Famous Black Guitar Players in Rock Music
Rock n’ Roll was born out of the black music of the South. Long before we filled arenas to bang our heads and pump our fists, black guitar players were filling juke joints and smokey dive bars with the sounds of their jiving with masterful guitar wizardry. These days, not many black musicians preserve or expand that juke joint music into modern rock n roll. (It’s a terrible shame.)
Here are some of the more famous black guitar players.
Jimi Hendrix – You can hardly start any list of famous guitar players, black or white or other wise, without Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix almost single handedly invented the term “guitar hero”.
Vernon Reed – Living Colour sure turned some heads when they came on the scene in the mid to late 80’s. Eddy Van Halen was taking notice of this guys style.
Prince – Not always known for his guitar playing, Prince is a powerful and lyrical guitar player that few can match. If you are in doubt, pull out a copy of Purple Rain and give it a listen.
Eric Gales – Storming onto the rock n roll stage before he was out of high school, Gales, can throw down with the best of them. Crunchy and emotional is one way to describe the way Gales plays guitar.
Robert Randolph – Noted for his pedal steel guitar playing, Randolph brings crowds from miles around to hear him shred on the steel and stomp his feet. Rolling Stone listed Randolph as the 97th best guitarist of all time in 2003.
Ernie Isley – If you can mix passionate soul and shredding rock music, Isley is the man to do it. Receiving his first guitar lessons on Jimi Hendrix’ knee, Isely became and important guitar player in his own right. If you happen upon solo Ernie Isley, you should pick it up.
Bo Diddley – There would probably be no rock n’ roll without Mr. Bo Diddley. Diddley was the bridge between what was blues to what became early rock n’ roll. You can hear his influence in everything from Guns n Roses to U2 and back again.
Chuck Berry – One of the founders of rock n’ roll, Berry, has left his mark with songs that most of us know by heart.
Victor Johnson – Sammy Hagar is not the only guitar player in his Wabo band. Johnson, is the other player doing the shredding that Hagar can’t.
Eddy Hazel – George Clinton may be the only guy your remember from Parliment/Funkadelic, but there was Hazel on guitar that made it all possible. Some believe that Hazel is one of the best guitar players that ever lived.
This list should get you started and help you find some new material to listen to. By no means is this list complete. There are other great black guitarist that I wouldn’t lump into rock n roll. A short list of these players would look like this: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, BB King, George Benson, Buddy Guy, Stanley Jordon among many others.
Lastly, if I’ve missed an important black guitarist, please let me know in a comment.