Who Inspired Your Favourite Guitarists?

Published on 18 May 2023

 

We all have our heroes on the guitar. It’s part of the time-honoured procession of the generations: those who go ahead of us inspire and light the path for us to follow. It’s a natural thing, because having heroes (or influences, if that sits better with you) on the instrument helps us discern how we approach the instrument, what we want to play and - just as importantly - what we don’t want to play. Influential people can help indicate how we behave with our guitars (how many people have copied Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix’s stage moves over the years?) and more…but what of those famous players themselves? Don’t they have inspirational figures of their own?

Why yes, yes they do! No one is immune to influence, and nobody is a complete original. We all take inspiration from the people we admire, and that’s as true of superstars as it is of local players and bedroom hobbyists. Today, we pick out a few famous players who are happy to reveal their own favourite guitarists…

 

Joe Bonamassa: Eric Clapton

From the shiny Hugo Boss suit to the shades, it’s clear that Joe Bonamassa has been taking notes from 80s-era Eric Clapton. Whilst we’d say that Joe is perhaps more animated onstage than his laconic inspiration, there’s no denying the connection. That goes through to the music itself, which blends the blues with pop and rock as well as some rootsier flavourings, just like ol’ Slowhand himself.

The two superstars finally shared the stage with the song Further On Up the Road, and Joe must’ve had sweaty palms as he traded licks with his hero: “I was shocked to find out that he knew who I was”. It was just like looking in the mirror, Joe!

 

 

John Frusciante: Bernard Sumner

Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante is a bit of a latter-day guitar hero in the traditional sense: long hair, big solos, plenty of attitude, a relatively dodgy past conquered with the power of music etc, but his own hero on the guitar is quite surprising.

Yes, one of Frusciante’s favourite players is Joy Division/New Order guitarist Bernard Sumner. Known more as a frontman and songwriter than outright ‘guitar guy’, Sumner is most certainly an influential artist, but it’s still interesting to note that Fruciante named him as his primary influence on By the Way, one of the RHCP’s biggest records. Apparently his direct simplicity and melodicism were key to Frusciante’s approach at that period, even though the music itself is arguably quite dissimilar.

The pair finally created together when John guested on Sumner’s reworking of the Joy Division track New Dawn Fades for the 24 Hour Party People Movie.

 

 

Alex Lifeson: Steve Morse

Rush are so epically big and wide-ranging as a band that it’s a difficult thing to pin down particular influences, particularly for chameleonic guitar hero Alex Lifeson. Happily, all you need to do is ask him and he’ll tell you who he rates highly, and there’s a real sense of respect and generosity of spirit in how he responds to such a question:

"I've come across many players over the years and I've learned a lot from a lot of players, but I think one of the most underrated players - and he's respected, but he just didn't get the recognition he deserved - is Steve Morse. I remember when we were playing with The Steve Morse band and he'd be there when we were there at soundcheck, at three or four o'clock in the afternoon, and I'd just watch him and he'd be wandering around the hall playing and warming up. They'd always play a different song every night for their soundcheck and he was just such an amazing player. He has such an amazing ability. I always thought that he should have been huge in whatever he did. He was definitely successful in whatever bands he worked in, but I don't think that he ever had the kind of recognition that he so deserved. So I'd have to say Steve Morse."

 

 

Johnny Depp: Keith Richards

It’s hardly a secret that Johnny ‘Megapint’ Depp and Keef are close pals. You just have to check out Richards’ immortal cameo as Capt’n Jack’s dad in Pirates of the Caribbean 8 (maybe it’s the third one?) for proof of that. But just take a look at any footage of the Deppster onstage and you’ll see a man who not only dresses like Keith, but also stands like him, wears his guitar as low as him, and effectively provides us with a Hollywood A-list cosplay of the iconic Rolling Stone. 

Given that Keith is as cool as it gets, we fully understand Johnny’s thought process!

 

 

Head (Korn): Steph Carpenter

Korn are easily one of the most influential bands of the 90s, so it’s nice to see that they’re not shy about spreading the love to their peers. Head, one half of the band’s twin guitar attack, actually singles out a fellow player from the same era instead of talking about formative influences. For him, the Deftones guitarist is where it’s at:

"I appreciate what he does because the dude is just a metal head that can come up with these crushing riffs and then he can go and do this melodic stuff. He's influenced me. Seriously. He influenced me back when Deftones weren't even signed and Korn was playing shows with them. He influenced me to bring that melody into the chords and stuff where you can just really feel it in your heart. I love it. I'm all about melody and balls!"

 

 

Dimebag Darrell: Eddie Van Halen

One of metal’s most truly inspiring players was Pantera legend Dimebag Darrell. An avowed Kiss fan though he was (he had the obligatory tattoo of Simmons et al on his leg), it was to the great Dutch face-melter Eddie Van Halen that he owed his true allegiance.

We all know the sad story of Dimebag’s onstage murder, but what less people may know is that his last words were actually ‘Van Halen’. Yes, he and brother Vinnie - who was also Dimebag’s drummer - had a pre-show ritual of bumping fists and saying ‘Van Halen’ to each other before beginning in order to remind themselves of the standards they wanted to reach at every gig.

Eddie Van Halen paid back this loyalty by donating Dimebag’s favourite guitar of his - the 1979 Charvel ‘Bumblebee’ guitar - to rest forever with him in his coffin. It’s sad stuff but the story definitely illustrates the mad love Dimebag had for his hero, and the love he received back from that very man.

Rest in Peace, both of you legends.

 

 

Influences are Important

We all come from somewhere, and that’s as true in musical terms as anything else. It’s actually very humanising to see world-famous musicians displaying their own influences, as it lets us realise that they are superfans too, just like us. Just as Johnny loves Keith, so Keith loves Chuck Berry, and so the baton is handed ever onwards. So shall it continue!

 

 

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Ray

Features Editor, Warehouse

I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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