under rated guitarists

Ok, my buddy Jamie brought up a great topic that we haven't touched on here. Under-rated guitarists. What is 'under-rated'? It sounds like pretension rock journalism speak, and it is. What ‘under-rated guitarists’ means to me is guitar players who never got their due in popular culture. A perfect example of this would be Jerry Garcia. The Grateful Dead were famous for a million things. However, outside of Deadheads, their musicianship isn't well known.

Thing is, I have seen many, many of the greats in person: Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, BB King, Robert Cray, Jerry Garcia, and most of the list below. However, I put Jerry Garcia at or above every one of those names... including Hendrix. So, let's jump right in. We already mentioned Jerry, the patron saint of under rated guitarists.

Lindsay Buckingham

This is the guy from Fleetwood Mac. His songwriting defined the 70's, and rightfully so. He isn't just a really great guitar player. He is extremely unique. Like almost no other rock guitarists (except one mentioned below)... he doesn't use a pick. Try rockin' without a pick, you can't. He can, but you can't (or you would be on the list, too). I have seen him play live, and it made my head explode. I have played guitar for about twenty years. I stared straight at his hands and couldn't figure out a single thing he was doing. He invented his own style... not unlike our next guest >

guitar of choice > this weird handmade acoustic looking thing

Mark Knopfler

this is the dude from the Dire Straits. He is famous mostly for 'Money for Nothing', a smokin' hot riff of the 80s which reminds me of Smoke on the Water with a stutter. Listen to 'Sultan's of Swing', it's beautiful work. Knopfler also plays without a pick. I don't know, as I haven't seen him play personally. I can give him one of the highest compliments I have of a guitarist: if I hear something from him, without ever having heard it before, I can tell it is him just by the sound of the guitar. There are precious few others on that list: Carlos Santana, and Jerry Garcia. That is some seriously high praise.

guitar used > Fender Stratocaster

Billy Corgan

This is the guy from the Smashing Pumpkins. You know he is a great songwriter, and was a hit making machine in the 90's. However, I have seen him command a strat like no other person ever. I have seen them a lot live, probably 7 or 8 times. He has this amazing control of his instrument when he plays it live. He makes that guitar is bitch, a description you could only use also for the late Stevie Ray Vaughn.

guitar used > Fender Stratocaster

John Frusciante

this is the dude from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of about 7 or 8 guitarists they have had. I know it isn't cool to call Frusciante the penultimate Chili Peppers guitarist, since he replaced the original guy who died (Hillel Slovak). But... he is. He joined the band for Mother's Milk and put them on the map with Blood Sugar Sex Magic... one of the most important rock albums ever. Frusciante has this weird and cool rhythm style that I would call 'slinky'. His sound is simple but beautiful. Though he freaked out and left after the Blood Sugar tour, he rejoined them a few years ago... and the hits returned. Pretty much every single Chili Peppers song you can think of is John Frusciante... even though he is one of 7 or 8 guitarists they have had. Dude rocks, and is super creepy weird... which is a rock bonus.

*** editors update:  since the writing of this piece, Frusciante has re-left the Peppers again.  Sad face emoticon.

guitar used > Fender Stratocaster

That is all I have for this installment. However, as I was writing I realized they almost all play the Fender Stratocaster (as do Hendrix, Clapton, Blackmore, etc). So, I wanted to notate that. Why do they all play the same guitar? Answer, it's a really great guitar. I play guitar myself, and have played for about 20 years. I have owned a LOT of guitars. I still own a lot of guitars. One of them is a Stratocaster, and one cost almost ten times as much (Paul Reed Smith). The Strat is absolutely my favorite guitar. It is the most comfortable in my hands, and the most pleasurable to play.

Heck, mine is even a 'cheapie'. I say that because it is a Made in Mexico. Normally, they are made here in the USA. However, I didn't have $1200 for a Strat, so I got me a $300 'mim' strat and I couldn't be happier.

Some more fun about the iconic Stratocaster; Leo Fender did not make it for rock.  Leo Fender HATED rock.  Like your grandparents, he thought it was just shitty noise by no talent ass clowns.

lastly > that guy up top in the picture?  That is Arizona's Joe Myers.  He is my personal favorite guitarist.  I can't really count him in the list, though, since you haven't heard of him yet.


rgdaniel said…
Not sure how "under rated" he is, but in terms of not necessarily being known first and foremost as a guitarist, Frank Zappa comes to mind. Very advanced, if unconventional, player, and another "know him when you hear him" guy.
Lono said…
I guess, in the purest sense. However, I don't think Frank was known by anyone that wasn't a fan. He simply didn't get radio play.

It is true that you can tell who it is when you hear him. however, with Zappa, it isn't a compliment. His playing is disjointed and all over the place, like a Grateful Dead song that goes 15 minutes live.

To me, the greatness of Frank was the songwriting. Think of 'Yo Mamma' from Sheik Yourbouti. Great hook, nice song, hilarious lyrics... but does it need a 9 minute instrumental break in the middle?
Jaime said…
Prince...Prince...Prince...Prince...Prince!! Oh yeah...did I mention Prince? Say what you will about this guy...he can play the guitar! Unfortunately, he can also sing and dance...and is not recognized as a good guitarist. If you want to argue with me...see him live.

I also saw The Cure recently and Robert Smith can play. They don't use a keyboard player anymore...so he has to step it up on the guitar. He's definitely under rated. Most of his riffs have stood the test of time.
Anonymous said…
This is all fine and dandy but compared with the guitarist whom I feel is seriously underated,Garcia,Knopfler and Buckingham are quite well known. Who does not know the names of the aformentioned. are they not all commercially know. The Grateful Dead,Fleetwood Mac,Dire Straits? These groups soared to the heights of popularity back in the day and still command huge followings. On the other hand,Micheal Schenker is barely known outside "Hard Rock" and or "Rock" circles. For physical evidence see Micheal at Youtube under "Lost Horizons". Passion,pain,elation and love are all on display in this single song. Let the music do the talking. Micheal Schenker speaks volumes with the barest of effects. He plays his heart and soul. Btw,I too have witnessed the artistry of Buckingham and can attest to his musical prowess. James in California shimmering@hotmail.com

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