John Dawson Winter III has been a fixture of electric blues guitar since 1968 … and today is his 69th birthday. Born in 1944, Johnny’s Texas blues playing as a teenager gained him notoriety across the state, but it was an invitation from Mike Bloomfield that led Johnny to New York. His playing at the Fillmore East led to a record contract from Columbia that was allegedly one of the highest paying of the time. Johnny still tours constantly, and is a member of the NGM Advisory Board. A brand new app covering Johnny’s playing styles and life story is available at http://www.johnnywinter.net/ Happy birthday and all the best, Mr. Winter.
Magic Slim, one of the most notable Chicago electric bluesmen, died today at age 75. Born Morris Holt, Slim went to Chicago from Mississippi in the 50s and made a name for himself in the club scene of the 60s. A living part of the tradition established by players like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Slim became a Chicago institution, performing and recording right up until his death. Another part of the blues legacy is gone. RIP, Slim.
Ted Nugent has gotten more attention in the last four years for his politics than for his guitar playing. With his appearance at the State Of The Union address, it’s possible that more people will remember Ted for his right-wing advocacy than for playing the riffs to “Stormtroopin” and “Snakeskin Cowboys” or even “Cat Scratch Fever.” Too bad: the version of “Stranglehold” on Ted’s first solo album is a true classic.
Tony Iommi was born 65 years ago Tuesday, on February 19, 1948. A guitarist who needs no introduction, we’re very happy at The National GUITAR Museum to have him on our board of advisors. To celebrate Tony’ birthday, we’ll simply put up this video of one of his early solos. You’ll see how Iommi – as the guiding light of Black Sabbath – shaped the sound of modern hard rock and metal nearly 40 years ago. Enjoy, and happy birthday, Tony. Here’s to many more.http://youtu.be/lKzgOHK3y-0
Kevin Ayers, one of the founding guitarists and songwriters of the psychedelic music movement in the 60s, has died. A man who inspired, and drew inspiration from, his friends Syd Barrett and Jimi Hendrix, Ayers founded Soft Machine at the dawn of the psychedelic era. He toured with Pink Floyd and Hendrix, released some significant solo albums, and then became a recluse. He was 68 when he died. RIP, Mr. Ayers.
: T. Rex - “Electric Warrior.”
Marc Bolan was one of the first rock musicians to gain fame as both a lead vocalist and a lead guitarist. “Electric Warrior,” released in 1971, is widely regarded as the height of Bolan’s guitar prowess. From the snaky lines of “Mambo Sun” to the sliding chords of “Rip Off” (not to mention “Bang A Gong”), Bolan’s style was a mixture of herky jerky rhythms and idiosyncratic leads that make his guitar phrasings as identifiable as his vocals. Reviewers remarked at his ability to make his guitar cough, hiccup, stutter, laugh, cry, and scream.
The cover photo, with Bolan and his trademark Les Paul in front of a rare VampPower stack, did more to cement the image of lead guitarist-as-icon than any album cover since.
The alter-ego of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel—Christopher Guest—was born 65 years ago on February 5, 1948. During his career, Nigel has helped legitimize amps that “go to 11” along with searing guitar solos played not just with violin bows, but with actual violins. There is no denying the impact of Tufnel’s playing and performance skills on an entire generation of heavy metal shredders who aspire to be one louder. Happy birthday, Nige.
: Pink Floyd - “Wish You Were Here.”
Floyd’s 1975 follow-up to “Dark Side Of The Moon” was heavier on the guitars and served to bring David Gilmour out of the shadow of the band’s hallucinogenic synth-based sound. The album’s opus, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” contains a Gilmour 4-note riff that is one of the most identifiable phrases in the history of the guitar. His acoustic playing on the title track, along with the slide overdubs, showed that there was still a lot of life left in the basics of playing G C & D chords. And the shimmering two-chord minor dirge of “Welcome To The Machine” – strummed upwards – proved that Gilmour was a master at creating atmospherics in the simplest of progressions.
“Wish You Were Here” holds up as one of the defining albums of the 1970s, and is considered by many to be the apex of Gilmour’s playing (others will, of course, point to “Comfortably Numb”). No matter what, the album is one of the finest examples of minimalist guitar playing that broke out of the blues realm and helped establish a sound, and an ambience, that has had huge influence in the nearly 40 years since its release.
Great footage of Joe Bonamassa … when he was 12 years old. Introduced by the legendary Danny Gatton. A nice ‘53 Strat and some searing blues—two decades ago.
Highlight of the Super Bowl was a guitar moment: guitarist Bibi McGill channelling Ace Frehley during the halftime show with Beyonce’. Well played, Bibi.
Terry Kath was born on January 31, 1946, and would have been 67 today. The original guitarist for the band Chicago, Kath brought a heavy rock sound to the jazz-and-horns trappings of the rest of the band. Employing a Fender Strat and Gibson SG, Kath was able to deliver tough riffs like “25 Or 6 To 4” (with one of rock’s greatest wah wah solos) alongside melodic runs on tracks like “Questions 67 & 68.”
Kath experimented with effects, the whammy bar, and feedback throughout his career, and the debut Chicago album contained a 7-minute distortion-fueled solo improvisation called “Free Form Guitar” - all at a time when few people other than Hendrix were exploring the sonic limits of the guitar. Terry was adept at rock, jazz, blues, psychedelia, pop and a host of genres, and might have been more widely revered had he not died accidentally during gunplay gone wrong at age 31.
Happy belated birthday to Eddie Van Halen, who turned 58 earlier this week. Here’s a classic shot of EVH taken by Neil Zlozower back in the late 1970s.