The other evening, I got to thinking, really thinking, about the players who had inspired me on this journey of guitar playing. So I thought I’d share them with you. I’m probably going to do this in chronological order, as I discovered them, but I might jump about a bit here and there!
So, number one, the first player to really get me thinking about the guitar? Hang on a minute, that would probably be my Dad!! It was my Dad I really heard play first, usually at bed time in an effort to get me to sleep. Then I started bashing away on his acoustic guitar. It was strung with what felt like cheese wire and lets just say, it had a “mans” set up. Guitar players will know what I mean 😉 But when I got my first guitar, my Dad taught me a few chords and I did the rest.
Anyway, I digress….
No, sorry Dad, but my first real insight into the sort of playing I wanted to do, came when I discovered a certain record in your collection.
Picture the scene: me, aged about 10, laying on the lounge floor, listening to my Dad’s vinyl through his 70’s black and white headphones. I thought those headphones were so cool, with the black coily cable and the individual volume controls on each ear cup. And what was I listening to? Cliff Richard (Wired for Sound era!) Dr Hook, Smokey, Elkie Brooks. When I look back now, I ask myself why wasn’t I listening to my Dad’s blues records? Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry, Blind Blake!? Anyway, the epiphany came when I finally discovered some 70’s rock, in the shape of The Free Story.
Yes, Free. Alright Now. But there is so much more to them than just that one mega song. Mr Big, Fire and Water, The Stealer, Be my Friend, Heavy Load, the list goes on and on. At the time, I was too young to know what a big deal they had been, but all I could hear was the incredible playing by Mr Paul Kossoff.
Years later, I realised where my fascination with the Gibson Les Paul had come from but, most importantly, how his amazing vibrato technique had influenced the way I developed my own vibrato. Now I’m not for one minute comparing myself to Kossoff or his incredible skill, but I clearly soaked something up from him, from the way he used to shake those notes and get incredible sustain.
Like many genius artists, Kossoff had his demons and his death at 25 years old, was obviously a massive tragedy. I realised years later, that he died in 1976. I wasn’t even 2 then. So by the time I discovered his playing, he had been dead for not far off a decade. Just imagine what he could have achieved if he had not succumbed to addiction. Whist he is revered amongst many in the guitar playing community, if he had managed to overcome his difficulties, he would be a household name like Clapton.
It wasn’t just the vibrato that got me, it was the blues influence in the song writing and the rawness of the sound that captivated me. The tone he had was something to behold and was something I wasn’t hearing on Cliff Richard albums!!
I listened to The Free Story in the car the other night, on the way to rehearsal with The Nightwires. I felt quite emotional at times whilst I was driving, for lots of reasons really. But the songs stirred something in me and at rehearsal, I played the best I have played for quite some time. I tried solo things that all came off for once and I really tried to concentrate on my vibrato. I loved it.
So, there we have the first of my guitars heroes. Without hearing Paul Kossoff play, I would still have continued playing myself, but my style would now be very different. As I’ll talk about at some point, other players may have influenced me massively in later years, but I owe a lot to Paul Kossoff….