So it is really hard to decide between the two.

    Blues guys of the past were all of the session guys, especially Earl Hooker,and Robert Lockwood. Albert Collins was a big one in the lesson of make every note count, and put everything you have into it. I have always been drawn to the less is more kind of players.

    Jazz players it was Mary Osborne, Kenny Burrell, and Barney Kessell.

    The odd man out, that will make people say what the hell, Adam Jones from Tool. He was a huge influence in his creativity and everything trying to be the perfect counter part to the tune. Guys that really try to push for something different, staying rooted to the tradition. Rick Holmstrom is another big one for me in that respect. I think he is the man to listen to if you really want to be a good comping player in a roots scenario. He is a master of backing people up.


    Craner is right the well runs really deep. I think the first time I heard Tiny Grimes was a life changer. I was really into little Walter so Lockwood was huge when I was younger. In the last few years my favorite players are George Barnes, Junior Barnard, and Les Paul. I’m gonna stop right there. I can easily go on for another 20 pages. lol


    One I was just thinking about, that I really love. Whit Smith of “Hot Club of Cowtown.” He was another one that opened a lot of new doors and techniques for me. I love guys that have that kind of knowledge in chords, and can play all of those different chords behind someone to create movement, yet somehow are never in the way. Everything stays harmonic and has a purpose to the song, and he is not just playing a bunch of hip chords. You hear so many people, that when they play that way, it just sounds like someone playing just a bunch of random chords. It is very easy to fall into that. Whit really has a special knack in that regard. A saying I heard a close friend say one time, and it is always is in the back of my head because I thought it was a really good point. “All these hip whole tone licks, or fancy chord movements are fun and cool, but if they do not serve the song then you are just up there masturbating in front of everyone.”


    I was looking back at the other posts and saw you had also asked about particular songs for the artists. Here are a few for me.

    For Rick Holmstrom it was “Hit It” and “Going to Get Wild” for the Jump stuff. Then when I heard him play “Eyes on the Prize” and “You’re Not Alone” with Mavis Staples my world was rocked again. The whole sparseness of his playing, and the incredible groove all those guys can get with so little.

    Robert Lockwood it was his playing on “Keep it to Yourself” on Sonnyboy Williamson II’s recording for Checker Records. This one I do not know for sure if it was him, but I have always been told it was, but the guitar work on Little Walter’s “Shake Dancer.” The guitar in “My Babe” by Little Walter (whoever the guitar player was, but believe that was Louis Myers) was another one for the sparseness and slave to the groove mentality. If you want to be a blues player, I think if you really study those three tunes, and how to use them, you will have all of the tools you will ever need.

    Earl Hooker it was the tune “Lucky You.” Countless others of his also. His stuff with Junior Wells also was big for me. Louis Meyers is another big one for me, and was another one who played on a lot of the Junior Wells Chief Recordings, and the Little Walter stuff.

    In the Jazz side it was Mary Osbornes’s versions of “I Love Paris” and “How High the Moon.” Also with Billie Holliday I loved the playing Mary Osborne did with her on the tunes “The Man I Love” and “I Surrender Dear.” These songs were big on me by how she reinterpreted the melodies into her solo. So many of the jazz guys when they improvised the melody eventually got lost, and started to turn into just licks being played. I loved how she always kept that since of the original melody there.

    Barney Kessell it was his version of “One Mint Julep” and his recordings with Julie London like “Cry Me a River” and what he did with Billie Holliday.


    For me, probably Stevie Ray. I’m from Texas, and went to college in Austin, so I was a regular at Antone’s. This was in 1986, so Stevie was already big and didn’t play the club (except unannounced). I don’t play like him—my hands aren’t strong enough to bend those 13’s-but he was the guy that made me want to play guitar, so I’ll always love him.

    Antone’s Club became my home. I’d see Otis Rush and Albert Collins, Lonnie Mack–all sorts of amazing players. I had an old ’50s Silvertone parlor guitar, and I’d bring that to the club. Clifford Antone was so nice- he would personally introduce me to Albert, Otis and the others, and they all signed that guitar. Later BB signed it; so did John Lee Hooker, and I always thought it would be a cinch to get Stevie to sign it. One day, he came in to a record store I worked in. I didn’t recognize him at first, but when he asked me to point him to the blues section, I figured out pretty quickly, and I got giddy. By this time—1988—the store was phasing out vinyl, and our blues section was paltry. Another customer asked for help, so I got sidetracked. When I was done with that customer, I scanned the floor for Stevie, and he was gone. I just wanted to thank him for leading me to the guitar.

    The memory still makes me smile, and I’ve been playing ever since.


    SRV was a big one for me as well. He played with such power and finesse all at the same time. Not many players have the ability to do that. For most of us you are either a smooth player, or a rough and gritty player. I have heard bootlegs a friend of mine from Austin has of Stevie, and man that guy could pull off a mean ass Kenny Burrell. Most have heard his version of Chitlins Con Carne, but that was just the tip of the Ice Berg. Unfortunately now there are a lot of SRV haters in the world.


    I’m no sure if it’s srv they hate I think it’s the srv clones. The guy was a one off and i think he put blues back on the map and I doubt if you’ll ever see the likes of him again.


    I’m going to defer to the late John Harrelson’s take on SRV–I agree with him, but he was much more an authority to make this comment than me. “He never got past his 31 songs. His greatest contribution to music wasn’t his playing (insert last sentence), but rather his abilities as a front man–especially a trio.”

    Though I think the discontent for SRV is more about all the clones than him. Especially because they still keep popping up and it’s been over 20 years. I take John’s comment about the 31 songs and apply it to the clone syndrome and it makes me wonder. Some many clones of something that was really just a microcosm of a musical genre. That in it of itself seems shallow to me.


    I think with SRV it is two things that make people dis on him. One is the clones everyone mentions. The other I think is people’s confusion that occurs when it comes to playing ability vs musicianship. Some people are known because they are phenomenal at the instrument they play, while others become know because they are extremely creative as artists. So a lot of times it is this persons creative style that draws people in and makes them like their playing, not their actual ability on the instrument. SRV was definitely a talent because he was an incredible guitar player and gifted singer. Musicianship side you can argue was lacking. He didn’t write much music, and what was written a large number of that could be argued as weak. So people will say, “I don’t think SRV was all that good because most everything he did was covers, or his songs weren’t that good.” That is a judgement on his musicianship not his ability. On the other hand you have someone like Jack White who is just so creative as a musician, and gets lumped into “Guitar God” status. This is people mistaking his musicianship for his actual ability, because there are far greater guitar players out there than Jack White. Is Junior Watson the best guitar player out of the West Coast like so many say. Probably not, but the man has some sick creative mojo going on.

    To me after a certain level people are just good and it is pointless to compare a Brad Paisley, to a Kenny Burrell, to a Brian Setzer, to a Joe Satriani. They are equal and it really comes down to who’s style you like better because they each chose a different path and approach to persue. SRV was a great talent and I feel all the clones that are still here are a good reflection of that. Same reason you can’t not hear someone quoting Junior Lockwood, Charlie Christian, or James Burton. The same reason Nocturne is able to sell so many pedals that are a recreation of Brian Setzer’s Space Echo set up. They were all just something special.


    Cool topic that got me thinking…I would say that my biggest influence is Sean Costello followed closely by Tommy. I first heard jump blues through Sean and was really excited as it sounded so unique to me and so different to standard blues stuff I started with. I found Tommy on youtube and he basically hipped me to everything and made sense of a lot of things for me. I have a massive list of fav players like everyone else but god only knows what I would be doing now on guitar if I didnt find Sean and Tommy I owe them both! Have to mention before that when I first picked up guitar I was obsessed with Peter Green and Duane Allman…I wood shedded on those guys for hours and hours everyday especially live at the filmore east. I dont listen to them or play like them much or at all these days but I still love em.

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