Watch Eric Gales and Carlos Santana share the stage at the 1994 Woodstock Festival

Eric Gales and Carlos Santana
(Image credit: Eric Gales/YouTube)

Eric Gales and Carlos Santana are two of the guitar world's standout electric guitar stars. While Santana has cemented his legacy through sultry melodies and infectious Latin guitar work, Gales has constructed his own reputation with a fiery brand of blues that has positioned him as one of the finest guitarists currently around.

However, the two have more than just a celebrated style of six-string playing in common. Santana is, in fact, Gales’ godfather, and way back in 1994, the Smooth hitmaker was joined onstage by an up-and-coming Gales at the prestigious Woodstock Festival.

Footage from that seldom-discussed team-up can be found below, courtesy of Gales himself, who posted it to his YouTube channel in July 2020.

While Gales gets comfortable on stage with his Sunburst Fender Stratocaster, Santana takes up the mantle of “master”, using his fabled PRS for some seasoned pentatonic runs and wah-tinged licks.

Gales then finds his feet and, without showing any sign of his relative six-string infancy, belts out one of the most technically challenging blues solos that any 16-year-old could ever hope to play. It’s got all the hallmarks of what would later become his trademark style, too – lightning quick flourishes and searing two-string bends – as well as some suitably SRV-style scale runs.

The pair then take the spotlight together, and for about three whole minutes absolutely take their guitars to town. Throughout the following years, Gales’ playing style would later blossom to become far more selective, with an almost untouchable grasp on phrasing.

Two years prior to the team-up, Santana made an appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show, during which he dubbed the 16-year-old Gales a “Hendrix-caliber” guitarist, who also possessed the powers of fellow blues legend Steve Ray Vaughan.

“There’s a young brother from Memphis, Tennessee, his name is Eric Gales,” Santana said. “Still in high school, and he’s absolutely incredible. There’s nothing cute about this 16-year old, you know?

“[In him] we also have another brother who carries on that legacy of what one note [can do],” he continued. “The way they hit one note just penetrates. Yeah, Eric Gales has a bright future.”

Santana was, of course, correct. Gales' influence on the blues scene has been huge throughout his career, and his impact on the genre was most recently evident in his latest record, the Joe Bonamassa-produced Crown.

However, despite being one of the greatest guitarists on the face of the earth, Gales recently revealed that actually prefers playing the acoustic. In fact, he loves it so much, he's got a whole acoustic double album in the pipeline.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.