April 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part XIII

April 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part XIII

Introduction

For anyone out there still surviving the appalling ‘coronapocalypse’ that is undermining and unravelling civilisation around us as we speak, it’s good that you are hanging in there and hope you’re staying healthy and safe. Take a moment and spare a thought for the many who aren’t as lucky and those that have succumbed to the deadly virus. While the general response to the pandemic shows the best characteristics in most people, it also starkly reveals the sheer idiocy and irresponsibility of a not‑insignificant proportion of the population. Shame.

Thank you again for taking the time to visit CRAVE Guitars for the latest instalment of this epic series. Given the horrifying circumstances out there, your presence here is welcomed and very much appreciated. I only hope that it can provide some idle distraction from more serious issues facing us all.

It seems that this is this is a tale that just keeps on telling. I never thought it would reach these proportions when I started out on it, just over a year ago now! I trust this 13th part of the series is not unlucky. If you suffer from triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) or even primonumerophobia (the fear of prime numbers), it may be advisable to think of this as part 12a or, to be trendy, 12+.

As has become traditional, if you would like to (re)visit any or all of the first 12 parts (and 370 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

The Story of Modern Music Part XIII

In the last article, I presented an array of quotes about music uttered by a diverse range of non‑musicians. This time, guess what? Yep, perhaps somewhat predictably, we’re looking at quotes about music by musicians or, to be strictly more accurate, music professionals. While this is clearly a heavily skewed sample of the population expressing themselves on the wonder (or otherwise) of music, their vocabulary is revealing about what it means to them and others. As you can imagine, musicians have quite a lot to say about their passion, hence the sheer panoply of relevant observations on all things musical. There are also a couple of sneaky lyrics thrown in just for good measure.

For this article, I have omitted quotes explicitly about the guitar as a musical instrument; these were, I felt, adequately covered in the equivalent part of the companion series, ‘November 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar: Epilogue’.

Simply because of my obsession with the world’s most popular instrument, the quotes tend to be biased towards those with some sort of connection to the guitar, although not exclusively so. I make no apology for this, it’s just the way it has turned out. Some of the quotes are very well known and may well be familiar, while others are somewhat more obscure but still worth extolling. If nothing else, I hope they inspire you to think about mankind’s unique affiliation with music a little differently.

Like last month, the quotes are in alphabetical order of the person, rather than their quote or any sort of chronological order. After much deliberation and messing around with different formats, I finally decided to lay these quotes out in a table. This is, perhaps, the most accessible and economical way of presentation, even though it means repeating the person being quoted in many instances. I apologise if that is not the best way for you to read the content.

Quotes about music by musicians

Right… let’s go. Enjoy.

Music drives you. It wakes you up, it gets you pumping and, at the end of the day, the correct tune will chill you down

‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbot (1966-2004)

Music is something that should speak for itself, straight from the heart. It took me a long time to understand that

Damon Albarn (1968-)

Music to me is the air that I breathe, it’s the blood that pumps through my veins that keeps me alive

Billie Joe Armstrong (1972-)

If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

Music is life itself. What would this world be without good music? No matter what kind it is

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there is no more music left in them

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

When I was a little boy, I told my dad, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a musician.’ My dad said: ‘You can’t do both, Son’

Chet Atkins (1924-2001)

The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers

Roy Ayers (1940-)

Don’t cry for me, for I go where music is born

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

I think it’s good if a song has more than one meaning. Maybe that kind of song can reach far more people

Syd Barrett (1946-2006)

I would rather write 10,000 notes than a single letter of the alphabet

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music comes to me more readily than words

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is like a dream. One that I cannot hear

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

I can’t live one day without hearing music, playing it, studying it, or thinking about it

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

I grew up thinking art was pictures until I got into music and found I was an artist and didn’t paint

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

Music is an important part of our culture and record stores play a vital part in keeping the power of music alive

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

If you play music for no other reason than actually just because you love it, the skills just kinda creep up on you

Nuno Bettencourt (1966-)

Music can change the world because it can change people

Bono (1960-)

Music fills in for words a lot of the time when people don’t know what to say, and I think music can be more eloquent than words

Bono (1960-)

I had to resign myself, many years ago, that I’m not too articulate when it comes to explaining how I feel about things. But my music does it for me, it really does

David Bowie (1947-2016)

I wanted to prove the sustaining power of music

David Bowie (1947-2016)

My theory is this; I’m not a political songwriter. I’m an honest songwriter

Billy Bragg (1957-)

It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

I guess all songs is folk songs. I never heard no horse sing them

Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958)

I only got a seventh-grade education, but I have a doctorate in funk, and I like to put that to good use

James Brown (1933-2006)

I don’t really need to be remembered. I hope the music’s remembered

Jeff Buckley (1966-1997)

Punk was defined by an attitude rather than a musical style

David Byrne (1952-)

We don’t make music, it makes us

David Byrne (1952-)

With music, you often don’t have to translate it. It just affects you, and you don’t know why

David Byrne (1952-)

You create a community with music, not just at concerts but by talking about it with your friends

David Byrne (1952-)

Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart

Pablo Casals (1876-1973)

Of emotions, of love, of breakup, of love and hate and death and dying, mama, apple pie, and the whole thing. It covers a lot of territory, country music does

Johnny Cash (1932-2003)

I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me – like food or water

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Music is about the only thing left that people don’t fight over

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Music to me is like breathing. I don’t get tired of breathing. I don’t get tired of music!

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

The important thing is to feel your music, really feel it and believe it

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Music became a healer for me. And I learned to listen with all my being. I found that it could wipe away all the emotions of fear and confusion relating to my family

Eric Clapton (1945-)

Music will always find its way to us, with or without business, politics, religion, or any other bullshit attached. Music survives everything

Eric Clapton (1945-)

The point is, technology has empowered so many musicians, you know?

Stanley Clarke (1951-)

If it’s illegal to rock and roll, throw my ass in jail!

Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

I have one message for young musicians around the world: Stay true to your heart, believe in yourself, and work hard

Joe Cocker (1944-2014)

I want to read… poems filled with terror and music that changes laws and lives

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Music is the emotional life of most people

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues

Albert Collins (1932-1993)

Simple music is the hardest music to play and blues is simple music

Albert Collins (1932-1993)

Musicians understand each other through means other than speaking

Ry Cooder (1947-)

To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

There’s a lot of integrity with musicians; you really still aspire to grow, and be great, to be the best version of yourself you can be

Sheryl Crow (1962-)

Every song is like a painting

Dick Dale (1937-2019)

I don’t play pyrotechnic scales. I play about frustration, patience, anger. Music is an extension of my soul

Dick Dale (1937-2019)

If songs were lines in a conversation, the situation would be fine

Nick Drake (1948-1974)

This land is your land and this land is my land, sure, but the world is run by those that never listen to music anyway

Bob Dylan (1941-)

I have a curiosity that compels me to find ways to make music that are fresh and new

The Edge (1961-)

Music is such a great communicator. It breaks down linguistic barriers, cultural barriers, it basically reaches out. That’s when rock n’ roll succeeds, and that’s what virtuosity is all about

The Edge (1961-)

You see, rock and roll isn’t a career or hobby – it’s a life force. It’s something very essential

The Edge (1961-)

My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us; the world is full of it, and you simply take as much as you require

Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

I merely took the energy it takes to pour and wrote some blues

Duke Ellington (1899-1974)

I need drama in my life to keep making music

Eminem (1972-)

If people take anything from my music, it should be motivation to know that anything is possible as long as you keep working at it and don’t back down

Eminem (1972-)

Aggressive music can only shock you once. Afterwards, its impact declines. It’s inevitable

Brian Eno (1948-)

I’m a painter in sound

Brian Eno (1948-)

I’m fascinated by musicians who don’t completely understand their territory; that’s when you do your best work

Brian Eno (1948-)

You should play with real musicians; the best music comes from real people interacting with each other

John Fogerty (1945-)

It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

Finding a good band is like finding a good wife. You got to keep trying till you find the right one

Ace Frehley (1951-)

That’s what Kiss is all about – not just music, but entertainment, y’know? We’re there to take you away from your problems, and rock and roll all night and party every day for those two hours you’re at the concert

Ace Frehley (1951-)

I enjoy being able to express myself and the band is the perfect way of doing that

Keith Flint (1969-2019)

Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence

Robert Fripp (1946-)

Hardly a day goes by without me sticking on a Muddy Waters record

Rory Gallagher (1948-1995)

Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise

George Gershwin (1898-1937)

A song without music is a lot like H2 without the O

Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)

Until you learn to play what you want to hear, you’re barking up the wrong tree

Billy Gibbons (1949-)

Too many young musicians today want to win polls before they learn their instruments

Benny Goodman (1909-1986)

Never lose faith in real rock and roll music. Never lose faith in that. You might have to look a little harder, but it’s always going to be there

Dave Grohl (1969-)

Anyone who used more than three chords is just showing off

Woody Guthrie   (1912-1967)

I’ve never missed a gig yet. Music makes people happy, and that’s why I go on doing it – I like to see everybody smile

Buddy Guy (1936-)

Listen to the lyrics – we’re singing about everyday life: rich people trying to keep money, poor people trying to get it, and everyone having trouble with their husband or wife!

Buddy Guy (1936-)

Music is the tool to express life – and all that makes a difference

Herbie Hancock (1940-)

I do know the effect that music still has on me – I’m completely vulnerable to it. I’m seduced by it

Debbie Harry (1945-)

Music is a safe kind of high

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

Music is my religion

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

My goal is to be one with the music. I just dedicate my whole life to this art

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

We plan for our sound to go inside the soul of a person… and see if they can awaken some kind of thing in their minds

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all

Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

Music is the only thing I’ve ever known that doesn’t have any rules at all

Josh Homme (1973-)

Great music seems to come from a lot of angst, and that angst is from great musicians getting together with intense chemistry. When that chemistry isn’t there, people tend not to write great music

Peter Hook (1956-)

I don’t like no fancy chords. Just the boogie. The drive. The feeling. A lot of people play fancy but they don’t have no style. It’s a deep feeling-you just can’t stop listening to that sad blues sound. My sound

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

It’s never hard to sing the blues. Everyone in the world has the blues

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

No matter what you got, the blues is there

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

Poor people have the blues because they’re poor and hungry. Rich people can’t sleep at night because they’re trying to hold on to their money and everything they have

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

The blues tells a story. Every line of the blues has a meaning

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

When I die, they’ll bury the blues with me. But the blues will never die

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

I had the one thing you need to be a blues singer, I was born with the blues

Lightnin’ Hopkins (1912-1982)

Ain’t but one kind of blues and that consists of a male and female that’s in love

Son House (1902-1988)

The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are

Son House (1902-1988)

I don’t think punk ever really dies, because punk rock attitude can never die

Billy Idol (1955-)

Rock isn’t art, it’s the way ordinary people talk

Billy Idol (1955-)

Ladies and gentleman, I’ve suffered for my music, now it’s your turn

Neil Innes (1944-)

To have someone to relate to and hopefully enjoy the music and get a positive message out of it, to make the best music that we possibly could, those were the goals

Janet Jackson (1966-)

I believe that through music we can help heal the world

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

I believe we should encourage children to sing and play instruments from an early age

Mick Jagger (1943-)

You start out playing rock ‘n’ roll so you can have sex and do drugs, but you end up doing drugs so you can still play rock ‘n’ roll and have sex

Mick Jagger (1943-)

My mother always told me, even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of your own to it. I like to think I did that

Etta James (1938-2012)

I grew up in a world that told girls they couldn’t play rock ‘n’ roll

Joan Jett (1958-)

If nothing else, music lets you know that you’re not alone

Joan Jett (1958-)

Music is healing. It’s a really powerful thing, not to be taken lightly

Joan Jett (1958-)

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music

Billy Joel (1949-)

Musicians want to be the loud voice for so many quiet hearts

Billy Joel (1949-)

Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours

Elton John (1947-)

I been studyin’ the rain and I’m ‘on drive my blues away

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

Some people tell me that the worried blues ain’t bad. Worst old feelin’ I most ever had

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

The blues is a low down achin’ chill

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

If you think you’re too old to rock ‘n’ roll then you are

Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister (1945-2015)

And as long as people have problems, the blues can never die

BB King (1925-2015)

Notes are expensive… spend them wisely

BB King (1925-2015)

I think no matter what kind of music you play, there will be moments when you feel like it’s all been done before

Kerry King (1964-)

Music is my life, it is a reflection of what I go through

Lenny Kravitz (1964-)

And I think for me, any great art is art which communicates human emotion

Greg Lake (1947-2016)

The bottom line is that musicians love to make music and always will

Jennifer Lopez (1969-)

If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it

John Lennon (1940-1980)

Songwriting is like… being possessed. You try to go to sleep but the song won’t let you

John Lennon (1940-1980)

Music is an extraordinary vehicle for expressing emotion – very powerful emotions. That’s what draws millions of people towards it. And, um, I found myself always going for these darker places and – people identify with that

Annie Lennox (1954-)

Nothing pleases me more than to go into a room and come out with a piece of music

Paul McCartney (1942-)

I always said punk was an attitude. It was never about having a Mohican haircut or wearing a ripped T-shirt. It was all about destruction, and the creative potential within that

Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010)

The popularity of punk rock was, in effect, due to the fact that it made ugliness beautiful

Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010)

Music is born out of the inner sounds within a soul

John McLaughlin (1942-)

Actors always want to be musicians, and musicians want to be actors

Marilyn Manson (1969-)

Music is the strongest form of magic

Marilyn Manson (1969-)

My music fights against the system that teaches to live and die

Bob Marley (1945-1981)

My music will go on forever. Maybe it’s a fool say that, but when me know facts me can say facts. My music will go on forever

Bob Marley (1945-1981)

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain

Bob Marley (1945-1981)

I’m just a musical prostitute, my dear

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)

Life is too short to listen to bad music

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)

What I look for in musicians is a sense of infinity

Pat Metheny (1954-)

All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)

A musician’s or artist’s responsibility is a simple one, and that is, through your music to tell the truth

Tom Morello (1964-)

Music inflames temperament

Jim Morrison (1943-1971)

Music is the magic carpet that carries poetry

Jim Morrison (1943-1971)

Music is spiritual. The music business is not

Van Morrison (1945-)

You can’t stay the same. If you’re a musician and a singer, you have to change, that’s the way it works

Van Morrison (1945-)

Three chords and the truth – that’s what a country song is

Willie Nelson (1933-)

If it’s too loud, you’re too old

Ted Nugent (1948-)

If I ever really felt depressed, I would just start putting on all my old records that I played as a kid, because the whole thing that really lifted me then still lifted me then, still lifted me during those other times

Jimmy Page (1944-)

I’m all about inspiring young musicians to get out there and express themselves through music

Orianthi Panagaris (1985-)

Master your instrument. Master the music. And then forget all that bullshit and just play

Charlie Parker (1920-1955)

Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn

Charlie Parker (1920-1955)

They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art

Charlie Parker (1920-1955)

You can’t go to the store and buy a good ear and rhythm

Les Paul (1915-2009)

If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them

Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

I don’t know, my music has always just come from where the wind blew me. Like where I’m at during a particular moment in time

Tom Petty (1950-2017)

Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things

Tom Petty (1950-2017)

I don’t know how much more expressive you can get than being a rock and roll singer

Robert Plant (1948-)

Music is for every single person that walks the planet

Robert Plant (1948-)

I like music that’s more offensive. I like it to sound like nails on a blackboard, get me wild

Iggy Pop (1947-)

Music is life, and life is not a business

Iggy Pop (1947-)

‘Punk rock’ is a word used by dilettantes and heartless manipulators about music that takes up the energies, the bodies, the hearts, the souls, the time and the minds of young men who give everything they have to it

Iggy Pop (1947-)

Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it

Elvis Presley (1935-1977)

I’m always happy. I’m never sad. I never slow down. I’m constantly occupied with music

Prince (1958-2016)

Music is music, ultimately. If it makes you feel good, cool

Prince (1958-2016)

The hardest thing with musicians is getting them not to play

Prince (1958-2016)

The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can

Prince (1958-2016)

I am flattered to have been the woman to have opened the door for female rockers to be accepted into the mainly male industry

Suzi Quatro (1950-)

Rock n’ roll! It’s the music of puberty

Suzi Quatro (1950-)

Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

I never saw music in terms of men and women or black and white. There was just cool and uncool

Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

The great thing about the arts, and especially popular music, is that it really does cut across genres and races and classes

Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

All punk is is attitude. That’s what makes it. The attitude

Joey Ramone (1951-2001)

Rock ‘n’ roll is very special to me. It’s my lifeblood

Joey Ramone (1951-2001)

The only love affair I have ever had was with music

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don’t understand the language that you’re singing in, they still know good music when they hear it

Lou Rawls (1933-2006)

Music should come crashing out of your speakers and grab you, and the lyrics should challenge whatever preconceived notions that listener has

Lou Reed (1942-2013)

My God is rock ‘n’ roll

Lou Reed (1942-2013)

My music, I hope, takes 100% of your concentration. I know how to do that

Trent Reznor (1965-)

If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music

Keith Richards (1943-)

Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones

Keith Richards (1943-)

Music is a necessity. After food, air, water and warmth, music is the next necessity of life

Keith Richards (1943-)

Rock and Roll: Music for the neck downwards

Keith Richards (1943-)

To make a rock ‘n’ roll record, technology is the least important thing

Keith Richards (1943-)

I’ve always said music should make you laugh, make you cry or make you think. If it doesn’t do one those things, then you’re wasting everybody’s time

Kenny Rogers (1938-)

Texas is a hotbed of insanely good bands and musicians

Henry Rollins (1961-)

The musician is perhaps the most modest of animals, but he is also the proudest

Erik Satie (1866-1925)

Anyone who loves music can never be quite unhappy

Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

There is no such thing as happy music

Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

When you play, never mind who listens to you

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Songs won’t save the planet, but neither will books or speeches

Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

The music that I have learned and want to give is like worshipping God. It’s absolutely like a prayer

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)

Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die

Paul Simon (1941-)

Music is feeling. You can try to verbalize it. It really just hits you or it doesn’t

Gene Simmons (1949-)

Artists, musicians, scientists – if you have any kind of visionary aptitude, it’s often something that you don’t have a choice in. You have to do it

Patti Smith (1946-)

I don’t think I’ll ever write a song that’ll ever move me as much as ‘Faith’, that’ll change my life as much as that song did, or encapsulates a period of my life as well as that one does

Robert Smith (1959-)

I do a job I really, really love and I kind of have fun with. People think you can’t be grown up unless you’re moaning about your job

Robert Smith (1959-)

I had no desire to be famous; I just wanted to make the greatest music ever made. I didn’t want anyone to know who I was

Robert Smith (1959-)

I honestly don’t class myself as a songwriter. I’ve got ‘musician’ written on my passport. That’s even funnier

Robert Smith (1959-)

I lose myself in music because I can’t be bothered explaining what I feel to anyone else around me

Robert Smith (1959-)

The best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with

Bruce Springsteen (1949-)

Half the battle is selling music, not singing it. It’s the image, not what you sing

Rod Stewart (1945-)

If you play music with passion and love and honesty, then it will nourish your soul, heal your wounds and make your life worth living. Music is its own reward

Sting (1951-)

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence

Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)

I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

My music is best understood by children and animals

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

People have told me songs I’ve written have changed their life. That`s remarkable. That keeps your faith

Joe Strummer (1952-2002)

Punk rock isn’t something you grow out of. Punk rock is an attitude, and the essence of that attitude is ‘give us some truth’

Joe Strummer (1952-2002)

I believe 100 percent in the power and importance of music

James Taylor (1948-)

I never wanted to get rich or be a star. I’m an old bastard but I’m still playing! That’s the point

Bernie Tormé (1952-2019)

Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens

Maria von Trapp (1905-1987)

Music – what a powerful instrument, what a mighty weapon!

Maria von Trapp (1905-1987)

Music is a great natural high and a great natural escape

Shania Twain (1965-)

I’m always pursuing knowledge; I’m a seeker of spiritual equilibrium – and music is a big part of that

Steve Vai (1960-)

Music really is a way to reach out and hold on to each other in a healthy way

Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990)

I don’t know if any genuine, meaningful change could ever result from a song. It’s kind of like throwing peanuts at a gorilla

Tom Waits (1949-)

I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things

Tom Waits (1949-)

Songs really are like a form of time travel because they really have moved forward in a bubble. Everyone who’s connected with it, the studio’s gone, the musicians are gone, and the only thing that’s left is this recording which was only about a three-minute period maybe 70 years ago

Tom Waits (1949-)

The universe is making music all the time

Tom Waits (1949-)

I been in the blues all my life. I’m still delivering ‘cause I got a long memory

Muddy Waters (1913-1983)

My blues are so simple but so few people can play it right

Muddy Waters (1913-1983)

The blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll

Muddy Waters (1913-1983)

Being a musician is a noble profession

Paul Weller (1958-)

Music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together

Edgar Winter (1946-)

I think the blues will always be around. It just takes one person to make people aware of the blues

Johnny Winter (1944-2014)

I couldn’t do no yodelin’, so I turned to howlin’. And it’s done me just fine

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

I don’t play anything but the blues, but now I could never make no money on nothin’ but the blues. That’s why I wasn’t interested in nothin’ else

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

I just play blues for fun

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

When you ain’t got no money, you got the blues

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it

Stevie Wonder (1950-)

Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand

Stevie Wonder (1950-)

The musical soundscape is an endless road

Zakk Wylde (1967-)

I am probably the last of a generation to be able to gain an education in country music by osmosis, by sitting in a ’64 Ford banging the buttons on the radio

Dwight Yoakam (1956-)

I think the most important thing about music is the sense of escape

Thom Yorke (1968-)

Rock and roll is here to stay

Neil Young (1945-)

There’s an edge to real rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all that matters

Neil Young (1945-)

I don’t understand this phrase ‘I’ve paid my dues’. We didn’t have any money and lived on peanut butter and jelly, and I loved it. I don’t regret any of it. We never expected to make it this far, but we worked hard to get here

Ronnie Van Zant (1948-1977)

If prisons, freight trains, swamps, and gators don’t get ya to write songs, man, y’ain’t got no business writin’ songs

Ronnie Van Zant (1948-1977)

A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Most people wouldn’t know music if it came up and bit them on the ass

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Music is always a commentary on society

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something we’d all love one another

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

You can’t always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Tailpiece

Well, the above represents a veritable roll call of music royalty covering multiple centuries. As you might have expected, these maxims from musicians about music are often passionate, heartfelt and powerful, almost beyond words. The historical male dominance of the industry is clear and look forward to more female music professionals being credited for their insightful observations in the future.

There is, as mentioned last month, a certain irony in using plain words to articulate the meaning of music but that is just the medium I’m using. I would encourage you to listen to the source material for many of the elements covered in this series so far. There is a lifetime of ever‑growing musical exploration to be had out there.

CRAVE Guitars posts a ‘quote of the day’, both about music and more generally about ‘life, the universe and everything’ (Douglas Adams) every day on Twitter and Facebook. The previous article and this one have allowed me to draw from that broader research and to focus resources on the collective wisdom of this particular theme.

Having now done two consecutive articles on quotations, you are probably all quoted out by now, so be reassured that there won’t be any more for a while (except my traditional personal observation at the end of every article). As far as I can tell, this is the penultimate article in this long series, which means that, all being well, we should culminate the next month, as scheduled. As a bit of bait, I will leave you to ponder what else might be espoused in the way of a conclusion. Any guesses?

Despite the global shutdown of society, I’m sticking to what I know and love doing, which is to continue my mission to share with anyone who may be interested some selfishly selected stuff about ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitars. Weirdly, I am actually very comfortable in splendid seclusion and I would be quite happy to continue a relatively hermetic lifestyle whatever comes to pass. In the meantime, above all, please look after yourselves and take care – stay home, stay safe. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “True wealth is appreciating what you have now and neither grieving for what you might have had nor for what you may wish to have”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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January 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part X

Introduction

Well, here we are once again. Welcome to 2020 one and all – a new year and a new decade, well, sort of. After the temporary intermission last month for the obligatory 2019 end‑of‑year roundup, we’re back on the trail ‘History of Modern Music…’ Cast your mind back for a moment. In more than one way, 1650 and the end of the Renaissance, where this story began seems a long, long time ago now. It struck me during the brief interlude just what a conceivably Sisyphean labour it has become, and there is still quite a bit of fun and games to be played out. Getting straight back into the proverbial saddle, Part X of the story is now rounding up the stragglers from the 20th Century and riding into the dawn of the new millennium with all its first world promises and disappointments.

If you would like to (re)visit the first 9 parts (and 350 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

Right, now the prelude is over, let’s get into the groove of the shiny new millennium, starting at 2000 and finishing this month at the end of 2009…

The Story of Modern Music Part X 2000-2009

Without the benefit of lengthy hindsight, the question is, how best to describe early 21st Century music? Arguably, the most notable trend of the noughties was the rise in popularity of indie music standing proud and in stark contrast to the seemingly indomitable, yet strangely bland, soulless and non‑descript merchandise of the commercial pop music industry.

Sadly, time and circumstances resulted in many prominent departures during the decade, adding a touch of pathos among the many achievements. While lost to us, at least we still have their music to appreciate.

In the absence of any particularly significant defining characteristics, perhaps it is best to let the facts speak for themselves. Before we get there, though, it is important to set the turbulent global context within which the musical styles of the new age progressed. Although shorter in content than previous decades, the ‘noughties’, and consequently, the ‘teenies’, will still get their own discrete article.

Historical Context 2000-2009

The opening decade of the 2000s has many popular names, one of which is simply, ‘the noughties’. The widely recognised formal name for the first decade of a new century is the less common, ‘the aughts’. Despite the unbridled optimism for the new millennium, the ‘00s heralded a fractious decade during which terrorism and the rise of dangerous radical Islamic ideologies would dominate international relations and drive brutal armed conflict in many territories. An unsustainable rise in living standards and avaricious materialism during the first half of the decade precipitated another inevitable major ‘boom and bust’ event fuelled by rabid financial mismanagement and, ultimately, greed. The result was the most devastating global recession to hit ordinary people since the 1930s in terms of both impact and longevity. Depression drove increasingly profound social, health and wealth divisions between the richest few percent and the vast majority. The digital revolution boomed and the unbridled growth of the Internet facilitated the promise of global democratisation of knowledge and information, while also enabling massive levels of ‘social’ drivel and inanity. There was a continued expansion in environmental lobbying and ‘green’ industries aiming to tackle the impending and still controversial threat of the ‘greenhouse effect’ on the planet’s fragile ecosystem.

Year

Global Events

2000

An Air France Concorde airliner crashed shortly after take‑off in France, killing 113 people, leading to the suspension of the fleet and effectively ending the era of supersonic passenger flights.

 

The first stage of the world’s largest collaborative biological project, the Human Genome Project was completed, documenting an initial rough draft of the base pairs that make up human DNA.

2001

Republican politician George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the U.S.A. Bush Junior was the son of George H.W. Bush who was the 41st president.

 

Members of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked and crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York City. A third plane was crashed into the U.S. Department of Defense HQ, the Pentagon in Virginia. A fourth aircraft crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers overpowered the hijackers. The co‑ordinated attacks of 9/11 killed almost 3,000 people.

 

America, supported by its allies, invaded Afghanistan following the unprecedented 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.A. with the intention of dismantling the threat of Islamic terrorist organisation al‑Qaeda at its source.

2002

The Euro was officially introduced in the Eurozone countries, after which the former currencies of those countries ceased to be legal tender.

 

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother of the UK monarchy and the wife of King George VI, died. Her funeral took place at Westminster Abbey in London.

 

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS CoV) outbreak emanated in southern China and the subsequent epidemic caused a global public health crisis.

2003

America and Britain, supported by allies, invaded Iraq to remove the threat of alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to depose the country’s dictator and head of state, Saddam Hussain.

 

The first successful global social networking website, Myspace was founded by Americans Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, based in Beverly Hills, California. Myspace was overtaken in popularity by rival Facebook in 2008 and, while still in existence, usage has declined significantly.

 

American Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re‑entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

2004

The global Internet‑based social media networking web site Facebook was created by American entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, based in Menlo Park, California. Facebook has approximately 2.5billion active users.

 

The European Union (EU) expanded by 10 new member states – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Malta and Cyprus.

 

A massive 9.3 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean near Sumatra killed over 200,000 people.

 

The tallest skyscraper in the world, Taipei 101, at a height of 1,670 feet (510m) opened in Taipei, Taiwan. It was overtaken by the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010.

2005

The video sharing web site, YouTube was launched. The platform was created by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, based in San Bruno, California. YouTube is currently owned by technology giant, Google.

 

Polish head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City, Pope John Paul II died. He was succeeded by German national, Pope Benedict XVI.

 

Category 5 Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A., killing over 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage.

2006

Indian Islamic terrorists detonated seven bombs on trains in the city of Mumbai, India, killing more than 200 people.

 

Discovered in 1930, Pluto was demoted from planet status and was re‑designated the largest known dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt. Caltech researcher Mike Brown led the team that led to the declassification.

 

Former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was tried and convicted by an Iraqi Special Tribunal and was executed by hanging for crimes against humanity.

2007

Three-year old English girl Madeleine McCann disappeared from the holiday resort of Praia da Luz in the Algarve region of Portugal. She remains missing despite massive media coverage.

 

Technology giant Apple Inc. launched the game‑changing touch screen mobile telephone, the iPhone.

 

The Global Financial Crisis began, caused by poor regulation resulted in the failure of a number of large financial and banking institutions. The severe worldwide economic downturn, known as the Great Recession, was the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economic impact of the slump lasted for more than a decade.

2008

In physics, the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator used to detect the presence of sub‑atomic particles was completed by CERN near Geneva in Switzerland. The pioneering science project became fully operational in 2010.

 

Pakistani Islamic terrorists carried out a series of 12 attacks over 4 days in Mumbai, India, killing almost 175 people.

2009

The decentralised digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin was established by pseudonymous Japanese creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

 

Democrat politician Barack Obama became the 44th president of the U.S.A. and was the first African‑American to be elected to the presidency.

Musical Genre Development 2000-2009

The pop music machine sustained commercial success well into the 21st Century. Large record companies continued to focus resources on the lucrative tween and teen audiences with artists such as Avril Lavigne, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Usher, P!nk, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Also popular were manufactured groups such as Destiny’s Child, Sugababes, Pussycat Dolls, One Direction, 5 Seconds Of Summer and Little Mix. Country music saw another revival with artists like Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood achieving notable success. Soul (nu‑soul) also saw a resurgence of interest, including performers like Joss Stone, Natasha Bedingfield, Corinne Bailey Rae, Estelle, Amy Winehouse, Adele and Duffy. Hip‑hop broadened out into contemporary R&B and claimed the resurgent urban music territory with artists such as Jay‑Z, Kanye West, Ludacris and 50 Cent building on the popularity of Dr Dre, Eminem and N.W.A.

Indie (rock) music had its origins in the 1970s as a ‘catch‑all’ umbrella term for artists who produced music through independent record labels rather than the large record companies and their subsidiaries. A new breed of bands began to emerge, aided by Internet exposure, coalescing into the indie rock movement on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Emerging rock bands came into their own and reasserted their independence through a rejection of (and by) the structured studio system. One constant characteristic of indie music is the rejuvenated dominance of the electric guitar within a band format. Indie music originated from the punk, alternative and grunge genres of previous decades and represents a very diverse range of musical approaches including dream pop, shoegaze, indie pop, indie dance, garage rock, indietronica, chillwave, hypnagogic pop, lo‑fi, etc. To reflect this diversity, there is a long list of indie artists from varying sub‑genres to give an indication of its broad appeal, including (in no particular order); My Bloody Valentine, Arctic Monkeys, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Eels, Low, The Zutons, Interpol, Charlatans, Slowdive, Ride, Primal Scream, PJ Harvey, The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, The Vines, Snow Patrol, Keane, Pavement, Spiritualized, Blood Red Shoes, The Cribs, Sleater‑Kinney, The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight, Editors, Kasabian, Kings Of Leon, LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Paramore, Belle & Sebastian, The Shins, The Kooks, The Killers, The Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Modest Mouse, Ariel Pink, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, Death Cab for Cutie, White Lies, Two Door Cinema Club and War On Drugs amongst many others. The sheer volume of artists and material led to the term ‘indie landfill’ used to describe generic and derivative music exploiting indie music credentials.

Musical Facts 2000-2009

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

6

March

2000

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2000’ including Eric Clapton, Earth Wind & Fire, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Billie Holiday and Scotty Moore.

27

March

2000

English punk singer, songwriter and poet, Ian Dury died from cancer in London at the age of 57.

23

May

2000

American hip hop artist Eminem released his classic 3nd studio album, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’.

20

June

2000

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their 2nd studio album, ‘De Stijl’.

2

October

2000

English alternative rock band Radiohead changed stylistic direction when they released their 4th studio album, ‘Kid A’.

9

October

2000

English alternative rock band Placebo released their 3rd studio album, ‘Black Market Music’.

5

December

2000

American political rap rock band, Rage Against The Machine released their 4th and, to‑date, final studio album, ‘Renegades’.

8

December

2000

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of rock band The Police, Sting received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard.

18

December

2000

English singer and songwriter Kirsty MacColl was killed tragically in a boating incident while on holiday in Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico at the age of 41.

20

December

2000

Long-running UK music magazine ‘Melody Maker’ published its final issue. It had run for over 74 years since January 1926. Melody Maker was merged with rival music paper, New Musical Express (NME).

6

March

2001

Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley received a posthumous Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

19

March

2001

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2001’ including Aerosmith, Solomon Burke, the Flamingos, Michael Jackson, Queen, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Ritchie Valens and James Burton.

20

March

2001

Renowned Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist, Gary Moore released his classic 15th studio album, ‘Back To The Blues’ in the UK.

2

April

2001

German industrial heavy metal rock band Rammstein released their top-selling 3rd studio album, ‘Mutter’ (translated as Mother).

3

April

2001

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their debut studio album, ‘B.R.M.C.’.

10

April

2001

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their 11th studio album, ‘No More Shall We Part’.

4

June

2001

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Amnesiac’ in the UK.

18

June

2001

English alternative rock band Muse released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Origin of Symmetry’.

30

June

2001

American guitarist, nicknamed the ‘Country Gentleman’, Chet Atkins died from cancer at his home in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 77.

3

July

2001

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their 3rd studio album, ‘White Blood Cells’.

18

July

2001

American hard rock band KISS introduced a unique, if somewhat sinister, item of brand merchandise, a burial coffin humorously known as the ‘KISS Kasket’.

27

July

2001

American bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leon Wilkeson died of chronic liver and lung disease in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida at the age of 49.

30

July

2001

Emerging American indie rock band The Strokes released their classic debut album, ‘Is This It’.

18

September

2001

American alternative/indie rock band Wilco released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’.

23

October

2001

American technology giant Apple Inc. introduced the first iPod solid state portable media player, linked to the iTunes media storage library.

29

November

2001

English former member of The Beatles, George Harrison died of cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age of 58.

16

December

2001

Scottish guitarist and singer with punk rock band Skids and then Big Country, Stuart Adamson committed suicide in Honolulu, Hawaii at the age of 43.

5

March

2002

MTV broadcast the first episode of their reality TV show ‘The Osbournes’, featuring a portrayal of the Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne’s family life.

18

March

2002

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2002’ including Isaac Hayes, Brenda Lee, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Gene Pitney, Ramones, Talking Heads and Chet Atkins.

26

March

2002

British heavy metal rock band, Iron Maiden released their massive live concert album, ‘Rock In Rio’.

12

April

2002

English heavy metal singer with Black Sabbath and TV reality show celebrity, Ozzy Osbourne received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6780 Hollywood Boulevard.

14

May

2002

Award-winning American singer, songwriter, guitarist, electronica musician and producer Moby released his commercially successful 6th studio album, ‘18’.

5

June

2002

American bass guitarist Dee Dee Ramone of punk rock band Ramones died from a heroin drug overdose at his home in Hollywood, California at the age of 50.

27

June

2002

English bass guitarist with rock band The Who, John Entwistle, nicknamed ‘The Ox’, died of a cocaine‑related heart attack in a Hard Rock hotel room in Paradise, Nevada at the age of 57.

27

August

2002

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Songs For The Deaf’.

24

September

2002

American alternative rock artist, Beck released his introspective and highly underrated 8th studio album, ‘Sea Change’.

14

October

2002

English indie rock band The Libertines released their successful debut studio album, ‘Up The Bracket’.

18

October

2002

English pop/rock band Queen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6356 Hollywood Boulevard.

27

October

2002

Highly renowned American record producer who worked for Atlantic Records, Tom Dowd died of emphysema in Aventura, Florida at the age of 77.

3

November

2002

Scottish singer and guitarist, crowned the ‘King of Skiffle’, Lonnie Donegan died of a heart attack in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire at the age of 71.

22

December

2002

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Joe Strummer of punk rock band The Clash died from a congenital heart defect at his home in Somerset, UK at the age of 50.

30

December

2002

The funeral of English guitarist, singer and songwriter with punk rock band The Clash, Joe Strummer took place in London, UK.

3

February

2003

Famous American ‘wall of sound’ record producer, Phil Spector murdered actress Lana Clarkson in his California Alhambra mansion.

10

February

2003

English trip-hop group, Massive Attack released their underrated 4th studio album, ‘100th Window’ in the UK.

10

March

2003

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2003’ including AC/DC, The Clash, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Police, The Righteous Brothers and Floyd Cramer.

1

April

2003

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their highly regarded 4th studio album, ‘Elephant’.

1

April

2003

English alternative rock band Placebo released their 4th studio album, ‘Sleeping With Ghosts’.

18

April

2003

Legendary American blues/R&B, soul and jazz singer Etta James received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

11

May

2003

English bass guitarist with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding died of liver disease in Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland at the age of 57.

15

May

2003

American country music singer and wife of Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash died following heart surgery in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 73.

30

May

2003

Successful English record producer behind many massive chart hits, Mickie Most died from abdominal cancer at his home in London at the age of 64.

9

June

2003

Acclaimed English alternative rock band Radiohead released their 6th studio album, ‘Hail To The Thief’.

13

June

2003

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, David Gilmour was awarded a CBE by Her Majesty the Queen.

30

July

2003

Legendary American record producer Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records and the man responsible for signing Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, died of respiratory failure in Memphis Tennessee at the age of 80.

25

August

2003

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their 2nd studio album, ‘Take Them On, On Your Own’.

12

September

2003

Less than 4 months after his wife passed away, American country legend Johnny Cash died of complications caused by diabetes in Nashville at the age of 71.

26

September

2003

English singer, songwriter, musician, solo artist and former member of the pop rock band Power Station, Robert Palmer died of a heart attack in a hotel room in Paris, France at the age of 54.

29

September

2003

English alternative rock band Muse released their successful 3nd studio album, ‘Absolution’.

12

December

2003

English singer and songwriter with The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger received a knighthood from HRH Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

9

February

2004

English indie rock band Franz Ferdinand released their successful debut studio album, the self-titled ‘Franz Ferdinand’.

15

March

2004

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2004’ including Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Prince, Bob Seger, Traffic and ZZ Top.

6

May

2004

American virtuoso jazz guitarist and session musician with The Wrecking Crew, Barney Kessel died from a brain tumour at his home in San Diego, California at the age of 80.

10

June

2004

American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer Ray Charles died from complications as a result of acute liver disease at his home in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 73.

15

June

2004

Emerging American rock band The Killers released their hugely successful debut studio album, ‘Hot Fuss’.

23

June

2004

American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan was made ‘Doctor of Music’ at St. Andrews University in Scotland, UK.

24

June

2004

Exactly 5 years after his first sale, English blues/rock guitarist, Eric Clapton auctioned many of his guitars in New York City. Together, the two auctions raised $11 million for the Crossroads Centre he founded in Antigua, a residential treatment centre for alcohol and chemical dependencies.

21

July

2004

American music composer, Jerry Goldsmith, famous for his many TV and film scores, died from cancer in Beverley Hills, California at the age of 75.

30

August

2004

English indie rock band The Libertines released their successful eponymous 2nd studio album, ‘The Libertines’.

6

September

2004

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic self-titled debut studio album, ‘Kasabian’.

9

September

2004

Successful American guitar and musical equipment entrepreneur and businessman, Ernie Ball died in San Luis Obispo, California at the age of 74.

15

September

2004

American guitarist and songwriter with punk rock band Ramones, Johnny Ramone died of prostate cancer at his home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 56.

20

September

2004

Indie/alternative rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their epic 13th double studio album, ‘Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus’.

21

September

2004

American post-punk rock band Green Day released their top-selling 7th studio album, ‘American Idiot’ in the U.S.

27

September

2004

German industrial heavy metal band Rammstein released their 4th studio album, ‘Reise, Reise’ (roughly translated as ‘Arise, Arise’).

25

October

2004

Highly acclaimed English DJ and BBC radio presenter, John Peel died from a heart attack while working on holiday in Cusco, Peru at the age of 65.

1

November

2004

American rock band Kings of Leon released their commercially successful 4th studio album, ‘Only By The Night’ in the UK (22 February 2005 in the US).

3

November

2004

English blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Eric Clapton received a CBE from the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace in London for his services to music.

8

December

2004

American guitarist, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, co-founder of heavy metal bands Pantera and Damageplan was murdered while performing on stage in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 38.

14

December

2004

The funeral of American guitarist with heavy rock bands Pantera and Damageplan, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, took place in Arlington, Texas.

10

February

2005

English singer with The Who, Roger Daltrey was awarded a CBE by HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace.

14

March

2005

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2005’ including Buddy Guy, The O’Jays, The Pretenders, Percy Sledge and U2.

22

March

2005

American alternative rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their 4th studio album ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’.

11

June

2005

Two English rock guitarists were rewarded for their contributions to music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was awarded an OBE and Brian May of Queen a CBE.

22

August

2005

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their 3rd studio album, ‘Howl’.

30

August

2005

American indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie released their 5th studio album, ‘Plans’.

1

September

2005

American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist R.L. Burnside died of heart disease in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 78.

4

September

2005

The major feature film chronicling the life of country legend Johnny Cash, ‘Walk The Line’, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, directed by James Mangold, was released in the USA.

10

September

2005

American guitarist and Blues Hall of Famer, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown died from cancer in Orange, Texas at the age of 81.

5

November

2005

Influential American rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Link Wray died of heart failure at his home in Copenhagen, Denmark at the age of 76.

23

January

2006

English indie rock sensation, Arctic Monkeys released their debut studio album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’.

13

March

2006

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2006’ including Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sex Pistols and Herb Alpert.

7

July

2006

English guitarist, songwriter and founder of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Cambridge at the age of 60.

25

July

2005

British indie rock band Editors released their debut studio album, ‘The Back Room’ in the UK.

30

July

2006

Popular weekly UK music chart TV programme ‘Top Of The Pops’ (TOTP) was broadcast by the BBC for the final time, after running for 42 years.

28

August

2006

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Empire’.

15

October

2006

After American singer Patti Smith finished her live set at New York City’s famous punk rock music venue CBGB & OMFUG, the club finally closed its doors for good, following a rent dispute and thereby ending an era.

25

December

2006

Legendary American singer and the ‘Godfather of Soul’, James Brown died of pneumonia in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 73.

28

February

2007

American rock band The Doors received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard.

12

March

2007

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2007’ including Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, R.E.M., The Ronettes, Patti Smith and Van Halen.

23

April

2007

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their sophomore studio album, ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’.

25

June

2007

British indie rock band Editors released their sophomore studio album, ‘An End Has a Start’.

5

November

2007

English downtempo artist William Emmanuel Bevan (a.k.a. Burial) released his melancholic genre breaking 2nd studio album, ‘Untrue’.

12

December

2007

Controversial American rock ‘n’ roll and R&B pioneer, Ike Turner died from a cocaine overdose at his home in San Marcos, California at the age of 76.

2

March

2008

Extraordinary blind Canadian blues/rock guitarist Jeff Healey died from lung cancer in Toronto at the age of 41.

10

March

2008

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2008’ including Leonard Cohen, The Dave Clark Five, Madonna, John Mellencamp, The Ventures and Little Walter.

1

April

2008

American blues/rock duo The Black Keys released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Attack & Release’.

3

April

2008

American media and technology giant Apple Inc. became the top seller of recorded music in the USA.

19

April

2008

The annual global campaign to promote the importance of independent music stores ‘Record Store Day’ began in California, USA.

28

April

2008

English trip-hop band, Portishead released their 3rd studio album, the originally titled, ‘Third’.

12

May

2008

American indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie released their 6th studio album, ‘Narrow Stairs’.

26

May

2008

English indie rock band Spiritualized released their 6th studio album, ‘Songs In A&E’.

2

June

2008

Legendary American blues and rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Bo Diddley died from heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida at the age of 79.

7

June

2008

The ‘homecoming’ funeral of American blues guitarist and singer Bo Diddley took place in Gainseville Florida.

19

June

2008

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their debut studio album, ‘Wagonwheel Blues’.

10

August

2008

Acclaimed American soul singer, songwriter, producer and actor, Isaac Hayes died of a stroke at his home in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 65.

19

September

2008

American rock band Kings of Leon released their commercially successful 4th studio album, ‘Only By The Night’.

10

October

2008

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their 7th studio album, ‘In Rainbows’ in the UK.

24

November

2008

Experimental virtuoso English rock guitarist, Jeff Beck released his highly acclaimed live concert album, ‘Performing This Week… Live At Ronnie Scott’s’.

15

December

2008

Hugely influential English folk acoustic guitarist Davey Graham died of lung cancer at the age of 68.

6

January

2009

American guitarist and songwriter with The Stooges and Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton died of a heart attack at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the age of 60.

29

January

2009

Influential British singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Martyn died from pneumonia in Kilkenny, Ireland at the age of 60.

23

February

2009

English rave band The Prodigy released their resurgent 5th studio album, ‘Invaders Must Die’.

4

April

2009

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2009’ including Jeff Beck, Metallica, Run‑D.M.C., Bobby Womack, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana.

13

April

2009

Controversial American record producer Phil Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson at his Alhambra mansion in California in February 2003.

14

April

2009

English former member of The Beatles, George Harrison received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street.

29

May

2009

Notorious American record producer, Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for murdering actress Lana Clarkson at his California mansion in 2003.

5

June

2009

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’.

25

June

2009

American superstar singer Michael Jackson died of a drug overdose in Los Angeles, California at the age of 50.

12

August

2009

Legendary American jazz guitarist, singer, inventor and recording innovator, Les Paul, died from pneumonia in White Plains, New York at the age of 94.

19

August

2009

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 3rd studio album, ‘Humbug’.

12

October

2009

British indie rock band Editors released their 3rd studio album, ‘In This Light And On This Evening’.

Tailpiece

Help! We are running out of decades from which to poach pertinent and poignant particulars (pardon the flowery alliteration). Just one more decade and a few hundred facts to be revealed before the chronological timeline has to remain as‑yet‑unwritten for another epoch. The next instalment looking at the 2010s will, by definition, bring us pretty much up‑to‑date. I hope you feel inclined to re-join me in the next enthralling part of the journey.

In the meantime, warmer days and longer evenings of spring beckon. There are plenty of guitars to be played and much music to be listened to. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “It really doesn’t matter what music you play, as long as you play”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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June 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part IV

Introduction

Welcome once again all guitar and music aficionados. We are now half way through 2019 and not only are the evenings once again beginning to draw in but also the end of the ‘noughties’ is just a few months away. What a sobering thought. One wonders whether the 2020s will match the exhilarating heights (and lows) of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ of last Century. Sometimes, I doubt it and there are too many ‘harbingers of doom’ for optimism and hope to reign too strongly but perhaps it was ever thus – I hope I’m wrong. However, that sort of future speculation is for another place an time, as this month we are looking back to some 70‑80 years’ ago.

We are here in the midst of a series of articles chronicling the story of modern music by way of numerous guitar‑oriented facts and events. If you’ve been following the series so far, you’ll already know that, so I won’t bang on about it any longer.

If you would like to (re)visit the first three parts (and nearly 300 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

The Story of Modern Music Part IV 1940-1949

There are so many facets to the 1940s that to cover the 1950s as well would make for an overlong article, so for the sake of our mutual sanity, let’s take it one step (and decade) at a time. So… this month, we concentrate solely on the 1940s, a watershed decade during which epochal change was increasing in both pace, scale and scope. Without further ado, assuming you know the routine and format by now, let us dispatch our ‘boots on the ground’ and get on with the show. Onward to the fascinating Forties…

Historical Context 1940-1949

The 1940s was known simply, and rather unimaginatively, as ‘The Forties’. During the first half of the decade the world was dominated by major conflict and brutal warfare. As if the world had not already seen enough, almost as soon as WWII ended, the Cold War began, again raising international political and military tensions between the capitalist west and communist eastern blocs, a struggle that would last for several decades. Ordinary people in many countries suffered on‑going economic austerity, adversity and disadvantage for many years as a consequence of WWII. Socially, concerns over the possibility of widespread post‑war friction sat at odds with hopes for long‑term peace. Technological progress was closely linked to competitive military advances and many major innovations spawned during the 1940s would ultimately benefit future generations.

Year

Global Events

1940

Conservative MP Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister and would remain in power to lead Britain to victory in WWII.

 

The mass evacuation of more than 330,000 allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France to England took place during WWII.

 

In WWII, the German Luftwaffe carried out the ‘Blitz’, the massive air bombardment of London, UK.

 

The WWII aerial Battle of Britain took place in the skies over Britain and Europe.

1941

Russia entered WWII when German‑led Axis forces crossed the area covered by the German–Soviet Nonaggression Pact, thereby effectively invading the Soviet Union.

 

The classic motion picture film, ‘Citizen Cane’ directed by and starring Orson Welles was released.

 

After 14 years of labour, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Black Hills, South Dakota was opened to the public, depicting the massive sculptures of four American presidents; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

 

America joined WWII after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

1942

The classic movie, ‘Casablanca’ was premiered, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

1943

The world’s largest office building and headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, The Pentagon, was completed in Virginia.

1944

Operation Overlord (commonly known as ‘D-Day’) saw 150,000 allied troops successfully storm the beaches of Normandy in France against German defences.

1945

Germany surrendered to the allied forces, effectively ending WWII in Europe.

 

U.S. atomic weapons testing was undertaken at the Trinity nuclear test site in New Mexico as part of the research & development programme known as the Manhattan Project.

 

Two American atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan leading to unconditional surrender and the formal end of WWII. Over 60 million people were killed during the conflict.

 

The United Nations (UN) organisation was formed, with a mission to maintain international peace and security.

 

Democrat Harry S. Truman became 33rd President of the U.S.A. following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

The Nuremburg Trials began; a military tribunal established to prosecute the most prominent political and military leaders of Nazi Germany for war crimes during WWII.

1946

ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the first programmable electronic computer was unveiled at the University of Pennsylvania.

1946/

1947

The Cold War between Russia with its neighbouring Eastern Bloc states and America with its western allies started and lasted until the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union between 1889 and 1991.

 

The transistor semiconductor was developed by American technology company, Bell Labs in New Jersey.

1947

Italian motor company Ferrari started production of luxury sports cars in Modena.

 

American test pilot Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier in level flight in a rocket-propelled Bell X-1 aircraft that he nicknamed ‘Glamorous Glennis’, achieving a recorded top speed of Mach 1.06 (807.2mph) at an altitude of 45,000 ft.

1948

British author George Orwell wrote his prophetic dystopian novel, ‘1984’.

 

The independent state of Israel was established after the British pulled out of Palestine.

 

The British National Health Service (NHS) was founded and would become the model for universal health care in the country. The NHS was part of the wider liberal welfare state system reforms that were implemented the UK.

1949

The Communist People’s Republic of China was proclaimed by Chairman Mao Zedong.

 

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed comprising 29 independent member states committed to mutual defence in response to an attack by any non‑member countries.

Well that is where the world was at, at the time. Now to refocus our attention onto the matter in hand, musical history.

Musical Genre Development 1940-1949

Music of the 1940s built on the sustained popularity of jazz, bebop and swing/big band music to provide upbeat positivity against the background of WWII, as played by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Artie Shaw. Electric blues had spread to the west coast of America, particularly California, performed by artists such as T-Bone Walker and B.B. King. Chicago also became a vital locus for electric blues, as played by Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, as did Detroit with the likes of John Lee Hooker, and Indiana with Albert King and Jimmy Reed. Blues remained strong in the southern states, including artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Freddie King. Country and western music also became popular again with ‘singing cowboys’ such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Wartime songs would feature across many musical genres and many entertainers helped to support the allied forces at home and abroad, including Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields and The Andrews Sisters. It was also during the 1940s that the influence of Latin music began to be felt across other genres, popularised by the likes of ‘The Brazilian Bombshell’, Carmen Miranda brought to western cinemagoers by film director Busby Berkeley.

Around 1945, bluegrass began to make its mark. Bluegrass fused many American, European and African roots styles culminating in a unique blend of country, folk, traditional and Appalachian mountain music incorporating blues and jazz influences. The music is usually played on acoustic string instruments including fiddle, five-string banjo, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass. Bluegrass was particularly popular for dancing, including dance styles such as buckdancing, flatfooting and clogging. The term ‘bluegrass’ arose not only from a type of grass in the region near Kentucky but also from the name used by pioneers of the genre, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Monroe is often called the ‘Father of Bluegrass’ and his band notably featured Earl Scruggs on banjo and Lester Flatt on guitar. In the early days, bluegrass was categorised along with country & western, hillbilly and folk music before being defined as a discrete genre that remains popular today.

Traditional popular music is generally defined as having broad appeal for a wide audience and has existed throughout time and across the globe. While the ‘pop song’ originated in the 1920s, modern popular music is largely accepted to be Anglo‑American in origin and arose during the 1940s as the big bands declined and before rock & roll music took off in the mid‑1950s. Popular music was notable for structured song writing, often comprising repeated verse and chorus with a middle bridge section. Popular music was often based on musical standards, sung by ‘crooners’. In addition, popular music was also often composed by professional songwriters, which was then performed by a vocalist accompanied by a backing band or orchestra. Success was characterised by record sales and chart position as a measure of achievement. Perhaps the most famous popular music artists of the early popular music era were Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby who achieved enormous commercial success. The familiar term ‘pop music’ actually appears to have its origins in Britain in the mid‑1950s. Popular music is often referred to as, but not synonymous with, ‘pop’ music; however, pop music developed as a major separate genre during the 1960s and has largely remained so to the current day. Another characteristic is that popular music is constantly evolving into many different formats and styles to keep pace with social and cultural changes, including aging western populations. Traditional popular standards were being released well into the 1950s by the likes of Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole and Dean Martin.

During the late 1940s, there was already indicative evidence of the sounds that would coalesce and become what we now call rock ‘n’ roll during the 1950s, particularly by blues/R&B artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. That fundamental step-change is now for the next article.

Musical Facts 1940-1949

Many legendary artists that we now take for granted as part of today’s musical landscape were not yet born or still mere fledglings yet to make their indelible mark on our collective consciousness. As with last month’s article, a large proportion of the musical facts relate to births of future stars.

Looking down the long list of nearly 200 musical events during the 1940s, it could quickly become repetitive, e.g. American/English blah‑de‑blah was born in blah, blah. However, just a scan of the names and places gives a sense about what these youthful individuals were experiencing as teenagers during the ‘big bang’ of rock ‘n’ roll and the tsunami of the ‘British Invasion’, just a few years later. Just think of the exposure they had to sweeping new music crazes and how the fads might have inspired and stimulated these curious youngsters on to great music careers that they could never have foreseen. Some of these fabulous flames would burn brightly and briefly, while others would endure as wizened veterans still working hard and influencing today’s generations. As time passes, the balance between births, lifetime achievements and, sadly, deaths will shift considerably.

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

1940

American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Seasick Steve was born c.1940 or 1941 (date not disclosed) in Oakland, California.

27

July

1940

Billboard magazine published its first Music Popularity Chart. Topping the chart at No. 1 was Tommy Dorsey with his hit song, ‘I’ll Never Smile Again’.

9

October

1940

Massively influential of English singer, songwriter, guitarist, former member of The Beatles and successful solo artist, John Lennon MBE (1940-1980, 40) was born in Liverpool.

26

November

1940

Hugely influential English folk guitarist, Davey Graham (1940-2008, 68) was born in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire.

21

December

1940

Prolific genius, American guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer, the one and only Mr Frank Vincent Zappa (1940-1993, 52) was born in Baltimore, Maryland.

9

January

1941

Legendary perennial American folk/protest singer, songwriter, guitarist, and political activist, Joan Baez was born in Staten Island, New York.

15

January

1941

Influential American rock singer, songwriter and musician, Don Van Vliet (better known as Captain Beefheart) was born in Glendale, California.

24

January

1941

Acclaimed American singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor Neil Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York.

24

January

1941

English folk singer, songwriter and guitarist Michael Chapman was born in Leeds, Yorkshire.

14

February

1941

Prolific English studio session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan (1941-2012, 71) was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex. Sullivan appeared on about 750 chart singles including 54 chart toppers.

24

April

1941

Australian virtuoso classical and contemporary guitarist, as well as one-time member of instrumental fusion rock group SKY, John Williams was born in Melbourne.

24

May

1941

Nobel prize-winner for literature, American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota.

18

July

1941

Influential country/blues/rock guitarist and singer songwriter, Lonnie Mack (1941-2016, 74) was born in West Harrison, Indiana.

14

August

1941

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, founder of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, Hall of Famer, David Crosby was born in Los Angeles, California.

20

August

1941

The ‘grandfather of space rock’, English guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of psychedelic rock band Hawkwind, Dave Brock was born in Isleworth, Middlesex.

13

October

1941

Living legend, American singer, songwriter, guitarist, formerly half of Simon & Garfunkel and a successful solo artist, Paul Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey.

21

October

1941

Multi-Hall of Famer, American guitarist, songwriter, record producer and member of Stax Records’ house band Booker T. & the MG’s, Steve Cropper was born in Dora, Missouri.

28

October

1941

English guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known for his uniquely distinctive work with The Shadows, Hank Marvin was born in Newcastle upon Tyne.

2

November

1941

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, best known as an original member of instrumental pop/rock band The Shadows, Bruce Welch OBE was born in Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

20

November

1941

Great American singer, songwriter, pianist and occasional guitarist Dr John was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

4

January

1942

English jazz/rock fusion guitarist, composer, solo artist and member of Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

28

February

1942

English guitarist and founding member of rock band The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones (1942-1969, 27) was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

2

March

1942

Legendary American virtuoso jazz guitarist Charlie Christian died from tuberculosis in New York at the age of just 25.

2

March

1942

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with The Velvet Underground and as a successful solo artist, Lou Reed (1942-2013, 71) was born in Brooklyn, New York.

24

April

1942

Oscar-winning American singer, songwriter, actress and film maker Barbra Streisand was born in New York City.

17

May

1942

Hugely influential American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Taj Mahal (a.k.a. Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr) was born in Harlem, New York.

1

June

1942

Highly influential virtuoso Spanish flamenco guitarist, Paco Peña was born in Cordoba.

18

June

1942

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of pop/rock bands The Beatles and Wings, as well as a successful solo artist, Sir Paul McCartney MBE was born in Liverpool.

13

July

1942

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of rock band The Byrds, Roger McGuinn was born in Chicago, Illinois.

1

August

1942

Influential American singer/songwriter and guitarist with Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia (1942-1995, 53) was born in San Francisco, California.

27

November

1942

A true music legend, American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, the one and only James Marshall Hendrix (1942-1970, 27) was born in Seattle, Washington.

31

December

1942

English guitarist, composer, member of rock band The Police and successful solo artist, Andy Summers was born in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.

10

January

1943

American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jim Croce (1943-1973, 30) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

19

January

1943

Legendary American psychedelic blues/rock singer Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas.

25

February

1943

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and member of The Beatles, George Harrison (1943-2001, 58) was born in Liverpool.

22

March

1943

Influential American jazz/soul/R&B guitarist, singer and songwriter, George Benson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2

April

1943

American jazz guitarist, the ‘Godfather of Fusion’, Larry Coryell (1943-2017, 73) was born in Galveston, Texas.

14

May

1943

Scottish bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of blues rock super group Cream, Jack Bruce (1943-2014, 71) was born in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire.

5

July

1943

Canadian guitarist, songwriter, composer, producer and former member of Americana rock group The Band, Robbie Robertson was born in Toronto, Ontario.

26

July

1943

English singer, songwriter and occasional guitarist, a founding member of rock band the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger was born in Dartford, Kent.

28

July

1943

Renowned American blues guitarist and Hall of Famer, Mike Bloomfield (1943-1981, 37) was born in Chicago, Illinois.

24

August

1943

American guitarist and founder of west coast rock bands Quicksilver Messenger Service and Copperhead, John Cipollina (1943-1989, 45) was born in Berkeley, California.

6

September

1943

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Roger Waters was born in Great Bookham, Surrey.

5

October

1943

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader, Steve Miller was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

3

November

1943

Sublimely talented Scottish guitarist and founding member of folk revival band Pentangle, Bert Jansch (1943-2011, 67) was born in Glasgow.

7

November

1943

Highly influential Canadian folk, jazz, rock and pop guitarist, singer and songwriter Joni Mitchell was born in Fort Macleod, Alberta.

28

November

1943

Highly acclaimed American singer, songwriter and composer of numerous film scores, Randy Newman was born in Los Angeles, California.

8

December

1943

Iconic American singer, poet, counter-culture rebel and front man of rock band, The Doors, Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida.

12

December

1943

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer and founding member of rock band The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts was born in West Palm Beach, Florida.

18

December

1943

Legendary English guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of rock band The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards was born in Dartford, Kent.

21

December

1943

Hugely talented English guitarist and songwriter known for his country/rock hybrid picking style, Albert Lee was born in Lingen, Herefordshire.

31

December

1943

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, John Denver (1943-1997, 53) was born in Roswell, New Mexico.

9

January

1944

English musical innovator and legendary guitarist, best known for his work with hard rock band Led Zeppelin, the highly influential Jimmy Page OBE was born in Heston, Middlesex.

23

February

1944

Great American blues guitarist and Blues Hall of Famer, Johnny Winter (1944-2014, 70) was born in Beaumont, Texas.

1

March

1944

English singer, actor, founder and long-term front man of rock group The Who, Roger Daltrey was born in London.

23

March

1944

Trailblazing English guitarist and founder of blues/rock band Groundhogs, Tony McPhee was born in Humberston, Lincolnshire.

15

April

1944

Welsh rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Dave Edmunds was born in Cardiff.

28

May

1944

American Motown legend and award-winning ‘Empress of Soul’, the formidable Gladys Knight was born in Atlanta, Georgia.

7

June

1944

American bluegrass and country rock guitarist who was a member of rock band The Byrds and an accomplished session musician, Clarence White was born in Lewiston, Maine.

8

June

1944

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, former member of the Steve Miller Band and a successful solo artist, Boz Scaggs was born in Canton, Ohio.

17

June

1944

Respected, versatile and prolific English session guitarist, singer and producer, Chris Spedding was born in Staveley, Derbyshire.

21

June

1944

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and former front man of pop/rock band The Kinks, as well as solo artist, Sir Ray Davies CBE was born in London.

24

June

1944

Outstanding and prolific English instrumental guitar genius, as well as former member of blues/rock band The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck was born in Wallington, Surrey.

8

August

1944

Renowned English guitarist and songwriter, known for his work with Bert Jansch and folk revival group Pentangle, John Renbourn (1944-2015, 70) was born in London.

16

August

1944

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with psychedelic rock band Soft Machine, as well as a successful solo artist, Kevin Ayers (1944-2013, 68) was born in Herne Bay, Kent.

9

October

1944

Legendary English bass guitarist with rock band The Who, nicknamed ‘The Ox’, John Entwistle (1944-2002, 57) was born in London.

19

October

1944

Jamaican reggae guitarist, singer and songwriter, a member of Bob Marley & The Wailers and a successful solo artist, Peter Tosh was born in Grange Hill, Jamaica.

15

December

1944

Famous American big band leader and musician Glenn Miller was killed when the plane in which he was flying disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel during WWII at the age of 40.

18

December

1944

British guitarist, best known as member of progressive rock band Man, Deke Leonard (1944-2017, 72) was born in Llanelli, South Wales.

19

December

1944

Highly regarded English guitarist, singer, and member of blues/rock group Ten Years After, Alvin Lee (1944-2013, 68) was born in Nottingham.

3

January

1945

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, famous for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY), Stephen Stills was born in Dallas, Texas.

6

February

1945

A true legend as well as a great ambassador for Jamaica and reggae music with The Wailers, Rastafarian singer, songwriter and guitarist Bob Marley (1945-1981, 36) was born in Nine Mile, Jamaica.

9

March

1945

English blues/rock guitarist who came to fame as a member of rock band Procol Harum, before embarking on a long and successful solo career, Robin Trower was born in London.

11

March

1945

American guitarist, member of Canned Heat amongst others, and one of the first to popularise the two-handed tapping playing technique, Harvey Mandel was born in Detroit, Michigan.

30

March

1945

Highly renowned English blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and Hall of Famer, Eric Clapton CBE was born in Ripley, Surrey.

13

April

1945

Great American guitarist, singer and songwriter with Little Feat, Lowell George (1945-1979, 34) was born in Hollywood, California.

14

April

1945

Hugely influential English guitarist and co-founder of hard rock bands Deep Purple and Rainbow, as well as folk rock duo Blackmore’s Night, Ritchie Blackmore was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

6

May

1945

American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist and leader of the Silver Bullet Band, Bob Seger was born in Detroit, Michigan.

19

May

1945

English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of The Who, Pete Townshend was born in London.

28

May

1945

American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and former member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty was born in Berkeley, California.

1

July

1945

American singer, songwriter, actress and founding member of rock band Blondie, Debbie Harry was born in Miami, Florida.

31

August

1945

Northern Irish rhythm & blues singer, songwriter and producer, Sir Van Morrison OBE was born in Belfast.

4

September

1945

Amazing American ‘Redneck Jazz’ guitarist, Danny Gatton (1945-1994, 49) was born in Washington D.C.

10

September

1945

Prolific Puerto Rican guitarist, singer and songwriter, José Feliciano was born in Lares.

11

September

1945

Extraordinary American multi-genre acoustic guitarist and a true master of his instrument, Leo Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia.

26

September

1945

English singer, songwriter and former front man of glam art rock band Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry CBE was born in Washington, County Durham.

3

October

1945

American singer Elvis Presley made his first public performance at the age of 10 when he sang ‘Old Shep’ at the Mississippi/Alabama Dairy Show talent competition. Reports say he came 2nd and won $5, while Elvis later recollected coming 5th and not winning a prize.

31

October

1945

English guitarist, singer, producer and one time member of rock band Argent, Russ Ballard was born in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire.

26

November

1945

English bass guitarist with rock bands John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and then Fleetwood Mac, John McVie was born in London.

30

November

1945

Welsh bass guitarist, songwriter and producer, best known as a member of heavy rock bands Deep Purple and Rainbow, Roger Glover was born in Brecon, Powys.

24

December

1945

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and founder of rock band Motörhead, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister (1945-2015, 70) was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

25

December

1945

English bass guitarist and member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding (1945-2003, 57) was born in Folkestone, Kent.

3

January

1946

English bass guitarist, songwriter, former member of hard rock band Led Zeppelin, solo artist as well as a member of Them Crooked Vultures, John Paul Jones was born in Sidcup, Kent.

6

January

1946

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of psychedelic/progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett (1946-2006, 60) was born in Cambridge.

8

January

1946

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known as a key member of rock band The Doors, Robby Krieger was born in Los Angeles, California.

19

January

1946

Larger-than-life American country music legend, successful business woman and actress, Dolly Parton was born in Pitman Center, Tennessee.

20

February

1946

American guitarist and leader of The J. Geils Band, John ‘J’ Geils (1946-2017, 71) was born in New York City.

6

March

1946

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, and former member of Pink Floyd, as well as a successful solo artist, the incomparable David Gilmour was born in Cambridge.

12

March

1946

Oscar-winning American singer and actress, Liza Minelli was born in Los Angeles, California.

1

April

1946

English bass player, singer, songwriter and founder of rock bands the Small Faces and the Faces, Ronnie Lane (1946-1997, 51) was born in Plaistow, Essex.

4

April

1946

English guitarist and member of pop/glam rock band Slade, Dave Hill was born in Holbeton, Devon.

16

May

1946

One of the great experimental English guitarists of our time and member of progressive rock band King Crimson, Robert Fripp was born in Wimborne Minster, Dorset.

26

May

1946

Great English rock guitarist and close companion of David Bowie, Mick Ronson (1946-1993, 46) was born in Kingston upon Hull.

7

June

1946

Welsh guitarist and co-founder of progressive/psychedelic rock band Man, Micky Jones (1946-2010, 63) born in Merthyr Tydfil.

15

June

1946

English guitarist and singer with glam pop/rock group Slade, Noddy Holder MBE was born in Walsall, Staffordshire.

6

August

1946

Extraordinarily talented English virtuoso fusion/rock guitarist Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017, 70) was born in Bradford.

23

August

1946

Influential and eccentric English drummer and member of rock band The Who, Keith Moon, was born in Wembley, Middlesex.

5

September

1946

Flamboyant English singer with rock/pop band Queen, Freddie Mercury (real name Farrokh Bulsara) was born in Stone Town in the Sultanate of Zanzibar (now Tanzania).

14

October

1946

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock band The Moody Blues, Justin Hayward was born in Swindon, Wiltshire.

29

October

1946

Highly acclaimed and influential English guitarist and co-founder of blues/rock band Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green was born in London.

5

November

1946

American country rock guitarist with The Byrds, Gram Parsons (1946-1973, 26) was born in Winter Haven, Florida.

17

November

1946

Great English guitarist, best known as a long-term member of rock band Jethro Tull, Martin Barre was born in Birmingham.

20

November

1946

Legendary American guitarist and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, nicknamed ‘Skydog’, Duane Allman (1946-1971, 24) was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

22

November

1946

Jamaican bass guitarist and producer who played with reggae bands Bob Marley & The Wailers and The Upsetters, Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett was born in Kingston.

24

December

1946

Dutch progressive rock and jazz fusion guitarist best known for his work with rock band Focus, as well as a long solo career, Jan Akkerman was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

30

December

1946

Influential American singer, poet and activist, part of the vibrant New York punk movement, Patti Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois.

1947

American session guitarist and collaborator, best known for his work with Steely Dan, Elliott Randall was born (exact date not known).

8

January

1947

A true legend, English singer, songwriter, occasional guitarist and actor, the one and only David Bowie (1947-2016, 69) was born in London.

22

January

1947

English punk pioneer, the manager of New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols, as well as a solo music artist, Malcolm McLaren was born in London.

30

January

1947

English ‘mod’ guitarist with rock bands Small Faces and Humble Pie, Steve Marriott (1947-1991, 44) was born in London.

3

February

1947

English guitarist, singer and songwriter who, along with his older brother Ray, provided the driving force behind pop/rock band The Kinks, Dave Davies was born in London.

14

February

1947

American multi-genre singer, songwriter and guitarist, Tim Buckley (1947-1975, 28) was born in Washington D.C.

15

March

1947

American musician, composer, songwriter and phenomenal slide guitarist, Ry Cooder was born in Los Angeles, California.

25

March

1947

Flamboyant multi-award-winning English pop singer, songwriter and pianist, Sir Elton John CBE was born in Pinner, Middlesex.

8

April

1947

Great English guitarist, songwriter and producer best known as a long-time member of progressive rock group Yes, Steve Howe was born in London.

1

June

1947

English guitarist with rock band The Rolling Stones and previously the Faces and the Jeff Beck Group, Ronnie Wood was born in Hillingdon, Middlesex.

5

June

1947

American guitarist, singer, co-founder of funk band Sly And The Family Stone, and now a Christian pastor, Freddie Stone was born in Vallejo, California.

9

June

1947

English guitarist and long-time member of rock band Uriah Heep, Mick Box was born in Walthamstow, East London.

12

July

1947

Influential English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of pub rock band Dr. Feelgood, Wilko Johnson was born in Canvey Island, Essex.

19

July

1947

Award-winning English guitarist, astrophysicist, animal rights activist and co-founder of rock/pop band Queen, Dr. Brian May CBE was born in Hampton, Middlesex.

20

July

1947

Highly acclaimed Mexican/American guitarist, songwriter and main man for Latin/jazz/fusion/rock group Santana, Carlos Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco.

3

September

1947

Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist and founder of rock group Thin Lizzy, Eric Bell was born in Dublin.

30

September

1947

Massively influential English glam rock pioneer Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex and then T.Rex (1947-1977, 29) was born in London.

1

October

1947

English bass guitarist, singer and founding member of rock band Wishbone Ash, Martin Turner was born in Torquay, Devon.

8

November

1947

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of pop/rock bands The Move, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and Wizzard, Roy Wood was born in Birmingham.

10

November

1947

English bass guitarist, singer and songwriter, famous for his work with progressive rock bands King Crimson and ELP, as well as a successful solo artist, Greg Lake (1947-2016, 69) was born in Poole, Dorset.

10

November

1947

American guitarist best known for working with the original Alice Cooper band, Glen Buxton (1947-1997, 49) was born in Akron, Ohio.

12

November

1947

American guitarist with rock band Blue Öyster Cult since its formation in 1967, Buck Dharma (a.k.a. David Roeser) was born in Long Island, New York.

20

November

1947

Great American guitarist, singer, songwriter, solo artist and member of country rock band Eagles, Joe Walsh was born in Wichita, Kansas.

8

December

1947

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman (1947-2017, 69) was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

21

December

1947

Highly influential Spanish virtuoso Flamenco guitarist, Paco de Lucíá (1947-2014, 66) was born in Cadiz.

12

January

1948

English jazz fusion guitarist supreme and long-term member of progressive rock band Soft Machine, John Etheridge was born in London.

15

January

1948

American singer and frontman of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, the great Ronnie Van Zant was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

2

February

1948

American guitarist, songwriter, producer and ex-member of funk band Earth Wind & Fire, Al McKay was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

4

February

1948

Theatrical American rock singer, songwriter, actor and presenter, Alice Cooper was born in Detroit, Michigan.

19

February

1948

English rock guitarist with Black Sabbath and the ‘Godfather of Heavy Metal’, Tony Iommi was born in Birmingham.

2

March

1948

Legendary Irish blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Rory Gallagher (1948-1995, 47) was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal.

2

March

1948

American jazz fusion guitarist, composer and prolific multi‑genre session musician, the great Larry Carlton was born in Torrance, California.

4

March

1948

Renowned English bass guitarist and co-founder of progressive rock band Yes, Chris Squire (1948-2015, 67) was born in London.

6

April

1948

Talented English multi-genre guitarist and composer, Gordon Giltrap was born in Brenchley, Kent.

30

April

1948

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, composer and co-founder of rock band MC5, Wayne Kramer was born in Detroit, Michigan.

15

May

1948

Pioneering experimental English composer, producer, musician and founding member of glam rock band Roxy Music, Brian Eno was born in Melton, Suffolk.

18

June

1948

Columbia Records began mass producing the 33RPM long‑playing (LP) record. The original concept of the vinyl ‘album’ has endured and has undergone a retro revival in the digital age.

19

June

1948

Highly respected English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Nick Drake (1948-1974, 26) was born in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar).

20

June

1948

Scottish bass guitarist and founding member of 1970s pop group, The Bay City Rollers, Alan Longmuir (1948-2018, 70) was born in Edinburgh.

22

June

1948

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, solo artist and founding member of progressive rock band Utopia, Todd Rundgren was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

17

July

1948

American guitarist and songwriter with Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Ron Asheton (1948-2009, 60) was born in Washington D.C.

2

August

1948

Welsh singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of rock band Amen Corner, Andy Fairweather Low was born in Ystrad Mynach.

24

August

1948

French electronic composer, instrumentalist and producer, Jean-Michel Jarre was born in Lyon.

31

August

1948

German rhythm guitarist, songwriter and founder of hard rock band Scorpions, Rudolf Schenker was born in Hildesheim.

11

September

1948

Hugely influential and innovative British singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Martyn (1948-2009, 60) was born in London.

8

October

1948

Pioneering American punk rock guitarist and songwriter with the Ramones, Johnny Ramone (1948-2004, 56) was born in New York.

12

October

1948

English guitarist and long-term member of rock band Status Quo, Rick Parfitt (1948-2016, 68) was born in Woking, Surrey. ‏

6

November

1948

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor and founding member of country rock band Eagles, Glenn Frey (1948-2016, 67) was born in Detroit, Michigan.

3

December

1948

English singer, songwriter, TV personality and member of heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath, nicknamed ‘The Prince of Darkness’, Ozzy Osbourne was born in Birmingham.

13

December

1948

American guitarist, best known for his work with Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers and Spirit, Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter was born in Washington D.C.

13

December

1948

Controversial American singer, songwriter and guitarist, known for his ultra-conservative political views, the ‘Motor City Madman’, Ted Nugent was born in Redford, Michigan.

18

December

1948

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer best known for his work with experimental rock band Be-Bop Deluxe, Bill Nelson was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

22

December

1948

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with rock band Cheap Trick, Rick Nielsen was born in Elmhurst, Illinois.

17

January

1949

English guitarist and former member of blues/rock bands John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and The Rolling Stones, Mick Taylor was born in Welwyn Garden City.

19

January

1949

English pop/rock singer and songwriter and member of rock bands Vinegar Joe and the Power Station, Robert Palmer was born in Batley, Yorkshire.

7

February

1949

English bass guitarist and founding member of pop/rock band Status Quo, Alan Lancaster was born in London.

31

March

1949

Record company, RCA Victor released their first 45RPM 7″ single, ‘Texarkana Baby’ by Eddy Arnold… on green vinyl.

3

April

1949

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, solo artist and former member of folk rock band Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson was born in London.

4

May

1949

Scottish guitarist, best known for his work with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in the 1970s, Zal Cleminson was born in Glasgow.

17

May

1949

English guitarist, singer, composer and founder of progressive rock band Camel, Andrew Latimer was born in Guildford, Surrey.

19

May

1949

American bass guitarist and long-term member of southern blues/rock band ZZ Top, Dusty Hill was born in Dallas, Texas.

29

May

1949

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock/pop band Status Quo, Francis Rossi OBE was born in London.

17

July

1949

Great English bass guitarist with heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath, Terence ‘Geezer’ Butler was born in Aston, Birmingham.

12

August

1949

British guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, composer and co-founder of rock band Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler OBE was born in Glasgow.

20

August

1949

Irish bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of rock group Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, (1949-1986, 36) was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England.

25

August

1949

Israeli/American bass guitarist, singer, actor, businessman and co-founder of rock band KISS, Gene Simmons, nicknamed ‘The Demon’ was born in Tirat Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

28

August

1949

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and ex-member of punk rock pioneers, The Stranglers from 1974-1990, Hugh Cornwell was born in London.

5

September

1949

English guitarist with rock bands Colosseum, Humble Pie and a successful solo artist, Clem Clempson was born in Tamworth, Staffordshire.

14

September

1949

American guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Steve Gaines (1949-1977, 28) was born in Seneca, Missouri.

14

September

1949

American guitarist and bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ed King (1949-2018, 68) was born in Glendale, California.

23

September

1949

American living legend that is ‘The Boss’, Mr. Bruce Springsteen was born in Long Branch, New Jersey.

3

October

1949

American guitarist, singer and songwriter primarily with rock band Fleetwood Mac and now solo, Lindsey Buckingham was born in Palo Alto, California.

8

November

1949

American blues, rock, Americana roots and with a hint of country guitarist, singer, songwriter and activist, Bonnie Raitt was born in Burbank, California.

6

December

1949

American blues/folk guitarist and singer, Lead Belly (Huddie William Ledbetter) died of motor neurone disease in New York at the age of 61.

7

December

1949

Prolific and hugely influential American singer, songwriter, composer and actor, Tom Waits was born in Pomona, California.

13

December

1949

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with alternative post-punk rock band Television, Tom Verlaine was born in Denville, New Jersey.

16

December

1949

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with blues/rock band ZZ Top and solo artist, Billy F. Gibbons was born in Houston, Texas.

23

December

1949

American guitarist and singer with a long solo career and known for his work with British progressive rock band King Crimson and a host of others including Frank Zappa, David Bowie and Talking Heads, Adrian Belew was born in Covington, Kentucky.

Tailpiece

Well, that’s it for another month – that is a veritable roll call of rock ‘n’ roll, all packed into just 10 years. The thing that struck me most about this article is the overwhelming focus on America and Britain as the drivers for musical change in the 20th Century. Today, we readily accept a much more diverse, global infusion of styles and influences. One can pontificate that it had to start somewhere and these two countries largely made it happen bilaterally; maybe not exclusively but certainly predominantly. Unsurprisingly, perhaps given the period, it is also male dominated.

Just how quickly we proceed from here depends entirely on the volume of the content. At this rate, we could be at this for a while yet. I didn’t realise when I started, what a colossal exercise it was going to be. However, I have found it fascinating to focus on musical evolution through this lens and I hope that you have found something of interest along the way. Maybe the Forties were not a great deal of interest to you, they were certainly before my time. We will get around to other periods that may motivate your attention span in a different way, I promise… eventually.

We are now well past the chronological midway point but we haven’t yet reached half way in terms of content. The massive upsurge of musical events that took place over the latter part of the 20th Century has still to unfold fully, raising the anticipation of plenty more to come… and, boy, is there plenty more! The ambitious effort to bring an interrelated bunch of musical factoids to life within the context of the broader human condition continues unabated. I hope you will join me on the rest of the journey, hopefully reconvening here‑ish next month. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Material things feed the vanity of the ego, while music nourishes the spirit and sustains the soul.”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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November 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar: Epilogue

Hello again. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the studio, on stage or rehearsal room… some closure is required.

As before. if you wish to recap on any or all of the previous articles before starting here at the end, the whole ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series, can be accessed here (each part opens in a new browser tab):

Note: For completists, I’ve updated Part VII (September 2018) to include some empirical data over the last decade to fill out the ‘recovery and rejuvenation’ section. It isn’t vital by any means. Just sayin’.

It was only after I completed the mammoth task of researching and documenting the history of the guitar, that I had another thought. All eight parts were written from scratch with little idea of where it would all end up. At the end of the 8th (and what I thought at the time was the final) part in the series, I mentioned that it had ended with “a bit more of a whimper than some almighty bang”.

After all the effort invested in telling the guitar’s epic journey, I felt a tad disappointed that something was missing but I wasn’t sure what it was. Even though the narrative needed to have a line drawn under it at some point, it wasn’t perhaps up to me to determine the last remaining thoughts about the topic.

As is my wont, and if you’ve read any of my articles before, you’ll know that I tend to have a lot of wonts, I thought about what might be a fitting coda to the outstanding ‘unfinished business’. That ‘missing link’ turned out to be something that isn’t actually part of the historical timeline or anything that I could add myself, but something else altogether.

Whereas the first eight parts were in my own words, I felt that it would benefit from, and indeed deserved, some independently derived anecdotes from some highly respected sources. So… I had this genius (!?) epiphany that I would select some imparted wisdom from people who have made a living either playing or being in the influential presence of the mighty guitar.

While working on social media over the last four years, I have compiled and posted many interesting quotes from musicians. Of the many hundreds of apt and often motivational quotes, quite a number of them make reference to the guitar in one way or another. It seems therefore appropriate to share them in order to give a sense of closure to the guitar’s long story. While I am not alone in my admiration for the instrument, I felt that readers shouldn’t just take my word (or many words as it turned out) for declaring the importance of the humble guitar within the context of music and cultural history. As a result, I will leave it to the professionals to have their say on the subject as they see it from their own perspective. You may recognise some of the names along the way, ranging from ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott to Frank Zappa – a veritable and literal A‑Z of guitar wisdom over the years.

What follows are some of my favourite guitar quotes for your consideration. You may well have others that complement these and which may add something to the overall picture. All in all, I think that they provide the appropriate concluding element that I was unwittingly looking for, bringing a bit of subjective coherency to the factual chronology.

So, from the horse’s mouth of music royalty, so to speak, take the opportunity to internalise what they say into your psyche. You never know, you may end up being a better guitarist (and perhaps a more rounded human being) by taking heed of a thing or two from the masters of their trade. After all, they can say it better – and way more succinctly – than I can, so perhaps it is best left to them to articulate the remainder of this article. Are you sitting comfortably?

Musicians’ quotes about the guitar

Just to mix it up a bit, the quotes are listed in alphabetical order of the quote, rather than by the artist. There are also quite a few pictures this month, so to save repetition, where an artist has more than one quote, their picture only appears next the first one. Enjoy…

A guitar is a very personal extension of the person playing it. You have to be emotionally and spiritually connected to your instrument. I’m very brutal on my instruments, but not all the time – Eddie Van Halen (1955-)

A guitar is like an old friend that is there with me – BB King (1925-2015)

A guitar is something you can hold and love and it’s never going to bug you. But here’s the secret about the guitar – it’s defiant. It will never let you conquer it. The more you get involved with it, the more you realize how little you know – Les Paul (1915-2009)

Ah, I could make it in the shape of a guitar, and it would a) be more affordable, and b) a guitar player could double on this instrument – Leo Fender (1909-1991)

As far as I’m concerned, I’m just a guitar player, and my job is to go out there and play and entertain and do my thing – Les Paul (1915-2009)

Besides being a guitar player, I’m a big fan of the guitar. I love that damn instrument – Steve Vai (1960-)

Describing certain sounds, there’s a common language that guitar players have – Joe Perry (1950-)

Doesn’t matter what guitar you play, as long as you’ve got passion! – Eric Johnson (1954-)

Every time you pick up your guitar to play, play as if it’s the last time – Eric Clapton (1945-)

Finding ways to use the same guitar people have been using for 50 years to make sounds that no one has heard before is truly what gets me off – Jeff Beck (1944-)

For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument – Jerry Garcia (1942-1995)

Guitar is the best form of self-expression I know. Everything else, and I’m just sort of tripping around, trying to figure my way through life – Slash (1965-)

Guitar playing is both extremely easy for me and extremely difficult for me at the same time – Kirk Hammett (1962-)

Guitars are fun. There are plenty of different kinds to play. They look cool. They sound cool. Don’t you want to play guitar? – Joe Satriani (1956-)

Guitars have been the obsession of my life. I first picked one up at the age of four and I’ve been a guitar junkie ever since – Johnny Marr (1963-)

I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it – Jimmy Page (1944-)

I can’t even read notes. But I can teach someone how to make a guitar smoke – Ace Frehley (1951-)

I don’t know of a guitar player that has only one guitar. They’re never happy with one. I’m never happy with just one of them. I woke up and ended up with six, even if you can only play one at a time! – Les Paul (1915-2009)

I don’t play a lot of fancy guitar. I don’t want to play it. The kind of guitar I want to play is mean, mean licks – John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

I don’t want you to play me a riff that’s going to impress Joe Satriani; give me a riff that makes a kid want to go out and buy a guitar and learn to play – Ozzy Osbourne (1948-)

I had no aspirations to be a musician, but I picked up a guitar for two seconds and haven’t put it down since – Slash (1965-)

I just go where the guitar takes me – Angus Young (1955-)

I loved playing the guitar and I knew I was pretty good at it, so that’s what I wanted to do with my life – Ace Frehley (1951-)

I never felt so close to a guitar as that silver one with mirrors that I used on stage all the time – Syd Barrett (1946-2006)

I never stop being amazed by all the different ways of playing the guitar and making it deliver a message – Les Paul (1915-2009)

I never wanted to sing. I just wanted to play rhythm guitar – hide in the back and just play – Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

I started out playing guitar because Jimi Hendrix was my hero, so my roots were really based on Jimi Hendrix and his style of playing – Joe Satriani (1956-)

I think people must wonder how a white girl like me became a blues guitarist. The truth is, I never intended to do this for a living – Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

I tried to make guitars that were close to what my heroes played. That’s the way it’s done. My experience is that you have to do it like a musician. You have to learn the language before you can learn to be a novelist – Paul Reed Smith (1956-)

I want every girl in the world to pick up a guitar and start screaming – Courtney Love (1964-)

I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions – BB King (1925-2015)

I wonder if I could make an electric bass – Leo Fender (1909-1991)

I’m just a guitarist in a kick-ass rock and roll band. What more could I ask for? – Eddie Van Halen (1955-)

I’ve had three wives and three guitars. I still play the guitars – Andres Segovia (1893-1987)

If ever there’s an obscene noise to be made on an instrument, it’s going to come out of a guitar… Let’s be realistic about this, the guitar can be the single most blasphemous device on the face of the earth. That’s why I like it… The disgusting stink of a too‑loud electric guitar: now that’s my idea of good time – Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

If something is easy to repair, it is easy to construct – Leo Fender (1909-1991)

If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music – Keith Richards (1943-)

Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart – Andres Segovia (1893-1987)

My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am – Joan Jett (1958‑)

My guitar was a loyal person to me – Dave Mustaine (1961-)

Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, except, possibly two – Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

Playing guitar was one of my childhood hobbies, and I had played a little at school and at camp. My parents would drag me out to perform for my family, like all parents do, but it was a hobby – nothing more – Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

Running my hands really fast up and down the fretboard… I mean, anybody can do that. It’s the Guitar Olympics, and I can’t think of anything more pointless – The Edge (1961-)

Sometimes the nicest thing to do with a guitar is just look at it – Thom Yorke (1968-)

That’s all I wanted to do as a kid. Play a guitar properly and jump around. But too many people got in the way – Syd Barrett (1946-2006)

The guitar has a kind of grit and excitement possessed by nothing else – Brian May (1947-)

The guitar is a small orchestra. It is polyphonic. Every string is a different colour, a different voice – Andres Segovia (1893-1987)

The guitar is just a wonderful instrument. It’s everything: a bartender, a psychiatrist, a housewife. It’s everything, but it’s elusive – Les Paul (1915-2009)

The guitar is a wonderful instrument which is understood by few – Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

The guitar is the coolest instrument in the world – Steve Vai (1960-)

The guitar is the easiest instrument to play and the hardest to play well – Andres Segovia (1893-1987)

The guitar is your first wings. It’s assigned and designed to unfold your vision and imagination – Carlos Santana (1947-)

The guitar was my weapon, my shield to hide behind – Brian May (1947-)

The media says that equality for women has arrived, but if you look around, you still don’t see girls playing guitars and having success with it – Joan Jett (1958-)

The most important part of my religion is to play guitar – Lou Reed (1942-2013)

The time I burned my guitar it was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar – Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

The violin is my mistress, but the guitar is my master – Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)

There’s something about approaching universal truths with the simplicity of the acoustic guitar. You can take it anywhere, and it helps me reach listeners of all ages and walks of life – Jim Croce (1943-1973)

To me a guitar is kind of like a woman. You don’t know why you like em but you do – Waylon Jennings (1937-2002)

To stand up on a stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism, bordering on insanity – Richard Thompson (1949-)

When the intellectual part of guitar playing overrides the spiritual, you don’t get to extreme heights – John Frusciante (1970-)

When you find yourself in the deepest rut you’ve ever known, don’t ever forget how f*ckin’ good the guitar sounds – ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbot (1966-2004)

When you just get mixed up and there’s too much going on, then it’s time to pick up your guitar – Les Paul (1915-2009)

When you think about where guitar playing is going today… it’s going everywhere at the same time – Joe Satriani (1956-)

With my Les Paul, I know I’m small. But I enjoy living anyway – Marc Bolan (1947-1977)

Why did they keep changing guitars and amplifiers when they were perfect? They did the same things with cars, if you ask me. They forgot how to make them right, because they focused on style and bells and whistles – Buddy Guy (1936-)

Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It is the way you pick and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or guitar you use – Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990)

Conclusion

Well, there you go. A fascinating summary of the world in which the guitar exists from the real experts. Do I have a favourite quote from among that lot? Nope. How could one pick a single truism out and exclude the remainder? I think that the collective intelligence from these esteemed contributors is what makes the overall message so powerful. Given Fender’s 2018 research that suggests that half of all new guitarists in the U.S. and UK are women, perhaps in the future, it would be good to feature more memorable quotes from prominent female guitarists.

When you think that what they say relates to what is essentially just a bit of wood, metal and plastic (in most cases), the guitar truly stands out as something special. At its most basic, the guitar is an artefact that doesn’t do anything of and by itself, it requires a symbiotic attachment to the person playing it to make it work its magic. It hangs on a strap or sits on your lap and converts the emotional core of the musician’s expression into fantastic guitar music that has touched just about everyone on the planet and has become a global phenomenon like no other.

Whether from musicians or not and regardless of whether there is any profound insight or not, what people will say about the guitar in the future, one can only imagine. Whatever is divulged, ‘the guitar’ will undoubtedly be a topic that will be widely debated for as long as people pick up the instrument and play music on it.

What more can one possibly add? Well… you may have noticed that at the bottom of every monthly article is a ‘CRAVE Guitars’ Quote of the Month’. This is my own way of teasing some mental curiosity as a parting shot. So, while my humble ‘thoughts of the day’ are possibly not worthy of being considered in the company of the hallowed artists quoted above, below is my modest addition to the canon, just where it usually is, at the end of my regular monthly rant. The eagle‑eyed reader may actually recognise it because it appears at the bottom of every CRAVE Guitars’ web page and on all CRAVE Guitars’ related social media profiles. I admit that, when writing this epilogue, I tried to come up with something clever but the attempts were, unsurprisingly, contrived and derivative. So, I went back to where it all began and what I felt deeply when I founded CRAVE (Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric) Guitars over 10 years ago. I looked at it again and realised that it remains a heartfelt and very personal belief, so I reckon it fits the bill as a nice little sign‑off. Nuff said.

Now that really is, possibly, maybe, probably, perhaps the last‑ish part of ‘A Potted History of the Guitar’. Honest. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Love Vintage Guitars. Music matters. Create. Play. Be inspired! Share the passion… Change lives for good”

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© 2018 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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October 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part VIII

Welcome to what is, for now at least, the final part in this series of articles on the history of the world’s most popular musical instrument.

If you wish to recap on any or all of the previous seven posts before starting with this one, the whole ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series, can be accessed here (each part opens in a new browser tab):

Having pretty much reached the present day, all that remains is to summarise where we are now and to take a somewhat flippant and imaginative look ahead. The ‘current day’ is a tricky subject, as ‘now’ is at best ephemeral. The future, on the other hand, can only ever be guesswork, even if it can be informed by the past. Perhaps the best way to predict the future is to help to create it, so that means that what happens to the next chapter of the guitar is in our hands. Can we be trusted to behave as responsible guardians of the guitar’s destiny? As Mahatma Gandhi (1869‑1948) said, “The future depends on what we do in the present”. This suggests that what will happen is not predetermined and individually or collectively, we can take action to shape the future.

There are not many images again supporting this article so, apologies to those who like pictures to speak a thousand words. Anyway, without further ado, on with the last part of the chronicle…

The guitar has come a very long way in the last 3,500 years or a road slightly less travelled in the preceding 350 years depending on whose version of the facts you want to believe. The story has finally reached that pivotal moment that lies between the past, which is, on the whole, pretty well documented and the future, which of course isn’t. There is much to be played for and the stakes are certainly high.

It is hopefully of little surprise that the future of the acoustic and electric guitar, as well as all its derivatives and distant relations, is probably well‑assured, at least for the foreseeable future. Whether it survives in the (very) long term or not, the world’s favourite musical instrument is undeniably going to be a hard act to follow, let alone surpass.

As with many industrial and technological revolutions, predictions have proved variable in terms of accuracy. As time passes, change tends to accelerate in both pace and scope. While progress may be inexorable, there is an unseen ‘force’ that tends to counteract unbridled advances and which acts as a bit of a restraint. That set of reins is the very human tendency to hold onto what is familiar while resisting change until it is either inescapable or desirable. This natural ‘drag’ effect has laid waste to many grand ideas and great inventions. Numerous well‑marketed ‘next big things’ have fallen at the hurdle of persuading the general public to take up something new or unfamiliar, especially if one’s respected peers haven’t bitten the bullet of early adoption either. Mankind’s flawed history is littered with countless failed marvels. This phenomenon isn’t, I hasten to add, just a trait of idiosyncratic musicians; it appears to be a fundamental characteristic of the human condition.

Anyway, as usual, I digress. It is time to get back to the point which is basically that whatever you read from here on has absolutely no basis whatsoever in fact and is highly likely to be extremely wrong! My consolation is that few people will regard it as portent or look back to judge its accuracy in a century’s time. There is nothing genuinely prescient here in the vein of Da Vinci or Nostradamus. Apologies if you were hoping for more in the way of a profound visionary insight. Unfortunately, my stock of that ran out last week.

General indicators of change

It is fair to suggest that popular music is often representative of, and in turn is dependent on, broader social, cultural and political movements, and guitars follow in their footsteps. Whether we like it or not, music is integral to our everyday lives, so it is not surprising that it is also inherently powerfully evocative. As a result, it can dramatically affect the way we identify with past events.

One of the key factors that drove guitar evolution has been the trends in popular music, so perhaps musical trends may provide a much generalised hint at parallel guitar developments. Let’s start by considering the (very simplistic) genre movements and the types of instrument used over the last century.  Starting with the post‑classical era, there was jazz (Gibson archtops) and blues (National & Dobro resonators) in the 1930s and 1940s, country and rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s (Gretsch & Gibson hollowbodies), pop and rock in the 1960s (Fenders and Rickenbackers), progressive and heavy metal (Gibson solid bodies) and then punk (pawn shop guitars) and hair metal (pointy super Strats) in the 1970s. Then we get to the guitar doldrums of electronica, new age and rap in the 1980s, followed by revitalised guitar music of alternative, grunge in the 1990s, and indie (retro guitars) nu‑metal (PRS) and dance in the 2000s, etc. I struggle to think of a musical genre that so far defines the 2010s or perhaps many distinctive guitars to go with them. So there is some kind of link going on here. Google has attempted to map the progression of musical genres from 1950 to the current day (take from it what you will).

The type of guitars de jour used by famous musicians, including artist associations, during these epochs often reflected the style of contemporary music they played and these have largely been well covered in previous parts of the story. Just think of Chet Atkins with his Gretsch 6120, Buddy Holly with his Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster, The Beatles with their Rickenbacker 300s, or Jimmy Page with his Gibson Les Paul Standard and EDS-1275 double neck. The various interconnections are manifold and too many to mention here, and many have been captured in photographs to become iconic in the annals of rock history.

Cinema and television music regularly use key songs to catapult us back in space and time without the need for narrative exposition to describe what’s happening. Just think about classic movies such as American Graffiti, Stand By Me, Almost Famous, Saturday Night Fever, The Breakfast Club or 8 Mile among many, many others. Those random examples don’t include the numerous biopics (e.g. Sid & Nancy, Walk The Line, The Doors) and musicals (e.g. West Side Story, Grease) or original scores (e.g. Paris Texas) that use familiar, memorable and/or popular music to transport us to another ‘reality’. Then there are the one‑offs like the mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap. TV programmes also picked up the strategy for domestic viewing since the 1960s and often featured manufactured artists such as The Monkees or The Archies. The lists of relevant examples are endless. Music is used to draw the viewer into the director’s vision of a certain bygone era. Many of the sound tracks of our lives rely heavily on evocative (guitar) music to manipulate us emotionally and, more importantly, intentionally.

The way that environmental factors affect local communities may spark a genre direction that is then promulgated more widely. For example, one could point to the rise of electric blues in Chicago, soul in Detroit, Mersey beat in Liverpool, punk in New York and London, rap in Los Angeles/Philadelphia, or grunge in Seattle, etc. What we cannot predict is what or where any future musical revolutions (if any) may emerge, from where, and what step‑change responses guitar builders may then make.

As with many other aspects of our 21st Century lives, the nature of music, how it is made, distributed and accessed suggests that anything genuinely ‘new’ will find it much harder to stand out from the mainstream. What is already there will continue in some form and anything new will simply be added to it, often at the margins of existing genres, hence the proliferation of sub‑genres, e.g. thrash or nu-metal in rock; house and techno in dance; raga and dancehall in reggae; dubstep and grime in urban music, etc. One only has to compare and contrast the mind boggling varieties of heavy metal music and then consider how they continuously diverge, converge and cross‑fertilise in order to keep it fresh and vibrant.

While some technological change may be more predictable, social change and the music that characterises it is certainly more unpredictable. When one looks at something as specific and tangible as the guitar, it becomes increasingly risky to anticipate with any certainty what change may occur over an extended period of time, say the next century or so.

One view is that we are powerless and don’t need to think about it, as what will be, will be. Another is that we wait passively and be subject to what transpires with little or no influence over it. A third way may be not to accept the status quo and take positive action to stimulate change, which can happen in oddly random ways. Being of an opinionated sort, I tend to fall into the latter camp. Apologies, that probably actually doesn’t help much!

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the guitar’s supremacy is likely to lie in the digital revolution that really started to make an impression in the 1970s and 1980s. Part of the reason for the guitar’s seemingly unassailable success has been that it is a hugely expressive and flexible instrument, which actually makes its nuances extremely difficult to replicate in a world constructed entirely of binary 0s and 1s. We shall see whether digital advances can fully overcome the difficulties in recreating the subtleties provided by a very analogue instrument in the hands of discriminating (and generally quite conservative) musicians.

The evidence so far suggests that digital is making ever increasing inroads into the analogue guitar’s dominance and the discernible gap between analogue and digital output is decreasing all the time. How long will it be before even the most ardent luddites finally admit that they can’t really tell the difference (despite what they may say outwardly)? However, it isn’t just the sound of guitars that appeals to guitarists; it is also the feel and the look of them that matters, as well as how they allow musicians to communicate with each other in unspoken ways.

New generations of guitarists, however, may be looking for something very different from their predecessors.  What form will ‘the shape of things to come’ take? Will it be all hyper‑modernistic and crammed with tech and flashing lights and built from materials we cannot yet imagine, or will it be the same old bits of tree wood crafted into the familiar shapes of Telecasters, Stratocasters, Precisions, Les Pauls, ES‑335s and SGs that we covet today? Only time will tell how things pan out and it will be for future authors to use the convenient assistance of hindsight to determine and document what path the history of the guitar takes from here on.

Looking and learning from the past, one might simply extrapolate forward. Future guitarists may well be like their ancestors and pragmatically seek to mix the best of the past with the best of what’s to come, regardless of whether it is analogue or digital. My personal prediction is a typically ambiguous ‘sit on the fence’ one, in that guitars will probably become increasingly hybrid if they are to keep ahead of other comparable instruments. Let’s face it, there are not really any threats` to the guitar’s dominant popularity at the time of writing and it has always been a continuously evolving instrument, so it would be of little surprise if this were to continue. While the 1980’s temporary trend for synth and electronica attempted to eradicate guitar music in the minds of popular listeners, the guitar has proved very resilient and difficult to displace.

Since the 1970s, the guitar has been used to trigger digital electronics. However, while both signal tracking and polyphony still present problems, these barriers are gradually being overcome. There have been several attempts to introduce effective guitar synths over the years but they have really been analogue or digital filters activated by either an ordinary guitar pickup or by discrete signals from a hexaphonic pickup. Hex pickups, which output a separate signal for each string, were often added to an existing guitar and used to transform it into a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller while still able to be used as an ordinary guitar. MIDI was a standard specification published in August 1983 by Japanese electronics giant Roland and American synthesizer company Sequential Circuits, and is commonly used to control electronic audio equipment. While attempting to revolutionise guitar music, Roland’s excursions into guitar synths since the 1980s have still relied on a standard guitar as its starting point.

Other Japanese companies specialising in electronics have also experimented with MIDI control of external synthesis engines, for instance guitars from Casio (DG20) and Yamaha (EZ-EG). It seems incredible to think that these early electronic instruments are now being considered as ‘vintage’. Today, there are now plenty of guitars on the market with MIDI capability built in. Technology has moved on and the fundamental concepts of a digital source are now ripe for being reinvestigation and improvement.

Other pioneering companies such as Line 6, now owned by another Japanese giant Yamaha, introduced their ground breaking digital modelling preamp (the Pod) and digital modelling guitar (the Variax) to indicate the direction in which development might go. Line 6’s philosophy inspired and influenced subsequent successful products such as the Kemper Profiler and the Fractal Audio Systems Axe-FX. Computer control of complex parameters, presets, firmware and downloads are commonplace for amps and effects in the 2010s and we can certainly expect this trend not only to become de facto but also to become a requirement in the near future, so a laptop at live gigs is already almost a necessity to keep your rig running smoothly – not a comfort zone for many analogue technophobe musos.

Guitar making cannot stand still and neither should it. Even the companies with a century or more of history, such as Gibson, Gretsch and Martin, have to keep moving forward or risk being overtaken. However, the tightrope of appealing to customers who appreciate the heritage is also key to the future success of long‑established manufacturers. Newer, smaller companies, though, are not constrained by the time capsule factor.

It is probably safe to say that the future is likely to be a practical symbiosis of both the familiar to satisfy the conservative traditionalists and the whizzy new gizmos to appeal to the technologically savvy experimentalists and neophytes… just as it always has been if fact. Even Gibson has been toying with the addition of digital features into its guitars, including the Les Paul HD.6X Pro and the Firebird X models. Intriguingly, Fender and other major brands have yet to declare their hands. It will be the fine balance between the opposing forces that will enable lasting incremental change, via ‘chimera’ guitars, rather than a number of fundamental radical shifts. That eventuality could prove a bit boring though, don’t you think? However, sadly, it also seems to mirror the way that modern popular music is going as well?

Leaps of unadulterated conjecture:

This next section is pure fantasy and should not be relied on as authentic in any way. It came from an idea that it can sometimes be fun to imagine what things might be like in some near or distant future. One hopes, though, that what follows doesn’t come to represent some form of self‑fulfilling prophecy.

It may be that the guitar itself could become superseded by something completely different from what musicians (rather than video game players) use today. Could it be possible that something along the lines of the PlayStation ‘Guitar Hero’ controller may someday make inroads into real instruments to create real music? I would anticipate that the majority of guitarists would sincerely hope not.

There are already some very modernistic looking instruments out there, such as the HTG Hyper Touch and the Misa Kitara (note the use of the Greek name kitara from Part I of this long story). Are these all‑electronic ‘guitars’ the sorts of instruments that will replace our beloved classic designs and become de rigeur in the near future? Alternatively, perhaps the electric guitar could somehow morph into some form of fully digital instrument via the route of hybridisation. As a logical conclusion, is the ‘Digital Guitar’ with analogue playability a holy grail and, if so, for whom? Here are some current digital guitar innovations from the 2010s…

So… suspend your disbelief for a few minutes and take a tentative look ahead to the scary world of AIs, AAs, AVs and AM (spoiler alert – these acronyms may seem familiar but in this context, they don’t mean what you think they mean today). You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Read on…

10 years’ hence (c.2028):

Analogue vs digital – Digital technologies will be used increasingly to enhance the analogue signal chain rather than usurp it completely. We have already seen many examples of this appearing in effects and amps, so there isn’t really any clever insight in mentioning it. Digital control of analogue signals is already becoming commonplace especially in delay and modulation effects where digital manipulation gives much more precise control over what happens in the analogue domain.

It remains unpopular to sample the original signal through an analogue to digital converter (ADC), mess around with it and then put it back through a digital to analogue converter (DAC) to turn it back into a signal for further processing. Many purists say that the act of conversion using today’s chips taints the original signal. It will be a while longer before we make that bold step of a fully digital signal chain from fingers to ears but it is getting ever closer. It will happen but possibly not by 2028, mainly because of the difficulty in engineering effective fully digital instruments and loudspeakers.

Research will continue to develop a truly digital guitar ‘pickup’ that could compare to current electromagnetic pickups and provide the first step to more complex processing in the future. Digital modelling using DSP (Digital Signal Processing) chips will continue to improve and will become almost indistinguishable from analogue electronics in effects, amps and digital audio workstations (DAWs). There will be a hardcore fan base that remains wedded to the old school stuff for many, many years to come. The guitar itself is highly unlikely to become fully digital in the next 10 years, if only because there are far too many dogmatic people invested in preserving the status quo. Auto‑Tune for the guitar anyone?

Guitar Making – In the near future, it is highly unlikely that wood will be superseded by any other material as the primary input for the majority of guitars. Wood has proved over millennia to be a very flexible, durable renewable material. Let’s face it, it can also look wonderful. One major advantage of wood is that it contributes towards the organic tone and touch of an individual musical instrument. Many alternative materials have been used in the construction of guitars since at least the 1920s, including plastics, metals, carbon fibre and a wide variety of composites. To‑date, though, wood has prevailed in terms of structural integrity allied to inherent musicality. What will change, though, is the shift away from the use of endangered exotic hardwood species such as rosewood, ebony and even mahogany to more sustainable species. For instance Pau Ferro (Libidibia Ferrea, a.k.a Bolivian rosewood) is rapidly replacing the CITES‑restricted rosewood (varieties of the genus Dalbergia) as a popular fingerboard material. Quite how fussy musicians will accept unfamiliar wood substitutes, will be determined in due course. What is clear is that guitarists really have no choice but to go with the ecologically acceptable flow in the long‑term.

Like their classical musical counterparts, the guitar itself (whether acoustic or electric) will remain very much a natural instrument for a good few years yet. The guitar will still be supremely popular and will be making great music all over the world. Guitars will be made by a broad range of entities from one man band local custom luthiers up to multinational mass manufacturers. Competition, particularly from China, will be a threat to many established western companies until their economic bubble bursts, which it eventually will at some point.

Recorded music – The vast majority of recorded guitar music will be produced on digital equipment with a few retro studios still using analogue equipment including valve preamps and tape machines. The relative accessibility of convenient digital recording equipment will continue to provide openings for all sorts of artists from the home musician to the professional mega bands using famous dedicated studio facilities such as the famous Abbey Road Studio in London. Recorded music will be increasingly distributed and accessed online, although legacy formats will maintain a solid niche popularity.

Live music – Live music will continue to grow in popularity to become the cornerstone for many successful artists, provided that they do not price themselves out of live appearances and that over‑zealous regulations don’t stop large live events from taking place. PA and monitoring systems will continue to improve significantly and sound pressure levels at venues will be severely restricted, removing some of the visceral excitement of the live music experience.

30 years’ hence (c.2048):

Analogue vs digital – Digital will be the primary domain in which music will be made, recorded, distributed and accessed. The guitar will remain analogue, although it is likely that the entire chain from the pickup onwards will be predominantly digital. However, as with current classical instruments and music, there will still be an important place for traditional analogue guitars. Amps and effects are likely to be almost totally digital. Successors to the analogue electromagnetic pickup and the loudspeaker will be introduced to a point that digital sound will be common if not universal. ‘Old fashioned’ guitars will remain very popular and will experience regular revivals and rejuvenations, even if the overall battle will be won by the digital technologies of the 2040s. New digital connectors will proliferate, as the currently ubiquitous USB port will long since have been superseded, and the jack pug/socket will be purely of vintage interest.

Guitar making – Most of the large manufacturers will be producing some sort of digital instrument as the norm, even if the vital interaction between fingers and strings will remain as it is now. All guitar tone woods will be derived from sustainable sources by strict regulation and use of rare species tightly controlled (outside the unavoidable black market). The use of alternative materials will be in full swing, reducing the reliance on today’s natural materials. New guitars will be built to be recyclable. Automated manufacturing will be the norm and the demand for traditionally made guitars will be catered for by numerous specialist guitar builders. Pure wooden analogue guitars will be vintage only and regarded with the same respect as classical instruments are now. Guitar development will be relegated to refinements around the margins, rather than core revolutions. Hybrid instruments will be fighting a rear‑guard action, with digital beginning to win the final battle. Competition to the guitar will continue but will not succeed… yet.

Recorded music – Digital will almost totally dominate recorded music production, distribution and access. Diehard analogue fans will be regarded as geeks and nerds. Vinyl albums will, however still persevere… just.

Live music – Like recorded music, live music will be, apart from the musicians themselves, almost universally digital. ‘Loud’ live music will be a thing of the distant past. Music venues will begin to disappear as discrete locations, with personalised performance content delivered direct to the individual.

50 years’ hence (c.2068):

Analogue vs digital – Analogue guitar music will be like classical music is today, a popular, niche and a largely historic pastime. All other aspects will be digital.

Guitar making – Standardisation and construction will be largely prescribed. Hybridisation will just about have peaked and on its way out. The majority of guitar production will move towards making AIs (Artificial Instruments). The focus will be on the technical facets of music making, rather than subjective, emotive ones. Guitars as we know them now will be of heritage interest.

Recorded music – Music will be manufactured in the digital domain with just a few maverick analogue‑obsessed musicians beavering away in the minority. The vast majority of contemporary recorded music will be created electronically, with few outmoded musical instruments as we know them now being used. Many artists will be AAs (Artificial Artists), rather than by artistically inclined human beings – the latter will concentrate on performing historic pieces from the golden heyday of guitar music.

Live music – There will no longer be a need to travel to a discrete venue where music is performed in person to a collective audience. ‘Live’ music will be created in computers, customised to an individual’s tastes and accessed in the home, in a domain known as an AV (Artificial Venue) giving the sight, sound and feel of a venue.

100+ years’ hence (c.2120):

Analogue vs digital – Analogue guitar music will be an historic vocation and largely a lifestyle pastime. All other aspects of ‘modern’ music will be entirely digital. Some authentic old‑style music will be recreated on historic instruments for research purposes, rather than as entertainment.

Guitar making – Even the last few old‑school luthiers will be migrating to alternative materials, automation and digital electronics. Hybrid instruments will be seen as a thing of the past. AIs will be commonplace and there won’t be a need for human musicians to learn the art or skills needed to make any type of contemporary music.

Recorded music – Popular music will be artificially created without the need for accomplished musicians. Music will be constantly morphing on a second‑by‑second basis, known as AM (Artificial Music).

Live music – Performance capture will be produced electronically and experienced direct by the listener’s visual and audio receptors, bypassing the unreliable eyes and ears altogether. Finally, the digital signal path from computerised source to the recipient’s brain will be complete and will require no human intervention whatsoever.

Alternative Reality

Or… in some alternative, perhaps more desirable dimension, the unwritten future could well be pretty much as it is today, with new generations doing just what we do now, rocking to good old electric guitar music. To many guitarists, the tactile and synergetic relationship between musician and his/her guitar in full flow with other musicians is unbreakable and simply cannot be usurped by some dystopian digital future scape.

One trusts that there will always be a place for creative artisans and a desire or the musically minded to enjoy the fruits of their vision for the guitar of the future. It is encouraging that many well‑known guitar makers are actually stepping back in time in order to move forward. This isn’t the paradox that it may first seem. Savvy guitar builders are investigating in great depth what made great guitars great in the first place and identifying what musicians actually want from their instruments today. Much of this current R&D is leading to a number of findings that indicate that what was important 100 and 200 years ago (and probably longer) is still important today but with modern consistency and reliability.

Perhaps the past masters did get it largely right in the first place and that is why their products, new or vintage, are still desirable artefacts today. While traditional manufacturers like C.F. Martin use modern production methods for some parts of the building process, they are also still using tools and equipment employed by successive cohorts of luthiers, as well as relying on many of the basic techniques and skills refined and passed down from one generation to the next. Most of the top flight guitar builders also work very hard to ensure long-term supplies of precious tone woods to make into future guitars. This focus on the best‑of‑the‑best perhaps suggests that guitars may well remain, for the large part, relatively familiar in 10, 30, 50 and 100 years from now but with improvements to the detail. Perhaps it takes that bold flight of fancy to realise that we already have what we and future generations of musicians actually need. Owning inspiring guitars inspires guitar playing and results in inspiring guitar music.

There really is no point in speculating any further ahead. The likelihood is that, even with advances in medical technology, most if not all of us reading this in 2018 will not be around to see anything beyond c.2020. The guitar is dead, long live the guitar. The passage of father time will inform just how accurate these flights of fantasy (or descents into nightmare) really are. Clearly, the further one looks into the future, the less precise any predictions become. Welcome to tomorrow’s very scary ‘brave new world’.

I, for one, am certainly not laying any bets. I’d like to think that there is something about our very personal instruments that will endure for many decades, if not centuries. If we lose that quintessential ‘something special’ about making guitars that make guitarists that make music, it will all have been for nothing. Watch this space.

Conclusion

So, that’s it. The long‑running and on‑going story of the guitar has finally reached a logical stopping off point, at least for now… However, it not the end of the story by any means. Somewhat disappointingly, the denouement to ‘A Potted History of the Guitar’ series seems to be a bit more of a whimper than some almighty bang. After so much history and so much personal investment in researching it, it seems a bit of a let‑down to leave the guitar’s evolution ‘hanging’ without some sort of definitive resolution to the script and with the various loose ends neatly tied up. Nevertheless, remember that this is not a fictional piece and let us not forget that this is definitely not the epilogue.

‘They’ say that a picture speaks a thousand words. So, to sum up the 3,500‑year, 8‑part journey in a single image that tells the story of the guitar from its origins to the possible near future, here is a fitting 27‑picture montage that possibly speaks approximately 50,000 words. Basically, I could have saved 9 months of my life and just posted this one composite picture. That, I guess, is one of the benefits of hindsight. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the expedition with me and that, like me, you have learned a little something about the guitar along the way. You wanted a potted history of the guitar? Well, how about…

From this point in time onwards is the start of the future and, whatever happens next. It will be fascinating to experience the on‑going next instalment of the long story and to observe with trepidation and excitement what is to unfold. Let us try to make it a bright and positive outcome for everyone who loves The Guitar and Great Guitar Music. Thank you for reading. Enjoy the future, whatever it holds for us guitar aficionados.

End of Part VIII and the end of this series

Now… I need a break from the relentless rigmarole of the research and write routine, which has, for the best part of a year (or more), been on top of everything else. As mentioned previously, at some point, I might adapt the eight separate ‘Guitar History’ parts into a more coherent and accessible feature set on the CRAVE Guitars’ web site.

Very shortly, I will try and start to prepare for 2019’s (hopefully slightly less) epic partner piece to this year’s gargantuan opener. For the rest of this year, it is back to opinionated hum‑drum ‘normality’ with stand‑alone observations of a more topical and transient nature.

One thing I have noticed is that I haven’t been playing enough guitar in recent months, hardly any at all in fact, which is deplorable. So perhaps now that this particular endeavour is over for now, it’s time to practice what I preach, pick up a lovely vintage guitar and plink away for a bit of cathartic enjoyment. At least, in doing so within the context of the past, I now have an enhanced appreciation of the history that led to it coming into my hands and why it is so important to conserve the heritage for that future. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Let’s be honest, the future is all we really have and it is the only thing we can do anything about”

© 2018 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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August 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part VI

Hello again, guitar history fans and welcome to August 2018’s article in the series on the history of the guitar. There is no point in beating about the bush, it’s time to dive right back in where we left off last month with the birth, and now – to extend the analogy – the growth of the electric guitar from early years to adolescent hood.

If you wish to recap on previous articles before starting here, the ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series, can be accessed here (each part opens in a new browser tab):

The Modern Solid Body Electric Guitar

This part of the guitar’s story covers the period of fundamental and rapid innovation as well as pragmatic entrepreneurialism that starts around the late 1940s and early 1950s, a period of intense creativity that would come to define the modern electric guitar. Once the essential foundations were laid by Rickenbacker, Gibson and a few others, the popularity of the guitar was about to explode.

Since the time of the guitar ‘big bang’, instruments would continue to be improved and refined; an incremental process that continues unabated up to the current day. However, nothing like the level of creativity that heralded the ‘dawn’ of the electric guitar era. It was the start of a so‑called ‘golden era’ that would last about 15 years.

While acoustic guitars continued to develop after the 1930s, they were just about as loud as they were going to get without some form of amplification. Electric archtop and early solid body electric guitars had started the ball rolling during the first half of the 1930s and guitarists were buying into the increasing trend for electric guitars of one sort or another.

While not alone in influencing guitar development, today’s ‘big two’ companies – Fender and Gibson – have between them, been responsible for, or at last instrumental (sic!) in, many of the major innovations and landmark electric guitars since the 1950s. Therefore, the focus here is predominantly, but not exclusively, on the contribution from these two major manufacturers.  Much credit though is due to the vast number of other guitar builders – way too many to mention them all by name – that have played their part in developing the musical landscape over the decades, and which we enjoy today. Without their competition to keep the ‘big two’ on their toes, the quality and price equation might have gone too far in opposite directions. Thankfully, there is no monopoly in the guitar market – far from it in fact – and that fact, as it turns out, is a very good thing for musicians all over the world.

However, before the story moves on to Fender and then Gibson, we need to take a short diversion before getting back on track…

Bigsby Guitars

No history of the formation of the electric guitar would be complete without some mention of Paul Adelburt Bigsby (1899-1968). P.A. Bigsby was a motorcycle racer, inventor, designer and builder based in California. Bigsby has often been quoted as saying confidently, “I can build anything”.

Historically, Bigsby might be better known for his iconic Bigsby vibrato systems. Less well known is that Bigsby was also responsible for pioneering solid body electric guitars as well as for revolutionising pedal steel guitars.

Bigsby collaborated with lap steel guitarist Earl ‘Joaquin’ Murphey (1923-1999) of Spade Cooley’s orchestra in the 1940s. Murphey helped to persuade Bigsby to start making guitars in the first place, in around 1946/1947. Bigsby built Murphey several steel guitars by 1947, with two or three necks. Murphey’s successor in Cooley’s band, another steel guitarist called Speedy West (1924-2003), not wishing to be outdone, also commissioned Bigsby to build him a custom pedal steel guitar in 1948.

Around the same time, successful country and western artist and good friend, Merle Travis (1917-1983) asked Bigsby to fix a wayward vibrato on his Gibson L-10 guitar. Bigsby subsequently went on to build a complete solid body electric guitar for Travis, based on a sketch Travis had made. Travis’s Bigsby guitar attracted a lot of attention and other artists queued up for Bigsby to make further custom guitars, including for acclaimed session guitarist with the ‘Nashville A-Team’, Grady Martin (1921‑2001).

Bigsby’s guitar designs not only seem familiar, but also seem well ahead of their time for 1948, especially when compared to anything else on the market. The Bigsby Merle Travis guitar has a single cutaway body not dissimilar to Gibson’s Les Paul models and a neck/headstock outline that bears a notable resemblance to Fender’s Stratocaster. Bigsby’s design predated both the Les Paul (1952) and the Stratocaster (1954) by several years. Many have contended that Gibson and Fender plagiarised, rather than simply being influenced by, Bigsby’s original designs. Hindsight provides the opportunity to speculate but the truth is shrouded in idle debate and misinformation.

Partly because he wanted to make most of the parts himself, Bigsby only produced a very small number of finished custom‑built instruments up until 1956, where after he concentrated on the vibrato business. However, as his guitars never entered full production, his legacy consists of a few unique examples of his craftsmanship. Unfortunately, Bigsby kept no records of his creations. The company he founded undertook extensive research and can document 47 steel guitars and only 6 standard guitars, along with a few other custom instruments surviving to the current day. Others may yet come to light at some point to be authenticated.

Bigsby’s name is now synonymous with his ubiquitous vibrato tailpieces, which have adorned countless guitars since the 1950s. Bigsby sensibly filed a patent for his ‘tailpiece vibrato’ in November 1952, which was granted by the U.S. Patent Office in March 1953. The rest, as ‘they’ say, is history.

When his health started to fail, Bigsby sold his company to retired Gibson president Ted McCarty in 1966. Paul Bigsby died 2 years later in 1968 at the age of 68. Subsequently, Gretsch bought the Bigsby enterprise from McCarty in 1999. Bigsby Guitars is now making limited edition guitars under the patronage of Gretsch.

Many of those aware of Bigsby’s pioneering work feel that he should be given greater credit for his contribution to guitar history. One might only wonder at the course of modern guitar history had Bigsby capitalised on his creative designs. Bigsby may have been first in a lot of areas but it was other companies that catered for the market and it is the commercial success brought about by mass production which is where the story then continues.

Fender Solid Body Electric Guitars

Clarence Leonidas ‘Leo’ Fender (1909-1991) was an electrical engineer by trade. He started out in business as Fender Radio Service in 1938, repairing radios, phonographs and valve amplifiers. Recognising the growing demand for his skills from the music industry, Fender looked to use his growing expertise in that area. Along with business partner and former Rickenbacker employee Clayton ‘Doc’ Kauffman, Fender co‑founded the short‑lived K&F Manufacturing Corp in 1945. K&F’s intention was to manufacture musical instruments and amplifiers, including lap steel guitars that were particularly popular at the time.

By 1946, Fender had parted ways with Kauffman and established the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, based in Fullerton, California. The company, known to most simply as Fender, has become one of the pre‑eminent and most widely recognised manufacturers of electric guitars, basses and amplifiers in the world. Historically, Fender is particularly important because of its ground breaking role in making electric instruments and amps accessible to mass markets eager for the new‑fangled technology in the 1950s.

Leo Fender’s vision had less to do with building small numbers of bespoke instruments and more to do with commercial large‑scale manufacture of instruments using tried and tested production methods. Fender wanted the electric guitar to be straightforward to manufacture as well as easy to service and maintain. Leo Fender asked George William Fullerton (1923-2009) to join the company in 1948. Fullerton’s appointment was important, as he would become a long‑term business associate not only at Fender but also in subsequent post‑Fender enterprises, including Music Man and G&L (an acronym standing for George & Leo).

Even though Fender had introduced amplifiers in 1947, Fender’s business began focusing on guitar designs and in c.1949 the company started making prototypes of what would eventually become the iconic Telecaster. The early prototypes used a body largely designed by George Fullerton. The first prototype exhibited a 3‑a‑side lap steel‑style headstock, while the second attempt looked more Fender‑like. Both prototype headstock designs bore a similarity to those seen on Bigsby’s guitars.

Fender offered the first mass-produced Spanish-style solid-body electric guitar to the public in 1950. The initial few guitars were single pickup models called the Esquire, although confusingly, a small number of Esquires were also ordered with two pickups.

The production dual pickup model was originally named the Broadcaster until Gretsch objected to the use of the name, as they had produced drums using the Broadkaster name since the 1920s. Fender complied and for a short period between February and August of 1951, the guitar appeared with no name on the headstock, leading to the popular nickname ‘Nocaster’ to describe its curious temporary anonymity.

Fender filed a patent for the Telecaster design in April 1951, which was awarded quite quickly by the U.S. Patent Office in August 1951. The familiar twin pickup single cutaway guitar, now formally named the Telecaster was made available to the public from mid‑1951 and has, remarkably, remained in continuous production ever since.

Although instantly recognisable nowadays, the Telecaster was unlike anything that had come before. The way they were put together was revolutionary; using a modular construction comprising a single cutaway slab body of solid ash wood and a removable maple neck secured by four screws on the back of the body. The simple and sturdy design proved not only resilient but also efficient and relatively cheap to manufacture using established assembly line techniques of the time.

While there have been many variants of the Telecaster over the years, including the Custom, Deluxe, Thinline and Elite, the original fundamental design elements have remained largely unchanged over many decades.

Not content with the success of the Telecaster, Fender and this team went on to design and market the enormously popular Stratocaster in 1954. Unlike the Telecaster, the Stratocaster employed a futuristic double cutaway ash body with deep rib and forearm contours for player comfort, 3 single coil pickups and a clever floating vibrato system. Fender retained the bolt‑on maple neck, albeit with a shapelier headstock than the Telecaster and eerily reminiscent of Bigsby’s earlier design. Fender filed a patent application for the Stratocaster’s ‘tremolo’ (a misnomer – it is actually a vibrato) design in August 1954, which was subsequently awarded in April 1956. The Stratocaster, like the Telecaster before it, became phenomenally successful with consumers and has been in continuous production since its launch.

Just as revolutionary for bass players, Fender also pioneered the commercially successful electric solid-body bass guitar. The Precision bass first appeared shortly after the Telecaster in 1952 and before the Stratocaster. Before the Precision, bass players had to contend with cumbersome acoustic, hollow body, fretless upright basses. The Precision was an ergonomic godsend, especially for travelling musicians. Like a guitar, the Precision featured a fretted neck making the instrument much more accessible to neophytes wanting to jump on the bandwagon of popular electric guitar music in the 1950s and 1960s. The 34”‑scale fretted neck gave practical credence to the new bass’s name – Precision. Fender filed a patent for the bass guitar in November 1952, which was awarded in March 1953.

Initially, the Precision took many design cues from the Telecaster before updates in 1954 and 1957 gave it the now‑familiar characteristics more akin to the Stratocaster. Not resting on their laurels, Fender followed up the hugely successful Precision with the twin‑pickup offset Jazz bass in 1960.

These four models – Telecaster, Stratocaster, Precision and Jazz – represented the enduring ‘core’ models around which Fender experimented with other designs. It is very unusual in industrial design history to ‘get it right’ first time and then for those products to remain relevant for over six decades (… so far, and counting). However, Fender seemed to have achieved just that. Fender, however, not content to stand still, kept innovating.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Fender also introduced two luxury contoured offset‑waist body models; the 25½”‑scale Jazzmaster in 1958 and the shorter 24”‑scale Jaguar in 1962. Both models used entirely new single coil pickups and both had separate, complex ‘rhythm’ and ‘lead’ circuits. The controls were not intuitive, which put off some players. The high‑price of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar may also have deterred customers and both models failed to attract the intended target audience – traditional jazz guitarists wedded to the competition’s archtop designs. However, both the Jazzmaster and Jaguar gained a significant boost from an unexpected source. Popular west coasts surf musicians including The Beach Boys and The Ventures adopted the new offsets and gave them some legitimacy. Ultimately though, poor sales led to Fender discontinuing the Jaguar in 1975 and the Jazzmaster in 1980. Wisely, Fender has subsequently successfully reissued both models for newer generations to discover.

One of the key success factors for Fender was the introduction of custom colour options in addition to the limited standard blonde and sunburst finishes. Custom colours were based on popular automobile paints made by DuPont during the American car craze of the 1950s. Customers could custom order new guitars from a range of exciting colour finishes for an additional 5% upcharge. Fender was also open to accepting standard colour guitars for factory refinishing in the custom colours. Popular names for the custom colours included Olympic White, Lake Placid Blue, Daphne Blue, Sonic Blue, Shoreline Gold, Burgundy Mist, Sherwood Green, Surf Green, Foam Green, Fiesta Red, Dakota Red, Candy Apple Red, and Shell Pink. Early models with genuine custom colours are relatively rare and have since become highly desirable with vintage guitar collectors; some guitars fetching a hefty premium on the vintage market compared to the standard colours. Many of those original custom colours phased out by 1969 to 1972 have now become very popular again as standard colours in the 21st Century.

Strategically, Fender tried to cover all bases by also introducing a range of short-scale (initially 22½” and then 24”) ‘student’ models including the Musicmaster (1956), Duo‑Sonic (1964), Mustang (1964) and Bronco (1967). To differentiate the ‘student’ instruments from the pro‑level models, Fender designed hardware and finishes that was unique to these models. The Musicmaster and Bronco had single pickups, while the Duo‑Sonic and Mustang had two pickups. The Mustang and Bronco also featured bespoke vibrato systems while the Musicmaster and Duo‑Sonic had fixed bridges. While these budget models have found a strong following by those in the know, they have had chequered histories, all having been discontinued and reissued over the years. Seen as peripheral to the ‘core’ classics, the high volume low cost guitars undeservedly attract a lower profile and lower resale values on the vintage collector market despite being made at the same factory, by the same staff, using the same materials and tools.

In the minds of most guitarists, Fender was a solid‑body guitar maker. After the failure of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar to persuade traditionalists to change brand, Fender attempted to compete with Gibson’s popular ES range of semi‑acoustic guitars. Fender introduced the fully hollow‑body Coronado in 1966, designed by German luthier and Rickenbacker guitar designer Roger Rossmeisl. The Coronado retained Fender’s ‘bolt‑on’ maple necks with six‑a‑side headstocks, although the pickups used were unusually DeArmond single coil models. Unfortunately for Fender, the ill‑fated Coronado proved a commercial failure and was discontinued in 1972. After a short‑lived venture into archtop jazz guitars with the rare Montego and LTD models between 1968 and 1972, Fender tried again in1976 with the introduction of the upmarket semi‑hollow humbucker‑equipped Starcaster. Like the valiant attempts before it, the Starcaster met with the same consumer resistance and proved equally unsuccessful, resulting in it being summarily discontinued in 1982. Notably, both the Coronado and Starcaster models were reissued by Fender in 2013 and continue in production today.

There have been many other Fender solid body electric guitars over the years including the Bass V & VI, the Electric XII, Bullet and Lead amongst numerous others.  In addition, there were many variations on a theme, for instance the Coronado came in Antigua, Wildwood, XII and bass versions. Similarly, the Musicmaster and Mustang also had short‑scale bass models. Other examples include parts‑bin oddities like the Swinger and Maverick. Many later experiments were undertaken by the Japanese arm of Fender without any risk to the company’s ‘Made in USA’ standing. Japanese‑only models include the Performer, Katana and the Gibson‑like set neck Flame. Many of these low volume under‑the‑radar guitar models are often described as ‘forgotten Fenders’.

As covered in Part IV of the story, Fender has also sustained a very successful line of guitar and bass amplifiers dating from the late 1940s right through to the current day, including landmark valve amps such as the Princeton, Champ, Bassman and the mighty Twin Reverb (among many others). Like Marshall and Vox from the UK, Fender amps have become synonymous with modern electric guitar music.

The successful honeymoon period for Fender was, however, not destined to last forever. In early 1965, Leo Fender sold his company to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), reportedly for $13m. Despite investment and efforts to diversify the product lines, manufacturing quality varied considerably due to poor management and cost cutting, particularly during the 1970s. Industry reputation and credibility waned and Fender sales suffered significantly, especially in the face of aggressive competition from Japan. One of the strategies adopted by Japanese companies at the time was, despite the existence of U.S. patents, to flagrantly copy American guitar designs. Japanese companies produced large numbers of guitars built to high standards and sold at low prices. This shameless targeting of American products placed an already struggling Fender under considerable pressure. By 1981, Fender had brought in Dan Smith from Yamaha as Marketing Director to oversee selective guitar redesigns and, along with Fender luthier (and founder of the Fender Custom Shop) John Page, to breathe new life into Fender’s fortunes.

After making considerable improvements across the business, 20 years after being sold to CBS, a management buyout was initiated by CEO William Schultz (1926‑2006). In retrospect, Schultz is now widely regarded as ‘the man who saved Fender’. Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company was acquired from CBS by its own employees in 1985 and the newly privatised company was renamed Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC). The sale did not, however, include the existing Fullerton factory, so Fender was forced to construct a new plant at Corona, California which started limited manufacturing in late 1985.

After two years of restructuring the business, the post‑CBS Fender American Standard Stratocaster was introduced in 1987. While superficially similar to previous models, the American Standard was a significant model that signified the company’s return to form and commercial prosperity. In the same year (1987), Fender set up their in‑house Custom Shop (nicknamed ‘The Dream Factory’), based at their Corona facility in California. The aim of the Custom Shop was to showcase just what Fender’s master luthiers were capable of building.

Fender’s headquarters are now based in Scottsdale, Arizona, with North American manufacturing facilities in Corona, California, and Ensenada in Mexico. Off-shore production of budget Squier guitars and basses is based in Korea and Japan. Fender has continued to innovate, introducing ‘custom shop’, ‘vintage reissue’ and ‘relic’ instruments and a range of electronics to a market hungry to recapture the ‘golden years’ of pre‑CBS Fender instruments and amps.

We have become so familiar with the Fender Telecaster, Stratocaster and Precision, that we sometimes forget just how revolutionary these designs actually were back in the 1950s and what they, perhaps unwittingly, came to represent. Looking a little more broadly helps to put things into context. Loud and brash electric guitars undoubtedly helped to define the musical uprising brought about by the advent of rock ‘n’ roll. At the same time, a western social and cultural transformation was taking place in the wake of post‑WWII austerity and despite prevailing conservative Cold War political paranoia. Affluent and often puritanical middle class values allied to consumers’ relentless drive to satisfy materialistic aspiration were fuelled by media, film and television. Opposing the status quo was a growing urban resentment, an angry youthful rebellion boosted by emerging anti‑conformist liberalism and radical demands for greater personal freedoms. Fundamental change was, arguably, inevitable. The turmoil created in the 1950s began to reshape the fabric of society in both the U.S. and the UK and this, in turn, propelled musical experimentation and creativity at a pace never seen before. Fender’s electric guitars not only enabled that particular wave to be ridden with verve, passion and a certain degree of teenage angst, but also came to symbolise many defining events for a frustrated generation, a subversive movement that would last well into the 1960s. When Marlon Brando was asked the question in the film ‘The Wild One’ (1953), “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” he retorted disinterestedly “whadda you got?” For a while at least, it was hip to be cool and cool to be hip.

If there are any guitars that qualify for the terms ‘iconic’, ‘classic’ and ‘industry standard’, these original Fender models have to be up there with the best and most enduring industrial design wonders of all time. In particular, the timeless design of the ‘Tele’ and the ‘Strat’ have persisted in the minds of guitarists over many decades, and will surely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Those ‘new’ guitars back in the 1950s are now hugely valuable vintage instruments and are part of our collective music heritage. Vintage Fender guitars, basses and amplifiers are much sought after by collectors, musicians, dealers and enthusiasts alike, with many key models originally made prior to the CBS takeover in 1965 now reaching high vintage guitar market values. Authentic vintage instruments associated with successful artists (and with documented provenance) attract an even higher price premium on the collectable market, for instance, Eric Clapton’s famous c.1956 ‘Blackie’, which was sold for $959,500 to Guitar Center at Christie’s in New York in 2005.

Gibson Solid Body Electric Guitars

The history of Gibson guitars is much longer than that of its main current‑day rival Fender and much of this has already been covered elsewhere. The crucial part that Gibson played in this stage of guitar evolution is picked up again here in the mid‑20th Century.

During the 1940s, popular American jazz guitarist, performer and musical inventor Les Paul (1915-2009) – born Lester William Polsfuss – had become increasingly unhappy with the compromises experienced by electric acoustic archtop guitars. In an attempt to overcome the shortcomings, Les Paul had been actively experimenting with guitar design from around 1939. A famous early prototype electric guitar assembled by Les Paul out of hours at the Epiphone factory around 1940 was nicknamed ‘the log’, which was essentially a solid piece of 4”x4” pine timber running the length of the body, providing the base for the strings, bridge assembly and pickups. To make the design appear more guitar‑like, Les Paul attached a traditional guitar neck and two hollow guitar ‘wings’ from an Epiphone archtop on either side of the ‘plank’.

Les Paul had originally approached Gibson as early as 1941 but no interest was shown by the company.  He tried again in 1945 or 1946 and his ideas were once again rejected. It wasn’t until 1950 that newly‑appointed Gibson president, Theodore ‘Ted’ McCarty (1909-2001) brought in Les Paul to act as a consultant in response to Fender’s newly launched solid body electric guitars. Like Leo Fender, McCarty could not play the guitar, so he worked very closely with those who could.

In 1951, Gibson began producing prototypes of a solid body electric guitar designed by McCarty in consultation with Les Paul. One of the many prototype designs (shown following restoration below) is relatively close to the final production in all but detail.

Gibson was already losing ground, and business, following the introduction of Fender solid body guitars that appealed to young musicians exploring new musical ideas. To many consumers, Gibson’s models were seen as staid and, compared to the modernistic Stratocaster, frankly old fashioned, tired and boring. For Gibson, it was important that any sold body electric guitar design would be all‑new while also remaining consistent with the values, quality and reputation of the company. It was also crucial that the new instrument would be quite different from Gibson’s competition, whether existing or emerging. Crucially, before the new guitar was launched, McCarty agreed a deal with Les Paul for it to carry Les Paul’s name on the headstock and for him to be an integral part of Gibson’s advertising campaign.

In July 1952, Gibson launched the now-iconic solid-bodied guitar, the Gibson Les Paul Model, finished in metallic gold, equipped with dual P90 pickups and a trapeze tailpiece similar to those found on the company’s archtop guitars. For a number of years, the Les Paul Model and its variants were the only solid body guitars made by Gibson. The range was extended from the basic ‘gold top’ to the upmarket black and gold Les Paul Custom in 1953 featuring a standard bridge, one P90 pickup and a unique Alnico V ‘staple’ pickup at the neck, a unique design intended to appeal to jazz guitarists.

To broaden appeal, Gibson introduced two affordable slab‑body single cutaway Les Paul models, the Junior with a single P90 pickup in 1954 and Special with dual‑P90 pickups in 1955. These rather utilitarian models retained the body outline but with few of the upmarket features of the carved‑top Les Pauls.

By 1957, the Les Paul’s P90 single coil pickups began to be replaced with Gibson’s PAF (Patent Applied For) humbucking pickup. The process started with the now‑iconic 3‑pickup Les Paul Custom ‘Black Beauty’.

1958 saw the Junior and Special updated to a new double cutaway body and the option of cherry or outrageous TV Yellow, a colour allegedly designed to show up well on black & white TV screens of the time.

Following poor sales of the original Les Paul ‘gold top’ model, the guitar was rejuvenated in 1958 by renaming it the Standard. The Standard’s specification was changed substantially – a cherry sunburst finish was applied to a maple‑capped mahogany body, the PAF pickups became the norm and a tune‑o‑matic bridge and ‘stop’ tailpiece were standardised. Some, but not all, of the tops exhibited an attractive matched 2‑piece ‘flame’ maple top. Around 1,700 of the now‑legendary ‘Burst’ Les Paul Standards were produced between 1958 and 1960 and all have become highly collectable on the vintage guitar market. The original sunburst Standards have become the aspiration of many guitar enthusiasts. These rare instruments are widely regarded as representing the epitome of Gibson guitar’s ‘golden age’.

The Les Paul models weren’t the only new instruments aiming to establish Gibson’s electric guitar credentials. The late 1950s saw a number of new guitar designs including the McCarty‑designed ES-335 semi‑acoustic, which first appeared in 1958. The ES‑335 was significant because of a solid centre block running through the body and on which the pickups and bridge were mounted, essentially much like Les Paul’s ‘log’ experiment. The semi‑hollow body construction was important in reducing acoustic feedback in high gain situations compared to fully‑hollow archtops. Gibson also released a lower cost hollow‑body ES model with dual P90s, called the ES-330 and two upmarket siblings, the ES‑345 and ES‑355.

The late 1950s was a period of intense innovation at Gibson. In addition to the Les Paul and the ES series, Gibson designed two ‘modernistic’ guitars intended to compete with Fender’s popular solid guitars, the Explorer and Flying V, both of which were introduced in 1958. A third ‘modernistic’ series model, the Moderne, was patented and prototypes might have been constructed but no actual verified examples have ever come to light, let alone reached the vintage collector market. The Moderne has become something of a myth and an original 1950s example is seen by many collectors as the ‘Holy Grail of guitar collecting’. Gibson (re‑)issued a Moderne in small numbers in the early 1980s and again occasionally since.

While the futuristic Flying V and Explorer models were well ahead their time, sales of these radical instruments was very poor. In 1958, Gibson sold only 81 Flying Vs and 19 Explorers. The following year (1959), only 17 Flying Vs and 3 Explorers were sold. It is hardly surprising then that both models were withdrawn by 1959-1960. A few further examples were constructed in the early 1960s from parts. As only small numbers of the original release Explorers and Flying Vs were made, they have become very highly sought after and valued. Gibson, however, would return to these original designs and has successfully reissued both the Flying V and Explorer many years later.

Like Fender, Gibson recognised that they had to cater for the lower end of the market in order to attract new and younger players to the fold. In order to make budget guitars accessible without affecting sales of their premium models, Gibson introduced a range of simple low cost ‘student’ guitars, called the Melody Maker, from 1959. The basic Melody Makers, featuring distinctive narrow headstocks, slab bodies and all‑new Fender‑like narrow single coil pickups, were produced in large numbers at Gibson’s Kalamazoo plant alongside the classics. The Melody Maker’s body shape went through four incarnations during its lifetime, with only 2 bearing a similarity to existing Gibson electrics. Although the Melody Makers proved very popular and sold in large numbers, they were nevertheless withdrawn by 1971. Gibson has re‑used the Melody Maker name on a number of occasions since the original models.

Despite the now‑legendary reputation of the Les Paul Standard, sales of the model remained relatively stagnant and, in 1961, Gibson were forced to take action. Effectively, production of the Les Paul ceased and a new design was introduced in 1961, even though it retained the ‘Les Paul’ moniker.  The new model was another design shift with a thin double cutaway mahogany body with contoured upper bouts and pointed ‘devil’ horns. Allegedly, Les Paul didn’t favour the guitar’s design and no longer wanted to be associated with it. In addition, Les Paul separated from his wife Mary Ford and the divorce settlement may also have been a pecuniary factor in his decision to drop his name from the guitar. By 1963, after Les Paul’s name was removed, the model was re‑designated the Gibson SG (standing for ‘Solid Guitar’). The Gibson SG has remained in continuous production since 1961 and, ironically, it has become the company’s most commercially successful model in Gibson’s long history. Like the single cutaway Les Paul before it, the SG model came in a number of variants, the single‑P90 Junior, the dual‑P90 Special, dual‑humbucker Standard and 3‑humbucker Custom.

The single cutaway Gibson Les Paul may have gone but it was not forgotten. It reappeared in 1968, and then only after second hand guitars became popular at around the time of the British blues explosion, led by guitarists such as Eric Clapton and Peter Green, as well as other contemporary musicians of the time, including Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Paul Kossoff. The Les Paul has had numerous variants over the years including notable models such as the Les Paul Deluxe, Professional, Recording, Artisan and Studio models, and many guitarists have had signature models released to celebrate the artists’ association with the company.  Since its reintroduction in the late 1960s, the Les Paul has remained in continuous production and, along with the Fender Stratocaster, it has become one of the most recognisable design icons of modern‑day guitar music.

Gibson continued to innovate into the early 1960s, introducing more convention‑busting designs. McCarty, hired famed car designer Ray Dietrich (1894‑1980) to cash in on the American automotive craze of the time. The new model was called the Firebird, which featured a more rounded‑off Explorer‑like outline, through‑body construction and rear‑facing banjo tuners. These first Firebirds, produced in 1963‑1964, were known informally as ‘reverse’ bodied because the upper treble bout was more pronounced than the bass bout. Again, due to poor sales and high manufacturing costs, Gibson simplified the fundamentals and ‘flipped’ the body to produce the ‘non‑reverse’ Firebird, made between 1965 and 1969, when it was withdrawn. As with many of other unsuccessful early Gibson solid body designs, the company has reissued the Firebird in both ‘reverse’ and ‘non‑reverse’ formats since. Other variants were made including the 12‑string Firebird XII and the Thunderbird bass.

McCarty stood down from Gibson in 1966 and became president of Bigsby Guitars. McCarty later collaborated with, influenced and mentored up‑and‑coming ambitious American luthier Paul Reed Smith of PRS Guitars. Smith honoured McCarty’s contribution to guitar building by dedicating him with a PRS McCarty model. McCarty died in 2001 at the age of 91.

As with competitors, Fender, Gretsch and Rickenbacker, the 1970s was a period of controversial experimentation while under ‘corporate’ ownership. Gibson produced many other solid body electric guitars than have been mentioned so far. Among the many ‘forgotten Gibsons’ of the period, there are some notable examples, including the Challenger, Corvus, Firebrand, Invader, L6-S, Marauder, RD series, S‑1, Sonex‑180 and the Victory.

While Gibson may have had considerable success with guitars, it has never quite found the same formula for basses, amps and acoustics as some of its competitors, including Fender. That doesn’t mean to say they haven’t made notable examples; they have, it’s just that they haven’t had the popular impact and longevity to warrant mainstream success alongside the recognised ‘classics’.

After McCarty’s departure, Gibson came under increasing commercial pressure. Things came to a head in 1969, when Gibson’s parent company, Chicago Musical Instruments Ltd (CMI) was taken over by a South American brewing company called ECL and then became a subsidiary of Norlin Musical Instruments in 1974. In the same year, Norlin shifted production of Gibson guitars from its long‑term home in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Nashville, Tennessee. In 1984, Gibson finally closed its old factory at Kalamazoo.

Following a similar pattern to Fender’s travails at the time, Gibson underwent a period of poor quality control and severe financial difficulties, often blamed on corporate interference by executives who knew little about, and cared little for, the company’s pedigree and its customer base. Ultimately, as happened with Fender, the company returned to private ownership in January 1986 to focus on its core business. The Gibson Guitar Corporation was close to liquidation when it was bought by three businessmen, Henry E. Juszkiewicz, David H. Berryman and Gary A. Zebrowski. Under the new management, the business was once again repositioned as a maker of high quality professional musical instruments.

While production of Gibson’s sold body guitars remained in Nashville, further production plants were also opened in Memphis, Tennessee (1984) for semi‑hollow models, as well as Bozeman, Montana (1989) for acoustic guitars. After having bought out its main American competitor Epiphone in 1957, Gibson strategically repositioned Epiphone as a budget brand and relocated production of Epiphone guitars to Japan in 1970 and then to Korea in 1983, mainly producing low‑cost versions of famous Gibson models.

In order to cater for the more exclusive end of the market, Gibson produced select instruments under an in‑house Custom Shop operation. Juszkiewicz built on the internal Custom Shop operations, the roots of which date back to around 1984 (3 years before Fender established its Custom Shop), and which became a separate facility based in Nashville from October 1993.

The Gibson Guitar Corporation, still a private company, has its headquarters based in Nashville, Tennessee and continues to develop and produce high quality instruments into the 21st century. However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Gibson. In May 2018, after a period of unsuccessful diversification into peripheral consumer electronics products and rapidly rising debts, Gibson entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. The widely anticipated move was intended to give the company sufficient time to restructure the business, with Henry Juszkiewicz still as CEO. Gibson intends to focus on profitable core musical instrument products, while divesting itself of the remainder of its ill‑fated and loss‑making lifestyle ventures. It is likely that Gibson’s rationalisation programme will succeed and the company will avoid liquidation. Like the phoenix symbolised on its Firebird guitars, Gibson will surely rise again from the ashes and achieve long‑term financial security.

Many vintage Gibson solid body electric guitars are highly regarded by collectors, musicians and enthusiasts alike, with many key models reaching high or very prices on the vintage guitar market with the 1959 sunburst Gibson Les Paul Standard is held in particularly high esteem. It will be interesting to see if a resurgent Gibson will be able to recapture the pinnacles of past glory. Watch this space…

Other Major American Electric Guitar Brands

While it might seem from the previous two sections that Fender and Gibson were the only companies responsible for all the key milestones in the solid guitar’s evolution, this is in fact far from reality. There have been innumerable manufacturers from around the globe that have been highly influential in shaping the market.

Epiphone – Epiphone’s illustrious history dates back to 1873 when the Stathopoulo family emigrated from Greece, via Turkey, and arrived in New York in 1903. The family set up a business in America making banjos and mandolins. By the end of WWI, the company became ‘The House Of Stathopoulo’, then changed its name to the ‘Epiphone Banjo Company’ in 1928, the same year that they started producing acoustic guitars. The name Epiphone derived from a combination of owner Epaminondas Stathopoulo’s nickname, ‘Epi’, and the Greek word ‘phon-’ meaning ‘sound’ or ‘voice’. In addition to musical instruments, Epiphone started producing amplifiers in 1935. Epiphone was Gibson’s main competitor in the production of high‑quality instruments, particularly archtop guitars in the 1930s and 1940s, such as the De Luxe, Broadway and Triumph models. It was only after World War II that Epiphone began to struggle, eventually resulting in its acquisition by Gibson in 1957. Initially, the new generation of Epiphone guitars were still made in Gibson’s American facilities, even though many of their instruments were re‑branded Gibson models. During the 1960s, Epiphone’s Casino, which was effectively their version of the Gibson ES-330, became particularly famous because of an association with English pop/rock band The Beatles. In recent decades, the Epiphone brand has come to represent the affordable end of Gibson’s output, complementing the parent company’s product lines. In the early 1970s manufacturing was migrated to the Far East, first in Japan, then Korea and, since 2004, Epiphone guitars have been made in a dedicated factory in Qingdao, China. Other well‑known model Epiphone names from their past include Emperor, Riviera, Sheraton, Olympic, Wilshire and Crestwood.

Gretsch – Another famous manufacturer with a long history dating back to 1883 is Gretsch. The company was founded by Friedrich Gretsch (c.1856-1895). Gretsch arrived as a 17 year old German immigrant to the United States in 1872. By 1883, aged 27, Gretsch was manufacturing banjos, tambourines, and drums from a modest shop in Brooklyn, New York. It wasn’t until the big band era of the 1930s that guitars became part of Gretsch’s core business with models like the Synchromatic and Electromatic. Gretsch became hugely successful with the explosion of blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll music in the 1950s. The man behind many of Gretsch’s iconic designs including the flamboyant White Falcon was guitarist Jimmie Webster (1908‑1979), who worked as sales and demonstration representative for Gretsch. NB. Webster was known as the inventor of the ‘Touch System’ of playing in the 1950s, popularised by Van Halen as ‘two‑hand tapping’ in the late 1970s. The demand for Gretsch guitars during this period enabled Gretsch to compete head on with Gibson and Fender. Gretsch’s association with guitarist Chet Atkins propelled their now‑iconic 6120 from 1955 to massive popularity. Like many other companies in the 1960s, Gretsch struggled and was bought out by Baldwin Pianos in 1967. By 1981, after a period of significant decline Baldwin finally wound up production of Gretsch instruments. Fred W. Gretsch purchased the brand name in 1985 and several attempts were made to restart production, including manufacturing in the Far East. Gretsch has been under Fender patronage since 2002 with Fender having the controlling interest and the Gretsch family retaining ownership. A rejuvenated Gretsch company, with Fender’s support and endorsement from rockabilly guitarist Brian Setzer has, once again, become successful. Well‑known model Gretsch names from their history include the White Falcon, Country Gentleman, Tennessean, Viking, Anniversary, Jet and Corvette, often carrying obscure and confusing numerical model numbers.

Rickenbacker – Rickenbacker’s history is shorter than some of its competitors and has been widely covered in other parts of the guitar’s story. Rickenbacker only emerged in the early 1930s first as Ro‑Pat‑In then as Electro before formally adopting the Rickenbacker name. Rickenbacker was crucial in the early development of the electric guitar. However, it wasn’t until the late 1950s that Rickenbacker’s fortunes found a new lease of life and took a major upturn that would lead to the current day. In 1953, Adolph Rickenbacker sold his company to music industry businessman F.C. Hall (1909‑1999), founder and CEO of media company Radio-Tel. Under Hall’s ambitious leadership, the company introduced a number of innovative guitar models, which proved popular with many bands during the nascent rock ‘n’ roll era. In an inspired move, Halll hired illustrious guitar maker Roger Rossmeisl (1927-1979) in 1954. Rossmeisl was responsible for the design of Rickenbacker guitars including a number of iconic instruments released in the late 1950s, including the ‘Capri’ 300 series guitars from 1958 and the equally influential 4000 series basses from 1957. Both of these designs, along with a number of others, are still in production today. Rickenbacker’s artist association with, particularly, The Beatles and The Byrds in the 1960s, cemented the brand’s rightful place in guitar history.

Danelectro – While it may not be an obvious choice for coverage, it is worth mentioning Danelectro. The company was founded in 1947 by Lithuanian immigrant Nathan ‘Nat’ Daniel (1912-1994) and based in New Jersey. The company started out by making guitars, basses and baritones for other companies including Silvertone models for the Sears & Roebuck department stores and mail order, and Airline models for Montgomery Ward. The strategy enabled Danelectro to start making guitars using its own name by 1954. Daniel innovated by using unorthodox materials and construction techniques, at least hitherto unusual in the guitar building industry. The resulting instruments have a distinctive look and sound that also enabled the company to produce no-frills instruments at competitive prices for the mass market. In a clever move under the Silvertone brand, they produced guitars with a valve amp built into the guitar case, so customers could buy everything they needed in one convenient, portable package. The brand is important historically because it enabled many young aspiring musicians to buy instruments at low cost. The unique approach also attracted many professional players to use Danelectro instruments, including guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Page and Beck. Like many other American companies, including Fender and Gibson, Danelectro struggled in the 1960s and was sold to industry giant MCA in 1966, only for the factory to be closed down in 1969. The brand was resurrected and started making guitars again in 2006.

PRS – Compared to some of the well established brands that have been around much longer, PRS Guitars is really the new‑kid‑on‑the‑block, founded by American luthier Paul Reed Smith in Annapolis, Maryland in 1984. In a relatively short period of time, PRS has gained an enviable reputation for high quality instruments and amps, cleverly finding a niche in the market that is different from their competitors. Taking design influences from Fender and Gibson amongst others and adding something new and fresh of their own, PRS managed to build substantial market share rapidly from seemingly nowhere.  Having guitarist Carlos Santana on board from the start and bringing in ex‑Gibson president Ted McCarty as Smith’s mentor didn’t harm the company’s credibility either. PRS introduced stunning instruments, starting with the Standard and Custom, recognised for their immaculate craftsmanship. Many PRS instruments have distinctive features including exquisite highly figured tone woods, superbly engineered hardware and distinctive unique ‘bird’ fingerboard inlays. The company grew swiftly; relocating to a major new American factory in 1996 and from 2003 PRS established a range of more affordable SE (standing for ‘Student Edition’) models manufactured in Korea. PRS’s success demonstrates that the industry’s barriers to entry are not insurmountable and with the right strategy, it is still possible to enter the market and to grow market share despite well‑established competition, and without being straightjacketed by historical constraints.

Other Guitar Brands From Around the World

Guitar design, production and sales are not restricted to just a few large American companies. In America alone, there are many thousands of guitar manufacturers past and present. Many names will be familiar, such as Ernie Ball/Music Man, Peavey, Guild, Jackson, Dean, BC Rich, Ovation, Supro, National, Kay, Harmony, etc., through to innumerable custom and boutique luthiers. Some of these manufacture instruments in the U.S. while others are American companies that source part or all of their guitars from the Far East. A quick look around the globe highlights many other fertile guitar making territories…

Europe – Particularly following World War II when embargoes and tight trade restrictions limited exports of guitars from America, a combination of high demand for guitars and low supply provided an opportunity for some enterprising European companies to fill the gap. Many of these guitars followed the influence of American designs in the knowledge that young people in Europe aspired to emulate their American counterparts. Britain and continental Europe have produced many guitar brands over a long period of time including from illustrious companies such as Burns, Duesenberg, Eko, Framus, Hagstrom, Höfner, Hohner, Patrick James Eggle, Shergold, Gordon Smith, James Trussart, Vigier, Vox, Warwick, Watkins, Zemaitis, etc.

Far East – The Far East isn’t only responsible for producing low cost guitars for American and European guitar brands. During the 1970s, Japanese firms were producing affordable, high quality copies of American guitars, taking advantage of high labour prices and poor quality control in the U.S. However, there has also been a notable history of guitar manufacture in its own right, including some very quirky and idiosyncratic models. Many of the big names from Japan include, Aria, ESP/LTD, Ibanez, Italia, Teisco Tokai, Yamaha, etc.

Eastern Bloc – While not widely recognised as a guitar‑making region, largely because of its nationalistic political regime and economic protectionism, the Eastern Bloc countries have produced a diverse range of instruments over an extended period of time. There is a vast array of models bearing many unfamiliar names such as, Aelita, Formanta, Jolana, Migma, Tokina, etc.

As you might expect, the fascination with the world’s favourite instrument is genuinely global and they have been made in every corner of the world, including Australia, Canada, South America and, to a lesser extent, the middle east (where the guitar’s story began after all!) and Africa.

Other Factors

Although this section focuses on electric guitar production, it is worth remembering that acoustic guitar manufacturing is also thriving in the 21st Century with famous specialist brands such as Martin (based in Pennsylvania since 1833) and Taylor (based in California since 1974) at the forefront of innovation and technological development. Of the major American electric guitar makers, it is only really Gibson that also has a reputable range of professional acoustic instruments. Elsewhere, Yamaha has a strong range of Far Eastern acoustic guitars. There are numerous other manufacturers to be found producing fine acoustic guitars at all price points in the market.

The 21st Century landscape of guitar production is one of global diversity and differentiation. Modern guitars may have been hugely influenced, if not defined, by a small number of American companies but it is by no means a monopolistic industry; quite the opposite in reality. The long‑term viability of guitar making is inextricably linked to the music industry and what happens will rely heavily on musical trends and influences.

There have been many challenges to the dominance of the electric guitar, notably during the 1980s and 1990s with proliferation of synthesizers and in the 2000s as home production of electronic music became affordable and accessible. However, the popularity of the guitar seems (relatively) assured, despite many cynical commentators regularly proclaiming ‘the death of guitar music’. Digital technology is bringing a new challenge to guitar makers, so it will be up to countless luthiers around the world to rise to the challenge, seek new opportunities, adapt the guitar and make it truly a universal instrument and secure its future success for generations to come.

End of Part VI

Over these last six instalments, I have covered the guitar’s history from its vestigial beginnings in the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’ to the birth and proliferation of the electric guitar. There is just a little of the long and winding path left to travel and I hope you’ll join me for the remainder of the story. The next article has yet to be written, due to personal circumstances. While I hope to publish it next month, it is by no means certain. Fingers crossed. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Contrary to popular opinion, great minds most definitely do not think alike. Similarly, great musicians do not play or sound alike.”

© 2018 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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October 2017 – What Qualifies As A CRAVE Guitar?

When canvassing ideas for this month’s article, I was asked why I don’t feature bass guitars to the same extent as the 6-stirngers. I did point out that CRAVE Guitars is already home to Fender Precision and Music Man Stingray basses. However, such simple questions tend to switch on my stream of consciousness. Not content with answering just this question, I thought I might as well address the similar query I have been asked about acoustic guitars as well as other instruments, accessories, merchandise and even non‑guitar‑related stuff! There are not many pictures this month, as the narrative is mainly explanatory.

The short and simple answer is contained in the acronym C.R.A.V.E. (Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric) Guitars so, if that satisfies your curiosity, you can safely stop reading now. For the masochists out there, a little (!) more exposition is required; sorry.

Expanding the acronym is, however, probably a good place to start, so let’s begin with perhaps the most problematic letter…

C is for Cool (Adj.)

For starters, this has nothing to do with temperature. The cool I am talking about is a very subjective, value-laden word with many subtle and indefinable nuances. In its colloquial context, it can mean ‘excellent’ or ‘alright’, as well as ‘fashionable’ or ‘hip’. Slang dictionaries also cite ‘awesome’ or ‘trendy’. These all seem to me to be both superficial and insufficient when trying to convey what I understand cool to mean. To make it easier, perhaps, these adjectives convey a bit more relevance if suffixed with the word ‘dude’.

In relation to the world’s favourite musical instrument, there are the mainstream guitars, most of which have an inherent level of cool anyway and, as you are reading this article, I don’t think I need to state the bleeding obvious, especially where vintage is also a contributory factor (see ‘V’ below). It is, perhaps, the more unusual guitars, which to me radiate cool. Cool transcends simple descriptions such as character or quirkiness.

How on earth does a guitar become and stay cool, and is there a standardised unit of measurement to quantify just how much cool something has? Quite simply, it simply isn’t that simple. For a guitar to be cool it has to exude some sort of cachet or ooze some sort of wow factor. It may have some quintessential ingredient that makes it irresistibly, achingly desirable to those in the know. Things that are cool are utterly seductive despite any objective rational thinking to the contrary (it may be non‑PC but the same goes for women!).

What one person thinks of as cool can be a complete anathema to someone else, while another person may be completely oblivious to it. This suggests that cool is therefore intrinsically a very personal thing. The fascinating thing about cool is when there is an unwritten collective agreement and a shared understanding that something is more than it appears to be on the face of it. Cool, to me, is therefore an unconscious state of mind that has no palpable embodiment.

Sustained cool that is appreciated by like-minded people can lead to a cult status amongst a relatively small proportion of the population, which everyone else completely fails to grasp. Cool therefore also has a degree of exclusivity. Cool cannot be a universally accepted characteristic; it will always be appreciated by the few and ignored by the many. If something becomes popular on the mass market, it automatically ceases to be cool.

Last month, I mentioned the Fender Bronco, a modest single pickup offset ‘student’ guitar that languished in the vintage guitar doldrums until Alex Turner and Arctic Monkeys burst onto the scene. The band was considered cool and the instruments that they used suddenly became cool simply by association. Consequently, the broad appeal for the Bronco coalesced pretty much overnight. Broncos are still cool and attract vintage guitar market values that were unheard of before the band came to prominence. There are plenty of other examples; for instance, would the humble Danelectro 3021 be the icon that it is today without Jimmy Page or the Airline J.B. Hutto be so sought after if not for Jack White?

The transferable phenomenon suggests that cool by association can be infectious. Cool is, however, not physical or perpetual, as it can disappear just as quickly and inexplicably as it appeared in the first place. Furthermore, you cannot make cool, sell cool, buy cool, or pass something off as cool if it isn’t. It therefore exhibits an unusual characteristic of being both intangible and valuable at the same time.

CRAVE Guitars isn’t about what I think other people may like, it is primarily about what I like. I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to try to tell you whether CRAVE Guitars’ instruments are cool or not, that is for you to decide for yourself. I just hope that I have a certain taste that others can appreciate and relate with. However, just for the record, I think they are pretty darn cool individually and, perhaps more importantly as a ‘collection’. I try to raise awareness of some interesting guitars (and amps/effects) and then pose some questions to challenge broadly held preconceptions. Perhaps you might make the irrational shift of ill‑informed choice and agree with the dude (or not, I sure ain’t gonna argue!).

R is for Rare (Adj.)

You’d think this would be obvious… but there is more to it than that. Rare in this context doesn’t actually mean that they are all genuinely scarce in absolute terms. By rare here, I mean that they are limited in number and therefore finite because there cannot be any more new guitars for a certain model from a certain manufacturer for any given year. This is an undeniable fact.

By rare, I’m also suggesting that each one is essentially irreplaceable. If a vintage guitar is destroyed or dismantled, there is a unit reduction in the total number of that model that will ever be available. Whether there were only ever just a handful or many thousands of a particular model produced, there will only be a certain number of each guitar in existence that can feed the vintage guitar market now or in the future. Newer instruments will eventually become vintage but these will be additional to, not substitutes for, what went before.

In addition, each vintage instrument will now be absolutely unique in its own way. Several or many decades of (ab)use bestow certain vestiges of age that are individual to that instrument and which cannot be reproduced (sorry, relic fans). It is this distinctive and natural aging that gives an instrument its uniqueness. Even better if guitars have some sort of genuine story associated with them (or sense of mystery if not).

I should also say that rare in this context does not imply value – there are many other characteristics in addition to rarity that dictate whether a guitar is valuable or not. None of CRAVE Guitars’ instruments are truly valuable, sadly, I wish they were. However, some guitars are rarer than others and therefore have a degree of interest associated with them purely because there are not many of them to go around. Others were mass produced at the time and remain plentiful on the vintage market but only for the time being, as attrition will inevitably occur. Just because something is (relatively) abundant, it doesn’t diminish its appeal.

& – At his point, I might as well comment on the ‘&’ in the CRAVE acronym. It doesn’t mean that every guitar is Cool AND Rare. These adjectives are not mutually exclusive. To be honest, a title where the ‘&’ means ‘cool and/or rare; possibly one or the other, perhaps both or maybe neither’ doesn’t make any sense. It is therefore not a qualifier; it is simply a necessary vehicle of the English language, so get over it grammar pedants (say I hypocritically).

A is for American (Adj.)

You might also think that this criterion is straightforward and, of course, it isn’t. Some guitars in the CRAVE family are all-American, which makes things simple. Some, however, have original materials and/or parts imported from other countries. As far as I am aware, none of my guitars (or basses) were wholly manufactured outside America.

I would actually argue that there have been very few instruments that are actually 100% American so, as with other factors, it is all a matter of degree. So we have to start with the premise that ‘American’ implies a significant but not necessarily total part of the process of producing guitars.

It isn’t just that they are designed by American-owned companies. Danelectro, for instance, has its headquarters in the USA, designs its instruments in the USA and manufactures them in China. Other American firms may import the key elements to be assembled and/or QA’d in the States. Does this make them American? I would argue in both circumstances that it doesn’t. To make things easier, I don’t believe that there are any non-American companies that manufacture in the USA for all sorts of political, social, economic, legal and environmental reasons.

What about some of the key parts of a guitar that customers demand and expect? For example, could a guitar with a Brazilian or Indonesian rosewood fingerboard or a Honduran mahogany body genuinely be called American? In this instance, I believe that it can, as this refers to the source of raw materials, not the manufacturing process. The same applies to hardware, e.g. German tuners and bridges, Mexican switches and Japanese potentiometers. We have to accept that American guitars are partially imported in one way or another.

American trade rules were/are very strict about what items can carry the ‘Made in U.S.A.’ label. I won’t delve any deeper into this thorny issue in this article. Suffice to say that, as far as I am concerned, as long as it complies with the definition imposed by the federal USA government, it is ‘American’.

I have often been asked why I don’t go for guitars from other regions such as Europe or Asia. There are some fantastic instruments from non-American territories (see the CRAVE Guitars article from August 2017 – ‘A Peak into the Pandora’s Box of Guitars’ → Read here). For now, to open the flood gates to global guitar collecting would, I believe, dilute what CRAVE Guitars is all about. Also, I just couldn’t cope with it all – it would be way too much for such a small enterprise. For now at least, integrity of the American ‘collection’ is paramount.

Where I do consciously blur geographical lines is in effect pedals where European and Japanese pedals qualify as part of the ‘family’. Why? Simply because they are such an integral part of the British/American music scene from the birth of rock ‘n’ roll onwards. Plus, there are so many global cool and rare effects that it doesn’t make practical sense to be strictly exclusive. As effects are not the primary focus of CRAVE Guitars, I can be a little more lenient. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Should I need to liquidate funds though, the non-American effects would be at the front of the queue.

At the moment, my vintage amps are strictly American, although I have been tempted by vintage English amps from, for instance VOX, Marshall and Orange, although less so WEM, Hiwatt and Laney. Perhaps it’s because I started playing electric guitar in the 1970s, I also have a soft spot for vintage solid state amps such as H/H from England and Roland from Japan, so I’m not a complete valve snob. I may also be tempted to blur the lines here one day but not for now. There are plenty of great American amps to admire. One difficulty is that they are just too difficult to import and adapt for UK mains supply, let alone maintain. To be honest, I also don’t have space for a lot of amps, so that makes things simpler.

V is for Vintage (Noun/Adj.)

I have covered the various definitions and interpretations of what might constitute ‘vintage’ in relation to guitars before, so I won’t reiterate those discussions here.

Essentially, there is no clear start date for what might become a CRAVE Guitar. Perhaps the early‑mid 1930s might be a legitimate starting point, representing the dawn of electric guitars. However, if someone were to offer me an early 1900s Gibson Style O acoustic archtop or a 1920s National acoustic resonator for instance, I am not going to turn either of those down! Hint, hint.

The end point is necessarily arbitrary. I tend to think of mid-late 1980s as the general cut‑off for many reasons. Anything from 1990‑on is of personal interest, rather than something eligible for CRAVE Guitars. I have retained a couple of modern Gibsons that I use as modern benchmarks and reference instruments to compare with older guitars (and for sentimental reasons). I no longer have any modern Fenders, although I’d like a modern Stratocaster or Telecaster for comparative purposes. Being purely pragmatic, I generally focus on electric guitars from the 1950s to 1980s inclusive – at the time of writing, the earliest is 1959 and the latest is 1989 – a period spanning just 40 years which, in context of guitar history, is nothing at all and may prove to be too restrictive in the future. For now, though, there are plenty of vintage guitars on the market made in those four decades from which to choose.

There is a bigger question about whether vintage is ‘better’ than new. This is not the time for such a complex discussion. However, for instance, in a blind test where touch and sound are the only stimuli, whether a guitar is physically old actually adds anything to the overall music‑making experience or not is debateable. New guitars can be made to look, feel and sound old but, no matter how good the craftsmanship, they cannot actually BE old.

Much also depends on the use to which a guitar will be put. For most working musicians, reliability and durability are probably far more important than age, especially in a live concert environment where the subtle nuances of vintage tone can be completely lost. A gigging situation is also environmentally demanding, never mind the practical risks of taking a valuable and irreplaceable vintage instrument on the road. In principle, modern guitars are in so many ways a much more appropriate solution than their vintage counterparts, particularly for the professional musician. Personally though, modern guitar ownership is no longer for me and what I do, so my focus is for older, lived-in but not worn out instruments.

E is for Electric (Adj.)

As far as acoustic guitars are concerned, sorry, but they just don’t do it for me. I don’t know why. This applies equally to nylon strung classical guitars and steel strung acoustics. Perhaps it’s the sound, perhaps it’s the playability, or perhaps it’s the aesthetics. To be honest, my knowledge of acoustics is very slim compared to their electric counterparts, so I may be missing something obvious in terms of appeal.

I acknowledge that without the acoustic guitar, we wouldn’t have electric guitars as we know them, so the historical significance is fully understood. I am interested in the acoustic guitar’s position in musical antiquity and I am writing about that as a separate piece of research. However, given a choice of picking up a comparable acoustic or electric, the latter would win 9 times out of 10. Personally, I like to plug my guitars in and experience the diverse sonic pleasures of an electric guitar being used for its intended purpose. For recording or stage use, I find microphones for an acoustic guitar a complete pain, whereas I can just plug in an electric, so the latter also wins on practicality.

I often play electric guitars unplugged when practising or noodling. An unplugged electric gives a good indication of the natural resonance of the ‘old wood’. It also focuses the senses on playability and ergonomics. I might suggest that a good electric guitar will come across as good when it is played either acoustically or plugged in. However, vintage electric guitars really come into their own when driving a vintage valve amp, perhaps with the odd vintage analogue pedal added to the mix. In this setting, electric guitars can feel alive with dynamics, touch‑sensitivity and sensory feedback in a way that an acoustic just can’t match, at least for me. I would argue that an electric guitar is also far more versatile with an array of different sounds and tones that it can produce.

OK then, here’s the crux… How many rock guitar gods from the halcyon days of Santana, Green, Clapton, Richards and Hendrix, through the experimentalist era of Page, Beck, Blackmore, Iommi and Zappa to the post-modern virtuosos such as Van Halen, Slash, Vai, Satriani and Vaughan have plied their trade exclusively playing acoustic guitars? None to my knowledge, that’s how many. The truth of the matter is that it’s the cutting, screaming, wailing, sighing, jangling and shredding of the amplified, effected electric guitar in the hands of musical geniuses that has forged the mainstay of the rock (‘n’ roll) paradigm over the last 6 decades or so. There are, admittedly, many acoustic guitar prodigies but they don’t feature on my ‘top guitarists’ or ‘top albums’ lists. I rest my case m’lud.

Arguably, it’s the music that matters, rather than whether instruments are amplified or not. In fact, one of my favourite live albums is Nirvana’s ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ (1994), so I’m not averse to acoustic music, it’s a simple matter of personal preference. I would also contest that, unless one is within a few feet of an acoustic guitar played live, the sound is amplified in one way or another, whether by an amp, a PA, a TV or a hi-fi. I don’t want to get into arguments about which is better; to me, they are just different.

There are many superb vintage acoustic guitars on the market and in the hands of collectors. With the usual finite resources (time, money and space), acoustic guitars will, for now, remain outside the scope of CRAVE Guitars. In addition, there are currently no real vintage electro‑acoustics out there to tempt me. Whatever the reasoning behind my bias, I’ll leave acoustics for the many specialists already occupying that particular space.

I would, however, like to have a good vintage acoustic to hand, just for those occasions when the mood strikes and one wants to strum or fingerpick a tune for a change. I agree that playing an acoustic brings a whole different outlook on composition, arrangement and performance and they are therefore a great complement to electric guitars. You never know, I might be tempted. Something like an old Martin D28 or Gibson J-200 perhaps? Again… hint, hint.

Guitars (Noun)

This will, hopefully, answer the original question at the start of this article about basses. Basically (haha), I am first and foremost a guitarist and I therefore focus on 6-string instruments rather than basses. For the record, I like playing bass and I think that it is good for guitarists to be able to play bass effectively, as it can improve rhythmic and timing abilities as well as adding a different perspective to songwriting. As mentioned at the top of this article, CRAVE Guitars actually has 2 vintage basses and a vintage valve bass amp as part of the ‘family’, which is enough as far as my personal need goes.

Yes, I’d like a vintage Fender Jazz bass and I’d happily accommodate a short-scale vintage Fender Mustang or Musicmaster bass, mainly because they are so cute, funky and cool. I’d also be quite happy with a vintage Gibson EB-0 or a Rickenbacker 4001 bass if a good one came along at a reasonable price and doesn’t displace a sought‑after guitar. Bridging the gap between guitar and bass, a vintage pre-CBS Fender Bass VI has been on my ‘most wanted’ list for a long time but original ones are becoming way, way too expensive. For the third time, hint, hint.

There are many other variations on the stringed instrument theme from diddley-bow guitars with only a single string through cigar box/oil can guitars, tenors and baritones, 12-string guitars, to harp guitars with many strings, as well as double or multi-neck instruments. Then there are are banjos, mandolins, zithers, hurdy‑gurdys, lutes, bouzoukis, balalaikas, not to mention many Asian instruments, as well as numerous European classical and folk stringed instruments. Again, if only for practical reasons, they are all outside the scope of CRAVE Guitars. As with acoustics and basses, there are plenty of specialists focusing on some wonderful exotic stringed instruments from all over the world, so that means I don’t have to.

While on the subject of CRAVE Guitars eligibility, there are a few other factors that come into play. NB. All of these conditions apply equally to amps and effects.

Condition – Condition is very important for me. This doesn’t mean that a guitar has to be museum or collector-grade, far from it. A well-used vintage instrument will have many visible signs of use that give it much of its charisma. If a guitar is 50 years old but looks as if it was made yesterday, it lacks that unwritten backstory of being used that might make it desirable (at least to me). Conversely, an abused ‘players’ guitar’ is of little interest to me, as it is likely to be in relatively poor condition through misuse – a lack of respect for an instrument is generally not a good sign. Once a guitar has been seriously compromised, it will never be the same again. Even if it is professionally restored, a knackered guitar loses so much of its integrity and originality (see below). The issue of restoration to protect and conserve important musical instrument heritage is another story for another day. Badly damaged guitars are a big no-no for CRAVE Guitars, including major damage like neck/headstock breaks, bad repairs, etc.

Originality – Originality is also very important for me. Irreversible modifications are an issue, including refinishes, routing for pickups, holes, adaptations, etc. I have one refinished guitar, my ‘signature’ 1975 Gibson Les Paul, and I regret having it done back in the late 1970s – it had a lot of buckle rash from the previous owner and it seemed the sensible thing to do at the time. I tolerate minor changes such as replacement pots (where there was a fault), tuners, etc. Several CRAVE guitars have had reversible minor modifications and each one is considered on a case‑by‑case basis. In theory, most bits of hardware can easily be put back to original condition if the correct parts are available. If guitars come with original cases, great: if they come with the original tags, manuals and case candy as well, even better. However, it’s the guitar that matters, not the case.

Affordable – I am a financially poor enthusiast with very limited funds, so my spotlight tends to fall on ‘affordable vintage’ guitars. Fortunately, the cool & rare criteria often make some relatively inexpensive guitars available, compared to the elite high‑end investment‑grade instruments. Market accessibility is therefore an important factor for me. I sympathise with neophytes who are interested in and want to own vintage guitars but find the whole scene too ‘exclusive’ – we all have to start somewhere. The ‘easy entry’ end of the vintage market is another reason why I like to focus on a wide range of instruments including some interesting oddballs within reach of many wannabes. Just to qualify, ‘affordable’ doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, it means cost‑effective and value‑for‑money, which can mean different things at different price points. Recently, I have paid (considerably) over market value for a couple of instruments in which I had a specific interest, so I’m not a very good businessman with an eye on future profit margins.

Other Stuff – Another question I’ve been asked is why I don’t sell ‘other stuff’ to support the core vintage guitar enterprise. Three principal reasons; a) I don’t have the money to spend on ‘other stuff’ even if it could partly subsidise the core ‘business’, b) I don’t have sufficient time or space to achieve the core ‘business’, let alone anything extra‑curricular, and c) I’m generally not that interested in ‘other stuff’. I would like to diversify into CRAVE Guitars merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs, plectrums, cards, etc. (orders, please). I might also be tempted into vintage guitar related miscellanea such as jewellery, memorabilia, etc. Diversification also relies on surplus amounts of a) and b) above which, frankly, is looking highly unlikely. The discipline of focusing predominantly on Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric Guitars (now that it has been defined) has to remain relatively pure or I will never be able to make a going concern of it.

The CRAVE Guitars Brand – Brand identity is essential to back up the umbrella CRAVE Guitars trademark. Strategically, if I had more time, money, energy and space, I would definitely create 2 key partner enterprises for vintage instruments to complement CRAVE Guitars. Despite what I said above, CRAVE Basses and CRAVE Acoustics would be on the cards. The ‘E’ part of the acronym becomes a bit less relevant for acoustics (however, I have thought of a solution to that too) but the spirit remains integral to the original concept. My long‑term intention is to create a further 2 complementary enterprises for CRAVE Amps and CRAVE Effects. I may permit someone else to use CRAVE Drums, CRAVE Keyboards and CRAVE Stage & Studio though (unless I change my mind in the meantime). Just be aware that, in terms of copyright ownership, I thought of these first – royalties in an envelope please! I would consider flexible partnership arrangements with a like-minded obsessive keen to expand the CRAVE franchise into these areas, as long as the necessary resources accompany the mission.

Virtual CRAVE Guitars – Social media, predominantly Twitter, takes up a considerable amount of time as does the web site (www.craveguitars.co.uk), including researching and publishing these articles. The social media topics covered are essentially guitar‑related but draw from a very broad interest, encompassing material way beyond the tight C.R.A.V.E. criteria. The problem I have with it is that it is highly resource intensive and the activity intrinsically will never make any money, it is purely about entertaining a diverse audience and raising the profile of what CRAVE Guitars is all about.

In Summary

So, to précis all the above, I use a few simple rules to separate out the ‘wheat from the chaff’. Regardless of brand, price or reputation, CRAVE Guitars should be:

  1. Cool – Quirky, unusual, unique or a variation on a theme, preferably with some added character and interest
  2. Rare – All things being relative, supply is limited, including short-lived or small‑run production models
  3. American – Possibly my one hard and fast rule, the all‑important ‘Made in U.S.A.’ mark
  4. Vintage – Manufactured between c.1950 and 1989 – possibly earlier and unlikely to be later
  5. Electric – I’m not really an acoustic guitar fan. Electric archtops, semis, hollow bodies and resonators are fine though
  6. Guitars – Mainly 6-string instruments. Basses are included but they are not the primary focus

In addition, being pragmatic, a CRAVE Guitar needs to be:

  • In good condition with no serious damage or alterations
  • All‑original or very close to it with no irreversible modifications
  • Cost‑effective and good value‑for‑money

One last pertinent comment before I shut up is to mention the alternative meaning of the word ‘crave’, which is ‘to desire’, ‘to yearn for’ or ‘to want greatly’. This double‑entendre is both important and intentional. Ultimately, it comes down to a simple rhetorical question when looking for vintage guitars (et al), “Is this a really cool guitar that I would want to own and play?” If the answer is “yes”, I would want to showcase it for others to (hopefully) appreciate. However, if I can’t live with a guitar, I wouldn’t dare to presume that it might be of any interest to anyone else. If I don’t hanker after a particular guitar, it doesn’t join the CRAVE ‘family’ no matter how much it is worth.

It is only when all these factors come together that a guitar is likely to join the CRAVE Guitars clan. I am not a dealer and CRAVE Guitars is strictly a not‑for‑profit passion project. Once adopted, a guitar tends to hang around for a considerable period of time. I tend to enter into relationships with my guitars, which means that I’m not one to buy and sell instruments on a whim. I would need strong persuasion to part with one of the ‘family’.

I am amazed that, reflecting on the ‘rules’, they have hardly changed in over a decade, which is encouraging. 10 years ago, when I started to thin the herd and began to refine the ‘business’ model above, the focus was quite strictly on acquiring vintage guitars made by Fender and Gibson. I now realise that this was too exclusive and the net is now being cast more widely. I do, however, remain selective and anticipate that the mainstays of the ‘family’ will remain vintage instruments from ‘Big 2’. Why? Quite simply, that’s what I grew up aspiring to own one day and I suspect that the same applies for many other guitarists who grew up in the 20th Century. The future may well be different and that will be for someone else to take up the mantle long after I and CRAVE Guitars have faded into posterity.

I can put my hand on my heart and swear that I believe that (most of) the guitars that have made up the ‘family’ over the last decade conform to these basic principles. As a core operating model, I think that the principles are helpful and clear, which may become an advantage should CRAVE Guitars become a successful business one day. The principles also differentiate what I do from the competition.

You may well disagree with my philosophy and choice of guitars (et al) but, to be uncompromisingly blunt, that’s not my problem. CRAVE Guitars is internally consistent. If you want to do your own thing using your own preferences, that’s entirely up to you and I wish you well.

In conclusion, now having defined the objective, justified the criteria and articulated the rationale, I hope that the idea behind CRAVE (Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric) Guitars makes some (common) sense. I think that I have also provided answers to both of the specific question about bass/acoustic guitars, as well as the bigger picture question of what it takes for an instrument (or amp/effect) to be considered a member of the CRAVE Guitars ‘family’.

What’s coming up? Well, I hope to have some ‘new in’ headlines for the November 2017 article. In the meantime, I think that it’s time to warm up those vintage valves and plug in my ‘guitare de jour’… now which one shall I go for? Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Integrity is doing what you believe to be right and your conviction to stand up for it in the face of concerted opposition.”

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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February 2017 – Favourite Guitarists And Why

posted in: Observations, Opinion | 0

This month, I’m continuing with a list-like feature. This isn’t laziness, it’s just about time I focused back specifically on guitars and guitarists.

Here are some of the guitarists I enjoy listening to and, linking back to my January 2017 article about why we like what we like, artists that I keep coming back to for more. If there was some sort of formula that is common to all of them, it might be expressed as:

Unique talent + quality instrument + great song writing + timing + opportunity = music history.

The first ‘variable’ above is a key ingredient… talent. Most phenomenal guitarists are instantly recognisable by their distinctive sound, which is more about the person than the instrument they play. Simply put, no-one sounds like them. Why? It comes down to individual technique. It’s the same with classical painters, each one highly recognisable for their outputs, even though the inputs are essentially the same (paint, brushes, canvas, etc.). As the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan sagely commented, “Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It is the way you pick and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or guitar you use”. In addition to the “it’s in the hands” adage, they also often have a ‘how do they do that?’ factor that differentiates them from the hoi poloi (NB. for trivia fans, from the Greek meaning ‘the many’). For guitarists to shine there needs to be strong song writing – it doesn’t actually matter who wrote any particular track, it’s how it is interpreted that matters.

Most guitarists will own several guitars and use then for certain situations. Many top guitarists may have extensive collections, although they tend to have one instrument or model with which they are uniquely associated. Combine that stylistic talent with, perhaps, a ‘signature’ instrument and the basics are there. By ‘quality’, I simply mean ‘fit for purpose’ within this context. Using a ‘favourite’ guitar is not a prerequisite, however, it is likely that removing a physical impediment to technique (i.e. an inappropriate guitar) has liberated many players to feel, rather than think, about their playing. There is something special in the relationship between player and preferred instrument that adds a ‘secret ingredient’ that no-one else could muster from it.

Another characteristic of accomplished guitarists with longevity is that they usually have a refined sense of song writing, either on their own or as part of a band, often prolifically so. They instinctively know what people tune into, including well-honed sense of harmony, melody, tempo, etc. They also adapt their writing over time to accommodate changing listening tastes. It isn’t just about image or the axe that they wield.

There is something to be said about time period and cultural context and being in the ‘right place at the right time’. If any of these guitarists were struggling to establish a career in today’s Spotify-saturated, X‑Factor sterilised world, would they stand out and have a chance? I would wager not. Many of these greats were also pioneers who broke the mould at their time in some way – they are not generic or homogenous. Musical integrity and coherency have been shattered by our seemingly insatiable appetite for the iTunes attention deficit disorder-oriented society. It is so much harder to be genuinely innovative now, which may explain why there are so few challengers striving to not only usurp the thrones of the exalted ‘old-timers’ but also to stay there. Aspiration and ambition is just the start, achieving longevity and legendary status is another matter altogether.

Some other characteristics spring to mind, these guitarists were as sound at rhythm guitar as they are at lead lines. So many great tunes would flounder without the solid rhythm chops from great guitarists who knew how to groove in their chosen genre.

I would also argue that these guitarists are/were as great at playing live, as they are/were in the studio. On stage, there is nowhere to hide and these artists have to work very, very hard to earn and sustain credibility over many years of continuous touring.

So… to the point… at long last. As my guitarists of choice are diverse in style, genre, time period, success, etc., it was impossible to rank them from 1-20, so they are presented in alphabetical order for fairness and simplicity. I’ve indicated the instrument(s) that they are often associated with, as well as a track that, for me, acted as an entry point into their canon (not necessarily their best or most well-known track), a catalyst if you will for grabbing my aspirational attention.

1. Jeff Beck (1944-) – Where on Earth does one start with a genius like Mr Beck? Invention, reinvention, experimentation and continually challenging the boundaries of what can be done with 6 strings on a Strat. No-one comes close to decades of innovation. As soon as you think you’ve nailed his rut, he surprises by a change of direction with consummate musicianship in whatever he does. Listen: ‘Brush With The Blues’ (1999). Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul Standard, Fender Telecaster

2. Ritchie Blackmore (1945-) – Ignoring well-documented character traits, Blackmore’s Deep Purple/Rainbow rock era featured some of the most incendiary, flamboyant and flashy lead lines, all seemingly delivered with minimal effort. Extraordinary. Credit for following his passion in traditional guitar, rather than selling out/cashing in by endlessly regurgitating ‘Smoke On The Water’ for decades. Listen: ‘Child In Time’ (1972). Guitar: Fender Stratocaster

3. Dimebag Darrell (1966-2004, 38) – Sadly, the late ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Lance Abbott was taken too young. Metal guitarists are often easily categorised without really appreciating their innate talent and abilities. Darrell was a terrific guitarist with soul and technical skill that is hugely under-appreciated both for storming southern-tinged riffs and searing lead lines with Pantera. Listen: ‘Cemetery Gates’ (1990). Guitar: Dean ML

4. Rory Gallagher (1948-1995, 47) – A unique talent not sufficiently acknowledged while he was alive, his contribution and reputation has rocketed since his demise. The modest and unassuming Gallagher had a tremendous ear for fusing blues tropes with an astounding melodic sensibility evoking his Irish roots. A great slide player too. Live, he was astounding, consumed with energy and passion that few could match. Listen: ‘Calling Card’ (1976). Guitar: Fender Stratocaster

5. Billy Gibbons (1945-) – With his roots deep in Texan blues, ‘the greatest beard in rock’ can make his axe sing with great feeling, as evidenced by early material. As part of ZZ Top, he pushed R&B boogie into the limelight with mega commercial success, thereby adding more flavours to his not inconsiderable palette. Listen: ‘Blue Jeans Blues’ (1975). Guitars: Gibson Les Paul Standard, Gretsch Billy Bo

6. Kirk Hammett (1962-) – Another metal guitarist who knows how to use a guitar in anger as a member of Metallica. Listen to his playing and there is much more than flashy thrash metal guitar work. His legacy will forever be integrated with the riff from ‘Enter Sandman’. Look beyond those few familiar notes and be rewarded. Listen: ‘Seek & Destroy’ (1983). Guitar: ESP

7. Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970, 27) – Predictable. To attempt to explain in a few words what James Marshall Hendrix unleashed on rock music during his short career would be inadequate. He was a true revolutionary and showman, imbued with massive talent and skills honed through passion, dedication and commitment. Contemporary music owes a massive debt to a true pioneer and just think what he could have achieved. Listen: ‘All Along The Watchtower’ (1968). Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Flying V

8. Steve Hillage (1951-) – Easily overlooked because of his relatively obscure ‘hippie’ career (Gong, System 7), Hillage is a talented and individual guitarist with a very recognisable tone and style. Even in later years, which focus heavily on electronic dance grooves, guitar remains an important stylistic element. His contribution is much undervalued. Listen: ‘Hurdy Gurdy Glissando’ (1976). Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul Standard

9. John Lee Hooker (1917-2001, 83) – Hooker was a true individualist who always played by his own rules. He is one of the most expressive and soulful bluesmen, his emotions emanating through his guitar and gravelly vocals. Yes BB may be the King but JLH was a blues Hooker at one with his delta roots. At his best just him and his guitar, rather than the sanitised reverential collaborations. Listen: ‘Crawlin’ Kingsnake’ (1991). Guitars: Epiphone Sheraton, Gibson ES-335

10. Tony Iommi (1948-) – Where would rock be without Black Sabbath. Another guitarist who ploughed a furrow that hadn’t previously been ploughed and as the ‘godfather of metal’, his influence has justly pervaded the landscape of modern hard rock and metal for decades. How much of his individual style resulted from his infamous industrial accident, we can never know. Listen: ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ (1973). Guitars: Jaydee Custom S.G. ‘Old Boy’, Gibson SG

11. John Martyn (1948-2009, 60) – Martyn started off in traditional English folk music and then something happened and he became a true experimenter using delay and other effects to create something completely new and adventurous, mostly on acoustic guitar. In addition to innovating, he also retained the heartfelt lyrical nature of his music, using guitar to complement his unique voice. Listen: ‘I’d Rather Be The Devil’ (1973).  Guitar: Martin D‑28

12. J. Mascis (1965-) – Often described as an alternative maverick, born of the New York punk era, Mascis is a genuine one-off and enduring front man of Dinosaur Jr. A bit like Neil Young on steroids. As a guitarist, he doesn’t stun with millions of notes and sterile technical ability but, boy, does he put some energy and power into his searing, laser-guided lead lines that have impressed consistently over the years. Always on the fringe. Listen: ‘Out There’ (1993). Guitar: Fender Jazzmaster

13. Brian May (1947-) – Dr. May’s melodic and harmonic brilliance will forever be remembered for his Mercury-period Queen. However, like his distinctive home‑made guitar, the astrophysicist created a unique and recognisable guitar style that pervades western culture. His MTV pop sensibilities are as strong as his earlier rock riffs. Listen: ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye’ (1974). Guitar: Brian May Red Special

14. John McLaughlin (1942-) – In terms of phenomenal ability, dexterity and skill, McLaughlin is near, if not at, the top of the tree. Not only is his speed and proficiency astounding, his genre-spanning flexibility is formidable. Describing his playing can only be achieved through hyperbole. An extraordinary guitar superman. Listen: ‘Vital Transformation’ (1971). Guitar: PRS

15. Gary Moore (1952-2011, 58) – In later years before his untimely death, Moore concentrated on the blues, joining the ranks of the few white, non-American blues legends. Go back earlier in his career and his abilities at rock and fusion show just what a great and adaptable guitarist he was. Listen: ‘Stormy Monday’ (2001). Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul Standard

16. Tom Morello (1964-) – Probably the youngest of the guitarists to make the list. Go back to RATM’s debut album and reflect on the pounding riffs and genuinely innovative lead playing and recognise that Morello is one of those guitarists who could take the mainstream and adapt it into something no-one had heard before. Listen: ‘Bombtrack’ (1992). Guitar: ‘Arm The Homeless’ custom

17. Carlos Santana (1947-) – Renowned for his ability to sustain notes, Carlos was also a very fluid player and highly acclaimed for his feel. From his appearance at the end of the 1960s to today, he can produce an inimitable and remarkable guitar tone. He could play blindingly fast and he could also turn out achingly emotive lead lines. Listen: ‘Samba Pa Ti’ (1970). Guitar: PRS Santana

18. Jimmy Page (1944-) – Like Blackmoore, Iommi and Hammett, Page is another guitarist whose legacy may be forever associated with a single track in the consciousness of the music listening public (Stairway To Heaven). However, Zeppelin-era Page is a multi-talented guitarist. It is a shame that he hasn’t been able to shine to the same extent in his post-Zep solo career. Listen: ‘Kashmir’ (1975). Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Standard, Danelectro 3021

19. Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990, 35) – SRV is another guitar phenomenon taken from us way too young. Unapologetically Texas blues to his core, he shared Hendrix’s immense ability to introduce many other styles into his playing, including jazzy influences. Another whose formidable combination of talent and relentless hard work set him apart from the crowd. Listen: ‘Tin Pan Alley’ (1999). Guitar: Fender Stratocaster

20. Neil Young (1945-) – Quite often referred to as the master of the one-note guitar solo, this underrates his ability to wring considerable emotional content from just a few well-chosen, emotionally driven and sparingly targeted tones. One thing is for sure, his distinctive tone and style has sustained his well-deserved reputation over many decades. Listen: ‘Southern Man’ (1970). Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Standard

Most of these guitarists will, perhaps, be obvious entries. However, there may be a few unexpected curve balls thrown in for good measure. Of course (don’t you just hate it when people say that!), there is a very long list of superb guitarists that didn’t make the 20 above, including the likes of George Benson, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, John Frusciante, Peter Green, Steve Hackett, Allan Holdsworth, BB King, Paul Kossoff, Robby Krieger, Randy Rhoads, Mick Ronson, Joe Satriani, Slash, Steve Vai, Van Halen, Jack White, Johnny Winter, Zakk Wylde, Angus Young, Frank Zappa, etc., etc., etc. It’s virtually impossible to name them all. While I recognise their massive influence, this is my list of guitarists, not a regurgitation of anyone else’s list or a contrived list of ‘stature derived through perceived wisdom’.

There are also guitarists who aren’t listed above and who perhaps aren’t considered ‘great’ guitarists stylistically but are still notable for the instrument being an integral part of their music, e.g. Marc Bolan, Robert Smith, Thurston Moore, etc.

I also haven’t strayed into bass guitar but that’s an easy one for me, evidenced by the mercurial virtuoso skills of the incomparable, and sadly late, great Jaco Pastorius. Danny Thompson and Tal Wilkenfeld also deserve honourable mentions in this category for me.

Interestingly, 7 of the above guitarists (35%) are sadly no longer with us. Thankfully, at least 13 (65%) of them still are. I have been fortunate enough to see just over half of them play live and, of the ones I have seen, I can attest to their consummate skills. One thing I noticed when researching this article is how many of these guitarists regularly wear/wore hats when playing live (around a quarter of them). Head apparel seems a quintessential part of a guitarist’s touring equipment for many.

In terms of a ‘golden era’, many of these artists had their zenith between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. After a 10-year hiatus in the proverbial doldrums of the post-punk electronic era, there was a gradual resurgence of interest in guitar music from the 1990s that thankfully reignited a passion for the art into the 21st century. Thankfully that interest continues to flourish and diversify today, which will hopefully incentivise whole new generations of exciting new guitar heroes (genuine ones, not the ‘game’) to carve an identity for themselves.

One thing that does bother me is that there are no female guitarists on the list. This is more a reflection of historical exposure that male guitarists have had compared to female guitarists. It is not a misogynistic trait, just circumstance. There are great guitarists out there, e.g. Carrie Brownstein, Eva Cassidy, Lita Ford, Charlotte Hatherley, Kaki King, Orianthi Panagaris, Bonnie Raitt, Nancy Wilson, etc., they are just not my most listened to guitarists. There are also many girl bands, like Warpaint, Haim, Dum Dum Girls, Sleater Kinney, Smoke Fairies, etc., which is positive. Those who are familiar with my rants on the subject will know that I believe ‘girls with guitars are cool’. My view is that, as in any other streak of life, gender should not pose a barrier to success and there are some very accomplished female guitarists out there. Personally, I would dearly like to see equality and inclusion. Having said that, I don’t believe girls are actively excluded, it’s just that the prevailing environment isn’t conducive to girls seeking guitar playing as a job in the same way as there is, for instance, in orchestral classical music.

Also, as mentioned at the start, there essentially are no modern-era guitarists on the list. The most recent on the list above are from the 1990s, rather than the noughties and teenies; this is still around a quarter of a century ago now. There are many, many very talented modern-day guitarists out there but, again, they just didn’t make my list. I look forward to emerging guitarists taking up the reins. One wonders who we might admire in the future, in addition to the current greats.

What, though, really separates the greats from the very talented also-rans who also work very hard at their craft? If we all knew that, it wouldn’t be a question. Is it serendipity, happenstance, luck, contacts, situation? Perhaps the old adage that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, plays its part.

I only wish I had a minute fraction of the ability demonstrated by the guitarists mentioned here. Sadly, I don’t have that kind of talent (despite the hard work), so I have to end up writing about them!

One thing we might learn from them is that we shouldn’t try to imitate them. By all means emulate and pay homage to them but only if you can actually do what they do better than them – try that particular strategy and see how far you get! Perhaps another lesson for stalwart gear heads is that the guitars don’t make the guitarist, mostly anyone can own a Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul but not everyone can be a SRV or Jimmy Page – guitars are simply the professional tools of the expert craftsman. However, put the two together and something very special can happen. Modern music would not be the same without the skilled practitioner and their axes of choice, creating magic for us mere plebs to wonder at and aspire to.

CRAVE Guitars ‘Music Quote of the Month’: “If music is the result of passion, passion is the music of life.”

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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