The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
Players whose talents, attitude and style have made the guitar the coolest instrument ever.
Born April 3, 1962
Bands Social Distortion, Easter, solo
Iconic Guitar 1971 Gibson Les Paul gold top with Seymour Duncan P-90s
Coolest Riff “Ball and Chain”—Social Distortion
Bull necked and heavily tattooed, Mike Ness is not the kind of guy you’d want to mess with. The Southern California guitarist, singer and songwriter has known good times and bad, punching his way out of a serious drug addiction in the mid Eighties. He has funneled these experiences into some of the most hard-hitting, plain-dealing rock songs to come out of the SoCal punk milieu. Ness launched Social Distortion in 1978.
Initially a hardcore act—in fact one of the most vital bands on the Orange County beach town/skater hardcore scene—Social Distortion morphed over the years into a vehicle for Ness’ ever-evolving narrative songwriting gift, dedicated to a few simple-but-slamming guitar chords and lyrics that recount life’s hard lessons.
An avid skateboarder and hot-rod enthusiast, Ness epitomizes working-class Southern Californian culture. Springsteen comparisons are always dangerous, but the Boss did appear on Ness’ 1999 solo disc Cheating at Solitaire. Springsteen also named Social Distortion’s Heaven and Hell as his favorite record of 1992. Brian Setzer is another kindred spirit and musical collaborator. Ness is one skate punk kid who has stood the test of time.
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