George Harrison was born on February 25th, 1943 (which would have made him 70 years old today). His distinctive guitar playing for The Beatles and throughout his solo career helped make the electric guitar the popular instrument it is today. It’s hard to imagine how many guitarists were inspired by his rockabilly-pop-rock playing—the number is indeed countless. Here’s a live version of George and Eric Clapton trading solos on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”http://youtu.be/AbMop1Uloog
: 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 Allman Brothers - “At Fillmore East.”
Perhaps the greatest live guitar record ever, The Allman’s “Fillmore” recording showcased the stunning interplay between dual lead players Duane Allman and Dickey Betts on seven solid tracks. Recorded over two nights in March 1971, the Allman guitarists proved that extended jams could be thrilling and inventive.
Duane’s tour de force, the 23-minute “Whipping Post” set a standard for guitar soloing that has never been matched in a live setting, while “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” is one of the best instrumental tunes in the history of rock guitar. Period.
: Rock Royalty – “KAGED Telecaster.”
Guaranteed to upset the people at PETA, the Rock Royalty KAGED guitar is a Fender Telecaster wrapped in black alligator skin and thousands of dollars worth of gems. There are 11.88 carats of black diamonds set in sterling silver finished with black ruthenium on the knobs, a selector switch with 2.30 carats of red rubies, and six handmade machine heads with 15.54 carats of black diamonds set in sterling silver.
The entire KAGED guitar is shipped in a steel cage. (Get it?) And all for a mere $85,000. Even we want to hear how this one sounds.
Randall William Rhoads was born on December 6, 1956 in Santa Monica, California. Randy’s playing in Quiet Riot during the 1970s attracted little attention, but when he appeared on Ozzy Osbourne’s first solo album, “Blizzard Of Ozz,” in 1980, everyone with ears took immediate notice.
From the opening strains of “Blizzard Of Ozz” to the closing moments of “Diary Of A Madman,” (the only two Osbourn
e albums released while Randy was alive), Rhoads cranked out riffs and solos that have since become iconic in the hard rock and metal guitar universe. His influence is still pervasive amongst guitarists wanting to play with a high degree of both technical skill and musical sensibility. Here’s Randy playing a live version of “Crazy Train.” http://youtu.be/ZcoweoZ6jpM
George Harrison passed away on this date in 2001 at age 58. It’s hard to imagine how many guitarists were inspired by his blues-rockabilly-pop-rock playing—the number is indeed countless. Here’s a live version of George and Eric Clapton trading solos on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”: http://youtu.be/AbMop1Uloog
: Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles - “Live!”
Released in 1972, this “Live!” album captured Santana and his band at the peak of their powers, as well as Buddy Miles in the years subsequent to his stint with The Band Of Gypsies. The album features two cuts that have become near anthemic in the guitar universe: Santana’s “Evil Ways” and Miles’ “Them Changes” (which had been known as “Changes” when Hendrix played it with Miles). It also has Santana’s extended exploration into jazz and fusion—accompanied by Neal Schon—with the 25 minute “Free Form Funkafide Filth.” After this album, Santana would give up much of his early Latin rock roots for more experimental and eventually more pop avenues; Schon would leave the following year and form Journey; and Miles would achieve unique fame as the voice of the California Raisins. As a testament to guitar-driven jamming circa the early 1970s, this album is one of the best.
: Led Zeppelin II.
43 years ago today, Led Zeppelin II was released. In the minds of many guitarists, the sound and fury that Jimmy Page unleashed on cuts like “Whole Lotta Love” and “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid” changed the way the guitar could be played. Even bluesier cuts like “The Lemon Song” and “Bring It On Home” featured Page’s infusion of heaviness into traditional guitar forms. Four decades later, the album remains one of the most influential in all of hard rock.
The third of guitar’s “Three Kings,” Freddie King was born on September 3, 1934—which would have made him 78 years old today. King’s style was a huge influence on early blues-rockers, despite dying young at 42 in 1976. Here’s Freddie doing a searing version of “Going Down.”
: ZZ Top - “Prom Photo”.
This picture shows a very young Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard in a photo for a Texas prom roundabout 1970 or 1971. Allegedly, the unbearded Billy is holding his “Pearly Gates” 1959 Les Paul (Gibson’s replicas of Pearly Gates sold for $25k). This is the earliest known picture of the band in its current lineup, and one of the last of Reverend Billy without a beard and sunglasses.
Blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore would have been 60 years old today. Moore was one of the most explosive rockers of the past four decades, earning a reputation as a guitarist in bands like Thin Lizzy and Colosseum and later as a popular metal artist in the ’80s. In 1990, Moore switched gears and released “Still Got the Blues”, a tribute to the British blues heroes of his youth, such as Peter Green and Eric Clapton. For the past two decades, he was often seen playing, ironically enough, Peter Green’s famous 1959 Gibson Les Paul ‘Burst’ that Moore had purchased from Green decades earlier. Moore died on February 6, 2011 from a heart attack. Here’s something to remember him by, a live performance of “Don’t Believe a Word” with Thin Lizzy, c. 1978.
Fusion pioneer Larry Coryell turns 69 on April 2. Coryell was one of the first electric guitarists to combine rock, jazz, funk, progressive, and even Middle Eastern styles into a whole new form of guitar playing. Starting out with Chico Hamilton in 1966 at age 23, and then playing with everyone from Miles Davis to Charlie Mingus, Larry is perhaps best known for leading the band The Eleventh House from 1973 to 1976. That group rivaled Mahavishnu (featuring John McLaughlin) and Return to Forever (featuring Al di Meola) in the breadth of its guitar experimentation, establishing Coryell as a significant jazz innovator.
Coryell switched exclusively to acoustic playing for a period of time beginning in the late 1970s, becoming one of the most prominent endorsers of Ovation’s Adamas line of guitars. In 1979, he was a founder of the guitar trio that featured John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia. Since then, he has toyed with blues and various forms of jazz, amassing more than 70 albums in total. He regularly performs at jazz clubs and festivals. Pretty amazing for a guitarist born deaf in his right ear. Here’s Larry wailing on a live version of Stanley Clarke’s epic “School Days”. Happy birthday, Mr. Coryell.