RITCHIE BLACKMORE, LEAD GUITARIST
and co-founder of Deep Purple, was born
in Weston-super-Mare, England. Emerging
to fame in America in 1968 with the
hit single “Hush,” Deep Purple has
appeared with the Royal Philharmonic
at London’s Albert Hall, faced 4,000 rioting
fans in Stuttgart, and been smuggled
out of a concert hall in Iceland in a paddy
wagon. Blackmore’s first guitar was a
secondhand Spanish type, which he has
since replaced with Stratocasters and
Did you ever have lessons?
I had classical lessons for a year. That
helped, because I learned how to use my
little finger. A lot of blues guitarists play
with only three fingers, so they can’t figure
out certain runs that require the use
of their little fingers.
Besides getting you to use your little finger,
has classical training affected your playing
in any other way?
I would say that it shows up most in
the music I write. For example, the chord
progression in the “Highway Star” solo—
Bm, to a Db, to a C, to a G—is a Bach
progression. The classical influence is
always there somewhat, but I don’t intentionally
use it that much really. I play a lot
of single notes, and that’s not classical.
How do you rate Steve Howe, as far as putting
almost strict classical stylings into a rock
He’s very good at it, but he’s not the
kind of guitarist I can listen to. He’s very
good at runs, but I don’t like that type of
Did you ever do much work in record sessions?
When I was about 17. Some of the
work was a drag, but some of it was interesting.
Session work makes you more
strict. You can’t hit notes all over the place.
You’ve got to make each one really count.
When you’re recording, if you’re not really
clean in your playing, it sounds like a
mess. You may think you sound fabulous
on stage, but when you hear yourself
played back on record, it’s just disastrous
most of the time. If you can play well in
the studio, you can play well on stage.
How did you come to use your tremolo bar
I liked the way Hendrix used his
tremolo—though I don’t think I use it
the same way. A lot of guitarists think
that a tremolo arm is for someone who
can’t play a hand vibrato, but the tremolo
arm gives a different vibrato altogether.
It affects whole chords. I can do the old
hand vibrato just fine, but I like attacking
the strings and getting all those
sounds. You can get a lot of aggression
out with a tremolo arm.
You do a lot of hammering-on, and you frequently
put your pick in your mouth and play
with your fingers.
I also play with my feet [laughs]. I use
my fingers for different sounds and
effects. But I actually play very lightly.
That’s from the days when I used to use
banjo strings. When I did a solo they
sounded fine, but when it was over, I’d
find the strings would be out of tune. So
I started playing lighter out of necessity.
How loud is your amp?
Full up. Learning to play the guitar is
one thing, but learning to play with a big
amplifier is a different thing altogether.
It’s like trying to control an elephant. —
Excerpted from Martin K. Webb’s piece in the
July/August 1973 Guitar Player