What is it about the guitar that people flock too? In years of music there are like 100 guitar players to one bass player. Every local band I know has had trouble finding a bass player. Maybe it’s because guitar players get more chicks than bass players? And the drummers? Well forget about it, they are stuck behind a big kit in the back. Unless you are Tommy Lee, the drummer is the last to be thought of even though they have the hardest job in a band. No offense to my drummer friends.
Let’s face it, no matter what decade the guitar has always been the go to instrument for people wanting to play in a band, here are just a few of my favorites.
(Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Dirty Knobs)
I always loved Tom Petty, but I never saw Mike as a guitar influence for some reason, probably because I grew up on guitar shredders. Now that I am older, Mike is my guy. I love his style. Mike is a classy player with great rhythm and hooks for songs. Mike Campbell carries Tomy Petty and the Heartbreakers and the best part, he is incredibly humble and down to earth.
I always hated his nickname “Steamin” but hot damn this dude could play. Steve was another humble and shy guitar player who actually hated the spotlight. Steve had a lot of demons, one of which, alcohol took his life. Though he’s been gone for more than 20 years now, his guitar playing is still highly influential. Like many on this list, Steve was the backbone of his band and sometimes overlooked because he didn’t put himself out there. A little known fact, When Pete Willis was fired from Def Leppard the band was in the studio recording their breakthrough album Pyromania. Steve recorded all the guitar parts except the leads, which were added by Phil Collen when he was hired. Steve Clark was a huge influence on me in picking up the guitar and I will always be grateful. Rest in Peace Steve Clark.
Warren was one of the best guitar players of the 1980s. His downfall was he was in a “big hair 80s metal band.” He had shredding leads and powerful intros for their songs. Not to mention three iconic guitar paint jobs of the decade. If any guitar player should have broke out of that hair metal stigma of the 80’s and become more well known for his playing, it should have been Warren DeMartini.
(Green River, Mother Love Bone, Brad, Pearl Jam)
Though others might be credited as “grunge pioneers,” there is no mistaking that Stone Gossard had a major hand in shaping the sound. From the early days in the punkish Green River to the more groove-based Mother Love Bone and the genre-straddling Pearl Jam, Stone has been the back bone of all three bands laying down some of the best rhythm guitar leads you will ever hear.
(Jimi Hendrix Experience, Band of Gypsys)
The greatest guitar player ever in my opinion, what more can be said? He did things with the guitar that revolutionized the instrument. Forty years after his death, Hendrix is still looked upon as the greatest. He was to the guitar what Michael Jordan was to basketball. No one can touch him. Fender reinvented the Stratocaster model because of Hendrix. Guitar players are still trying to figure out things he did and they have modern day effects when he had minimal equipment. Even more amazing, he made this big of an impact only releasing a few studio albums. Rest in Peace Jimi.
James Hetfield isn’t the first person or even 100th person you’d think of as a great guitar player. But damn it, I like him. He is the one who has come up with some of Metallica’s biggest riffs which get their songs going and keeps them chugging along. James also has an unbelievable stage presence with his Explorer-style guitars slung low and his ability to make the crowd part of the show.
(Dokken, Lynch Mob)
George Lynch was my first real guitar hero and the main reason I picked up the guitar in the first place. I don’t know if it was the cool two-tone hair, the monster riffs and shredding solos or his artistic guitars, but he was “it” for me. George has a long history in the music industry from trying out for Ozzy Osbourne, where he lost out to Randy Rhodes to his time in Dokken and later his solo work. In the music industry for the better part of 30 years, George is still relevant and still has an impact on myself and many guitar players.
(Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, Mad Season)
Mike McCready could be one of the most overlooked players of the last two decades. Mike has a long line of influences from Hendrix to hair metal and he incorporates them in his diverse style of playing. He can play some of the fastest leads but also dial it down and play some of the most beautiful arpeggio intros then kick in some blues. Listen to any Pearl Jam album and focus on Mike’s playing and you will see he is just a big fan of music.
(The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, the Firm)
I was always aware of Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin in my youth but it wasn’t until recently that I really “got it.” This guy is amazing with the guitar, just a flat out beast with his instrument. With his guitar slung past his waist, Jimmy always found the groove. Some of the greatest guitar riffs came from this guy, many tried to copy him and many failed. There is only one Jimmy Page.
(Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne)
This guy only made two albums before he died, leaving an endearing mark on music history. If that’s not saying something I don’t know what is. A classically-trained guitarist playing in Ozzy, who would have thought? Rest in Peace Randy.