BLACK AXES – BADDEST AFRICAN-AMERICAN ROCK/FUNK GUITARISTS

Typically, when we think of the greatest guitarists of all time, our minds go immediately to Jimi Hendrix and a big list of White American and European Rockers; Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Keith Richards and the like.  These are some bad dudes and I love their abilities as much as the next guy.  But Black guitarists are out there, too.  In fact, Chuck Berry is the Inventor of the Rock & Roll sound.  I just wanted to pay homage and bring attention to a handful of Black musicians who handle an Axe with the best of them.  In fact, the first two on my opinionated list are the all-time greatest to ever record their guitar licks on wax.  See if you agree.  Of course, I’m sure I will leave off somebody who deserves listing because they either slipped my mind, I’m not aware of them or I disagree; all three possibilities are cool since this is a “one-man’s opinion” list and we certainly can agree to disagree; nothing wrong with that.  In fact, holla back if you feel someone omitted should be mentioned here.  I’d love to hear from you; that’s how we expand our musical knowledge, which I love to do.

First up is the obvious.  I think Jimi Hendrix is on most human beings list as the greatest guitarist of all time, regardless of the genre of music.  No one was more innovative.  His tricks like burning his guitar, playing solos with his teeth, using feedback to create a phenomenally pleasing sound and playing behind his head are unprecedented and clearly set him apart as the top showman but still, his greatest contribution is his invention of a whole new way to play the instrument and his unmatched skill as a guitarist.  He could get a sound out of your guitar that you never knew your instrument was capable of producing.  James Marshall Hendrix, born John Allen Hendrix, died of complications from his abuse of drugs at the age of 27 in 1970.  Jimi learned to play guitar in his teens but his highly acclaimed recording career only lasted 3 years.  Sure, he started playing at recording sessions with the Isley Brothers, Little Richard and Sam Cooke in 1964 but his recording career as an artist span from his 1967 release of, “Hey Joe,” to his passing in 1970.  Forty plus years later, no one has surpassed his Rock & Blues mastery on guitar.  Check out Jimi kinda doodling around in 1969 on British TV.


1969 UK TV Performance HIGH QUALITY HQ    posted by GreatGuitarHeroes

Eddie Hazel played with George Clinton’s groups, Funkadelic and Parliament.  In ’67 at age 17, Hazel was recruited to play guitar with the backing band for the singing group, Parliament.  The band was later named Funkadelic and recorded its own classic albums like Funkadelic, Free Your Mind… and Maggot Brain.  The 1971 song, “Maggot Brain,” would become Eddie Hazel’s signature piece since he was featured in a 10 minute guitar solo which still stands as one of the best ever recorded; to many fans it is the greatest solo ever recorded.  He recorded a classic psychedelic rendition of “California Dreaming” on his 1977 solo release, Game Dames & Guitar Thangs.  I can never play this jam one time per sitting.  I have listed Eddie second because, in my opinion, he is the second greatest recorded guitarist, of all races, right behind Jimi Hendrix.  I don’t pretend to know who would be third best but I feel whoever it is, he is a very distant third behind the phenomenal Eddie Hazel.  Sadly, Eddie, a drug abuser, died in 1992 at age 42 of internal bleeding and liver failure.  This video features Eddie Hazel soloing with Parliament-Funkadelic in 1979.


posted by Taki76

Prince is such an all-around performer that it’s easy to forget how well he plays guitar.  If you see him in concert, of course, you get treated to his talents but if you only hear his Pop/Rock songs on radio you could lose sight of his guitar gift.  To remind you how bad this cat is with his Axe, check out this solo from 1985.


posted by rockhunter07

Many Baby Boomers may not know the name Captain Kirk Douglas but he’s the incredibly talented lead guitarist for the Hip Hop band, The Roots.  Make no mistake, this young man is tight with a capital “T.” 


posted by westny

                        Captain Kirk Douglas on Guitar

I don’t know why Jesse Johnson, this bona fide Axe Slinger from the group, Morris Day & The Time, isn’t more celebrated, even after putting out solo projects.  My guess is that he’s from a “singing” band and even his solo works sounded like The Time with Jesse Johnson on lead vocals instead of Morris Day.  On top of that, his guitar playing is similar to Prince’s style.  For all we know, Prince is patterned after Jesse (just a supposition) but it wouldn’t matter, Prince is the more popular artist so he gets the credit.  None the less, Jesse Johnson can step away from the mic and rip a guitar to threads any ol’ time he feels like it.  Here’s a really short excerpted solo from the song, “Free World,” performed at The Time Reunion in Las Vegas in 2010.


posted by ugmvideo

Even though Jimi Hendrix invented many stage tricks, he also was inspired and influenced by wild gags Chuck Berry created on stage back in the 50’s.  This long, tall guitar playin’ man was one of the pioneers of the whole style of music called Rock & Roll; along with folk like Bo Diddly and Little RichardChuck is usually given singular credit as the sole creator of the whole Rock & Roll genre.  In early 1955, Chuck Berry’s Chess Records release of “Maybelline,” is considered by most music historians as the first true Rock & Roll recording.  His rollicking brand of showmanship and inventiveness puts him on this list of one of the greatest of the great guitar slaying performers.


posted by yagami90

Bo Diddly, “The Originator,” showed us a brand new way to get sho’ nuff energy out of a guitar.  This Mississippi born (as Ellas Bates) and Chicago raised guitarist/singer/songwriter is also one of the pioneers of Rock & Roll.  It wouldn’t seem like a list of Black Guitarists without Bo Diddly prominently placed on it.  Check out this explosive 1964 performance of his 1955 self-titled classic, “Bo Diddly.”


posted by jorgemichelini

ALSO ON THE LIST:  Johnny Guitar Watson (would be highlighted but we featured him a little while back in Liner Notes), Vernon Reid of Living Colour, Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers and Robert Randolph (plays a mean Slide Guitar) are all stand-outs who are also on my list of some of the Baddest Black Rock/Funk Guitarists of all time.  I want to give Honorable Mention to the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Although SRV was not Black, he is probably the closest follow-up to Jimi Hendrix’s style to come along.  Sure, he patterned his style after Hendrix, performing many of Jimi’s tricks on stage, but how good are you if you can even come close to playing like the greatest, Jimi HendrixStevie Ray Vaughan would have made Jimi Hendrix really proud of the high compliment to his brand of guitar playing.  Don’t believe me, YouTube Stevie Ray Vaughan playing Jimi’s song, “Little Wing,” and be mesmerized.