It’s a very important turning point in one’s development when they decide what really turns them on or not when it comes to the kind of guitar music you want to listen to. I had become very opinionated at a very young age, and this of course went hand in hand with the fact that I was absorbing so much and playing at such a high level for a young person. In those days, I had started off on Classical guitar, which gave me an enormous respect for the instrument in general, especially with my little ten year-old fingers doing all that stretching. I quickly fell for The Beatles when they came out, and had to rush out and get an electric guitar the very next day!
This basically meant I was to go on a path that so many other players of that era followed….where we loved the pop music of the time, and quickly got into the roots of it, just the way these bands we loved had done. It was so amazing to think that it took British bands like the Beatles and The Stones, and many more, to show the Americans what we had been missing for as little as five years! It seemed as if the “roots” of Rock n’ Roll had vanished, and the Chuck Berrys and even the Elvis’s had left our consciousness. But what the phenomenon of The Beatles and others caused was that we all now wanted to play, and have bands of our own, and be cool “like that!” This caused me to start looking into the root of what caused these players to sound the way they sounded, and before I knew it, I was listening to Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Son House, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams and on and on.
But what was also happening was me learning what impressed my ear and what didn’t. I was having a simultaneous love affair with Country as well as Blues guitar, and loved the sound of a pedal steel as much as Delta Blues slide! In my opinion, all of these early forms of great American “roots” music are not really all that different from one another, and all you have to do is listen to the great “singing brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers to know just how fine that Country/Blues division line is!
Many youngsters these days are attracted to the players who can shred the fastest, and who have the most showmanship in their acts, which I guess has always been a factor, but eventually the guitar taste buds must start to branch out and become more refined. It’s kind of like wanted your first car to be a Corvette, and to immediately go from 0-60 in 3 seconds! Eventually, you have to slow it down, and start to appreciate more of the subtleties in guitar playing, and the players who bring out the many interesting and emotive nuances of this instrument we love so much!
So as you’re listening to Randy Rhoads, a great player, also take the time to see the subtleties of a B.B. King, for example. Or while Black Sabbath may turn you on, take a listen to Son House, and hear that same kind of power emitting from one man and his guitar! Fine tune your listening skills, and you’ll inevitably be fine-tuning your playing too!