Yes, my dear, reader – this list goes on. It is the list that never ends! Well, I presume it’ll end someday – but that day has not yet arrived. I drop these once a week, on Thursday, and submit myself to your judgment!
Actually, I berate folks and call them fools because they keep claiming that Hendrix was the best guitarists to ever play the damned guitar. They’re wrong! They’re not just wrong, they’re horribly wrong!
For the rest of the folks who’ve been put on my list (more prestigious than an entry into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame), you can click this link.
This list is because people (like the pack of Fentanyl-snorting, cat-hating, inept keyboard warriors at Rolling Stone Magazine) keep calling him a great guitarist – even calling him the best guitarist. They made a list of 100 guitarists and fucked it all up. This is why I insult them. They’re not a music magazine, they’re a hoard of musically illiterate gibberlings that conned their way into a job!
Note: I might get tired of writing these intros – but I’ll never get tired of finding new and creative ways to insult RSM. I could do just that – for hours.
Alright, enough of this silliness. Let’s talk about yet another guitarist who’s pretty damned excellent.
#15 Ritchie Blackmore
Quick, what’s the first thing you ask someone who is learning to play guitar?
“Can you play Smoke on the Water?”
Funny enough, the answer is no. No, they can’t. Well, I can – but they probably can not.
Oh, they might know the chords and be able to pull of a rendition that sounds about right. They probably only know those four power chords that are all too familiar.
And that’s about where their ability probably ends.
Three words for you: Richard Fucking Blackmore.
That’s all you need to know. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!
I kid! I kid… (Or do I?) No, I’m kidding.
Someone named Richard Blackmore deserves a better nickname than Ritchie. I suspect that “Fucking” wouldn’t have gone over very well and it’s not common to use three names in the UK, which is where he hails from.
It’s too bad, really. It’s a fitting name because he’s a monster of a guitar player and, sadly, a bit underrated and almost obscure. Most folks can only name one song from him and, well, they don’t even know he did it.
He was born in the UK, in 1945. He’s actually not dead! Strangely enough, he’s still very much alive and still making music.
When Richie Fucking Blackmore (henceforth to be called RFB) was a wee lad, his dad was willing to buy him a guitar – on the grounds that he learn to play it properly. What RFB wanted to do was play while jumping around. That was not a part of the deal, so RFB took classical guitar lessons for a single year.
He then quit.
I am not joking! He really did just want to jump around on stage and play the guitar like Tommy Steele. Classical guitar is not conducive to jumping around on stage, so he stopped. He quit the lessons.
Speaking of quitting, he’d quit school at the age of 15. It doesn’t quite appear to be mandatory, but it does appear that quitting school increases your odds of becoming a guitar god. So, if you’ve made it to the 8th grade, it’s time to give everyone the finger and strike out on your own!
See? I’m helping!
Anyhow, after quitting both his guitar lessons and school, he went to work at an airport and began to take lessons from a fella named Big Jim Sullivan.
No, don’t shake your head sagely and say, “Ah, Big Jim!” No, you don’t even know who he is. That’s okay, before researching this article, I didn’t know who he was either! The truth is, I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of all musicians. I learn too!
Big Jim, it turns out, was an important person. He was a session musician and was the most highly sought after session musician in all of the UK. He’s got like 750 songs that hit the charts. (How the hell is it that I’ve never heard of him before?)
Seriously, read the link to Big Jim’s Wikipedia page. How the hell is he obscure – to me?!? He’s like a who’s who of musicians and certainly influenced many people, including one of my favorite gear manufacturers!
Sheesh! The more I look, the more I realize how little I know!
Anyhow, those lessons turned him into a guitar god. Well, I presume that’s the kicker – the ‘net is pretty silent on this.
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this. Why is he even on this list?
Well, to answer that question, I’m going to have to tell you a bit about ‘neoclassical metal‘ (sometimes hyphenated). Neoclassical is a fusion of blues rock and classical guitar. Sub-genres include power metal and symphonic metal.
Well, RFB pioneered this. He pretty much invented it, or at least made it popular. Someone may have been banging it out in their basement prior to him, but I’ve never heard of it.
In fact, if you click the link above, you’ll see him mentioned as the pioneer. Strangely, if you click his Wikipedia page, you’ll not see neoclassical even mentioned. I assume it’s probably a conspiracy perpetrated by the powers that be at Wikipedia – and that RSM is in cahoots.
Speaking of which, where did RSM place RFB? They put ’em in the 50th slot! I’ve seen drummers that are more qualified to author a list of great guitarist than the group of mentally handicapped donkeys at RSM! (Seriously, I can insult ’em all damned day long. I might not even repeat myself.)
The motherfucker starts a genre that, without it, we’d have no Rhoads, Satriani, Malmsteen, or Vai – and they put him in 50th position! They say that Hendrix, whose claim to fame is eating acid and setting his guitar ablaze, is a better guitarist! Poppycock, I say! Poppycock!
Hell, I feel bad placing him down this far on the list – but that’s because he really isn’t quite as difficult to cover as some of the others. So, a part of his reason for being this high on my list is because it’s also a matter of respect. He deserves to be known and recognized as a true innovator and master of his instrument.
It’s okay, though I can’t find it to link to it, I am able to see that Guitar World’s Reader Poll placed him at #16 and that’s really close to how my own ranking came out. I guess, if there’s a lesson here, it’s to ask actual guitarists who plays best. Then, in some cases, ignore their answers – as they’re just as subject to cults of personality!
I’ve mentioned a scalloped fretboard. Yeah, that was Blackmore that brought it to rock. He may not have been the first, but he was damned near it. He was also the one who made it famous. Malmsteen actually seems to respect Blackmore quite a bit and gives him credit for influencing him. He too uses a scalloped fretboard.
His big trick was dominant major scales mixed with blues scales and using some classical techniques, as well as some infrequent use of diatonic scales. In other words, that’s what we’d call standard today – except it wasn’t then. He’d also often put his pick in his mouth and put his fingers to work. Again, that would probably be from his classical background.
In other words, he was a phenomenal guitarist. He still is, though he’s sort of retired. I said earlier that he still plays – but his last tour was in 2016. Of course, his last tour was well after he officially retired. He’s had a few last tours – almost as bad as the Rolling Stones!
With that said, let’s actually see why he’s on the list. Well, listen to why he’s on the list. Even better, let’s see him in 2016 – when he was about 128 years old.
Not that impressive, you say? Hogwash… Let me see you do that when you’re 128 years old.
Now, you may have seen a bunch of kids running around and playing classical music on their electric guitars. I wonder where they got that idea from? Any guesses? No?
Let me help you out – Ritchie Fucking Blackmore! That’s who they got the idea from. Sure, some of them are actually doing it better today – but they owe it to him, more than to anyone else.
Don’t believe me? Well, let’s step back 30 years from the last video…
On behalf of RFB, you’re welcome! Sheesh!
Now, I don’t know about a new tour – but I do know he’s still making music. How do I know? Well, he dropped this new track just this year. What I like is that it’s a bit different than I’d expect. It has a more mature sound, while retaining the complexity and seems to rely on fewer effects.
Yeah… RFB is 128 years old and still has it. You can hear his blues influences, his love for classical music, and a strange choice to go with fewer effects than normal/frequently seen. He’s not just matured, he’s grown as wise as he has grown brilliant. That last piece showcases his ability to compose a very mature masterpiece at an advanced age.
That’s why he’s on the list. He’s a master and has consistently been on a journey to reach that level. It has been an excellent many decades of following and enjoying his work, as he showed us how to master the guitar and continued to improve. Many have followed his path and have been influenced by his path.
Influenced? Indeed. He’s influenced everyone. They say Hendrix influenced many guitarists. I say Blackmore influenced better guitarists. In fact… Let’s do it this way of leaving you with that one for the road…
As you know, I like to leave you with one for the road. This week I’m going to use it to demonstrate his influence on other great guitarists. Here’s Wylde, Vai, and Malmsteen covering Highway Star. Yes, that’s three bad-ass guitarists (two already on my list) covering the person who blazed the trail of music left by RFB.
Give it a listen! I promise, it’s not as terrible as you’re expecting. (I’m still trying to think of how they possibly decided who was going to have the biggest ego and be the main lead.)
And, with that complete, let’s do what else it is that I like to do. I like to thank you for taking the time to read these, to comment on them, and to encourage me to continue the series.
We’re learning this together, more or less. Sure, I know a bunch – but I actually spend hours and hours on each of these – not counting what I already know. I know why I’m enjoying this musical journey, but I’m still sometimes confused about what attracts the rest of you to it.
It’s great that the site’s gotten popular. We’re building a great community and making a site that’s here for a long time. We’re filling it with content. I say we, because I’d not do this without you. In fact, a part of this is done specifically for you. After all, I already knew that Hendrix wasn’t the greatest guitarist. I’d just never bothered to enumerate it.
Like all good things, this specific series is going to eventually reach a conclusion. I’ve already got new ideas about what to write for future series and I absolutely welcome input and writing prompts. I love your questions and comments.
If you’re looking for something to write about – how about telling me how your musicality has been impacted by these people? How about telling me what you’d like to see me write about? How about taking a look at some great guitarists and making some recommendations?
Anyhow, I’m glad you’re here and I hope to see you here again tomorrow and, of course, next Thursday. I publish this particular segment on Thursdays, or so it seems. Enjoy and until next time…
Shut up and play us a song!