Pink Floyd are one of the world's most beloved and influential rock bands, a group who redefined what was capable within the genre, and set mind-boggling sales records while doing so.
David Gilmour, a significant force in Floyd for all but the first couple years of the band's existence, is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. His soaring, melodic, less-is-more style is unforgettable, and synonymous with the band.
The guitarist he replaced, the troubled genius Syd Barrett, was equally revolutionary in his blending of avant-garde experimentalism with sharp pop hooks. Roger Waters, the band's bass guitar player and main post-Barrett songwriter (until his departure in 1985), also contributed a number of key acoustic and electric guitar parts to the band's catalog.
These players – each of them legends in their own right – aren't the only guitarists to have played with Pink Floyd, however. A few somewhat lesser-known, but equally skilled, players have also been called upon – particularly after they became a top-tier act – to contribute to the band's records, and add to their sound onstage.
1. Snowy White
It's one thing to play rhythm, or add some texture, to a Pink Floyd song as a guest guitarist. It's entirely another to play a solo for a band that already featured one of the greatest soloists in the history of the instrument.
That, however, is exactly what session veteran Snowy White was called on to do for Pigs on the Wing, from Floyd's 1977 album, Animals. Though White's gorgeous and limber lead break was ultimately left off the vinyl version of Animals, it did appear on the 8-track version of the album.
White did two tours with Pink Floyd as their second guitarist – the Animals tour and subsequently part of their legendary trek for The Wall. The almost-mythical solo, however, was his sole contribution to the band's studio output.
“It was just after they offered me the gig that I recorded the solo for Pigs on the Wing,” White told Guitar World in an interview earlier this year. “David and I went back into the control room, and he said to Roger, 'Snowy has agreed to take the gig', and Roger said, 'Well, while you're here, you might as well play something.’
“So, Roger swivels around and puts on Pigs on the Wing, and then he said, 'Why don't you do a solo in the middle? Go ahead and pick up any of those guitars out there and have a go at it.’ So, I picked up this white Strat, plugged it in, fiddled about, and then did the solo in one take. I know one take sounds impressive, but honestly, I got lucky that I did such a nice one right away.”
2. Michael Landau
In some ways, it's not too surprising that Michael Landau found his way onto a Pink Floyd album. One of the great session guitarists of all time, Landau has played on songs by anybody and everybody.
Landau was called in to play, most prominently, on One Slip, which can be found on Floyd's first post-Roger Waters album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason. His contribution was a very of-the-era, but still tasteful, dotted-eighth-laden part – just the sort of song-bolstering texture you'd expect from a seasoned vet.
“It was crazy, David was right there,” Landau explained. “I’d been working with Bob Ezrin on several other records, and he ended up producing that Pink Floyd album. I think they brought in a couple of outside guitar players.
“There was that delay part I did, that dotted eighth kinda thing that was very popular back then, and for some reason David didn’t want to do it. He wanted to bring someone else in. I’m sure he didn’t specify me, but Bob suggested it and yeah… playing guitar for Pink Floyd was one of the most bizarre things ever.”
3. Lee Ritenour
For those of you who love classic rock trivia, David Gilmour is not the only guitarist on Comfortably Numb.
The emotional centerpiece of The Wall contains arguably Gilmour's finest hour on the guitar – a soaring lead break that (deservedly) appears in the highest echelons of every list of the greatest guitar solos of all time worth its salt – but believe it or not, as Yoda once said, there is another...
Some of the song's sunny acoustic rhythm parts in the chorus came courtesy of another session great, Lee Ritenour, who reflected wryly on the experience of recording with the band in a 2012 Guitar World interview.
“I was a studio player at the time and had a huge studio trunk with about 15 guitars – various types of acoustics and electrics – in it,” Ritenour recalled. “I wanted to make a big first impression. I went in with a huge pedalboard and a big rack thinking to myself, 'I’m really going to go in and impress these guys. I’m going to walk through the door with all of my shit. It will be cool!'
“So, I walk in the door of the studio and Gilmour must have had 75 guitars lined up. The most vintage, best guitars I’ve ever seen, all sitting on stands around the studio along with an equal amount of amps and everything else you can imagine.
“Needless to say,” he told Guitar World with a laugh, “my system didn’t look quite as impressive after that!”
4. Tim Renwick
Tim Renwick served as the go-to six-string sideman for the final stages of Pink Floyd's career, playing with the band on their final two world tours – the Momentary Lapse of Reason and Division Bell treks – and their final live performance ever, at the 2005 Live 8 concert.
Though he doesn't appear on Reason, Renwick did lend a hand on The Division Bell, bolstering Gilmour's presence with additional fretwork on Poles Apart and Take It Back.