guitar boss shows how to steal licks from Buddy Holly, Scotty Moore, Les Paul, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Marvin and Roger McGuinn
Fact: wonderful guitar player, is Richard Thompson (pictured right). Just for a change, though, Tony Bacon asked him how other people get that fantastic sound, while Jon Blackmore focussed on the fingers.
"Probably the first person to get a great sound out of a Strat. He wasn't technically a great player — and a lot of what I thought was Holly on the early stuff was Tommy Allsup, the guitarist in the Crickets, he did the stuff like 'It's So Easy To Fall In Love' and 'Heartbeat'. All the nifty stuff is Tommy Allsup, I believe. But Holly's still a great guitar player, he still played a lot of the leads.
"It sounds like Holly's playing middle pickup Strat on some stuff, the back pickup on others. 'Peggy Sue' is a sort of warm rumble on most of the verse, all the treble rolled off, and then it slashes into the bridge pickup sound on the solo.
"Holly was very influential: his stuff is easy to play, it sounds great, and after a while anyone can do it. A lot of the appeal with Holly is that you can always remember the lyrics to his songs, they're easy, but there's great style there too. Real Tex-Mex, early fusion, which you still hear today from people like Joe Ely and T-Bone Burnette. Deceptively simple stuff, but played with great feel."
(On '20 Golden Greats' Coral MCTV1)
"This is a fusion of black music and white music, and played with a great feeling for both. Holly plays the solo on this one — I think he played on this with a capo on the fifth fret. The chord here is the one you slide up to just before the solo — keep sliding into it to get the drama. Listen to how Holly does it on the record — you can hit the high strings pretty hard with the plectrum. It's essentially an E7 slide, and then you go down into the A chord.
"The five-picture sequence is the slide-down into the top of the verse — a note at a time and then into the open chord. It shows how Holly used simple passages to build interesting songs."
"He probably had more impact than a lot of guitar players at the time because, simply, he was on Elvis Presley's records. Scotty's playing seems to me to be a real fusion of the styles of Les Paul and Chet Atkins — often a Scotty Moore solo can be broken into the Les Paul bit going into the Chet Atkins bit. He plays some very weird and adventurous stuff, too — listen to the solo on 'Too Much'. I can't play it — chromatic ups and downs, but it kind of works.
"Scotty Moore was a great, ground-breaking player, no doubt about it. The kind of material Presley was doing, they were listening to people like Arthur Crudup and Otis Blackwell, lots of black music, and were turning it into rock 'n' roll, countrifying it a bit too. Scotty Moore was very good technically, and was lucky enough to be playing in those circumstances."
(On Elvis Presley's 'Rock 'n' Roll Rebel' K-Tel NE1170)
"This shows a little of that Les Paul/Chet Atkins fusion, picking below, with chords and bends up top. The bass string run is four notes descending, Ab, G, Gb, and E, which you damp by resting the right-hand gently on the lower strings — this is a very common device in Scotty Moore's and Chet Atkin's playing, and will give you the crisp, distinctively choppy bass run.
"Then you slide up from the E7 to an A6, and back to a straight E — here you're picking quite tersely on the top three strings to get the necessary attack. Again, listen to the record to get the feel, and try it over a few times with Scotty."
"A weird player, weird fingerings. He's one of those people you feel never had all his fingers working right. He does lots of one-finger chromatic runs — yup, very weird.
"And he has to be the great pioneer of electric guitar playing — in fact a pioneer of the electric guitar, full stop. He developed so many aspects.
"I think he started off in a country duo or trio. With the Les Paul and Mary Ford records, late 40s early 50s, it's basically jazz. Nowadays, you can hear a lot of Django in his playing, and he has a very strong vibrato. In fact it's very much a rock 'n' roll vibrato — the sideways one rather than the downwards one. He may have been the first person to do that sideways vibrato.
"He's a very flashy player, too. Very gimmicky, and I think he developed a lot of the tricks and gimmicks that people use habitually today on the electric guitar: slap echo, for example, fundamental stuff these days, and he built the first 8-track, too, and did the first double-speed guitar recording. I think he was the first rock 'n' roll player, he invented a lot of those licks you still hear. One of the first white people to bend a tone!"
(On 'The Very Best Of Les Paul And Mary Ford' MFP 5604)
"The first shots show a very typical Les Paul-ism. It's a simple bend, but it's very effective. This comes in on the middle of the solo — listen to the record. You hit the small bar-chord A twice, and then shoot up to the bent E. Take it slowly at first, and gradually build up speed. The other one you'll find all over the place in Les Paul's records — if you like, it's a tone hammer-on and pull-off descending chromatically. It's pictured in its off/on/off form; then you can run it down the fingerboard very fast, picking it once at each position and letting your fingers do the work."
"Hendrix was a wonderful guitar player, very technically accomplished, perhaps more than people give him credit for. Definitely one of the great pioneers of the guitar. I suppose a comparison to John Coltrane in his field wouldn't be totally out of place; he really broke down the barriers in guitar playing. He took everything a little further out.
"He used a lot of different techniques to get the sounds he wanted: tremolo arm to create slides and swoops, atonal things, a lot of feedback, and lots of strange overdubs on the records.
"You get an idea of how good he was if you sit down and try to copy a Jimi Hendrix solo — it's actually very difficult to get both the sound and the technique. It's interesting that he was a blues-based player, but his runs were very melodic and actually quite unusual in their note choice. Really fresh, and jumping around from idea to idea. Definitely somebody who practiced a lot."
(On 'The Singles Album' Polydor PODV6)
"This is my interpretation of the opening chord that the guitar and bass play on the record — pick the bottom three strings first, and then the next three up (A, D & G), damping the low E: boom, bah, boom, bah, and so on.
"Then I'm playing the main riff to the song in the next set of photos. You do a long slide up from low on the fingerboard to the B on the fourth string. Then you go to a D on the third string, to a G on the second string bent up to a blue note, to an A on the fourth string, down to a G on that string bent up slightly, then you hop over to a D on the fifth string, and finally to an E on the fifth string hit twice. That's the basic riff. Then turn it up, John."
"A great sound. The first person in Britain who got a great sound out of a Fender — well, the first person to own a Fender in Britain, probably. I think a lot of credit goes to him and to the Shadows' producer (Norrie Paramour) because at the time they made really good-sounding records, the guitar sound (and the drum sound) stands up really well.
"Hank was a good player, too — when he had the odd excursion it was interesting stuff. Something like 'Man Of Mystery', where he goes a bit wild in the middle, sounds great — if you listen you'll hear him getting a fabulous sound out of the guitar. I think he's been very influential on British players, specially the Mark Knopfler types.
"Sometimes he played with that sort of damped sound, and yet other times he'd let the guitar sing a bit more — what Stratocasters are supposed to be famous for, in fact. And he used a lot of its arm vibrato too, very distinctively. Of course he had Bruce Welch there, one of the great rhythm guitarists — Mr Solid."
(On 'The Shadows 20 Golden Greats' EMI EMTV3)
"This is the damped opening phrase, deftly picked, jumping over the strings. It's a four-bar sequence: on the first bar you have one finger in place, the second bar you add the second finger, third bar the third finger, and then it's open for the fourth. You pick in a definite pattern — the string numbers as you pick, bar by bar, are: two-two-one-one-two-two three-three-two-two-three-three four-four-two-two-three three-three. There's a shot here too to show you the rather tight damping used on the right hand. Listen to the record!"
"A great player, actually, with a pioneering sound on the 12-string. Someone else might have used it on a record before him, Sonny & Cher or the Searchers perhaps, but it doesn't really matter. The way that the Byrds developed that sound was unique, the Rickenbacker sound.
"And McGuinn was doing interesting things, he was putting in Miles Davis bits and John Coltrane bits, great exploratory stuff. Like on 'Eight Miles High', a bit of 'Milestones' creeps In."
"I really don't know how to illustrate Roger McGuinn's stuff on a six-string, apart from showing you how to cheat! So: here's how to make a six-string sound (almost) like a 12-string. You play in octaves and pick two strings at a time — the pictures show two different shapes that you can use running up and down the neck and picking as you go to get a fake 12-string run. Make up other octave shapes for yourself."
"Is that the lot? We missed out Steve Lukather..."
"And Eddie Van Halen..."
"You'll get a lot of letters about that."
Feature by Tony Bacon
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