Guitar Language from the Messengers it’s about more than just modes, scales, and progressions Guitar Playing is a language where some are fluent and the rest of us just like to hear. Some guitarists play, others actually speak in the lines and Melodies. The instrument is their voice and the notes are their words. We as children learn to speak as we repeat others’ words we hear. We generally grasp the basics and may not speak some of the words until later in life. Sometimes the end results are surprising. Influence is all around us.
We Guitarists are often influenced by the Guitars they play as the music. Dreaming of the day we can own the Model they speak to us through. So let’s address a bit of each.
Paul Kossoff was a Rock Steady player as the only Guitarist in the band Free. He didn’t solo constantly as he was the Rhythmic Glue holding the sound together, but when he played a lead break he made it count.
Originally in a Band called “The Black Cat Bones”, He was 17 years old and already an old soul. It showed. He was a Virtuoso we have most likely all heard via Radio from their song “All Right Now”. There were album tracks strewn through the band’s short Career equal in power one standout being “Fire and Water” the Title song of the band’s third album.
Free – Fire And Water (1970)
He was a Gibson Les Paul man. He played a few but his most Beloved Paul he used from 1969 to 1974. He had many guitars so when things began running rough in his life he sold it for what would be today’s price of roughly $4,000. The most recent report from a Gibson expert calls out that it was never a Gold top and found evidence the year model was 1959.
The guitar went up for auction and the final number is not disclosed but its minimum bid price was roughly $340,000.
Paul Kossoff was one of the most influential players in history.
He passed away in 1976 due to the substance abuse that had ravaged his body and soul. I Credit Jimmy Page and Peter Green for my expansion to add The Les Paul to my collection of tools.I also now know Kossoff was another expansion that keeps the magic of the Les Paul fresh and new.
The Jam Master from Parliament-Funkadelic who could have easily given Hendrix a run for his money Combined his Wild Stage Persona to match the soaring tone of his Stratocaster.
Parliament-Funkadelic – Cosmic Slop – Mothership Connection – Houston 1976
Eddie Ranked 83 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 Guitarists of all time. He was most well known for his 10-minute guitar solo “Maggot Brain”, However, his approach was nonetheless stellar on any track he played on or any Stage he played for that matter. Looking back I heard Eddie as much of an influence as Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix. My Friend Played the Funkadelic around his house as background during many hangouts but at the time I would have asked Eddie Who?
Frank, depending on who you talk to,is considered one of the greatest of all time. The Parody and Humor aside you can’t ignore he was not only the most unique player but was a Face melting Lead Guitarist. His band was a traveling music conservatory and he mentored and worked with amazing Guitarists from Adrian Belew to Steve Vai.
Frank Zappa : City Of Tiny Lites (Palladium, NY, Halloween 1977)
Primarily an SG and Les Paul player, yet Showcasing his skills on the Fender Stratocaster at times he as my cousin often said was an incredible improv player who more often than not seemed to “Be inside the Guitar” during his epic solos. In 2005 Our Band “Black Cat Mass” recorded “The Watcher” and I realized the Zappa connection during the mixing process.
Robin was one of the first I heard as I left the Phases of other types of music and was trying to find my way. In the late 80’s I got the nicest rejection letter from the Editor of the now-defunct “Musicians” Magazine after he listened to my first album “The Storm” He said “I hear a lot of Robin Trower in there. Be prepared for that from others listening to call you on it” I had Heard Robin in Passing only. His Stratocaster and The Univibe is a sound many of us wish we could easily achieve. Then we must remember you can try to achieve that sound but there’s only one Robin.
ROBIN TROWER – Bridge Of Sighs (1974 UK TV Appearance) ~ HIGH-QUALITY HQ ~
Robin continues to this day to be amazing. His combination of Jimi and his own take on the guitar is a mighty thing to hear. Later on in life seeing him Live more than once made me ask the question still….How does he do that?
Another Honorable Mention is the Rhythm work of Ritchie Havens. He scratched and thumped his acoustic in such a percussive way that I was taken back to the revelation of seeing him in the film of the “Woodstock” Festival. In Preparation to do a Live hour interview with Artie Kornfeld, the Main Man who was responsible for the Festival’s creation, It dawned on me that Ritchie was the singular foundation of my guitar style. I viewed that performance many times during my youth and development as a guitarist.
Influence is a funny thing. You can hear something played by someone you were not aware of in a direct fashion, and a year or 20 years later an outside listener brings a name up.
This leads you to go back to see who they mentioned and discover that yes they got in your creative mind. I personally think there’s a truth in having a subliminal impact and then you have direct conscious inspirations. Once the Subliminal comes to light, from there more direct inspiration can happen. In Fact, that is for me personally a fact that happened with all the players spoken of. They are Four of Four Hundred potentially. A musician’s mind is like a sponge or a computer database.
Why this Article? In talking with Guitardoor Partner Chris Dempsey He brought up the question of My song “Black Widow” and some press I received in 2007 by a brief review in ‘Guitar Player Magazine”
Black Widow “This is a Slow Burn with some cagey wah work, slinky bends, and economical licks. Everything adds up to a smoky atmosphere that still manages to pulse-Albeit like a Racehorse on Opium. I totally dug the Juxtaposition of a dreamy groove with Fleming’s edgy Paul Kossoff-meets-Link Wray style.”
Chris Dempsey’s thoughts on Black Widow.
I Feel a few other insights and influences as a listener.
“Link Wray was certainly in my head..but Kossof’s influence was subliminal. I certainly had heard Free on the Classic Rock Radio stations, but I only found Kossoff after the mention in Guitar Player. I Had obviously heard him and it stuck in my mind, but I never knew the name or studied him. However, The Mention would cause me to in the aftermath. “ was Jimmy’s take on it.
At the start, Black Widow’s string bends vibrate in your ears creating suspense like the call of a Cherokee Indian going to war in the distance. Until The Stevie Ray Vaughan style wah, chunky badass bassline kick’s in. I find it more Jesse Ed Davis than Kossoff sound. If you are looking for a sound like Kossoff have a listen to “BORN of the Black Tree”