The lunatic is in my head

Periodically, I use this space to pay homage to artists I believe are worthy of focused attention — artists with an extraordinary body of work and a compelling story to tell.  In this essay, I take a closer look at one of the pioneers of progressive rock who went on to become one of rock music’s most popular yet fractious bands ever:  Pink Floyd.


June 1975.  The four members of Pink Floyd were hard at work in the Abbey Road studio putting finishing touches on the recording of “Wish You Were Here,” their eagerly awaited follow-up LP to “The Dark Side of the Moon,” which had made the band worldwide superstars.

The centerpiece of the new album was “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” a 22-minute track broken into two 11-minute sections to open and close the album.  It was conceived as a tribute to Syd Barrett, their long-lost leader, their founder, their songwriter, their inspiration, who had fallen deep, deep into “LSD-based mental disarray” shortly after the release of the group’s 1967 debuSyd_Barrett_Abbey_Road_1975t LP, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” and was dismissed from the band shortly thereafter.

As they worked that June night, Pink Floyd failed to notice when a strange-looking obese man wearing a white trenchcoat and shoes, clutching a white bag, wandered into the studio room.  His bald, eyebrow-less face looked ghostlike, and as he puttered around the band’s equipment, guitarist David Gilmour looked up and thought, “Who the hell is that, and why is he here?”

Roger Waters, the band’s new guru, saw the interloper and stopped dead in his tracks.  He turned to keyboard player Rick Wright and asked, “Do you know who that is?”   Wright looked and studied him for a moment, and then said, “Oh my God.  That’s Syd.”

It was an eerie coincidence, or creepy karma, that Barrett would suddenly appear after a seven-year absence.  He stayed less than an hour, quietly listening and observing, and Waters said later he broke down in tears at the sight of his friend, not yet 30 but looking twice that old.  When Barrett left, they never saw him again.  He lived a strictly private life and died in 2006.

pink-floyd-1973-billboard-650Pink Floyd, born from the ashes of a group called The Tea Set in 1965, has had one of the most tumultuous yet successful careers in rock history.  Their story is fraught with epic internal tension, international #1 albums, clinical madness, floating pigs, bitter rifts between founding members, huge concert tours, and worldwide sales among the highest in the business.

Not bad for a bunch of wayward art students from Cambridge.

Let’s start with a caveat:  Despite the massive sales numbers, Pink Floyd’s oeuvre is definitely not for everyone.  There are broad swaths of music lovers who regard the band with disdain, sniffing, “It’s just boring stoner music.  Give me something I can dance to, dammit!”

Indeed, even Pink Floyd was smart enough to recognize this.  In 1981, they had the brash temerity to title their compilation CD “A Collection of Great Dance Songs.”

Floyd fans never got up and danced to their music.  That was most definitely not the point.  This was music that commanded you to sit down and listen.

Their stock in trade began as experimental psychedelic rock that soon evolved into what came to be known as progressive rock, which uses rich musical teDark_Side_of_the_Moonxtures and enigmatic lyrics to challenge the limits of rock and roll.  At its best, Pink Floyd’s music was almost overwhelming in its complexity and nuance, its mesmerizing grace and sublime brilliance, its experimentalism and radical departure.

The fact that they ended up as commercially successful as they are is, in many ways, puzzling.  Let’s examine the stats:  According to Business Insider, Pink Floyd ranks ninth in all-time sales, with 75 million units sold.  The group’s signature LP, “Dark Side of the Moon,” spent an absurd 917 weeks (that’s more than 17 years!) in the US Billboard Top 200 album charts, an achievement unlikely to be surpassed (in second place is Bob Marley’s “Legends” collection, at 386).  “Dark Side” has sold 40 million copies worldwide, and still sells about 200,000 a year.  It has been estimated that one in every six households in the US has a copy of the album, and that someone, somewhere, is playing it right this minute.

Pink Floyd’s story is much like a three-act play.  Act I covers its inception to the departure of Barrett.  Act II would be the period from roughly 1968 through their heyday to the point where Waters acrimoniously splits.  Act III takes us from 1984 to present day.

Act I:

Syd Barrett Madcap Laughs 2Syd Barrett had been a childhood friend of Roger Waters when they were growing up in Cambridge, and was asked to join the group Waters had started with Nick Mason and Richard Wright, who he had met in architecture school in London.  Barrett quickly emerged as the main songwriter, singer, guitarist and front man, and nearly every song they recorded was composed by Barrett.

They were a huge success in England from the start, first in the clubs of the London Underground with their trippy performances, and then on the charts.  Two hit singles (“Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”) and the astonishing “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” LP were all Top Five on the charts there.  Even their prog rock peers like Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson has said, “Pink Floyd was colorful, creative and meaningful.  Syd Barrett’s soFCngs were strange and funny, and they stretched my boundaries.  It’s as if they presented paintings as words and sounds.”

But Barrett was quickly unraveling from his unfortunate penchant for taking LSD on nearly a daily basis in the summer and fall of 1967.  It made him unproductive, disruptive and maddeningly frustrating to deal with, both on stage and in the studio. Pink_Floyd_-_all_membersWithin months, it became abundantly clear that he had gone beyond the pale, over the edge.  The rest of the group, desperate to keep their momentum, recruited Barrett’s old school chum David Gilmour, at first just to fill in Barrett’s guitar parts in concert, but ultimately, to take his place in the band’s permanent lineup.  It was a momentous change.

Waters in particular found it painful to cut Barrett loose, but he knew it was absolutely necessary.  “Pink Floyd couldn’t have happened without (Syd),” Waters said, “but on the other hand, it couldn’t have gone on with him.”

Act II:

Pink_Floyd_-_UmmagummaThe new lineup forged ahead, with Waters taking over most of the songwriting, although several tracks on the next few albums were credited to all four members.  The material they recorded on “A Saucerful of Secrets,” “Ummagumma” and “Atom Heart Mother” continued to explore new and strange sounds in the same spacey, psychedelic vein they had introduced, and the British audiences and record buyers continued to lap it up.

But all of these early records made barely a dent in the US, except among devotees listening to underground FM radio.  It wasn’t until 1971’s meddle“Meddle,” which included the hypnotic, relentless, otherworldly “One Of These Days” and the 23-minute “Echoes” that American listeners started paying closer attention.  Still, the album stalled at #70, and its followup, “Obscured By Clouds,” a soundtrack to the French film “La Vallee,” managed only #46 here.

But that all changed in March 1973 when “Dark Side of the Moon” was released. Now we were hearing heartbeats, ticking clocks, a cash register, a helicopter, maniacal laughter, mesmerizing synthesizer riffs, amazing guitar passages… and the voices.  Waters taped technicians, friends, even the studio door security guy, saying various things, scripted and unscripted, and dropped them strategically into the mix.

“There is no dark side of the moon…Matter of fact, it’s all dark…”

Most important, the music and lyrics had been carefully crafted over many months in the studio to be less eccentric and more appealing to a broader audience.  It hit a nerve among high school and college kids, who were spending untold hours in their bedrooms and dorm rooms under the headphones, spellbound by the lushly produced, technically proficient recordings.  Waters was now clearly in charge of the songwriting, and he was obsessed with the subject of madness and the things that make people insane — money, time, modern life.  Motivated partly by the sad fate of his old friend and partly by his own caustic view of societal injustices, Waters and the boys found a way, as Rolling Stone‘s Mikal Gilmore put it, “to make aPink-Floyd-David-Gilmour-Roger-Waters-Shine-On-Syd-Barrett-Abbey-Road- thoughtful and imaginative statement about grim modern realities that somehow managed to soothe you with its nightmares.”


It must be mentioned that each Pink Floyd album cover broke new ground in artistic audacity.  Hipgnosis, a London-based outfit, collaborated with the band to devise extraordinarily astounding images that contributed mightily to the excitement of every new Floyd release.

The band spent more than a year on the road worldwide doing sold-out shows in promotion of “Dark Side,” with increasingly arresting visuals augmenting the mind-bending music.  But as often happens to bands who achieve such widespread success, they struggled mightily about what to do next.  Waters and Gilmour were already at odds about the direction they should take, and Waters’ uncomfortable moodiness made life difficult in the creative laboratory of the recording studio.  But Gilmour had come up with a mesmerizing four-note riff that Waters thought was a perfect foundation for a long piece he wanted to write about both the loneliness and brotherhood he felt for Barrett and his dissolution.

6cc8dc4608aa7ef6595e85ea5ef3412d“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” — and the acoustic guitar-based “Wish You Were Here” — were the Barrett tributes that became the centerpieces for the “Wish You Were Here” LP, widely regarded as a thoroughly worthy follow-up to “Dark Side.”  Just as important were the tracks that decried the submission of the human race (“Welcome to the Machine”) and the way the band was now treated by the profit-motivated record label (“Have a Cigar”).  The group felt no need to sit for interviews, and in fact, they cherished their individual privacy, something most bands were happily willing to sacrifice in the name of fame.  No matter:  The album went straight to #1 in multiple countries.

As Wright put it, “I particularly like that record, the atmospherics.  I think the best material from the Floyd was when two or three of us co-wrote something together.  Afterwards, we lost that.  There was no longer that interplay of ideas.”

Pink_Floyd_-_AnimalsIndeed, Waters took control almost completely for “Animals” (1977) and the sprawling “The Wall” (1979), Pink Floyd’s next two LPs.  He insisted on handling virtually all the music and lyrics, and even stage design, props (a gigantic inflatable pig?) and laser-show lighting.  Their lyrics — paticularly for the bloated double album “The Wall” —  continued Waters’ increasingly bleak worldview and his obsession with gloom, mental breakdowns and alienation, which, in turn, alienated the rest of the band.  “Do we have to revisit all this yet again?” questioned Wright, who Waters fired during the album’s recording, yet rehired “as a sideman” for the subsequent tour.

650e11af0608196605b22874167cb01dBoth albums rocketed to #1, and made them the world’s top concert draw at the time.  “The Wall” gave them their improbable #1 hit single, “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II).”  But the internal dissension was growing exponentially — “None of us has ever been the best of friends,” noted Gilmour — and communication was nearly nonexistent, much like the relationship between the band and its audience once Waters executed his desire to build an actual wall on stage, taking the message of isolation to its extreme.

Somehow, the band managed to stay together until, in 1982, Waters presented the group with another concept and a batch of mostly-completed songs.  This time Gilmour balked, saying he thought the material wasn’t up to snuff — and indeed, most of the tracks were rejects from “The Wall” sessions.  Nevertheless, they recorded the underwhelming “The Final Cut,” which turned out to be the final Pink Floyd album in which Waters participated.

It reached #6 and sold two million copies in the US, but you rarely hear many cuts from it, on classic radio or anywhere else.  It was a deflating end to a marvelous reign.

Act III:

Court bMLoRLP01attles over the rights to use the Pink Floyd name (the “brand”) pitted Waters against his former mates in one of the deepest, ugliest splits in rock history, more public even than The Beatles’ infamous breakup.  Waters lost, and Gilmour, Mason and Wright kept the Pink Floyd name in the news with 1987’s “A Momentary Lapse of Reason,” a solid album and tour that maintained the band’s momentum for the rest of the ’80s.

Gilmour’s immediately recognizable guitar and vocals carried the day (much to Waters’ consternation), as they did again in 1994 with the band’s penultimate effort, “The Division Bell,” which also hit the top rs-david-gilmour-0a30d165-1bc6-437c-9306-46ff8352cef2of the charts.  One more Floyd LP, entitled “The Endless River,” was released in 2014, truly a “scraping the bottom of the barrel” collection of discarded snippets from previous sessions, barely worth mentioning.

Gilmour had been occasionally releasing solo albums since as far back as 1978, and his 2006 LP, “On an Island,” reached #6 in the US, a welcome rush of Floydian music for the band’s starved fans.  A tour at that time, and another in support of 2015’s “Rattle That Lock,” met with praise and enthusiastic crowds.

Waters, in the meantime, produced a series of far less successful solo albums — “The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking” (1982), “Radio K.A.O.S.” (1987) and “Amused to Death” (1992) — and a couple of well-received tours (including a star-studded tour promoting “The Wall”) featured new songs interspersed with the best of tRoger-Waters1-1he Pink Floyd repertoire.  He’s still at it today, participating in the landmark Desert Tour shows on the Coachella grounds in October 2016 (some say he was the highlight), and he’s about to release another LP, “Is This the Life We Really Want?”, later this summer.

As is often the case when bands split up, the various entities did reasonably well, but certainly not as successful as they would have been together.  An uneasy truce was reached for a couple of one-off appearances in 2005-2007, and the band members no longer publicly badmouth eacLive 8 London - Stageh other.  But it’s clear they’ll never record together again, and the band’s catalog will not see any further entries (outside of endless re-packages).

But Pink Floyd’s legacy as one of rock’s true giants remains intact, and one of the music business’s most interesting tales, with a recorded output that rivals damn near any band in history.






I pick up my guitar and play

Coming up with the “Top 20” in any given category is sometimes an exercise in the obvious.  If the subject is guitar players, we always see the same names — Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Duane Allman, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana, Stephen Stills, Pete Townshend, Eddie Van Halen, Chuck Berry.

And that’s the problem:  We exalt our icons, but underneath the radar are many dozens of incredibly talented guitarists who deserve to be noticed.  This is their time.

smb_guitars_by_drdotThis will be a list of the Top 20 unfairly unrecognized guitarists.  Many of these names we’ll be exploring will be unfamiliar to most readers, I venture to say.  In some cases, they’re anonymous session musicians who prefer to simply record their delicious solos and licks and go home.  Or they may have long solo careers full of amazing albums that were largely ignored by radio and the public alike.  And there are others who have served as guitarists in hugely popular bands but their names don’t register with most listeners (except other musicians).

You may not know their names, but you might recognize their work when you hear it.  They operated mostly in the shadows, but their riffs and techniques made a big impact.  Here are four examples:  Offering that perfect guitar fill in Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne”;  laying down some tasty guitar licks to fill out “Billie Jean”; contributing letter-perfect flamenco guitar to Al Stewart’s “On the Border”; taking “Smiling Faces Sometimes” to new heights with its flat-fuzz guitar solo.

My friend Gary recently gave me a book called “Unstrung Heroes” by Pete Braidis, in which the author offers his choices for “50 guitar greats you should know.”  Granted, this kind of list is wholly subjective, reflecting the author’s tastes and time frame.  Braidis is an unabashed fan of ’70s -’80s hard rock, so there is a preponderance of fast-and-hard rock guitarists I hadn’t heard of or didn’t know much about, like Pat Travers, The Scorpions’ Uli Jon Roth, Whitesnake’s Bernie Marsden, Thin Lizzy’s Eric Bell, Triumph’s Rik Emmett and Saga’s Ian Crichton.

I tend to favor a wider range of musical styles, and consequently, my list reflects that diversity.  But by opening it up to so many different genres — blues, country rock, jazz fusion, hard rock, folk rock, R&B and more — it made my task of whittling down my list of “unsung guitar heroes” to just 20 names that much more difficult.

I sought the input of 15-20 acquaintances who are knowledgeable about music and have strong opinions about which ones deserve more notoriety.   They fired back emails citing more than 70 different guitarists!  I spent several satisfying hours on Spotify listening to selections by the ones unfamiliar to me (from Braidis’s book as well as my friends’ nominees), and was pleased to add a few of them to the list I’d already begun compiling.

With my selections, I hope to provoke a conversation that increases awareness of the many unheralded guitar players out there.  One friend put it this way:  “This list could go on for days, and the debate could last years.”

Martin-Barre-2016-e1473862806417-1100x733We could start by debating what is meant by “underrated” or “unheralded.”  I submit that there are at least a dozen guitarists who play for internationally popular bands whose individual names are not as well known and are therefore not mentioned often enough in lists of top 7ca550fbd1571d2411ec8acea4c1fa7aguitarists:  Steve Howe (from Yes);  Martin Barre (Jethro Tull);  Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers);  Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits);  Tom Scholz (Boston);  Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones, 1969-1974);  Terry Kath (Chicago, 1969-1978);  Brian May (Queen); Steve Hackett (Genesis 1970-1977);  Don Felder (The Eagles, 1974-1999);  Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane);  Andy Summers (The Police)..

glen-campbell-newAnd there are also talented musicians like John Mayer, Glen Campbell, Prince or Vince Gill who are mostly famous for their singing or songwriting, but their considerable guitar skills may not be sufficiently recognized (but should be).

I hope to coax some of you into exploring the guitar performances of any of the names mentioned here that are unfamiliar to you.  I’ll wager you’ll be pleasantly surprised, maybe even bowled over.  There’s a Spotify playlist at the bottom to give you a taste of each name on the list.

So here we go:



1129-3Larry Carlton

Played with the jazz fusion band The Crusaders in the ’70s and beyond; contributed succinct guitar solos on more than 100 rock LPs, including major albums by Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Christopher Cross and Michael Jackson; and recorded more than a dozen solo records brimming with astonishing guitar solos.  Check out:  “Room 335” and “Point It Up” from his first solo LP (1977) or Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne.”

tommy2Tommy Emmanuel

This Australian guitarist has been wowing audiences for nearly 30 years, giving eye-popping performances showcasing his command of the Chet Atkins musical style (“Travis picking”), in which he plays bass lines, chords, melodies and harmonies simultaneously.  He and Atkins collaborated on Atkins’ last album, “The Day Guitar Pickers Took Over the World.”  In 2008 and 2010, Emmanuel was named Best Acoustic Guitarist in a Guitar Player readers poll.

image-1Peter White

If you listen to the remarkable guitar passages White provided behind Al Stewart’s most popular LPs (and also in concert), you can clearly see how important a supporting role can be to quality performances.  But White continued onward with a solo career in the ’90s and beyond, winning accolades as “best smooth jazz guitarist” in several different polls.  Check out his work on “On the Border” from Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” LP.

404777c7b390f322a702c5d019958ef8Tommy Tedesco

Thanks to a recent film documentary on The Wrecking Crew, the anonymous musicians who made up this unofficial group of L.A. session players in the 1960s and ’70s aren’t as anonymous anymore.  Still, Tedesco deserves to be more widely known, since his guitar work appears on hundreds of recordings by all manner of pop artists, and on film soundtracks for Jaws, The Godfather, The Deer Hunter and more.

Elton+John+Davey+Johnstone+Elton+John+Leon+tjv1uO1Z_fylDavey Johnstone

So many of Elton John’s rockers would be found lacking if not for the biting guitar licks and power chords provided by Johnstone, who accompanied Elton on more than 80% of his albums.  His finesse on acoustic guitar and mandolin is also in evidence on tracks like “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.”  He also recorded with Meat Loaf and Alice Cooper for a spell but never strayed far from John — he recently performed his 2,000th show as part of The Elton John Band.

RR030823-e1420844580147Craig Chaquico

The soaring lead guitar parts on the mid-’70s Jefferson Starship albums (“Red Octopus,” “Spitfire,” “Earth”) and the LPs by later incarnation Starship all come from Chaquico.  He is also a Grammy winner for the work he has performed on numerous solo albums, featuring contemporary jazz, blues and New Age instrumental pieces.  His abilities are on clear display on the 1978 JS hit “Runaway” and his own “Turquoise Moon” from 1999’s “Four Corners.”


422f0743d931a9916b8d74684853321dLowell George

His friend Bonnie Raitt is universally recognized as the queen of slide guitar, but she leaned the ropes from the late George, who was one of the pioneers of the slide technique as he was founding the great ’70s band Little Feat.  Even though a self-indulgent lifestyle led to his premature death in 1980, George’s recordings, especially on the first four Feat albums, live on as ample proof that he deserves to be a legend.

7d2ca74fafe1dc2d19e5e6b4a6fd134aNils Lofgren

Initially hailed as a prodigy of sorts when he emerged in a supporting role in Neil Young’s Crazy Horse band at age 19, then as a solo artist in the mid-’70s, Lofgren crafted a compelling style all his own.  It attracted the attention of Bruce Springsteen, who brought him into the E Street Band during the “Born in the USA” tour, and he’s been a dependable mainstay there ever since.

rory-gallagher-c1977-manchester-by-steve-smith-8Rory Gallagher

Although he could summon only a cult audience in the US, Gallagher was far more successful and well-known in his native Ireland and in England, where he managed five Top 40 albums in the mid-’70s.  He offered blistering hard rock and blues guitar, and not only inspired legions of more recent axemen, but has also been mentioned by the likes of Jimmy Page and Keith Richards as among their favorites.



1denniscoffey1_courtesy_of_clarence_avant_-_interior_music_corpDennis Coffey

An important member of the loose gang of session musicians known as The Funk Brothers, Coffey played inventive, memorable guitar licks on many of the classic tracks in Motown Records history, including The Temptations’ “Cloud Nine” and “Ball of Confusion,” the Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together,” Edwin Starr’s “War” and The Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces Sometimes,” and also his own instrumental Top Ten hit, “Scorpio.”

david-hidalgo-3-cropDavid Hidalgo

Los Lobos may be one of most versatile bands ever — “Chicano rock,” R&B, blues, zydecko, country, soul, traditional, they could do it all, and the lion’s share of the credit goes to singer/songwriter/guitarist Hildalgo.  He is skilled at handling any genre, with perhaps blues and Americana being his strong suits.  Check out “Blue Moonlight” and their version of Cream’s “Politician.”

1200px-Image-SteveLukatherSteve Lukather

Best known as the feisty guitarist for Toto, Lukather has also made an indelible mark as a California session guitarist, playing on more than 1,500 albums over a 35-year career.  His solo albums in more recent years have leaned heavily toward jazz fusion, inspired by early greats John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola.  He and Larry Carlton also grabbed a 2001 Best Instrumental Grammy for their satisfying collaborative LP, “No Substitutions:  Live in Osaka.”

index.84Steve Cropper

The celebrated guitarist from Stax Records’ house band, Booker T. and the MG’s, played on dozens of classic recordings by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and others, and often produced and arranged records as well.  He also figured prominently as lead guitarist in The Blues Brothers (“play it, Steve!”).  Cropper is often mentioned in Guitar Player magazine as one of the best of all time.


maxresdefault-24Albert Lee

Known as “the guitar player’s guitar player,” Lee’s background is in the country music arena, backing such luminaries as Emmylou Harris, The Everly Brothers and Willie Nelson.  “Mr. Telecaster” also supported Eric Clapton in the 1980s (check out the interplay on “The Shape You’re In” from his 1983 LP) and has 15 solo albums to his credit between 1979-2014.  Lee has a sweet style that at times can uncannily approximate the sound of a pedal steel guitar.

a_james-elvis_011James Burton

He was the guitarist behind Rick Nelson for the first ten years of his career, and then played in Elvis’s band from 1969-1977.  In between and concurrently, Burton recorded lead guitar parts with Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, Judy Collins, Elvis Costello and dozens more.  Search YouTube for a 6/19/77 clip of him playing “Johnny B. Goode” behind his back as Elvis looks on.

hugh-mccracken1Hugh McCracken

One of the most in-demand session guitarists in New York throughout the ’70s and ’80s, providing just the right rhythm guitar and occasional lead solos on albums by artists like James Taylor, Paul McCartney, Donald Fagen, Paul Simon, Roberta Flack, Eric Carmen, Carly Simon, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel and Hall and Oates.  Widely admired by record producers and session musicians everywhere.



PK+1970Phil Keaggy

Glass Harp was a promising rock band out of Northeast Ohio in the early ’70s, thanks to Keaggy’s phenomenal guitar playing.  Just as they were building momentum, Keaggy gave up the rock and roll lifestyle for Christian music, and switched from electric to acoustic without sacrificing quality, garnering many awards for instrumental music.  Glass Harp reunited for a show in 2008; check out the recording of “Children’s Fantasy.”

arti_deanparks_03Dean Parks

One of the two or three “go to” guitarists among L.A. session musicians, Parks has recorded with nearly 50 different artists, including Bob Seger, Neil Diamond, Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Madonna, and has toured with Bread and Crosby & Nash.  You might take a closer listen to Jackson’s megahit “Billie Jean” to hear Parks’ creative guitar work.

JohnnyMarr-8818-2013Johnny Marr

While The Smiths were hugely popular in their native Britain, they never really caught in here in the US, so most American listeners have never heard of their lead guitarist Johnny Marr, recently named “Britain’s last great guitar stylist” in a recent BBC poll.  Marr went on from that creative peak to add his righteous riffs to the music of Electronic, The The, and Modest Mouse as well.

120811-313-PapadosioA newer one to watch for:  Anthony Thogmartin

This guy plays for a highly polished band called Papadosio, whose music “falls somewhere between rock, jazz and electronic mayhem” in a genre they call space rock.  While much of the band’s repertoire is keyboard driven, Thogmartin’s incredible guitar work plays a crucial role, adding melodic, cascading fills that show jaw-dropping dexterity and technique.

Honorable mention:

George Harrison;  Pat Metheny;  Ottmar Liebert;  Leo Kottke;  Michael Landau;  Michael Hedges;  Robin Trower;  Eric Johnson;  Bob Mould;  Peter Buck;  Adrian Belew;  Johnny A.;  Tom Morello;  Roy Buchanan;  Nile Rodgers;  Johnny Winter;  Toy Caldwell;  Warren Haynes;  Richard Thompson;  Bill Nelson; Paul Kosoff;  J.J. Cale;  Randy California;  David Spinozza;  Derek Trucks