Origins of Guitar - The Original Masters
9.31. T-Bone Walker
Someone once asked me a few years ago who I personally thought had the most impact on guitar playing through out the world from the very beginning. I told them T-Bone Walker, and they had no clue who the guy even was.
It's hard to believe listening to T-Bone that anyone was even close to this good back in the 1940's-1950's. This man was, far, far ahead of his time, and still listening to him you can see every root of the Allman Brothers to B.B. King, to Albert King, to Chuck Berry, and even Clapton and SRV come out in his influence, and everyone knows without all of those, you don't have much to guitar playing.
"When I heard T-Bone Walker play the electric guitar I had to have one."- B.B. King
He played the guitar behind his neck, before Jimi Hendrix (That's who he was paying tribute to when he did this, and playing the guitar with his teeth)
Some examples of T-Bone's work.
His most known; T-Bone Shuffle. Been covered countless times, please take note with open ear to the riff around 1:34; this riff has been played a million times by every other Blues guitar out there.
Goin' To Chicago; don't know much about this song but a great performance here. This is your standard 12 bar blues handling both rhythm and leads.
Mean Old World; a now known Blues standard, been covered by many members of the Allman Brothers Band, and a traditional live cover by many other Blues legends. Take note at the phasing of the string bends in the first minute of the song; classic stuff here.
8.72. Robert Johnson
Hard to not go a day without thinking of the major influence Robert Johnson had. The man was really the core of Blues and Rock and Roll. Without him, no Rock, no Blues, and no crazy people telling you're a devil worshipper (Be nice now, nothing against the good Lord, my fellow friends)
When you look back at many songs you hear played by your favorite Blues artists, you most likely see some of his songs. Eric Clapton has done a great job paying respects and keeping his image alive as Johnson was the key to root to most of his influence. The Rolling Stones and Kieth Richards' introduction to the Blues was from Johnson as well. 100 more years later, we'll still be hearing Crossroads and Malted Milk for generations at a time. Best thing of all is there are many, many great covers out there of his classic blue prints to song writing.
Some standard Classics.
Me and the Devil Blues; here it is, the core of the apple when it comes to singing about the devil.
Love In Vain; one of my favorite songs, the Rolling Stones paid tribute with a wonderful cover on Let It Bleed. Take note on the lyrics, this is great stuff.
Stop Breakin' Down Blues; this song, you can just hear the roots of boogie ringing through your ears. That whole rhythm is the root of 12 bar blues to hit the dance floor to.
(I used videos from the Jazz & Blues Experience because they had the best quality, sorry if you are stuck with Youtube's long ads at the intro)
93. Lightnin' Hopkins
Lightnin' is one of the most over looked guitarists. We'll listen to something over and over he may not even cross our minds. Lightnin' used shuffle patterns and used his fingers to pick, this became a huge influence in Texas Blues.
Similar to Robert Johnson, Hopkins could just pick up the guitar and little to no backing band in times, he could capture you with a good rhythm and his story telling lyrics
Rollin' and Rollin', a great display of rhythm
Make no mistake; this is where SRV found the shuffling leads that inspired Rude Mood into a classic
8.24. Bb King
Bend that string, and let it ring! It's not about hitting as many notes on the fretboard, or lightning speed; let the guitar be your second voice, and that's what we learn from B.B. King.
Every guitar play that uses vibrato or string bending can thank B.B. King, weather they like him or not. The guy's technique was state of the art when he first came out. It may not seem that way now because there is just so much out there in this world, but he became the stomping middle ground of Blues. Grab your guitar and let it weep your tears in between singing.
Still to this day, I like to play along to B.B. King's cds. It's a relaxing feeling and you can learn so much from his guitar playing. His influence is all over music as a whole. Just listen to Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page and you can see the roots in them.
Let's take some examples of how B.B. King made the Blues scream with heart.
How Blue Can You Get; this is from the Live at the Regal album, and possibly the best version. A great tune, but take note at how B.B. spaces out the music of the horns and his guitar, and sings through, using the guitar as if it were his second voice.
Three O Clock Blues; soloing at it's best. This is a song I would recommend to anyone that wants to learn how to play a solo. It keeps you in the song, without trying to show off and grabs a hold of you and don't let go.
The Thrill is Gone; I used the version from Live In Cook County Jail, as it's my favorite version. I love this song, and it's probably his most well known one, but it sounds better live. Pay attention to the riffs around the horn band, as B.B. is like a band leader guiding his backing band by every bend.
8.65. Albert King
I don't think many people to this day ever wonder where Stevie Ray Vaughan got most of his bending secrets from. He built most of his own style centered around a very heavy influence of Albert King. Without Albert King, you would not have 3/4's of Blues players that like to create crazy bends and solo around it. Jimi Hendrix is another one you can easily see the Albert King influence all over.
There is something I call the "Albert King box" in guitar playing, and it's all over SRV's songs; specifically riffs in Texas Flood.
When listening to his songs, it's a texture of art. Like someone painting a picture with the notes of the guitar, and the bends ringing out. I would recommend anyone that listens to Hendrix or SRV, go buy some Albert King records if you haven't, cause it's an essential piece of gold you need. Some examples down below -
The Sky Is Crying; you can easily notice just how similar SRV's cover version is to Albert King's. Instead of just playing the same old song, King's own version blisters with fretwork through the bends.
As the Years Go Passing; Some great bends, and the slow melody showing the power of King's guitar playing. The phasing here, and letting notes ring out makes the song more full of life.
Born Under a Bad Sign; The one essential big hit everyone should know him for. I shouldn't have to explain this song, just listen to it and open your ears.
8.16. Howlin' Wolf
"A lot of people wanna know what is the Blues, I hear a lot of people sayin' the blues, the blues, but I'mma tell you what the blues is:
Can't explain it any better, a big piece of me loved listening to Howlin' Wolf. It was something about his howlin' voice you could say it, just grabbed your attention, and the use of ther harmonica and guitar to tell the stories, but I like that quote above, cause this man was the Blues all together. We should just look at some of his examples now
Spoonful; a great riff that adds to the singing, straight out of T-Bone Walker's book. How many times I've heard similar riffs to this is beyond my memory.
Smokestack Lightnin'; still a very common song, even if you are listening to The Yardbirds version, a straight up rock and roll riff but the harmonica makes it even better.
Goin' Down Slow; mournful song for the howlin' voice, and the guitar just goes along with every bend translating tears falling like rain.
87. Elmore James
The slide king; listening to Elmore James high distortion during the late 1950's and early 60's is something different than you would expect. James was like a carry over of Robert Johnson's old tracks, updating them, and adding his own technique's to enhance them, and his very unique bleeding voice.
Mostly what he is known for is The Sky Is Crying. Before the great cover versions, he wrote standard and his version still sounds very good as it did when it first came out.
The Sky Is Crying; a traditional standard, love the slide riffs.
Dust My Broom; the best example of him using Robert Johnson and pretty much "updating" his songs. Listen to the added riffs and how he turns this into his own song with his signature written all over it.
Everyday I have the Blues; no where near any other version you will ever hear, which makes it so unique to the ear.
108. Charlie Christian
The most over shadowed man I think in modern day. You never really hear anyone crediting Charlie Chrisitan for his genius guitar playing, and one of those reasons would be the out of print of his recordings, and the sad fact that he died at the young age of 25.
This man is what started Jazz guitar. Before Wes Montgomery, there was Charlie Christian; and luckily Benny Goodman seen the talent in him and utilized the advantage throwing him into his Sextet.
Listening to his riffs, it's like a maze. So hard to believe someone was so advanced back then, as he played during the 1940's. But also the root to a lot of speed riffs, and the heart of Jazz. You can thank Christian and Montgomery for shaping the guitar for Jazz.
Swing to Bop; just listen to the guitar carrying this song, and remember this was 1941. Hard to believe, but also very amazing just how far this song goes
Wholly Cats; great tune showing the saxaphone harmonizing with Christian's guitar.
8.29. Buddy Guy
You can take it from Stevie Ray, right now.
Without Buddy Guy, the blues, not to mention rock as we know it, might be a heckuva lot less interesting today. Take the blues out of contemporary rock music—or pop, jazz and funk for that matter—and what you have left is a wholly spineless affair. A tasteless stew. Makes you shudder to think about it...
Now one must forgive me, cause I have not heard a whole lot of Buddy Guy's classic work, outside songs on greatest hits. Most of what I have heard was from his 90's albums, yet still show just how ground breaking he really is.
He's very underrated today, but most of your favorite guitar players more than likely got a thing or two from listening to him. Mostly the whole Chicago Blues sound,
Sweet Little Angel; Buddy playing tribute to B.B. King here, his own amazing version of the track.
Mustang Sally; One of his later hits, and a showcase of his raunchy muddy tone in aggressive string shaking.
8.710. Freddie King
Underrated? You said it. I even had to make the page for Freddie King on this site. That shows how far we've moved as a society to forget this legend.
The Texas Cannonball in other words, this man helped drive the grounds for what I call stompin' Texas Blues. SRV's heavy tone, and Eric Clapton's high bends were a big influence. There isn't any Texas Blues without this man, he deserves the credit as one of the standing forces.
Most of his popular songs have been covered, most notably is the instrumental Hideaway. SRV, Clapton, and many others have their own versions out there, let's have a look
Goin' Down; watch the harmonizing string bending. Powerful, well known track, but this live version is possibly the best
Hideaway; here is that instrumental you are probably familar with riff wise from the countless covers, but enlighten with the original trill and open string rhythm. A driving force for Texas Blues.
Have You Ever Loved A Woman; covered countless times by Eric Clapton, here is the version that inspired him, and one of the best Blues standards ever.
9.811. Wes Montgomery
The Jazz Guitar genius. First time I ever heard Wes, was like listening to Bo Diddley or Jimi Hendrix for the first time. Was just shocked at all the things he did. I always talk about Wes' blend of music. The guitar isn't distorted over the edge, and there is a clean, crisp unorthodox tone to it, that allows the other instruments to drive it, and he's not drowning them out with his amazing solos. Wes often played the guitar as if he was replacing the horns from a full band, a fine example of him using the guitar as a band leader is the album 'Boss Guitar'.
The biggest thing Wes did for guitar was the octave. He did the octave and made it a major part, eventually becoming his trademark to driving the songs. So many guitar players use octaves, and it's become a piece of rhythm in many other styles. Jimi Hendrix studied this often close to his death and a good example can be shown in the song Message of Love.
Here is Wes, doing what he did best
Four On Six; yet a short version compared to the album, you can hear the octave use all in the song and watch his chords blending with riffs, truly amazing.
Westcoast Blues; here you can see Wes playing with a horn section (yet the original version don't have this) and watch how he leads the song to work. He's just chillin' you can say and let's the horns guide his guitar, showing he's the band leader; and that I give you Mr. Boss Guitar!
Mr. Walker; one of my favorite songs by Wes, and a fine example of how the guitar is the driving force here. Listen to it setting up shop for the piano, and then half way through the songs the octaves building up can be amazing to listen to.
7.312. Muddy Waters
Muddy Mississippi Waters. If you don't know him, you don't know Blues, sound and simple. His songs are straight standards, and everyone from Clapton to Hendrix to SRV, to Buddy Guy was heavily influenced by Muddy Waters.
Just listening to his riffs drive the songs, you see a lot of resemblance easily to Buddy Guy (first that comes to MY mind) and Eric Clapton. it's hard to say a lot about him that hasn't already been said, but Buddy Guy has done a great job keeping his memory alive with tributes to his hero.
Hoochie Coochie Man; how can you not love this song? So fun to play along to, but light feeling, you could dance to this with a woman.
Champagne and Reefer; LOL, bring me champagne when I am thristy, and bring me reefer when I wanna get high :p. Yet it's right before his death and you can probably notice how cancer had slowed him down, this is a great jam song; Mick Jagger and the Stones have enjoyed playing it live with special guests in the last 20 years.
713. Guitar Slim
"I would search all night for you baby, but my search would always end in vain."
Just that 1 song (The Things That I Used to Do) made me fall in love with Slim. He's very underrated in today's age (another one I edited a page for on here) yet he died very young, is another reason.
Countless of his songs are standards today just as Elmore James. He's not the greatest guitar player ever, but he had an influence on Frank Zappa, as I've read about (Don't listen to Zappa, know nothing about him to tell you if I can hear it in his notes).
The Things That I Used; here is the original, every cover is still fascinating though (SRV's Carnegie Hall horn version is my favorite). Interesting note, that is Ray Charles on piano here.
Letter To My Girlfriend; recognize this swinging riff? Another one covered countless times. Grab your lady and swing on the floor, this Blues bomb is a true classic.
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