Blues Guitarists (and others) Influence List
When I think of blues guitarists, I think of “the real blues players” and not Clapton or SRV etc. Basically “the real blues guitarist” would be pre Beatles and pre Hendrix and born probably before 1940. After Hendrix came along, things changed. I always felt the need to go a few steps back and peel away the layers to hear where this music came from. Personally I have a great respect for the origin of this musical art form. The blues guitarists that laid the framework for the way we play guitar today need to be known as ‘the masters’.
The Blues Guitar Masters Influences
This is divided into eight different sections. It may be a little easier to understand when it’s in its own category.
1) Pre-War Acoustic Blues
Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt are the three prewar blues guitarists that I have been influenced by. (Just for sake, I am referring to World War 2, you know the big one?) Blind Lemon Jefferson had the chops, Robert Johnson had the vibe and Mississippi John Hurt had the folk. Their recordings are very old timey and a little thin sounding compared to today’s music. That being said, this era of guitar playing is so pure and intimate. And they were also, very original. The point is these guitarists didn’t have any old records to steal from.
2) Post War Electric Blues
This section only concentrates on T-Bone Walker. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s T-Bone Walker was the leader of the pack. His playing style always featured these really lush chord voicings, as well as a rapid fire lead guitar approach. He was really the father of this Golden Era for classy blues. His sound was a big band with a large horn section but his guitar was always in the foreground. And he was known as a great showman too.
3) The Three Kings
The “three kings” are reference to Albert King, BB King and Freddie King. Albert King had the bends and BB King had the vibrato and Freddie King had all the licks. All three have touched so many guitarists’ styles that it would be impossible to overestimate their importance.
4) The Chicago Gunslinger Guitarists
This is really about these three guys, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam and Otis Rush. It’s said that they all tried to “out do” one another and therefore raised the bar to a higher standard for the others that followed. The styles of all three are somewhat different but they still come from the same mind set.
5) The King of the Slide Guitar
Elmore James is really all this is about. If you want to get into that style you will need to have a guitar set up for slide. Tune it to an open D. That is just one big D chord (D-A-D-F#-A-D). Anyway, it’s a very cool way of playing that has influenced many guitarists way before I ever came along.
6) The Mainstream Blues
Mainstream is in reference to the very popular Jimmy Reed. His music is very, very basic but many music school guys just can’t seem to play it correctly. He had a lopping style that hooks the listener’s ears right away. But much of the lead work on his recordings was played by a guy named Eddie Taylor. He was really good at coming up with intro’s and little fills that work so perfectly in the song.
7) The Master of the Telecaster
That would none other than Albert Collins. He was one of the coolest players (and funkiest) to come down the pike. He tuned his guitar to some crazy F minor chord and used a capo high up the fret board for much of the time. He had some really funky licks and a sharp guitar tone that would always cut through the mix.
8) The Founding Fathers of Chicago Blues
This is dedicated to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. These two guys had the best bands around. So much of the Blues Family Tree comes from them. But as a guitarist please take note of Jimmy Rodgers with Muddy and Hubert Sumlin with Wolf. These two guys had an enormous effect on so many guitarists that followed them. They laid a groundwork that lives on today. Also be aware that Muddy Waters slide guitar playing is some of the “deepest” there is. It’s simple, but very powerful and carries much of the weight of the entire song on its shoulders.
I have also made a list of ‘the others’ that I was influenced by. I also want say that I still have a profound respect for the “not real blues guys”. And there is no doubt they turned many younger players, like myself, on to the original players before them.
My short list would be as follows:
1- Duane Allman
2- Eric Clapton
3- Peter Green
4- Rory Gallagher
5- Johnny Winter
6- Jimmy Vaughn
7- Stevie Ray Vaughn
My very short list for “jazz guys” would be:
And while we are at it, I truly believe Django Reinhardt was the greatest guitarist of all time. There will never be anyone else like him again. His playing sounded like his life depended on it. And to think, he played it all with just 2 ½ fingers. That just boggles the mind!
And I also really like Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and Jerry Reed. Also, Scotty Moore’s guitar playing in the early days of Elvis’s career set the benchmark for ‘lead guitar’. My God, if it were not for Scotty Moore what would Keith Richards have done with his life? Those guitarists come from a very “deep well” of talent in the world of guitar playing.
Also Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page broke so much ground in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. As rock players a lot of people have copied them to a point. But they are great in their own respect. No guitarist can ever touch Jeff Beck in the chops department. And no guitarist can touch Jimmy Page in the production department. Both are truly legends to me.
And my personal favorite guitarist would be Barry Bailey from the band Atlanta Rhythm Section. He never played a single note that to this day I think anyone could have played any better! He had impeccable technique and played with a golden touch that made his guitar cry and sing. He played an old Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (gold top) and got the best tone out of that guitar. I should take a moment to say that JR Cobb’s clean rhythm and slide guitar playing complemented Barry Bailey’s style superbly. They are both, without a doubt, two of the most underrated guitarists to come out of that era.
Okay that’s it. I am leaving out way more than I am including but I think this is a good overview of what helped shape my playing style. Some more than others at different times, but all of the above players have laid the framework for all of us younger guitar players to use as a blue print. I don’t think guitarists should copy any one of them to a tee. Instead, they should learn to absorb a little of all of their styles and slowly over time it will make its way to their brain and hopefully to their fingertips.