I think I’ve always had a fascination with the guitar and the people who play it. They just seemed like a unique breed to me when I was growing up.
“I realized that the only way I was ever going to fit into society and have a role was via the guitar,” Pete Townsend once said.
(photo courtesy of the Associated Press/Tomas Munita)
I started fiddling around with the guitar myself when I was a kid, largely to mimick my older brother when he took it up and excelled at it. I never really did. In recent years I rediscovered it when we formed our newsroom band here at The Journal News.
But that wasn’t where it came from. The fascination was always in marveling at those who could do it and do it well — the guitar masters or rock icons who we all listened too. I was blown away by Larry Carlton’s solo on Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlamagne,” Michael Schenker’s riffs at the tail end of UFO’s “Rock Bottom,” and just about anything that came out of Stevie Vai’s fingers.
And so I found myself talking about these guys when music was the topic of conversation. They all have their own fan base, but a lot of them aren’t really on the radar for most music fans. Somehow Ronnie Montrose and Robben Ford aren’t getting their due, Jonny Lang isn’t as big as he should be, Keb’ Mo’ isn’t getting enough attention for keeping delta blues alive.
Years ago some of them popped up on a great series of recordings compiled by IRS Records’ Ian Copeland. The Guitar Speak series featured instrumental performances by noted guitar players, with the final collection consisting of Guitar Speak, Guitar Speak Vol. 2 and Guitar Speak Vol. 3, and featuring everyone from Montrose and Leslie West, to Eric Johnson and Robby Krieger.
Anyway, some of them are the guitar players I wanted to focus on in The Listening Room.
So I started doing weekly profiles of guitar players you should know. I’ve done 11 of them so far, and this will be my 12th — a rundown of the series to date that I time-stamped because I’m off for the week.
I hope they’ve been enjoyable, and I hope they’ll continue to be. I also hope they’ve turned some of you on to new music or helped others rediscover forgotten tunes. So, thanks for reading.
Here’s the list of profiles to date: