Thirty Great Guitarists — Including Steve Vai, David Gilmour and Eddie Van Halen — Pick the Greatest Guitarists of All Time
JIMMY HERRING by Alex Skolnick
Some may not know Jimmy Herring’s name, but they will know the bands that he’s played with: the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, and Jazz Is Dead. He’s a hero of the jam-band scene, which is kind of funny, as stylistically he’s very influenced by jazz.
Jimmy has his own band called Aquarium Rescue Unit, who operate on a level similar to [jazz-fusion group] Weather Report. Having said that, although people like the Dave Matthews Band and Bruce Hornsby took them out on tour and begged their own label to sign them, Aquarium Rescue Unit never got a decent record deal and eventually disbanded [in 1997]. They reunited in 2005 and have played somewhat sporadically since then.
Jimmy is an incredible player. He has the bluesiness of Warren Haynes or Johnny Winter and the vocabulary of John Scofield, with an element of Steve Morse thrown in. If that sounds appealing, then track down a copy of Aquarium Rescue Unit’s 1993 album, Mirrors of Embarrassment. Play it, and you’ll wonder why you’ve never heard of him until now.
RITCHIE BLACKMORE by Phil Collen
The first gig I ever went to was Deep Purple, during their Machine Head period. They played “Highway Star,” and it blew me away. And that’s when I decided to start playing guitar.
Ritchie Blackmore was a huge influence because he was flashy. I love really flashy lead guitar playing, and Blackmore’s technique is great. It’s aggressive. When he hit a chord, it was like being punched in the face. I don’t really care about finger picking, and acoustic doesn’t satisfy me. It’s electric, screaming loud rock that I love.
As far as what he’s doing now [playing Renaissance-style music with Blackmore’s Night], I honestly respect him. The fact that he’s still playing and is passionate about it is great, even if it is a bit wonky and weird. He can take liberties. He’s Ritchie Blackmore.
GLENN TIPTON & K.K. DOWNING by Zakk Wylde
When I think of underrated guitarists, I go for some of the guys in really big bands, the ones who get overshadowed by the achievements of their band act. For instance, when Journey is mentioned, you think of great songs and amazing vocals. But who ever praises Neal Schon? And that guy can play up a storm.
That’s why I pick Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing from Judas Priest. It’s two guitarists, yes, but you always think of them as one. They are the ultimate twin guitarists in metal—they go together. Just listen to the amazing riffs they’ve come up with over the years. And these guys can shred with the best.
Tipton and Downing have influenced generations of young guitarists, but a lot of the time these kids don’t even realize that what they’re playing all started with Judas Priest. Tipton and Downing have also given metal a subtlety that’s often overlooked. Both appreciate that sometimes you are most effective when you back off the pedal a little. You don’t need to be blazing all the time.
They’ve worked together for so long that each immediately understands what to do in a song. Sometimes Tipton is soloing and Downing is riffing, and then they’ll change over—it’s not like one does the lead work and the other does the rhythm. This is also what they introduced into metal: the idea of not only being a great lead player but also being prepared to let the other man have the spotlight when it matters to the music.
Without Tipton and Downing, metal would be very different. That’s why I have such a high regard for them. In my book, they rule.