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.
Eddie Van Halen
Dutch-American musician, songwriter, and producer Eddie Van Halen is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable guitarists of his time. The main songwriter and co-founder (alongside brother and drummer Alex Van Halen, Mark Stone, and David Lee Roth) of the American hard rock band, Van Halen. Born in Amsterdam in 1955, this pioneer of rock music was born to a father who was himself a clarinetist, saxophonist, and pianist. No wonder, it runs in his blood! His middle name, “Lodewijk” is the Dutch equivalent of “Ludwig” – and yep, you guessed it, he was named after the esteemed composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
As for his guitar-playing style, well, it was anything but classical. His unique pick-holding style sees him gripping it with his middle finger and thumb (as opposed to the traditional index-thumb combination), which allows him to drag his fingers across the strings. Some artists have likened this to sounding like he’s added another instrument to the mix. Tracks like “Eruption,” “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” and “Hot for Teacher”, not to mention “Jump”, really have made rock history. And apparently, only when played by Van Halen. Mike McCready of Pearl Jam once said of Van Halen “You can play the things he’s written, but there’s an ‘X-factor’ that you can’t get.” Well said!
“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 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!
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.