If you were asked to name the three most influential guitarists of the past 40 years I wonder what names you would come up with?
Perhaps you would think of Frank Zappa, or Chuck Berry, or perhaps Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger, or maybe it would be Chet Atkins or Barney Kessel.
Well, all great guitarists, and worthy of recognition, but they would not quite come into my top three choices.
So who would I vote for? These three, but not necessarily in any particular order – Eric Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix and Jeff Beck.
Eric and Jeff I am glad to say are still performing, but sadly Jimmy died in 1970.
Right then, let me say a bit about these three guitar hero’s.
First of all, Eric Clapton. Eric was born in 1945, and in 1963 he joined the R&B group, The Yardbirds, but within 2 short years he had left the group as he felt that they were becoming an out and out pop group, and he was right.
He then had a brief spell with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers before coming back to the UK to form the supergroup known as Cream, along with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.
In 1968 Cream broke up, much to the sorrow of so many people, and Eric formed Blind Faith along with his former partner in Cream, Ginger Baker, and Steve Winwood.
Following the demise of Blind Faith Eric went on to form his own band, Derek and the Dominos and it was while he was in this band that he wrote what is, in my opinion, his greatest song – “Layla”.
Sadly, drink and drugs began to take their toll of Eric, and he felt that he had to pull out of the music business, at least for a while.
Happily Eric is now back in full swing, and we his fans are all expectantly awaiting the next great thing from him.
Well next up comes Jimi Hendrix, born 1942, and died 1970. A brief life of just 28 years, but what a name he made for himself.
He is considered by many people to be the greatest rock guitarist of all time, and I would not argue with that.
For a part of his career he was a sideman for such famous name as Ike & Tina Turner, the Isley Brothers, and Little Richard, but not surprisingly somebody with his talent and stage presence did not stay in the background for long.
Hendrix moved to New York and played in various bars and clubs, and it was whilst he was playing in Greenwich Village one night that he was approached by a member of the British rock group, the Animals.
He persuaded Jimi to pack his bags and head for London in 1966.
He was a most amazing guitarist, and an incredible showman, and he became an almost instant success.
His first debut single was “Hey Joe”, still a great record today, and his debut album in 1967 was “Are you experienced”.
His playing on stage was something which you had to see, to believe. He would play the guitar behind his back, and sometimes he would pluck the strings with his teeth. He oftentimes would smash his guitar against his amplifiers in order to get a certain effect, and sometimes even set light to them.
If you saw him on stage you would never forget the experience.
When he died in 1970 of a drug overdose the world lost a truly unique musician.
This brings me on finally to my last choice, and that is Jeff Beck, a musician not as well known as Eric and Jimi, but a musician of immense talent.
Jeff was born in 1944 in Wallington, England, and he has spent most of his time performing with various bands. He spent some time with the colourful characted Screaming Lord Sutch until in 1965 he joined the Yardbirds to replace Eric Clapton.
He stayed with the yardbirds until late 1966 when he went on to form his own band the Jeff Beck Group.
He spent some time working with Rod Stewart until Rod left to join the Small Faces.
He has played with many people including Mick Jagger on his 1987 album Primitive Cool.
In 1989 Jeff won a grammy for best rock instrumental for his album Guitar Shop.
Jeff is thankfully still performing today, and I heard him not too long ago giving a thrilling live performance and proving himself to be a musician of tremendous ability..
This has been the first of a series of articles on great performers. If you would like to be kept updated as new articles come out then please go to my website and email me, asking to be kept updated.