(From top to bottom) Curtis Mayfield, Steve Cropper, Cornell Dupree, Larry Carlton, Jimmy Page, Jimmy Nolan, Grady Martin
I ’m a firm believer in the huge importance of rhythm guitar. I’d go as far as to say it’s the number one way guitarists make a living. Rhythm guitar has everything to do with how you “feel” in a band situation, and a solo-guitar or duo performance is essentially a rhythm-guitar gig, as well. So I always stress studying rhythm parts from the masters. I could fill pages with grooves you should examine, but the rhythm guitar licks I learned from these 12 players have been the backbone of my career.
• The timeless rhythm concepts of Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Mayfield apply to many styles of music. I use them every day.
• I owe a huge debt to the Memphis sound of Steve Cropper for rhythm-guitar licks.
• Rounding out my R&B library is the work of Cornell Dupree in New York and Jimmy Johnson in Muscle Shoals. Hearing their groove, it’s easy to see why these guys worked so much.
• The Los Angeles session guys who had a huge influence on countless records are Danny Kortchmar, Steve Lukather, and Larry Carlton.
• Check out Jimmy Page for his pre-Zeppelin studio work.
• Jimmy Nolan is essential for his playing in James Brown’s band.
• Nashville’s Grady Martin shines for playing on tracks as diverse as Marty Robbin’s “El Paso” and “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison.
• Richard Thompson for acoustic playing.
These players are essential listening for rhythm-guitar work, but they are only a fraction of the people I listened to while coming up. Study their tracks, and never underestimate the importance of rhythm guitar in your arsenal of skills.