The guitar is so intimately connected with the blues and with rock and roll that it is arguably the sexiest musical instrument that anyone can choose to play! Although there have been plenty of great classical guitarists since the evolution of the instrument into its modern form, most of the general public’s attention has been focused on the great blues and rock guitarists. Here is a short look at three of these guitar-picking legends.
This hero of Woodstock and classic product of the hedonistic 1960’s is at or near the top of every music publication’s list of best guitar players of all time and his innovative technique transformed a generation. A military veteran and already a success in Europe and on the West Coast, he was 26 years old when he took the stage by storm at Woodstock and performed his heart-stopping version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” following a 2-hour set.
His style was heavily influenced by the blues as well as his Native American heritage. His melodies used a lot of arpeggios and inverse chords, and he was a great technician whose signature sound relied on the wah pedal. More than anything else, perhaps, Hendrix was a great showman who played his instrument while jumping up and down, over his head, between his legs, on his back, and with his teeth.
The undisputed “King” as well as the self-proclaimed “Ambassador of the Blues,” B.B King is at the top of the heap when it comes to the greatest guitar players of all time. His technique of bending the strings and heavy use of vibrato with his instrument named Lucille made him a living legend in his own time. He first became famous in 1951 by taking the traditional acoustic sound of the country blues and infusing it with the powerful sound only possible with an electric guitar. His sound was completely new, distinctive, sexual, and highly polished. Scores of famous guitarists who came later count him as a major influence and he is still active today at age 83.
Known for his stirring and often lengthy guitar solos, Englishman Eric Clapton’s music is firmly grounded in the blues, but over his long career he has shown great versatility, often changing his style. Heavily influenced by B.B King, he found success in the 1960’s with his group Cream and was a great fan of rival Jimi Hendrix. Some of Cream’s numbers were commercially successful in the pop world, but the band also loved to indulge in bluesy jams during live performances. A chameleon in the guitar world, his high tech innovations over the years have made him one of the most highly respected guitar players of all time.