To be perfectly honest, the stereotypical guitar hero — the flamboyant virtuoso with superhuman skills — is a bit long in the tooth. They were a great breed, however, from Jimi Hendrix (the Louis Armstrong of rock guitarists) to Gary Moore and others.
There isn’t a hard and fast line between the guitar superheros and straight guitar players who fronted rock and blues bands. Eric Clapton and Roy Buchanan are examples. In my mind, these are folks who are less flamboyant (except, as in the cases of Johnny Winter, Leslie West and Stevie Ray Vaughan, in how they dressed).
Their on-stage demeanor is more as part of the band than as a wild man who whose goal is to be the sole focus of the spotlight. It’s only by nature of the guitar being the focal point that they draw the most attention. Clapton, for instance, barely moves on stage and seems happy to slide to the back when somebody else is being featured.
That idea is full of exceptions and holes, of course. It’s just a conversation starter, highly debatable and possibly plain wrong. The question — Is there a difference between the ultra-flamboyant spotlight seeking guitarists and the mellower folks who just happen to play the instrument to which most attention is naturally pulled — came to mind watching these clips of the great Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher.
“Bullfrog Blues” is above and “Shin Kicker” is below. One thing that is clear is that Gallagher was an unbelievable guitarist. And, for all the volume, he plays with a tremendous amount of subtlety.
Gallagher was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Irish Republic, on March 2, 1948. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Cork City in the south, and at age nine he became fascinated with American blues and folk singers he heard on the radio. An avid record collector, he had a wide range of influences, including Leadbelly, Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Albert King, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker. Gallagher would always try to mix some simple country blues songs into his recordings. (Continue Reading…)
Wikipedia also has an insightful entry on Gallagher.
This profile of the great guitarist Freddie King seems to have been written by a family member:
Freddie was born in Gilmer Texas on September 3 1934 with the given name of Freddy King to Ella May King and J.T. Christian. My father’s mother told him that her grandfather ( who was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian) prophesied to her that she would have a child that will stir the souls of millions and inspire and influence generations. My grandmother and her brother Leon played the guitar. Freddie’s mother recognized early her first born interest in music. She and her brother Leon began teaching him to play rural country blues at the age of six. His early music heroes were Sam Lightnin Hopkins (who he credits his proficiency of the down home thumb-finger picken style) and Louis Jordan (the jump blues saxophonist). He told me that he would play Jordan’s record over and over again until he could match his horn, note for note. This discipline would have a major impact on his phrasing. (Continue Reading…)
The last section is quite interesting:
His spirits was soon lifted with the success of his first overseas tour in 1968. He was originally booked for a month and it was extended to three. He was amazed by his popularity in England, a new generation of young white musicians like Eric Clapton,MickTaylor, and others were trying to emulate Freddie King. In 1969 Freddie hires a new manager Jack Calmes. Jack is young, white and part of the “counter culture” that has discovered the blues. Jack helped orchestrate Freddie’s career into high gear with the 1969 Texas Pop Festival,there he shared billing with Led Zeppelin, Sly and the family stone,Ten years After, B.B. King, among others, ” Led Zeppelin’s guys were standing there watching him perform with their mouth open” Jack said. Calmes secured a contract deal for Freddie with Leon Russell’s new label Shelter Records . Leon had been a fan of Freddie’s sizzling guitar style for years. Leon was now creating the Oklahoma blues culture with the start up of his own label. Leon Russell record label included Joe Cocker and The Nitty Gitty Dirt Band. Leon spared no expense the sessions were top shelf he flew the studio crew to Chicago and recorded the first album “Getting Ready” at the old Chess Records studio. Freddie was allowed to showcase his showmanship, Leon wanted the listening audience to experience the brilliance and raw essences of Freddie King. Shelter was the perfect springbroad for Freddie’s style of blues, hard driving and, in your face. This collaboration put Freddie into the mainstream of the white blues /rock explosion. The release of “Getting Ready” produced Freddie’s signature blues/rock hit “Going Down”. (Continue Reading…)
It’s amazing how much of the great music of the that era somehow involved Leon Russell.
Above is Hideaway, which was a big hit for King. He seems to sample Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn towards the end. Apparently, the band was instructed to not stand still. Below is a blistering version of Ain’t Nobody’s Business, a blues standard most closely associated with Billie Holliday.
This weekend was the fourth time that Sonny Landreth played at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival. His name can get lost amid the megastars that Clapton brings out. But it is no wonder that he gets invited.
Wikipedia gets uncharacteristically technical in its entry on Landreth:
Landreth is best known for his slide playing, having developed a technique where he also frets notes and plays chords and chord fragments behind the slide while he plays. Landreth plays with the slide on his little finger, so that his other fingers have more room to fret behind the slide. He’s also known for his right-hand technique, which involves tapping, slapping, and picking strings, using all of the fingers on his right hand. He wears a special thumb pick/ flat pick hybrid on his thumb so he can bear down on a pick while simultaneously using his finger style technique for slide.
Sonny Landreth is known for his use of Fender Stratocaster guitars and Dumble Amplifiers. He is also known to use Demeter and Fender amplifiers on occasion. Landreth uses Jim Dunlop 215 heavy glass slides and Dunlop Herco flat thumb picks. His guitars are fitted with DiMarzio and Lindy Fralin pickups, a special Suhr back plate system, and D’Addario medium nickel wound strings gauges 0.13 – 0.56. (Continue Reading…)
About.com leads with the Clapton connection:
No less an authority than the legendary Eric Clapton has called slide guitarist Sonny Landreth “the most underestimated musician on the planet and also probably one of the most advanced.” During a career that has spanned four decades, Landreth has earned a well-deserved reputation as a gifted slide guitarist, whose unique playing style mixes traditional slide with the unconventional technique of fretting the strings behind the slide. Throw in Landreth’s songwriting skills, and you have an exciting and original artist whose work plumbs the depth of roots-rock and swamp-blues. (Continue Reading…)
Above is Zydeco Shuffle and below is Z Rider.
I didn’t see the whole thing, but I felt that one of one of the best musical moments last night was Eric Clapton’s acoustic version of Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. It also was a bit ironic, since so many were coming to the region’s aid.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Bill Joel’s set. Above is his rewritten version of Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway).
By the way, it’s not to late to give.
Luther Allison was a tremendous blues guitarist who passed away in 1997. While he didn’t get the publicity of some of his contemporaries, he appeared with — and clearly was respected by — the likes of B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Above is Livin’ in the House of the Blues and below is Soul Fixin’ Man. This is the start of the bio at Luther Allison’s site:
Born in Widener, Arkansas in 1939, Luther Allison (the 14th of 15 musically gifted children) first connected to the blues at age ten, when he began playing the diddley bow (a wire attached by nails to a wall with rocks for bridges and a bottle to fret the wire). His family migrated to Chicago in 1951, and Luther began soaking in the sounds of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Robert Nighthawk. He was classmates with Muddy Waters’ son and occasionally stopped in the Waters’ house to watch the master rehearse. It wasn’t until he was 18 already in Chicago for seven years that Luther began playing blues on a real guitar and jamming with his brother Ollie’s band. Continue Reading…
Dire Straits wasn’t quite The Beatles, The Who or The Rolling Stones, but it no doubt was one of the super bands of the 1980s and 1990s.
Lead guitarist Mark Knopfler now is well into a successful solo career that includes composing and recording film scores. His most notable were Local Hero in 1983 and The Princess Bride four years later.
Lots of Dire Straits music is less catchy than Skateaway, Money for Nothing (here with Eric Clapton) and Sultans of Swing. The latter two are the band’s two biggest hits. Good information about Knopfler and Dire Straits is available in the usual places: Wikipedia and AllMusic.
It’s ironic that Knopfler toured with Bob Dylan last year — here’s a review — since they sort of sound the same, which really isn’t a compliment to either. Luckily for them, both have noteworthy other talents.
Here are Going Home (the Theme from Local Hero), Walk of Life and Sailing to Philadelphia. Of special note is Poor Boy Blues, which Knopfler and Chet Atkins perform in a nice video. The pedal steel player apparently is Paul Franklin. Here Atkins and Knopfler play I’ll See You in My Dreams and Imagine.
The above, which features Mick Taylor, was recorded at John Mayall’s 70th birthday concert in 2003. It’s not the Roy Orbison song.
Mayall is a unique and vital figure in the history of rock-and-roll. He worked with and influenced many of the great guitarists, including Eric Clapton and Taylor, who preceded Ronnie Wood in the Rolling Stones. Indeed, Mayall’s bio reads like a history of rock guitar. As usual, allmusic provides an insightful and thorough overview.
There is a lot of good video available for John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. Here are Hideaway (featuring Clapton at the birthday concert), Walking on Sunset, a nice tune without a title and Room to Move, which is Mayall’s best known song (“hit” would be pushing it). The current band — which is not called the Bluesbreakers — essentially is on an endless tour, which is amazing considering that Mayall is 78 years old.
John Hiatt’s work has been covered by many artists, including Jewel, Buddy Guy and Roseanne Cash. Riding with the King was the cover tune of an album by Eric Clapton and B.B. King that went double platinum. Here are Drive South, Perfectly Good Guitar and Have a Little Faith. Something Wild vaguely reminds me of Johnny Rivers’ Secret Agent.
Here is a page at Hiatt’s site that links to others on which he is featured.