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.
I will just list the names of the people I recognize. There no doubt are some I missed.
Dick Dale (no, it’s not Joe Pesci)
Annette Funicello (I think)
And, for no apparently reason, Pee Wee Herman
Vaughan and Dale play a great version of Pipeline amidst the strangeness.
Actually, it’s not a hard question if you look closely at their faces.
Rapper Shawnna — above performing Gettin’ Some — is Guy’s daughter. Below, Guy plays Long Way From Home at a memorial for Stevie Ray Vaughan. Since we are talking family here, note that Vaughan’s brother, Jimmie–a great guitarist himself–is playing rhythm.
Talent runs in families, and such connections are common.
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…
This is from This Day in Music.com entry for July 10, 1987:
Producer and record company executive John Hammond died. He brought Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen to Columbia Records. Hammond also worked as a producer with Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman and Count Basie.
From Bessie Smith to Bruce Springsteen.
There is more, courtesy of Wikipedia. The site says that Hammond also was involved with Charlie Christian, Teddy Wilson, Big Joe Turner, Pete Seeger, Babtunde Olatunji, George Benson, Freddy Green, Arthur Russell and Asha Puthli.
Of course, as a record producer he would have worked with many performers. The breathe of Hammond’s influence and his longevity are amazing, however.
Teddy Wilson plays Avalon in Austria in 1976.
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.
Albert King was not related to B.B. or, for that matter to Freddie, another great blues guitarist who would be King. They all were deeply connected, however. B.B. commented on Albert in his autobiography, Blues All Around Me:
He had his own sound that, far as I can see, had more influence on guys like Jimi Hendrix than I did. Sometimes I’d hear little pieces of myself in bluesmen like Buddy Guy, who I also love, but I think the heavy rockers looked to Albert as the main model.
His best known song is Born Under a Bad Sign (done here with Stevie Ray Vaughan). Other pieces that show King’s skills are I’ll Play the Blues for You, Stormy Monday (here with John Mayall) and Oh Pretty Woman.