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 Day in Music notes that Dan Hartman died of a brain tumor on March 22, 1994. Hartman was a mainstay in both Winters’ careers and, among other things, wrote Free Ride, according to the item.
TDIM also notes that Randy Hobbs, a bass player for Johnny Winter, was born on this day in 1948. He died in 1993.
Above, Hartman plays bass on Frankenstein, a hit for Edgar Winter. Rick Derringer is the lead guitar player and Chuck Ruff is on drums. The people look dated, but the song still sounds great.
The amount of talent on YouTube and similar sites is astounding. Many of the performers are not complete unknowns, but don’t have national followings. A good example of this is The Steve Thorpe Band. Thorpe, who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago, was a fabulous guitarist in the Johnny Winter slide mode (at least in this version of Dust My Broom).
Here is another example. Eric Lugosch brings a unique perspective and crystal clear playing. He plays a lot of Rev. Gary Davis, but doesn’t copy. Instead Lugosch re-imagines and reinterprets the song. That is a big difference. Here is his site.
Johnny Winter and Jethro Tull appeared on this day in 1969 and 1970 at the Newport Jazz Festival and the Atlanta Pop Festival, respectively. Other performers in Newport included James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Sly and the Family Stone, Jeff Beck, Savoy Brown, Johnny Winter, The Buddy Guy Blues Band, The Mothers Of Invention and Ten Years. It’s strange they didn’t change the name of the festival.
The above clip is from last year. It’s good to see that Winter is still alive and well.
Not too much to say about Vaughan. The videos speak for themselves. High on the too-long list of musicians who died too young.
Here are Hendrix’ Voodoo Chile, Testify, Scuttle Buttin‘ and Pride and Joy, perhaps his best known song. There is a lot on the Internet about Vaughan, including his homepage and a tremendous archive that includes links to many other sites. It’s interesting that bassist Tommy Shannon were mainstays with Vaughan (in the band Double Trouble) and Johnny Winter, a guitar phenom of a generation earlier.
This is all terrific, but the way they end the song really shows what a great band this is. The other guitarist is Rick Derringer.
Obviously, Johnny has some health problems. At the other end of the spectrum is Fast Life Rider, recorded in a strange club setting when the brothers were kids. Both songs were on Second Winter, a double album with one blank side. Here is Johnny’s site, Edgar’s and Derringer’s.