Alice Cooper's Guitarists, Past and Present: Does He Find Them Worthy?

(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Since he burst onto the stage in 1968, frontman extraordinaire Alice Cooper has performed with an astonishing array of guitar virtuosos, starting with Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, and continuing with Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, Davey Johnstone, Vinnie Moore, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Orianthi, Reb Beach and Slash. But what does he really think of them? You’re about to find out.


“Orianthi was in the band for three years, and she was great — one of the best guitar players around. She was essentially a rock/blues player, which is generally what a good guitar player is, so she fit right in, because most rock and roll is blues-oriented rock.”


“Glen Buxton was so unique. He wasn’t the kind of player that could play a traditional 12-bar blues, but he could jam with someone like Pink Floyd’s original guitarist, Syd Barrett. Glen was very futuristic, and when he was on, he was a good as anybody. Michael Bruce, on the other hand, was a great rhythm and riff player. He laid the foundation, while Glen went into outer space.” 


“Davey originally played in Elton John’s band, and he was a very sophisticated musician. I’m used to playing with two or three guitarists, but Davey is one of those guys who could probably cover all the bases by himself.”


“They played with me on Welcome to My Nightmare and a bunch of other things. I remember Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler telling me, ‘Well, that’s the dream team right there.’ And they really were. Both were spectacular lead players. I think Steve might’ve been the better soloist, but Dick was the better writer. If I had to pick my favorite solo on any Alice Cooper record, it would definitely be Hunter on ‘I Am Made of You’ from the Welcome to My Nightmare 2 album.”


“That girl is going to have a long career. She’s got a great personality and has a lot of pride in her work without all the ego. I always tell my people, Look, ego is great onstage. I want you to have all the ego in the world onstage, because that’s what the audience wants. They want to see a great performer. But offstage, I don’t want to see any of that nonsense. Ego doesn’t work offstage, it works onstage. Nita is an incredible guitarist and a solid person.” 


“I would’ve loved to work with Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. I don’t think I’ve heard anybody better than that. Their playing on the Butterfield Blues Band’s second album, East-West, is the best guitar work I’ve ever heard in my life. Maybe Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck would be equivalent, but I don’t know why you would need anything more than Beck by himself! I guess it would also be fun to put Steve Vai and Joe Satriani together. I’ve worked with them separately, but together would be as good as it gets.”

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Brad Tolinski

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Brad was the editor of Guitar World from 1990 to 2015. Since his departure he has authored Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen, Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page and Play it Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound & Revolution of the Electric Guitar, which was the inspiration for the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2019.