For today's column and video (like last week's), I grabbed my ugly grey shirt and my Gibson Music City Jr. with B-Bender (a limited-edition guitar Gibson issued in 2013), to play a Clarence White-inspired country lick in A. As an electric guitarist, White built the bridge between country and rock in the late Sixties.
There was a time when the name Eric Clapton meant one thing and one thing only: guitar god. His incendiary six-string exploits with the Yardbirds, followed by a pair of mind-blowing 1966 albums—Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton and Fresh Cream—briefly put the passionate young Clapton atop the U.K.’s, if not the world’s, guitar hierarchy.
For the uninitiated, a B-bender is a contraption (the perfect word for it) that lives in- or outside your guitar and allows you to pull—usually with some sort of arm, palm, shoulder or hip movement—your guitar's B string up a perfect whole step. So, a B note would suddenly become a C# (or a C, if you don't bend the string all the way).
It seems like only yesterday that the Fabulous Thunderbirds, an upstart rocking-blues band from Austin, Texas, released their debut album, Girls Go Wild. It was, in fact, more than three decades ago. Since that time, Jimmie Vaughan, the T-birds’ founder and guitarist from 1976 to 1989, has gone from being a skinny kid with a Strat and a perm to one of today’s elder statesmen of the blues.
Some of you might remember an ad that appeared in guitar magazines in the late '80s or early '90s. It showed a photo of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Hearts Club Band LP propped up against a shiny new four-track recorder (possibly a Tascam, but who knows at this point?). The slogan above the photo was something along the lines of "A Couple of Four-Track Masterpieces."
Fifty years ago today—March 13, 1965—guitarist Eric Clapton quit the Yardbirds. It's one of the best things that ever happened—period. Clapton, a self-declared blues purist, thought the band—which included vocalist Keith Relf, guitarist Chris Dreja, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith and drummer Jim McCarty—was getting too commercial.
Clarence White was a genuine double threat. His brilliant, Doc Watson-inspired acoustic flatpicking, which incorporated lightning-fast fiddle lines played on an already-vintage Martin D-28 guitar, helped the bluegrass world recognize the guitar as a lead instrument. Several masters of the genre, including Tony Rice and Norman Blake, list him as a key influence.
Despite the diversity of George Harrison's many pursuits during his 58 years on earth — racing, gardening, Indian religion and culture, film making and anything remotely associated with ukeleles, Mel Brooks or Monty Python — he'll go down in history as one fourth of the Beatles.
Obviously, over the years I've had loads of guitars, but they’ve come and gone. I got to the point where I didn’t think it was nice to have guitars and not use them. All the guitars I’ve got I intend to use. I’ve got a couple of Teles with Lace Sensor pickups and maple necks. Maple necks feel softer to play, and I think you get a bit more sustain. I find the rosewood necks a bit tinnier. But I’m no expert by any means.
The rise of Blackberry Smoke, a hard-working, heavy-riffing quintet of southern-fried road monsters, hasn’t exactly been meteoric. For the past 14-plus years, the Atlanta-based rockers have been enjoying what frontman Charlie Starr calls a “slow build,” playing more than 250 shows a year, touring with ZZ Top, releasing a handful of studio and live discs and, most importantly, forging a legion of rabid fans.