Many of us can say we were raised ON great music, but Derek Trucks was raised IN it – he’s the nephew of the Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks. He started playing slide guitar before he was ten and was touring just a few years later, at twelve. He was an explorer when he played guitar, doing new stuff that even the old masters marveled at.
Trucks stepped into the family job and the slide-guitar spot in the Allman Brothers Band in 1999 when he was just twenty years old. His solos incorporate different styles of playing to give classical music a new flavor.
If you're a fan of big, loud riffs that get in your face and get stuck in your ears, you have Dave Davies to thank. He was the guitarist for the Kinks, and when he was at the tender age of seventeen, he recorded “You Really Got Me,” one of the first proto-metal singles.
He was not going wild on the guitar, and he even achieved the unique distortion on “You Really Got Me” by slicing an amp speaker with a razor. Who else would do such a thing all the way back in 1966? The way he says it, nobody else.
Combining punk energy and melodic beauty is no easy task, but Tom Verlaine was one of the guitarists who could pull it off seemingly at the flip of a switch. Patti Smith once described his unique sound as “a thousand bluebirds screaming,” and it's hard to argue.
Verlaine took what had been done before, gave it a big spin, and came out with something entirely new, setting his band Television up for big success. The man could squeal, he could solo, and he could run through chords that would send the crowd's head spinning.
Burton has one of the most unique sounds in country music – he called it “chicken picken” style. It's crisp, it's concise, and it's got an undeniable flair. Burton's unique style comes from the fact that he started playing and writing professionally when he was only fourteen.
He became a teenage star when he joined Ricky Nelson's band in 1957. He replaced the top four strings on his guitar with banjo strings, and the rest was history. He was a huge influence on the rock world as well – Keith Richards loved his playing, and he was one of the players in Elvis's TCB band.
You just don't see many Chets around anymore, but maybe that should change. Perhaps the most famous Chet, Atkins practically invented entire styles of playing when he wasn't in charge of producing genre-defining country music. The man could play chords and melody at the same time – that isn't luck; that's a purely practiced skill.
He said that he often had a guitar in his hands for sixteen hours a day, constantly experimenting and improving. He played for Hank Williams, and he played for Elvis, but his solo music is a wonder to behold. It's possible everybody who plays guitar owes something to Chet.