Stevie Salas Column issue #1 Great Guitar Players That We Need To Talk More About

I woke up this morning in Austin Texas thinking about a weird old song that was a pop hit called in the 80s called Jesse’s Girl by a guy named Rick Springfield.

I wasn’t really thinking about Rick OR the song but I was thinking about the amazing melodic rock solo on the song by the GREAT but not talked about guitar player Neil Giraldo. I heard Neil’s notes in my head and tried to picture where those notes were on the fret board….and a funny thing happened….I couldn’t picture where those notes were coming from.

Then I pictured myself in the studio on that same session and thought….If it was me hired to play on this session would I play those notes? My answer was no…Then I thought about some of my great guitar players friends, Zakk Wylde, Richie Kotzen, Slash, Tak Matsumoto…I don’t think any of them would have thought of that melody and played those notes…Steve Lukather…Hmm he might have thought of those notes BUT Steve who is a bro that I love and respect would not have played those notes with that raw killer rock tone that Neil Geraldo played with.

In the day before the shredder there were insane rock guitar players who did amazing things and for some reason we don’t talk about them. I want to bring up a few.


■Neil Giraldo [December 29, 1955 – ]

Photo by Natalie Jones

NEIL GIRALDO…raw RAW rock tone mixed with super ripping speed and sing along melodies. Listen to all his work with Pat Benatar.


■LINK WRAY [May 2, 1929 – November 5, 2005]

LINK WRAY…Link like me is a Native American guitar player….Link Wray invented the power chord! Listen to his song from 1958 called Rumble…He also was really the first to rock heavy distortion on a record. Jeff Beck once told me that he and Jimmy Page used to play air guitar to Link Wray when they were in high school. Pete Townshend from The Who (who gets the credit for the power chord) told me in an email that Link made him rethink everything. Slash told me that one night he started wondering…We all know about Page, Clapton, and Beck but I wondered just who taught them? His answer he told me was Link Wray!
He influenced the guitar players that influenced the whole world!


■Alvin Lee [19 December 1944 – 6 March 2013]

Alvin Lee…Go watch the old Woodstock concert film and check out 10 Years After….Watch the epic song I’m Going Home…Wanna see a guy rip for real with a tone that tears your face off…!
One thing people don’t talk about when talking about ripping guitar players is the tone. It’s really easy to use a super distorted wimpy tone and play fast…that’s what I call bedroom sound…meaning it sounds good when your playing in your bedroom and your head is next to the amp BUT if you were playing in Madison Square Garden or The Budokan your sound would get lost. For the BIG venues you gotta have big boy tone to be heard. The problem is playing fast with a clear clean tone is really hard BUT that’s what separates the killer from the filler..the weak from the strong…the legend from the poser.


■Elliot Easton [December 18, 1953 – ]

Check out ELLIOT EASTON from the Cars…again insane tone and the most unique choice of notes mixing odd notes but somehow making them so melodic. In the 90s I was in the studio in LA recording a song called Caught In A Moment and for the solo I kept trying to play an ” Elliot Easton” style solo like the solo Elliot played on the Cars hit Just What I Needed but nothing I played sounded right SO I called Elliott and he came down and played the solo and it was classic Elliot Easton…He is a unique treasure indeed.


■Phil X [March 10, 1966 – ]

And last for now check out my favorite new guitar player PHIL X. Phil is a beast! His tone is amazing and he can play beyond fast but with a tone that is super punchy and clear. Imagine Eddie VanHalen licks done with Angus Young’s tone…plus he is super melodic too!
I know his secret….he told me he was very influenced by my first record Colorcode…HA!
As much as I wish that was his secret it is not…I believe the secret to his fluent style is that he grew up playing a Greek instrument called the Bouzouki…With the bouzouki you have to do pull offs often with 3 strings at a time. He later would apply this technique to his guitar…Bananas!
Now go and listen to these guitar players and remember to keep them alive so new musicians learn from the best guitar players in history not only the most famous.

Stevie Salas

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