15 Guitar Player In 15 Minutes From Guest Blogger Liz Emrich

The Essential Scary Truth

Guest Blogger Liz Emrich takes the 15 Guitar Players in 15 Minutes Challenge.  Enjoy!

First of all, I have to say for the record that I am doing this under protest.  I am not a guitar wonk. Believe me, I have friends who are guitar wonks who would absolutely fall all over themselves for the opportunity to wax poetic about guitarists.  I am not that girl.  I love songcraft. I love the architecture of music.  Guitar solos are great, but when they go on too long or get too noodley, I get antsy.  Because guitarists, especially lead guitarists, really have to watch that they don’t fall over that line that separates intensity from auditory masturbation.  It happens all too frequently and it will absolutely ruin a band for me in short order.

So caveats and prejudices explained, here I am….Fifteen favorite guitarists in fifteen minutes….Zola, you are so lucky I love your sorry ass, you know?  Okay…clock is ticking….which means that this is going to be in no particular order.  And I refuse to include Eric Clapton on principle.

1)    B.B. King. — Because really, he’s a bluesman extraordinaire, and I lived in Chicago long enough to appreciate that on an innate level.

2)    Dave Davies – I think the Kinks are the single most underrated band ever.  And to really understand that, you need to hear Dave Davies playing on “One for the Road.”  Seriously.

3)    Jimi Hendrix – The things he did with a guitar were not legal or human. And I mean that in the best possible way.

4)    Rick McCollum – The lead guitarist for the Afghan Whigs is amazing, and not just because he gets some awesome riffs to play.  He actually has this element of restraint to his playing that makes it so sexy I can’t even stand it.

5)    Ken Bethea – The Old ‘97’s are one of my favorite bands, but that’s not why Ken makes this list.  As Jon Langford once put it, Ken has this “idiot sauvant surf thing” going on with his guitar playing. And it elevates everything Rhett Miller writes from being just another well-written song, to being a kickass motherfucking sensation.

6)    Pete Townsend – not so much for the playing itself, but for the sheer theatre involved in smashing his kit up with wild abandon back in the early days of The Who.

7)    Dick Dale – Honestly, can you think about playing guitar and great guitar players and not think about Dick Dale?  Go ahead, I dare you.  Yeah, I couldn’t do it either.

8)    Jimmy Page – Again, someone who just reinvented the game without even trying. You can’t think about guitar players and not think about him.

9)    The Edge – You know, I was listening to older U2 a few nights ago, and thought to myself that really, this guy brought something unique to the table.  I think (and this may be trite) that in recent years, The Edge has lost his edge, but those early U2 records had a quality that no one else has managed to achieve before or since, and it was due in no small part to The Edge and his guitar-playing.

10) Melissa Auf der Mar – Former Hole bassist, you have to listen to her solo albums to understand that she’s epic.  Truly, truly epic.

11) Angus Young – because anybody who can wear prep school shorts and still have rock cred has to have some talent. And also, my friend Cam will kill me if I don’t include Angus on the list.  And, well, there’s “Back in Black.” However annoying it may be, that riff takes some skill to do right, dammit.

12) Brian May – Because as operatic as Freddie Mercury was, Queen would never have been Queen without Brian May’s guitar.  Period.

13) Carol Kaye – Yes, I know she’s a bassist.  But you want to tell me that the woman who played guitar on the Richie Valens classic “La Bamba” doesn’t belong on this list?  Yeah, I thought not…

14) Robert Cray – because really, it works for me.

15) John Lee Hooker – And no, I shouldn’t have to explain.

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