Jimmy Bryant “Quite possibly the greatest guitarist that ever lived—and I don’t use those words lightly. His playing is so fast, clean, and unbelievable that it makes your jaw drop—much like the very first time you heard ‘Eruption.’ A true virtuoso, it has been said that if Jimmy had traded in his cowboy boots for wingtips, he would have been known as one of the great jazz guitarists of all time.” Go Get! Stratosphere Boogie: The Flaming Guitars of Speedy West &Jimmy Bryant [Razor &Tie]; Flamin’ Guitars [Bear Family]. Merle Travis “Travis was not only popular with country and rockabilly players—he popularized a style of thumb-picking that became known as ‘Travis Picking’—he was also a successful songwriter (‘Sixteen Tons’), movie actor (From Here to Eternity), cartoonist, watch repairman, and ladies man par excellence. I covered his ‘Gambler’s Guitar’ for my new album, so if you dig that one, you should track down some of his classic recordings. Luckily, a lot of them have been reissued in the last few years. On his classic stuff, Merle played a Gibson Super 400 with P-90s and the first Bigsby solidbody electric.” Go get! Walkin’ the Strings [Capitol]; Guitar Rags &A Too Fast Past [Bear Family]. Junior Barnard “One of Bob Wills’ guitarists during his post-war, small combo era, Barnard was a jazz player that had no problem sleeping in the blues gutter. His distorted solos sound more like rock and roll and blues than western swing, yet his technical proficiency with jazz stuff places his work several notches above the rest. Unfortunately, he was killed in a car accident back in the ’50s, or he would be much better known today. Junior played an Epiphone archtop guitar fitted with a National lap steel pickup, which gave him a great unique distorted tone.” Go get! The Tiffany Transcriptions: Vol. 3 [Rhino]. Roy Lanham “One of the great unknowns, Roy was a master of chord-melody playing, and his presence graced records by artists as varied as Roy Rogers, Hank Williams, and rockabilly wildman Jimmy Patton. He was also another scary-good hillbilly jazz cat that cut a couple great jazz guitar albums. Little known fact: Lanham played rhythm guitar on Chet Atkins first recording session! Lanham finished out his career playing for the Sons of the Pioneers until his death in the early ’90s. Roy was a friend of Leo Fender and played a Stratocaster in the ’50s, then received one of the first Jazzmasters and played that for the rest of his career. He was perhaps one of the only jazz guys who actually played a Jazzmaster!” Go get! Sizzling Strings/The Fabulous Guitar [Bear Family]. —Deke Dickerson
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