10 Guitarists that Changed my Life

Well it seems like you all enjoyed the Bands that Changed my Life post last week so I thought I would do another along similar lines. I got my first guitar when I was 8 years old and, although it has enabled me to explore many other stringed instruments from the Celtic harp to the Bouzouki, I keep coming back to the guitar. It’s simply one of the most versatile instruments ever created. From screaming guitar solos on a Jackson Sharksfin to the Spanish flamenco, from tear-jerking rock ballads to delicate folk. The six string guitar is king.

Of course any list of guitar players that influenced my life must begin with my guitar teacher, Tim O’Leary. I was his first student. At the time he couldn’t read music so taught me with chord charts, and by ear. I still can’t read music, which is fine. I sometimes think I should learn how this music thing actually works, but then I just pick up my guitar and we chat. It’s fine. I don’t need to know how it all works. Tim changed my life. He had long dark hair, and it was seeing him that made me ask if I could grow mine. A few years into teaching me he made his own harp, complete with a carved dragons’ head. He was a multi-instrumentalist who played everything with strings. As you can see he had a huge impact on my early life. I lost touch with him many years ago, but always offer him my thanks.

Some of these videos are obviously copyrighted and you’ll have to leave the article to view them in YouTube, but do come back! Man it’s hard keeping the list to 10. Of course there are more, but these are the ones who sprang to mind.

In no particular order:

Ritchie Blackmore

My first Rainbow album was Long Live Rock n Roll. A great album, and sadly the last that featured the vocals of Ronnie James Dio. I had my Apple Music on shuffle the other day and this track came up. Oh. My. Gods. The solo still gets me. Goosebumps, and bashing the hell out of my steering wheel. Pure genius.

David Gilmour

Ok. Hand on heart. I think if you were to push me and ask who my favourite guitar player of all time is I would have to say David Gilmour. There are speedy fast players, classically trained players, brilliant acoustic players, but in my opinion there is nobody who can make a guitar sing the way Gilmour can. Sometimes it’s the notes you don’t play that make the solo, and he nails it every time. This one in particular. So many years on and it still brings tears to my eyes. The melody, the words, the solo, sheer perfection.

Angus Young

When it comes to rock music it’s the riff that speaks to me, and nobody writes a guitar riff like AC/DC. I saw AC/DC on the Winter Solstice of 1979 at the Brighton Centre. The very last few dates of the Highway to Hell tour, just before the death of Bon Scott. They opened with this track. Angus came up on a hydraulic lift from beneath the stage, all lit with red. Then let loose into this. My little 19 year old heart almost burst with excitement, and so continues a love affair with AC/DC to this day.

Tommy Emmanuel

Just look at this mans fingers. It’s like he’s got one of those creatures from the Alienย films attached to the end of his arms. His fingers are so long! Apparently he has a 7 fret reach from index to little finger! He was born to play guitar. When I first saw him play these tunes live I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. He plays the bass parts, the rhythm parts and the lead at the same time. I guess it helps that he’s a triple Gemini – there are a lot of people in there!

Rick Parfitt

Yes. I’m serious. This song was the first song I heard, back in 1972, that made me go “Yes! Yes! That’s it! That’s the music I like! What is it!” And then I saw Rick, and for years he was my hero. I wanted to play like him, look like him, Status Quo were all over the walls of my bedroom, and I utterly rinsed the album Piledriver. Travel well Rick. You are very much missed.

Chuck Berry

But before Rick there was…. It’s amazing how many wonderful songs have been written to the sound and rhythm of the 12 bar boogie shuffle. This is still one of the greats to me.

Steve Howe

Yup. I had a caftan and Afghan coat period of my life, lighting joss sticks in my bedroom, chilling out to this. Steve Howe taught me how to be a hippy. I have some very lovely memories of nights listening to this song.

Andy Irvine

You might be wondering where the folk guitarists are. I think because I was taught by Tim it was Irish folk that spoke to be more than English folk for many years. Crazy Man Michael by Fairport Convention was one of the first songs Tim taught me, but he never played me the original. I think of all of the Irish folk musicians I heard it was Andy Irvine who inspired me, and his band Planxty. Oh look. Long hair again. Actually, he looked a bit like Tim. Ok. He was the bouzouki/mandolin player, but I’m going to add him anyway. What a wonderful song and performance this is.

Nick Drake

A song-writing genius that wasn’t really fully appreciated until after his death. A Pioneer in acoustic open tuning. Finding DADGAD changed my life in so many wonderful ways. Time to chill again…

And finally…

Jimmy Page

Well I guess it had to be really. No Wayne’s World guitar shop nonsense here. Again, still gives me chills, and brings back such amazing memories of my youth. Play it Jimmy. Jimmy Page’s presence, playing, clothes, interest in the occult, well, it drew me in, and I’m still here.

I hope you enjoyed that little playlist. Who are the guitar players and musicians that have influenced your life?

12 Comments

  1. Leonore Newson August 30, 2017 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    Well I dont think any actually changed my life and I still can’t play guitar or any other instrument , come to think of it ….

    However, a few greats spring to mind, in no particular order …. Clapton, Hendrix, John Mayall,Jimmy Page, David Gilmour , Mark Knopfler, Richard Thompson ……

    Just have to hear certain cords and so many wonderful memories flood into my head, places, people, times, events…. The opening bars of a little song which had huge impact on me … you might know it, Spirit of Albion by a certain Damh the Bard ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. John Chambers August 30, 2017 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Gotta admit that I prefer your list to those “Greatest Guitarist” rankings you find on the intarwebz. It’s personal and it’s honest, and that is so rare these days. Our lists wouldn’t overlap much, mine would currently include Ralph Towner, that great old hippy Steve Hillage, Robert Fripp, Mississippi John Hurt, George Benson, and Alan Holdsworth. The important point is that we use music as a way to express and understand ourselves.

  3. Kevin Rowan-Drewitt August 30, 2017 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Hi Dave – great list and since you asked…

    Marc Bolan -The first guitarist I ever was into and who made me want to play one was Marc Bolan. I was a big T.Rex fan (still am!) and tried to learn Children of the Revolution from the sheet music as I could work out notes from music lessons at school. Like you I can’t read music but I managed to work the chords and solo out from the sheet music. Tuning my guitar was the big problem! I can now play tons of Marc’s songs but never get his feel. He came in for a lot of stick but when you hear him play you know instantly its him. I’d rather listen to Marc play 3 notes than Sammy Hagar 100.

    ? – My first guitar teacher was a guy who lived in Carshalton Surrey. I can’t remember his name but I think he used to be in a band called Paris. He tried to teach me lead guitar which I’ve always been hopeless at but taught me scales and blues riffs ok. I stuck to rhythm guitar and got a lead guitarist!

    Mac – The next person who influenced me was a guy called Mac Mackena who I met when I moved to Norfolk. He taught me to flat pick which I took to like a duck to water. I was then able to play folk clubs. I lost contact with Mac in the late 80’s.

    Martin Simpson I got into seeing him at the Norwich Folk Festival in 82. What an amazing guitarist who now gets the recognition he so richly deserves.

    Jimmy Page – I echo all you said about him and Zep 4 is one of my fave albums. No I can’t play Stairway but I can do the riff to Rock’n’Roll!

    Brian May – like Jimmy a total guitar genius. I’ve tried to copy his close miking technique and experimented playing with a coin all to know avail but I can knock out a few Queen songs.

    Tony McKormack – the guitarist in Inkubus Sukkubus – the finest Pagan band in the world. I love his style of playing especially his soloing. I have seen them live many times, have all their albums of which their 2nd Wytches is my fave, especially as it has my fave solo by him, the 2nd one on Burning Times.

    Ralph Mctell – An incredible guitarist and so much more to him then Streets of London. He is the best clawhammer guitarist I have ever seen. Just him warming up to break the strings in was phenomenal! I’ve tried clawhammer but can’t do it.

    Robbie Krieger – I’ve been a Doors fan for 35 years and love his guitar playing. Overshadowed by Jim, its easy to forget that he wrote Light My Fire and could play flamenco. I can play People are Strange.

    Damh the Bard – You have had such a big influence on me its untrue. You got me into DADBAD and I’ve learnt a couple of your songs like Spirit of Albion which really should be the national anthem. I can’t fingerprick but if I could I’d do it like you do! Thank you for so many great songs and gigs!

    I didn’t put any punk guitarists in but there are many I admire – another list another day aye?

  4. Adam Ranger August 30, 2017 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Cant argue with any of your choices. Dave Gilmour will always be there near the very top of my list. Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy are also there for me. You mention riffs are king.. Well my all time favourite is probably Keith Richards. The riffs, the look the attitude.. the surviving!

  5. sonia August 30, 2017 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Great to listen to your choices. I have more I love too. Music lovers love music, simple as.

    I hope it is not too presumptuous to put a link in to one of my favourite acoustic guitar players, Nigel Mazlyn Jones, he seems to capture Magic in his songs, very much like you do.

    A track from the album Ship to Shore, (love, love, love this album captures North Cornish coast a treat), https://youtu.be/BYrbEBaoiqY

    Keep on weaving magic!

  6. karralena August 30, 2017 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Damh, Ritchie Blackmore has teamed up with Candice Night and others to form the band Blackmore’s Night. You should give them a listen; he has fused medieval/ Renaissance music with some rock and original lyrics. The band has I think 8 or 9 albums out.
    Just thought I would give you that heads up ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Dawn Tiller August 30, 2017 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Never played the guitar and probably never will now. No technical knowledge whatsoever. But Still Got The Blues for Gary Moore. x

  8. Char Lewis August 30, 2017 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    Very informative Dave.
    My favorite guitar player from a very young age would have to be my father, and my older brothers (twins).
    Then I discovered Gordon Lightfoot, truly amazing.
    O, then it was Peter Frampton, I was smitten!
    From there I was introduced to the wonderful music of John Renbourn, total love at first hearing! Pentangle, Burt and John and the John Renbourn group. All sublime.
    Mark Knopfler is up there as well. Along with Richie Blackmore (I love Blackmore’s Knight )
    Gordon Giltrap is very good.
    Eric Mongrain, if you enjoy tap guitar.
    Lindsay Buckingham is so underrated, he’s phenomenal.
    You are one of my faves, I love your style.
    Chet Atkins for pure smoothness. And Stevie Ray Vaughn for kick ass Texas blues.
    Those are some of my favorite guitarists.
    Blessed be
    / | \

  9. Tracy Glomski August 31, 2017 at 2:29 am - Reply

    Sue Foley. This guitaristโ€™s 1992 debut album, Young Girl Blues, helped me survive the deaths of my parents and three grandparents in 1990โ€“2000. Sometimes the only remedy for the blues is the Blues.

  10. Gordon Cooper August 31, 2017 at 6:51 am - Reply

    Shane Speal, the King of the Cigar Box Guitar convinced me I could shuffle along on a 3 string made from a box and a stick. Justin Johnson, the poet of the Cigar Box Guitar demonstrates what can be had at the Crossroads, and the British busker Belinda (Bezmusic) convinced me to not just play, but start recording and evaluating what comes out of my dulcitar or my resonator 2 string diddley bow.

  11. Terri September 2, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    great list ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Jan Tetteroo September 2, 2017 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Great list, can agree with most of it. My fav. guitarist of all time is Rory Gallagher.

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