Friday, July 31, 2015

The Friday Five! Five Favorite Guitar Players

Before I start, let me apologize for the fact that some of you received a partial version of this post in your email, and I think it also went out to Facebook and Twitter. I wanted to see if I had gotten a few HTML commands right and meant to hit the "Preview" button, and managed to hit "Publish" instead. Duh.


I'd like to introduce a new feature here on the blog: The Friday Five! How do you like the logo? I ripped off borrowed the idea from the Jackson Five. Hope they don't mind...

I've been thinking about changing The Thursday Ten to The Friday Five for a while, mostly because it's easier to come up with a list of five things than a list of ten I'd occasionally like to do something different on Thursday, like Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop or something else of my choosing. The Thursday Ten isn't going away entirely; I'll still do one from time to time when I can think of a list of ten things.

So welcome to the inaugural Friday Five. This week's topic: My five favorite guitar players.

From the start of sixth grade until my stroke in 2007 (about thirty years) I played the guitar. And most of the time, the guitar won...

Thank you! I'll be here all week! Don't forget to tip your servers!

But seriously...

I wanted to recognize some of the people who inspired me to keep playing. These are in the order in which I learned of them. Obviously, there are many more than these, but these are the ones that are key.

George Harrison. I wouldn't have even taken up the guitar if it weren't for George. My world went a little Beatles-crazy after they first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. We divided ourselves into four camps, called John, Paul, George, and Ringo. There weren't quite as many people in the George camp; he was the funny-looking quiet one who stood between Paul and John, focused on his playing. Even then I could tell he was a fantastic musician, and as time went on, he distinguished himself, not only as a guitar player, but as a singer, a songwriter, and a humanitarian. And a very funny guy...

Terry Kath. Maybe by virtue of the fact they came from my hometown, maybe it was the horns, but Chicago was my favorite band when I was in high school. Terry might not have been why I started listening to Chicago, but he was definitely the reason I kept listening to them. Where the rest of the ensemble was cool and played with precision, Terry played with utter abandon. He was an excellent singer, guitarist, and songwriter, and the world lost one of its bright lights when he accidentally shot himself in the head in 1978.

Carlos Santana. Around the same time Chicago was making its way into my ears, I heard another band, Santana, named for its leader and lead guitarist, Carlos Santana. They blended blues, rock, Latin, jazz, and some Eastern music, and the result was mesmerizing. It took a remarkable player like Carlos to make it work. Carlos's collaborations with Mahavishnu John McLaughlin (and the latter's spiritual direction) added a level of mysticism to his playing. He has become an elder statesman in his later years without losing any of the fire or spirit in his playing.

Lee Ritenour. At a time when I was just sick and tired and bored with music and ready to chuck it all in, I rented a video of Lee Ritenour and his band playing. When it was over, I said, "that's what I want to play!" He started out as a session musician (at sixteen) and was conversant in a number of genres when he went out on his own. Originally, his music was more fusion-like, but since then he's gotten into more straight-ahead jazz, emulating the style of the great Wes Montgomery and the jazz players of the 1950's (Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, Jim Hall and others).

Tommy Emmanuel. I was browsing the music at Borders one day (remember them?), and they had a CD (remember them?) on display: The Journey by a guitarist named Tommy Emmanuel. I read the back of the jewel case (remember them?), and saw that Joe Walsh lent his considerable skills to one of the tracks, so I figured, what the hell, and bought it. I took it home and played it, and loved it. I had to find more by him, and that's when I discovered that, while Tommy was an outstanding electric guitarist, he was an even better acoustic fingerstyle player, and that was more his thing. He is one of the few players to have been granted the honorific Certified Guitar Player by the great Chet Atkins (OK, it's more of a joke than anything, but the players aren't).

I could spend a year of Fridays listing the guitarists who influenced me (and, if you aren't careful, I just might), but these are the five that jumped immediately to mind. Tomorrow, five others might jump to mind. With me, you ccan never tell.

Anyway, that's your Friday Five for the last day of July 2015.

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