Born in Gainesville, Florida on October 20, 1950, the late lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers brought some experience to the band, having led Mudcrutch, and also being a member of the 1980s supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys. He sold over 80 million records worldwide, and his band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. And, they’ve got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
But while he led the band, we should definitely give a shout-out to the lead guitarist of the group, Mike Campbell. Known for his simple style, the guitarist is known for never using ten notes if only a couple could do the job just as well. Sure, Petty was good on the guitar, but when he released his first solo album, Full Moon Fever, he actually got Campbell to jump in and record the solos!
“The King of the Slide Guitar”, music critics and guitarists all know that anyone who puts a slide on their guitar owes Elmore James a debt. His lick defined blues rock, with his stylistic, swooping, full-octave opening figure on the slide guitar becoming a signature move. The Mississippi-born guitarist practically invented blues rock, and with unparalleled intensity, the multi-instrumentalist was set to become a star. He started with the “diddley bow” before progressing to the guitar.
His playing style influenced many musicians – one guitarist once said they practiced his signature slide until his fingers bled – it was at this point he realized that James, in fact, used a slide. Classics by way of James include the blues songs “Shake Your Money Maker,” “Talk to Me Baby,” “It Hurts Me Too” and “The Sky Is Crying.”
Born Robert Alan, in L.A., in 1946, this man is none other than the lead guitarist of the rock band The Doors. He’s co-penned songs like “Light My Fire”, “Love Me Two Times”, “Touch Me” and “Love Her Madly.” Despite being a relative late-comer to the band, he certainly contributed to the band’s unique sound. Did you know he was schooled in jazz and flamenco?
A self-taught guitarist, Krieger was later taught by Asian American scholar Frank Chin to play the flamenco guitar. During a break over Christmas, Krieger had a chance to experiment with a number of genres, including flamenco, folk, blues, and jazz! His knowledge of these genres was crucial to his part in The Doors – when he joined them, they didn’t have a rhythm guitar or bassist.
Anthony Frank Iommi is next up on our list, and he’s rock royalty. The English guitarist, songwriter, and producer was formerly the lead guitarist and one of the founding members of the heavy metal band, Black Sabbath. Here’s something we bet you didn’t know about Iommi: when he was seventeen he lost the tips of his middle and ring fingers in an accident, which would forever affect his playing style. But Iommi adapted, with this “handicap” in fact contributing to a style unique to him.
He was instrumental in bringing heavy metal to the world, but he also provided a twist on the genre. He wanted to add a little style, slowing the typically fast and rocked-up style of music. Songs like “Iron Man”, “Children of the Grave”, “Paranoid” and “N.I.B.” are iconic.
Born David Jon in Cambridge, England in 1946, Gilmour wasn’t actually the original guitarist for Pink Floyd. After Syd Barret's departure, Gilmour stepped in and became the band’s lead guitarist and frontman. A fan of distortions and effects, Gilmour’s twist on the electric guitar helped the band become one of the best-selling and most acclaimed acts in all of music history.
By 2012, Pink Floyd had sold over 250 million records worldwide! And honestly, we're not surprised– if you've ever listened to any of their songs, you'll understand why they were so mind-blowing. Gilmour eventually assumed the helm of the band, producing three more studio albums after Roger Waters’ departure in 1985, before the group disbanded in 2014.