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101 Forgotten Greats & Unsung Heroes

February 1, 2007
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It’s no secret that the talent, technique, and creative force of magnificent and awe-inspiring guitarists runs deep. And going deep doesn’t mean studying only the obvious guitar heroes. You have to get out on the fringes, and experience not only the players who influenced the greats, but also the seminal movers and shakers who were not blessed with massive or on-going pop-culture fame. After all, a complete guitarist is a vessel of multiple influences.

To this end, the GP staff endeavored to compile a vast list of players who float just under the popular radar. Of course, all such efforts are compromised by omissions, so to make sure our 101 list was as comprehensive as possible, we enlisted the input of players from the Guitar Player and Harmony Central forums. All of their suggestions were incorporated into the GP staff’s master list, and then began the vicious battle to whittle down the multitude to a workable number. We kept the “forgotten or unsung” criteria at the forefront of all challenges, but that doesn’t mean even we are confident every deserving player made the cut.

But whether you agree with some of the selections or not, what you’ve got is a colossal collection of fabulous guitarists worthy of your attention. Hopefully, you’ll be intrigued by some of these entries to seek more information about the artists, and absorb their creative concepts and licks into your own style. Above all, helping our readers increase the depth and diversity of their approach to the guitar was the GP staff’s main goal in this undertaking. Enjoy!

Junior Barnard
Of all the amazing guitarists to go through Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, Barnard’s tonal audacity stands out. His solos on Wills’ “Brain Cloudy Blues” and “Fat Boy Rag” are jazzy, distorted wonders—and this is in the ’40s! Barnard was killed in a 1951 car crash at just 30 years old. “Junior was playing rock and roll years before it had a name,” his brother, Gene, told GP in 1983. —DF

Jan Akkerman
European guitarists in the ’60s and ’70s were often influenced as much by classical, jazz, and gypsy swing as they were by blues and rock and roll. That was definitely the case with Dutch virtuoso Akkerman, whose thrilling performance on Focus’ classic instrumental “Hocus Pocus” [Moving Waves, 1971]—as well as his signature sounds crafted by a volume pedal, a Colorsound treble booster, and multiple Cordovox rotating speakers—brought him to the attention of American listeners. —BC

Davie Allan
Throughout the 1960s, the garage/surf instrumentals of Davie Allan and the Arrows set the pace for scads of motorcycle-gang films. Inspired by Duane Eddy, Nokie Edwards, and Link Wray, Allan created his signature fuzz sound on the song “Blues Theme,” which director Roger Corman used for his 1967 film, The Wild Angels. It turned into a single, and, by the end of the decade, Allan’s guitar work could be heard on dozens of B (for “biker”) movie soundtracks. —AT

Oscar Aleman
It has been said that Aleman could out-swing Django Reinhardt, and Aleman was clearly an equally formidable jazz guitarist. Hitting his stride in Paris in the early ’30s, Aleman sounded less “gypsy” than Django—and he used his fingers instead of a flatpick—but his fiery, virtuosic playing makes him one of the truly unsung heroes of his time. —AT

Scotty Anderson
“It was quite possibly the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” Eric Johnson said of watching Cincinnati Tele ninja Scotty Anderson perform. Chet Atkins once told Anderson, “Each time I hear you play, I learn something.” But Anderson must be the Stealth Bomber of guitar, because, although as dangerous as Hank Garland, Merle Travis, and Jimmy Bryant all rolled into one, he hasn’t made much of a blip on radar screens. —JG

Mickey Baker
Known for his ’50s session work with Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, and tons of others, Baker also authored several guitar instruction books. Baker’s biggest claim to fame is the duo Mickey & Sylvia, whose 1957 hit, “Love Is Strange,” prominently features his squawking, single-note lines. “I figured if Les Paul and Mary Ford could make money doing that nonsense of theirs, I could, too,” Baker told GP in 1976. —DF

Charlie Baty
Co-founder of the Northern California blues band, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Baty always sounds fresh, innovative, and cliché free. It’s easy to hear the influence of Charlie Christian in Baty’s sophisticated melodic approach, and his deep grasp of swinging jazz—as well as his grounding in the earthy soul of the blues—has worked beautifully for the Nightcats’ freewheeling forays into bop, gospel, western swing, and rockabilly. —AT

Phil Baugh
Baugh’s claim to fame is the 1965 hit “Country Guitar,” where singer Vern Stovall calls out everyone from Les Paul to Luther Perkins to Hank Garland to Duane Eddy, as Baugh apes each guy’s style to a “T.” The album Live Wire! is a must-have, as Baugh’s picking equals Joe Maphis and Jimmy Bryant, and his low-down twang could make Don Rich envious. Baugh became a Nashville session wiz in the ’70s, and died at the age of 53 in 1990. —DF

Brendan Bayliss/Jake Cinninger
Don’t let the legions of twirling Dave Matthews fans they’ve stolen fool you—Umphrey’s McGee is not your typical jam band. Despite having open-ended solos in their sets, Umphrey’s guitarists Cinninger and Bayliss are, arguably, the fresh faces of prog. Their guitar arrangements are so elaborate they make the average Phish tune—no slouchy affair—sound as loose as an LSD-era, Grateful Dead Dorian-mode exploration of the punchbowl. —JG

Robbie Blunt
During the ’80s, when shred and spandex metal were filling the airwaves with symphonies of distortion, Blunt’s crystalline Strat tones and vibey single-note phrases were more than a breath of fresh air—they were mysterious, magical, and sensual. His stunning performances on Robert Plant’s solo albums—particularly “Big Log” and “In the Mood” from 1983’s The Principle of Moments—pretty much established the singer’s post-Zeppelin sonic identity. —MM

Tommy Bolin
A transcendent, yet erratic and troubled artist, Bolin (1951-1976) personifies the myth of the glorious flame that burns out much too soon. Despite immense talent and numerous chances for widespread fame—he played on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum, replaced Joe Walsh in the James Gang and Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, and released two solo albums—Bolin succumbed to his addictions at just 25 years old. To get a sense of what his loss means to the guitar community, seek out 1989’s The Ultimate: The Best of Tommy Bolin. —MM

Lenny Breau
Once hailed by Chet Atkins as “the greatest guitar player in the world today,” Breau (1941-1984) brilliantly blended bebop and flamenco techniques with Atkins’ country thumbpick/fingerstyle approach by his early 20s. He went on to develop an astonishing 7-string style (on custom Dauphin acoustic and Kirk Sand electric instruments with high A strings) that allowed him to play bass lines and chords with his thumb and first two fingers while superimposing single-note lines with his third and fourth fingers, and often augmented with mind-bending octave harmonic arpeggios. —BC

Erik Braunn
A prodigy violinist at the age of four, Braunn brought a formal sense of melody, a wicked vibrato, and an uncanny mastery of effects to Iron Butterfly—the band he joined at age 16. Playing a Mosrite through either a Vox Super Beatle or a Marshall stack—and aided by an Echoplex, a spring reverb, and Mosrite Fuzzrite and Vox Wah-Wah pedals (given to him by Hendrix and Beck, respectively)—Braunn’s style fused bits of Baroque and jazz with psychedelia, as evidenced throughout In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and Ball. —BC

Michael Brook
A master of atmosphere, Brook acquired his studio processing chops in the early ’80s, recording alongside musical iconoclasts Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno (who appear on his 1985 solo debut Hybrid, and 1992’s Cobalt Blue.) Brook usually plays without an amp, running his heavily modified Tokai “Strat” copy—outfitted with a scalloped fretboard, a MIDI pickup, and his “infinite guitar” electronics—through multiple looping and effects devices. —BC

Michael Bruce/Glen Buxton
As the twin-guitar dervishes of the classic Alice Cooper band lineup, Bruce and Buxton (1947-1997) fired off some of heavy rock’s most flamboyant riffs. Bruce was perhaps the group’s most prolific writer, but Buxton’s snotty and rebellious licks drove songs such as “School’s Out,” “I’m Eighteen,” and “Muscle of Love” straight into the fertile psyches of ’70s teenhood. The duo’s interlocking riffs, rhythmic interplay, and aggro tones set a standard that is, sadly, seldom matched today. —MM

Bumblefoot
Super-shredder Bumblefoot (a.k.a Ron Thal) operates a studio in New Jersey where he records his own music, as well as scores for Spike TV, The Osbournes, and other diverse stuff. He commands a stunning array of guitar techniques to milk scorching, yet melodic leads out of his custom Vigier axes—one of which is shaped like a giant foot. Currently, Bumblefoot is on the road with Guns ‘N Roses. Words fail to describe this man’s music, so visit bumblefoot.com to hear some samples. —Tobias Hurwitz

Sandy Bull
It should blow minds today that Bull (1941-2001) recorded Fantasias for Guitar & Banjo in 1963. Accompanied solely by drummer Billy Higgins, Bull twisted genres into an expansive, pre-psychedelia tour de force that blended classical music, jazz, rock, blues, gospel, folk, and middle-eastern and other world styles. To push his vision even further, Bull became one of the earliest disciples of multitracking, and also used tapes in live performance—years before the practices were common. —MM

Randy California
Randy Wolfe (1951-1997) received instruction from traditional bluesmen as a child, and gigged with the early Hendrix outfit Jimmy James & the Blue Flames in 1966 at age 15, adopting the name “California” at Hendrix’s suggestion. By the time he co-founded Spirit in 1967, he had developed a unique style centered on super-sustained solo tones. Although primarily a Strat and Marshall man, early photos show California wielding Danelectro, Dan Armstrong, and Les Paul guitars, and playing through Acoustic amps. —BC

Al Casey
Albert Aloysius Casey (1915-2005) is best known for his ultra-tight rhythm work and punchy solos backing Fats Waller—particularly his bluesy solo on “Buck Jumpin’” in 1941—but his proto-bop stylings were also employed by Ellington, Armstrong, and, eventually, Gillespie and Parker. Casey progressed from a Martin acoustic to a Gibson Super 400 to a “Gretsch with one pickup,” using an unwound G for easier bending. —BC

Danny Cedrone
Even in these post-Van Halen, post-Yngwie, post-everything times, Cedrone’s solo on Bill Haley and the Comets’ 1955 hit “Rock Around the Clock” is still a jaw-dropper. Cedrone—a Philadelphia session guitarist who used a 1946 Gibson ES-300 and a 1x12 Gibson BR-1 combo for the legendary track—opens with a furiously picked line, then suddenly works in some tangy half-step bends and slick, jazzy phrases, and caps it off with an insanely fast chromatic flurry that encompasses all six strings. Cedrone was paid $21 for the solo, and a little over two months later, died after falling down a staircase. He never knew the impact his solo had on the world. —DF

Roy Clark
Before he was a cornpone joke dispenser on Hee-Haw, Clark was known as a super-clean picker with a boatload of technical facility (he won two National Banjo Championships as a teenager). Clark did time with country/rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson (that’s his guitar on her hit, “Let’s Have a Party”), before he cut his 1963 instrumental album, The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark. His 1995 album, Roy Clark & Joe Pass Play Hank Williams, proved Clark can also hang in jazz circles. —DF

Larry Collins
The sight of a pre-teen Collins playing the sh*t out of a doubleneck Mosrite must have been quite a sight in the ’50s, because it’s still unreal to see it on DVD in 2007! An understudy of Joe Maphis, and churning out some of the baddest rockabilly ever with his sister Lorrie as the Collins Kids, little Larry was a bona fide guitar star. His performances on the Town Hall Party DVDs will make you a believer. —DF

Diblo Dibala
Dibala was already an established session guitarist in Zaire when he re-teamed up with Zairian singer/bandleader Kanda Bongo Man in Paris in the early ’80s. Together, they took the uptempo style known as soukous to new heights, relying heavily on the brilliantly crafted melodic lines that Dibala played nearly non-stop over thr powerful grooves. His sparkling tones shimmer like Serengeti heat waves on such KBM releases as Non Stop Non Stop, Amour Fou, and Kwassa Kwassa. —AT

Dr. Know
Ably mixing punk fury with reggae, metal, funk, and avant-garde jazz, Dr. Know (a.k.a. Gary Miller) and his band Bad Brains gave ’80’s punk a heady dose of musical education. The good Doctor’s trick bag included severe whammy bar exploitation, distorted shards of diminished and major seven chords, and solos infused with Neanderthal metal moves, blues, and Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic concepts. —DF

David “Fuze” Fiuczynski
Fiuczynski came to prominence in the ’90s as the leader of Screaming Headless Torsos, and as a key member of Me´Shell Ndegé Ocello’s band. Playing a custom Johan Gustavsson “Fuzeblaster” fretted/fretless doubleneck into multi-effects devices, and a Trace Elliot Speed Twin C100 head paired with a Rivera 2x12 cab, Fiuczynski melds in-the-pocket funk with rock riffing, outside jazz, world music, ambient, and shred—raising eyebrows before searing them off. Fire up the Torsos’ Choice Cuts. —BC

Franco
The founder of O.K. Jazz in the mid ’50s, Franco’s mesmerizing melodies—which he typically harmonized in parallel sixths using a two-finger picking approach—paved the way for soukous (a Zairian musical style based on the French word “secouer,” which means “to shake”). Using Cuban music as a starting point, Franco (a.k.a. L’Okanja La Ndju Pene Luambo Makiadi) developed a rumba style in the ’60s that embraced Congolese musical traditions. Franco is also credited with introducing the “sebene”—a term for what occurs in soukous music when the vocals end and the band kicks into instrumental hyperdrive. Franco recorded some 150 albums before his death in 1989. —AT

Manuel Galban
Few Americans knew of Galban before he recorded Mambo Sinuendo with Ry Cooder in 2003, but the “Latin surf guitarist” began his recording career in the early ’60s, as guitarist and arranger for legendary Cuban doo-woppers Los Zafiros. Playing the same Telecaster for more than 30 years, Galban blends Duane Eddy twang with jazz-inspired bass/harmony/melody arrangements, a percussive attack, and timbre-altering mutes using either hand. —BC

Hank Garland
Other than Garland, there aren’t many guitarists who can boast credits with Elvis Presley (“Little Sister”) and jam sessions with Charlie Parker. Garland’s signature tune, “Sugarfoot Rag,” was cut when he was just 16, and he quickly ascended to royalty status in Nashville session circles. But Garland was also an accomplished jazz guitarist whose 1961 album, Jazz Winds From a New Direction, is a must have. Garland is also the “land” in the Gibson Byrdland—a guitar he designed with fellow guitarist Billy Byrd. —DF

Brett Garsed
With a deliciously creamy lead tone and astonishing versatility, Garsed proves that conservatory-level virtuosity can coexist with hard rock timbres. Badass performance clips of the Aussie session ace make his DVD Rock Guitar Improvisation worth the price of admission. Woodshedders will be delighted as Garsed demos some of his sneakiest and most unorthodox approaches, including extreme hybrid-picking tactics and second-finger slide (in which notes are fretted both behind and in front of the glass). —JG

Aubrey Ghent
Robert Randolph put a youthful face on sacred steel, but Aubrey Ghent may be the most soulful cat playing it. A nephew of ’40s gospel steel pioneer Willie Eason, Ghent—a Florida minister—plays with a lot less pedals, distortion, and volume than Randolph, yet produces an even more powerful and lyrical sound. Spin “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus,” and you’ll hardly be able to tell where the choir leaves off, and Ghent’s divine lap-steel solo begins. —JG

Greg Ginn
The amount of brutality Black Flag founder Ginn conjured from a Dan Armstrong Plexi guitar and a solid-state amp rivaled that of the L.A.P.D.—who would shut down the group’s shows, beating the local punks in the process. Ginn’s style stands apart from his punk contemporaries with its chordal savageness, and an improvisational, metal-edged, free-jazz approach to soloing that owes more to Ornette Coleman than Steve Jones. —DF

Dave Gonzales
A certified badass from the Southern California blues scene, Gonzales fronted the Paladins—a roots/rockabilly trio that gave him plenty of room to showcase his industrial-strength chops on a Guild X-550 archtop—for more than 20 years. A disciple of legendary West Coast blues guitarist Hollywood Fats—and a big fan of vintage country—Gonzales’ no B.S. style reeks of everything that’s cool about classic American guitar music. —AT

John Goodsall
As a member of Brand X—one of the most underrated fusion outfits ever—Goodsall’s flurries of angular lines, slick and cerebrally funky accompaniment, and atmospheric washes tended to get overshadowed by bassist Percy Jones and drummer Phil Collins. However, Goodsall’s formidable skills are showcased on the group’s 1977 release, Livestock. —DF

Guthrie Govan
One of the more frightening shredders to ever come out of the United Kingdom—and we’re talking Holdsworth and Shawn Lane level chops, here—Govan is not only technically brilliant, but supremely musical. His solo debut, Erotic Cakes, shows him to be a highly lyrical player with a knack for couching his playing in interesting, harmonically advanced compositions that veer in and out of fusion, prog, and even pop. —DF

Davy Graham
Often cited as the cat who popularized DADGAD tuning (he claims he invented it), Graham is also credited as one of the first acoustic fingerstyle players to incoporate blues, folk, Moroccan, and Indian elements into their oeuvre. Graham’s 1962 homage to his then girlfriend, “Anji,” is a litmus test for any budding fingerstyle guitarist, and the legendary Bert Jansch said of Graham, “He’s the single most influential person on everything I’ve ever done.” —DF

Guitar Slim
He paid hookers by the week, drank mineral oil to “lubricate” his voice, dyed his hair blue, and performed with a 150' guitar cable in the ’50s—often while riding on the shoulders of Johnny “Guitar” Watson. Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones (1926-1959) lived fast and died young, but formed a distinctive style of New Orleans blues guitar by playing twisted melodic licks and driving his goldtop Les Paul to previously unheard levels of distortion. —Dave Rubin

Ollie Halsall
Although Halsall’s most famous work is on the ultimate Beatles send-up, The Rutles, the British underground legend was also capable of expansive improvisations, unparalleled musicality, and blinding technique. “His playing on the first two Patto albums is it,” says XTC’s Andy Partridge of Halsall’s early ’70s fusion outfit. “His solos would explode into the ionosphere like a John Coltrane improvisation.” Halsall died in 1992, at the age of 43. —DF

Bill Harkleroad
More famously known as Zoot Horn Rollo, Harkleroad’s jarring, future-blues as a member of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band still resonates, 30-plus years on. Harkleroad—who used metal fingerpicks to get as harsh a tone as possible at the Captain’s request—was often tasked with arranging Beefheart’s tapes of spontaneous piano musings and whistling into actual tunes. “Beefheart didn’t teach me how to play guitar,” Harkleroad told the BBC in 1997, “but he influenced how I play guitar more than anybody.” —DF

Neil Haverstick
Although guitarist and educator Haverstick has played just about every style, it’s his theoretical and practical grasp of microtonal music that differentiates him from most other accomplished players. Stretching the octave to 12, 19, 31, and 34 tones, Haverstick nonetheless manages to remain musical, as demonstrated on Stick Man: Electric Music for 19 and 34 Tone Guitars. His book, The Form of No Forms, won praise from Tommy Tedesco and Joe Pass. —BC

Steve Hillage
Hillage’s take on psychedelia had its origins in British blues and England’s late-’60s/early-’70s Canterbury scene, where he performed with groups such as Gong, before initiating a multifaceted solo career. Early recordings featured phase-shifted, Leslie-fied, tremolo-ed, and otherwise swirling Strat tones, further processed through tape echoes, filters, and anything else that produced spacey sounds—though his fiery and formidable solo chops were anything but ambient. Tune into Gong’s Angel’s Egg (1973), and Hillage’s Green (1978). —BC

Hollywood Fats
Michael “Hollywood Fats” Mann (1954-1986) was a ridiculously talented electric blues guitarist who blazed on an ES-335. Tenures with Albert King (who fired him for the crime of upstaging), James Harmon, and his own band in the ’70s and early ’80s left little recorded material (check out Hollywood Fats Band, Larger Than Life), but it’s all sensational. Imagine Mike Bloomfield on steroids. —Dave Rubin

Sol Hoopii
GP honored Sol Hoopii (1902-1953) with a lifetime achievement award in 1995, because his ingenious synthesis of jazz and Hawaiian music not only helped put steel guitar on the map, but also inspired generations of lap slide and pedal-steel players—including modern world marvel Bob Brozman. Hoopii was a master of syncopation, alternate tunings, and manual “sound effects.” Master of the Hawaiian Guitar, Vol. 2 provides a comprehensive career overview. —Jimmy Leslie

Rob Ickes
As a member of the progressive bluegrass act Blue Highway, Ickes has been pushing the boundaries of the Dobro for years. But with his new trio, Three Ring Circle, Ickes is pushing the envelope even further, with amazing takes on everything from Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” to Jeff Beck’s “You Know What I Mean.” Ickes counts Robben Ford and John Scofield as major influences on his Dobro approach, proving that cross-instrument pollination is often at the heart of innovation. —DF

Lonnie Johnson/Eddie Lang
It’s only slight hyperbole to say that blues guitar begins with Alonzo “Lonnie” Johnson (1899-1970), and that jazz guitar starts with Salvatore “Eddie Lang” Massaro (1902-1933). B.B. King calls Johnson “the most influential guitarist of the 20th Century” for his pioneering single-string improvisations in the 1920s, while Lang invented sophisticated comping. As a duo—with Lang billed as “Blind Willie Dunn” due to racial segregation—they created blues duets that still astonish, as revealed on Blue Guitars, Vol. 1-2. —Dave Rubin

Terry Kath
A founding member of Chicago, Kath (1946-1978) injected hard-driving rhythms and spitfire solos into the band’s horn-driven sound. Inspired equally by jazz players such as Howard Roberts, and rockers such as Hendrix, Kath incorporated elements of both into his harmonically savvy approach. His main guitars in 1971 were a ’68 Stratocaster and a low-impedance ’69 Gibson Les Paul Professional, played through a 60-watt Allied Electronics Knight amp. —BC

Ryo Kawasaki
Renaissance man Kawasaki is an inventor, engineer, and innovative fusion player with a hard-hitting, yet flowing style. He moved from Tokyo to New York in 1973, and found work with Gil Evans, Elvin Jones, and Chico Hamilton. His debut as a leader was 1977’s Juice, and he has released a steady string of CDs since, with the notable exception of the late ’80s and early ’90s, when he focused on creating music software. —Jimmy Leslie

Cody Kilby
The 1998 National Flatpicking champion—and member of Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder—24-year-old Kilby is a monster on banjo, mandolin, and acoustic flat-top. “At flatpicking contests, other contestants would tell me to slow down,” relates Kilby, “but I was young and hard-headed, so I wasn’t going to listen to anybody.” Kilby matured fast, however, and his playing now sports equal parts tenderness and fire-breathing intensity. For proof, seek Skagg’s Instrumentals and Brand New Strings. —DF

Danny Kirwan
Peter Green tapped the 18-year-old Kirwan to join Fleetwood Mac in August 1968, thus creating an unstoppable, yet ultimately tragic British blues guitar tandem. Kirwan’s vibrato was wide and luxurious, and where Green’s playing could be sweet and tender, Kirwan raged with a hard attack and wild abandon. The Kirwan-penned “Something Inside of Me” is a haunting minor blues, and live versions of “Like It This Way” are incendiary. Kirwan stayed in the Mac after Green’s mental breakdown, but battled his own demons, and is only now getting his life back together. —DF

Wayne Krantz
Krantz—a scorching fusion player—has worked as a sideman for Michael Brecker, Leni Stern, Billy Cobham, and Steely Dan. As a leader, he favors the trio format, and 1995’s Long to Be Loose, and the live 2 Drink Minimum showcase Krantz’s inventive soloing, as well as his knack for integrating rhythmic comping and searing single-note lines into a cohesive voice. — Jimmy Leslie

Bill Kirchen
GP has termed him “A titan of the Telecaster,” and Kirchen’s work with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in the 1970s made him a cult hero to roots-oriented players, who reveled in his hot picking on such classic CC albums as Lost in the Ozone; Hot Licks, Cold Steel, & Truckers’ Favorites; and Country Casanova. Since then, Kirchen has kept alive the guitar styles forged in Texas swing and Bakersfield honky-tonk via his twang-o-riffic solo releases. —AT

Ben Lacy
As solo guitarists go, Kentucky funkster Ben Lacy is a one-man-groove machine whose pocket is in league with those of Charlie Hunter and Tuck Andress. His crowd-pleasing fingerstyle arrangements of everything from jazz standards to “Boogie Nights” to his original slap/tap extravaganza “Layercake” never fail to get toes tapping and jaws dropping. Witness his magic at guitarplayertv.com. —JG

Roy Lanham
Although he replaced the hot-headed Jimmy Bryant on TV’s Hometown Jamboree in 1955, Lanham was a much different player than the fleet-fingered Bryant. Lanham flaunted a luxurious chord-melody style, and his mid- ’40s recordings with the Delmore Brothers foreshadowed rockabilly by a decade. He also appeared on Loretta Lynn’s 1960 hit “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” and even did some Monkees dates. For an excellent Lanham primer, get Sizzling Strings/The Fabulous Guitar. — DF

Nguyên Lê
Unfortunately, fusion has become a bad word among some jazz connoisseurs, but not on Nguyên Lê’s watch. Magically weaving middle-eastern and southeast Asian textures with contemporary, jazz-rock grooves, the world fusion of this French-Vietnamese guitarist delivers all the sonic glories a music lover could hope to hear in a genre that aims to meld cultures and styles. A master of timbre and inflection, Lê is perhaps the Joe Zawinul of guitar. Spin “Madal” (off Bakida) for proof. — JG

Shawn Lane
A member of Black Oak Arkansas as a teen, and featured guitarist on Highwayman 2 with Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, multi-instrumentalist Lane (1963-2003) did his most memorable work in collaboration with mega-bassist Jonas Hellborg, including 1995’s Abstract Logic, and 2000’s more ethereal Good People in Times of Evil, with Indian master percussionist V. Selvaganesh. Lane’s idiosyncratic fusion of rock, jazz, blues, and South Indian styles—impeccably executed at often-breakneck speeds—made him one of the most original and engaging guitarists ever. —BC

Jake E. Lee
Lee’s tenure with Ozzy Osbourne brought the singer back to respectability after the tragic death of Randy Rhoads. Straight out of the Southern California school of flashy rock gods—and with the look, attitude, and chops to back it up—Lee performed sacrilege by playing ’80s metal without using a whammy bar, making up for it with an abundance of neck wrangling, behind-the-nut bends, and awesome tuning-machine manipulations. —DF

Brian Lonbeck
A teenage hotshot with Barbara Mandrell in the ’60s, Lonbeck was fortunate enough to study at the feet of country guitar colossus Joe Maphis. This has made Lonbeck the preeminent torch-bearer of Maphis’ blazing, groundbreaking style. Lonbeck is also a stupefyingly good Travis picker, although he uses a flatpick instead of the Merle-approved thumbpick. Deke Dickerson’s Guitar Geek Festival 2004 and 2005 DVDs are currently the best way to see Lonbeck’s amazing 6-string ability. Go to guitarplayertv.com and see for yourself. —DF

Gary Lucas
Although widely known for his stint in Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band (Doc at the Radar Station, Ice Cream for Crow), Lucas has been a fixture in New York’s eclectic downtown scene for years. “I’m receptive to music that has an underlying soulfulness,” he told GP. “So it doesn’t matter if I’m playing Wagner, Chinese pop, or traditional Jewish music, there’s always a thread of the blues in there.” —DF

Lonnie Mack
With a style running deep in the blues, Lonnie Mack virtually invented blues rock with a Flying V and a Magnatone amp when he off-handedly cut a scalding, hit instrumental version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” in 1963. Stevie Ray might have played a lot slower without Mack’s example. —Dave Rubin

Magic Sam
Sam “Magic Sam” Maghett (1937-1969) pioneered the West Chicago style in the late 1950s, along with Otis Rush and Buddy Guy. His biting, heavily reverbed sound—as inspired by B.B. King—broke ranks with the country blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to forge a proud new identity for young, urban black artists. Fingerpicking his licks on a Strat, Maghett had mastered the power trio format, and crossover success seemed imminent, when he died suddenly at 32. —Dave Rubin

Tony Maiden
Maiden’s work with Rufus in the ’70s set the funk-guitar bar sky high. His riff on “Sweet Thing” (from Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan) is an absolute work of art—as was his ability to create stanky, propulsive parts on the group’s more complex, string-laden arrangements. Maiden always upped the funk factor, but never, ever got in the song’s way. Not surprisingly, he’s also an economical, not-one-note-wasted soloist. — DF

Al McKay
McKay cut his teeth with the Ike & Tina Turner Review, but it was drop-dead, pinpoint-precision funk guitar with Earth, Wind & Fire that made him an R&B icon. Cutting the bulk of his classic EW&F tracks with a Telecaster, (which he modded with a neck-position humbucker after seeing Chicago’s Terry Kath), McKay is also a flashy soloist, as proven by his blazing break on “Shining Star.” — DF

Memphis Minnie
Reputedly the first blues musician to don a strap and play standing—as well as one of the first to play electric guitar—Lizzie “Memphis Minnie” Douglas (1897-1973) also cut the heads of fellow Chicagoans Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red. In the ’30s and ’40s, she led electric blues combos using cool National guitars, years before Muddy Waters would change the paradigm in 1948. —Dave Rubin

June Millington
A kick-ass guitarist who can rage through hard rock, pop, country, folk, and blues, Millington is a true icon of women’s music. In 1970, her band Fanny was the first self-contained, all-female rock group signed to a major label. She has been a force for women’s artistry ever since, co-founding the Institute for the Musical Arts—an organization that educates and empowers female musicians—in 1986. GP once called her “one of the hottest female guitarists in the industry,” but she deserved to have “female” removed from the sentence. — MM

Ben Monder
Monder has released four extraordinary solo projects, and has appeared on more than 100 recordings, and yet he remains tragically unsung—likely due to the sheer profundity of his harmonic concept. Whether weaving polyrhythmic arpeggios into dense and oddly compelling clusters (as on 2005’s Oceana), or exploring exploded blues figures (as on Marc Johnson’s Right Brain Patrol), Monder consistently takes his Ibanez AS50 and ’36 Martin into uncharted realms. — BC

Bill Nelson
Due to his fervent allegiance to creativity over commerce, Nelson has been denied the celebrity he richly deserves—although all artists should celebrate his unwavering commitment to his muse. Fame and guitar hero status was his to claim during his Be Bop Deluxe years, but Nelson confounded expectations by veering into experimentalism. In a career too vast to summarize, he has expanded the scope of numerous genres, and was a very early advocate of home-studio production. — MM

Leo Nocentelli
Leo Nocentelli earned his crown as the king of New Orleans-style funk guitar during his groundbreaking work with the Meters. Nocentelli hallmarks include a crispy clean tone, creative use of chord fragments, and a laser-like execution of licks that were often doubled by the bass. This is different from James Brown’s funk, where the guitar rides a ninth chord over a heavy backbeat. The second-line rhythms indigenous to southern Louisiana are uniquely syncopated, and the real magic of the Meters lies in interlocking parts. The Nocentelli-penned instrumental “Cissy Strut” is a textbook example. —Jimmy Leslie

Jimmy Nolen
Unquestionably the godfather of funk guitar, Nolen’s sixteenth-note ninth-chord riff on James Brown’s 1965 hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” was the funkiest shot heard around the guitar world. Played on a Gibson ES-175 with a super-low action and .013-.056 gauge strings, Nolen created the style that every guitarist from John Frusciante to Nile Rodgers to a guy in a disco cover band must know. Nolen died of a heart attack at the age of 49 in 1983. — DF

Mike Oldfield
Think “Mike Oldfield,” and 1973’s mega-platinum, pre-new-age Tubular Bells probably comes to mind. But Oldfield’s prowess as a highly innovative guitarist is often overlooked. For example, he created a singular overdriven sound by routing his mid-’50s Les Paul Junior through a convoluted signal chain that included a treble booster, a battery-powered Vox amp, a Teac reel-to-reel, and multiple graphic EQs, resulting in both super-mellow distortion and “feedback harmonics.” On his 1999 release, Guitars, Oldfield used the guitar as the source of all sounds—including percussion. —BC/Jimmy Leslie

Mary Osborne
Osborne (1921-1992) was a musical prodigy and multi-instrumentalist who concentrated on the electric guitar after hearing Charlie Christian. She became one of jazz’s most innovative and swinging guitarists, as well as one of the few women of her day to earn respect and fame as a soloist. Osborne worked with Mercer Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Buddy Rogers, and others, and, late in life, nearly blew Lionel Hampton off the stage at the 1990 Playboy Jazz Festival. —MM

Anthony Phillips
A founding member of Genesis, Phillips avoided the largely blues-based approach of his contemporaries, opting instead to layer tasteful chord arpeggios and jazzy counterpoint lines into shimmering harmonic structures. Only occasionally did he succumb to overt rock posturing. Phillips went on to compose music ranging from Satie-like acoustic works to synthesizer orchestrations. Seek out Genesis’ Trespass (1974), and The Geese & the Ghost (1977). — BC

Eddie Phillips
At first listen to the Creation’s 1966 release “Making Time,” you might not identify the gritty, slightly-out-of-tune power riffing and steely squeaks as the sound of a violin bow digging into an electric guitar. But Phillips—who producer Shel Talmy described as “one of the most innovative guitarists I’ve run across”—bowed his ES-335 routinely. He also had a masterful control of feedback. Asked to join the Who by Pete Townshend, he fatefully declined. —BC

Ray Phiri
Chikapa “Ray” Phiri’s band, Stimela, was routinely topping the South African charts when Paul Simon recruited the master guitarist to contribute to Graceland—the first taste of authentic African guitar playing for many American listeners—in 1986. Phiri’s propulsive crosspicking and ringing, arpeggiated chords (played on a ’59 Fender Stratocaster and custom Sadowsky Strat copies) lent an irresistible charm and buoyancy to Simon’s songs. —BC

Chris Poland
During his 1983 to 1987 tenure with Megadeth, Poland pounded precision riffs and exchanged acrobatic leads with Dave Mustaine. Oddly enough, he later joined the legendary punk band, the Circle Jerks, as a bass player. Firmly established as a thrilling and visionary fusion player since the ’90s, Poland hallmarks include a clean, yet slightly overdriven tone, fluid legato phrasing, and angular fretboard leaps due, in part, to an index finger injury. His current band project is OHM. —Jimmy Leslie

Robert Quine
Quine broke out with NYC proto-punkers Richard Hell & the Voidoids, loading 1977’s Blank Generation with his frenzied-yet-sophisticated Stratocaster histrionics and ultra-edgy tone. Later, Quine joined Lou Reed’s band for The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, and Live in Italy, before splitting for sessions with Brian Eno and Tom Waits. He also played on Matthew Sweet’s seminal ’90s albums, and, sadly, took his own life in 2004. —Jimmy Leslie

Jerry Reed
Before the silver screen came calling, Reed was better known as an ace picker. With tunes such as “The Claw,” and “Jerry’s Breakdown,” Reed’s style drew liberally from Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, but bore his own funky charm with heavy doses of string popping and chicken picking. The Unbelievable Voice and Guitar of Jerry Reed and the two-for-one CD, Me and Jerry and Me and Chet, are essential listening. —DF

Joseph Reinhardt
Being a guitarist and a sibling of Django Reinhardt had its advantages and disadvantages, but Joseph “Nin Nin” Reinhardt’s (1912-1982) aptitude for pounding out le pompe on his Selmer Grande Bouche provided both foundation and fuel for his legendary brother’s flights of fretboard fancy. Besides grounding Le Hot Club de France, Nin Nin was a fine bandleader and soloist, as you can hear on Joseph Reinhardt Live in Paris. —BC

Emily Remler
Influenced by Wes Montgomery, Remler became the most important female jazz guitarist of the 1980s. The title track of 1988’s East to Wes is an excellent homage, and a fine example of her use of thumb-strumming octaves to spice up melodic phrases. “Hot House” demonstrates how Remler’s fluid technique allowed her to burn hard bop solos with seamless execution of extended single-note runs. Unfortunately, she suffered a sudden heart attack in 1990, and died at age 32. —Jimmy Leslie

Jimmie Rivers
You know a guy is great when one album cements his legacy forever. In the case of Rivers, the album is Brisbane Bop—a collection of live recordings made during Rivers’ stint at the 23 Club in Brisbane, California. Rivers style was an amalgam of Jimmy Bryant and Barney Kessel, but he rolled it all into a spicy mix that was all his own. Armed with a doubleneck Gibson EDS-1275, Rivers sparring matches with steel savant Vance Terry are pure bliss. —DF

Rodrigo y Gabriela
Newcomers Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero combine flamenco with fiery rock riffs and body-slapping guitar percussion. They started playing electrics in the Mexico City-based thrash-metal band Tierra Acida in the mid ’90s, before heading to Europe with their acoustics, where the duo was discovered by Damien Rice. Rodrigo y Gabriela was produced by John Leckie (Radiohead, Stone Roses), and contains unique instrumental interpretations of “Stairway to Heaven” and Metallica’s “Orion.” —Jimmy Leslie

Adam Rogers
Simultaneously evoking the cosmic, melodic odysseys of Coltrane, and the prismatic, fractured harmonies of Stravinsky, Rogers’ guitar style is near kaleidoscopic. He’s big in the Big Apple (having worked with the Brecker brothers, John Zorn, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, and Lost Tribe), but the mainstream continues to be unaware of his compositional genius. A spin through Apparitions, however, might just get you to forget smooth jazz. —JG

Roy Rogers
Nope, this isn’t the cowboy who stuffed Trigger. This Rogers—an acoustic and electric stylist with roots in the Delta blues of Robert Johnson—slings a mean slide instead of a six gun, and he played with John Lee Hooker from 1982 to 1986 (appearing on the Boogieman’s Grammy-winning The Healer), before going solo. —Dave Rubin

Michael Rother
Multi-instrumentalist Rother dropped into Kraftwerk in 1971, but soon left to form the visionary and influential Neu! with drummer Klaus Dinger. As a guitarist, Rother was both mesmerizing and ferocious—the driving, primal fury of “Hero” is as punk as anything the Sex Pistols spewed out four years later. “Neu!’s music was always kept together by spontaneity and emotion,” explained Rother. “If music was just an intellectual exercise, it would not have any importance in my life.” —MM

Ken Rubenstein
A startlingly original guitarist, guitar synthesist, and composer, Rubenstein inhabits a musical multi-verse of exceptional complexity and beauty. Sporting a customized Carvin fitted with a Roland GK-2A pickup for driving an array of hardware synths—as well as a Wechter acoustic played through, among many other things, a Boss PS-5 Super Shifter pedal for pitch-bend effects—Rubenstein makes playing a 21-beat phrase over a 17/8 arpeggio sound perfectly natural. Experience this on 2005’s Invert and Transcend. —BC

Sabicas
Born Agustín Castellón Campos (1912-1990), the Spanish flamenco maestro started performing at six years old, and, after fleeing the Spanish Civil War in 1936, became one of the first players to introduce flamenco to audiences across the globe. His light-speed picados and arpeggios could humble a modern shredder, and he also had a beautiful tremolo and perfect pitch. He was a major influence on Paco de Lucía, who said, “In Sabicas, I saw a new way of playing.” —Mark C. Davis

Sonny Sharrock
Madman! Sharrock (1940-1994) may be classified as an avant-garde jazzer, but his frightening explosions of serrated noise and spastic note flurries—juxtaposed by moments of almost lullaby-like beauty—put him in a class by himself. Career highlights include an uncredited solo on Miles Davis’ A Tribute to Jack Johnson, a tenure in Last Exit, his solo-electric compositions on 1986’s Guitar, and his scores for the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast just before his death. —MM

John “Jubu” Smith
If only Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, Nelly, Roberta Flack, and countless other soul greats would stop offering Smith so much work, he might actually release his own album. Smith’s stinging solos, monster pocket, and perfect pitch have earned him steady work since high school, and now, with the formation of Legally Blynd (legallyblynd.com)—featuring his brother Eric on bass—you can finally hear a modern-day Funk Brothers doing their thing. —JG

T.K. Smith
Smith has lent his formidable 6-string swing to Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Trio, the Bonebrake Syncopators, and his own group, the Smith’s Ranch Boys. Smith’s style harkens back to the days when western swing, rockabilly, and jazz intersected—all in the same solo! Dig Smith and steel player Jeremy Wakefield’s tribute to Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West on Deke Dickerson’s Guitar Geek Festival 2004 for a hearty taste of Smith’s talents, or check our guitarplayertv.com. —DF

Snakefinger
British-born Snakefinger (Philip Lithman, 1949-1987) gained American fans via his association with San Francisco art-rockers, the Residents, and several solo albums (most notably Manual of Errors and Night of Desirable Objects). Conjuring crisp, compressed-yet-edgy tones from cheapo guitars with a pick and slide—often sexed-up with modulation and harmonizer effects—Snakefinger’s oddball, angular lines owed more to Zoot Horn Rollo than’80s shredders. —BC

John Sykes
With a Les Paul Custom and a vibrato wider than the English Channel, Sykes burst out the new wave of British heavy metal in the late ’70s with the Tygers of Pan Tang. An amazing rhythm player and power riffer, Sykes also has tone and chops for days, whether playing with Thin Lizzy (1983’s Thunder and Lightning and current reunion tours), Blue Murder, or Whitesnake (How about that lick in the “Still of the Night” fade out for some serious shred?). —DF

Swati
A product of the rough-and-tumble social and musical melee that is New York’s Lower East Side, 33-year-old Swati Sharma wrings textures from her acoustic-electric Alvarez Yairi 12-string (configured as an 8-string, with doubled B and high-E strings) that transition from sweetly chorused chords to nasty blasts of wildly distorted, low-octave-enhanced metallic mayhem. —BC

Gabor Szabo
Born in Hungry, Szabo learned to play jazz by listening to partially jammed Voice of America radio broadcasts, and fled his native land in 1956, carrying only his guitar. He eventually established himself as an innovative player in America, winning Downbeat’s New Star Award in 1964. Szabo played an Ovation Glen Campbell acoustic amplified with a DeArmond 210 pickup, using a combination of fingers and an oddly held pick. His masterful-but-quirky style was augmented by one-string solos played entirely with feedback, and sitar-like effects created by scraping the strings with his pick’s edge. —BC

Tampa Red
Hudson “Tampa Red” Whitaker (1904-1981) was the first grandmaster of standard-tuned slide combined with conventional fretting. He was a mainstay of the Chicago blues scene in the 1930s, with Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie—although his hokum numbers such as “(Honey) It’s Tight Like That” sometimes overshadowed his virtuosity. You can hear Red’s vocal-like glissing in the styles of Robert Nighthawk and Earl Hooker. —Dave Rubin

Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Rosetta Nubin Tharpe (1915-1973) was a flamboyant guitarist with a country and swing style that presaged Chuck Berry. Her lifestyle was as flashy as her playing—she was married at a ballpark, and played guitar from second base—and Tharpe traded gospel for blues in the 1950s. She eventually returned to the flock, but still wailed on Gibson electrics at speaker-frying levels. Check out Shout, Sister, Shout—a tribute album with a must-see video clip from 1960. —Dave Rubin

Steve Tibbetts
Tibbetts’ 1981 Northern Songs is a collection of ambient works created by layering 6- and 12-string acoustics, African kalimbas, and tape loops alongside ethnic percussion. Tibbetts used a Lexicon Prime Time digital delay and a volume pedal to transform chords played on his Martin D12-35 12-string into ethereal washes. Later recordings—such as 1987’s Exploded View—found him blending searing Strat/Marshall tones and feedback into the mix. —BC

Jeremy Wakefield
Wakefield creates the dreamy steel-guitar effects for SpongeBob SquarePants, and he’s regarded as the preeminent non-pedal-steel player on the planet. The quietly mysterious Wakefield—who was inspired by legendary steelers Lloyd Green, Leon McAuliffe, and Herb Remington—works his magic on a 1949 three-neck Bigsby steel (that’s 8-strings per neck, with a different tuning for each: C6, C#m11, and E13). The heady jazzer also plays with the Lucky Stars and the Bonebrake Syncopaters, and he has released a solo album, Steel Guitar Caviar. —DF

Jim Weider
Best known for his tenure as Robbie Robertson’s replacement in the Band between 1985 and 2000, Weider has also wielded his ’52 Telecaster alongside Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and numerous other luminaries. Weider’s distinctive style—which includes gutsy slide work—adeptly fuses blues, rock, rockabilly, and country elements into an ultra-tasty and cohesive whole. Don’t miss his 2006 solo release, PERCoLATor. —BC

Clarence White
With a glut of Byrds reissues over the past few years, White’s honky-tonkin’ B-Bender approach is well represented. But what tends to get overlooked is White’s other legacy as a bluegrass flatpicker with the Kentucky Colonels in the late ’50s through the mid ’60s. The band’s Appalachian Swing! and 33 Acoustic Guitar Instrumentals are great places to delve into White’s pre-Byrds stylings. White was tragically killed by a drunk driver in 1973. He was just 29. —DF

James Williamson
Williamson’s metallic, fuzzed-out pageant of violence on the Stooge’s 1973 swan song, Raw Power, is some of the scariest guitar playing ever laid to tape. Then, hoping to ignite a post-Stooges career, he and Iggy Pop tracked demos (later released as Kill City) rife with isolation, angst, and madness, and brilliantly punctuated by Williamson’s thuggishly cinematic guitars. Fast-forward a few years, and Williamson was out of music, evaporating into Silicon Valley’s corporate world. —MM

Roy Wood
Whether with the Move, early E.L.O, or Wizzard, Wood has been one of the U.K.’s most eccentric popsters. In the ’60s, Wood buttressed the Move’s tunes with tons of jangling electric 12-string, but also exploited devices such as de-tuned riffery on “Omnibus,” shards of whacked-out wah and baroque fingerpicking on “Cherry Blossom Clinic,” and outlandish, bluesy soloing on “Wild Tiger Woman.” Wood’s antics inspired diverse talents such as Johnny Ramone, Kiss, and psych-rockers Dungen. —DF

Dave Wronski
Wronski’s style—which flaunts expansive chord voicings and balls-to-the-wall intensity—will floor anyone who thinks surf guitar begins and ends with Dick Dale. With his heavily customized Fender Jaguar, Wronski unleashes a tsunami of sound that’s harmonically advanced and tuneful. Experience Wronski’s mojo with his band Slacktone (CDs are available through slacktone.com), and ride a whole new wave of surf guitar. —DF

Jimmy Wyble
Wyble is considered the first cat to infuse Charlie Christian’s hard-swinging harmonic verbiage into the western swing genre. During his tenure with Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, Wyble laid the groundwork for country jazz, and then went on to record with vibraphonist Red Norvo (he appears on Frank Sinatra With the Red Norvo Quintet Live in Australia), release solo albums, write instructional books (such as Concepts for the Jazz and Classical Guitar), and tutor Steve Lukather, Howard Alden, and Howard Roberts. Now 84, Wyble resides in San Francisco. —DF

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