2CD Set: GVC2043
HOT FINGERS • HISTORY OF AMERICAN GUITAR Vol.2: 1951-1962
1 B. B. King Woke Up This Morning
2 Jackie Brenston ft Willie Kizart Rocket ‘88’
3 Howlin’ Wolf ft Willie Johnson How Many More Years
4 Les Paul World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
5 Hank Snow Rhumba Boogie
6 Guitar Slim The Things That I Used To Do
7 Joe & Rose Lee Maphis Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)
8 Lowell Fulson Reconsider Baby
9 Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant Swinging On The Strings
10 Chet Atkins Mr. Sandman
11 Webb Pierce ft Bud Isaacs Slowly
12 James Cotton ft Pat Hare Cotton Crop Blues
13 Bo Diddley Bo Diddley
14 Chuck Berry Maybellene
15 Bill Haley & His Comets ft Danny Cedrone Rock Around The Clock
16 Elvis Presley ft Scotty Moore Blue Suede Shoes
17 Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps ft Cliff Gallup Be-Bop-A-Lula
18 Howlin’ Wolf ft Hubert Sumlin Smoke Stack Lightning
19 Bill Haley & His Comets ft Franny Beecher Goofin’ Around
20 Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson Three Hours Past Midnight
21 Earl Hooker Frog Hop
22 George Van Epps I Never Knew
23 Johnny Burnette Trio Train Kept A-Rollin’
24 Eddie Cochran Twenty Flight Rock
25 Magic Sam All Your Love
1 Barney Kess Minor Mood
2 The Everly Brothers ft Ray Edenton Bye, Bye, Love
3 Patsy Cline ft Don Helms Walkin’ After Midnight
4 Link Wray Rumble
5 Otis Rush Double Trouble
6 Dale Hawkins ft Roy Buchanan My Babe
7 Duane Eddy 40 Miles Of Bad Road
8 Reno & Smiley Don’t Let Your Sweet Love Die
9 Buck Owens ft Ralph Mooney Under Your Spell Again
10 Buddy Guy First Time I Met The Blues
11 Wanda Jackson ft Roy Clark Let’s Have A Party
12 Wes Montgomery Four On Six
13 Ricky Nelson ft James Burton Hello Mary Lou
14 Marty Robbins ft Grady Martin Don’t Worry
15 Jimmy Reed Big Boss Man
16 Dick Dale Let’s Go Trippin’
17 Roy Lanham Old Joe Clark
18 Albert King Don’t Throw Your Love On Me So Strong
19 Freddie King Hide Away
20 Pete Drake For Pete’s Sake
21 Stan Getz w/ Charlie Byrd Desafinado
22 Stanley Brothers ft George Shuffler I’m Only Human
23 Booker T & The MGs ft Steve Cropper Green Onions
24 The Ventures 2000 Pound Bee Pt. 1
25 The Ventures 2000 Pound Bee Pt. 2
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The first half of the 1950s was one of the most fertile musical periods in the history of modern music with electric Blues, R & B, and Rock ‘n’ Roll all coming to adulthood, laying down the foundations for modern Popular music as they did. The guitar was a vital part of the sound of all of these genres and not just the playing, as musicians in this era also developed, discovered, and expanded the creative possibilities of what could be done with the electrics of guitars and amplifiers.
The influence of T-Bone Walker on the Blues world is most evident in the early 1950s work of the great B. B. King. B. B. took T-Bone’s pioneering stylistic approach to lead guitar playing and pushed it through the roof by turning the amplifier up nice and loud so the solo lines pierced through the mix, blazing a glorious path through many classic numbers such as the song included here, which would later be lifted by British Blues great Peter Green. King’s style would also be picked up and personalised by many of his contemporaries with including artists that feature here such as Guitar Slim, Lowell Fulson, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, and Albert King.
Although it is highly debateable that ‘Rocket 88’ can be called, as some have suggested, the first Rock ‘n’ Roll song, it is very likely that the song was the first to feature what would later become known as ‘fuzz tone’. It was the use of this sound that gave the song its unique, raunchy edge and that, added to the swinging rhythm section and Brenston’s vocal approach, is the reason the song is cited by many as being the strongest contender for Rock ‘n’ Roll’s opening.
That argument will doubtlessly rage forever and even the reason as to how guitarist Willie Kizart arrived at finding the sound has never been resolved, with legendary Sun Records producer Sam Phillips, who oversaw the recording of the song, saying that after the amp had fallen off the roof of the car he managed to get the electric guts of the amp to sit in a functioning position by propping the elements up with newspaper and this was what caused the changed in sound. Bandleader Ike Turner argued that the amp had been stored in the trunk of the car where it had got wet and this is was why the fuzz tone was emanating from the amp.
Sun Records was also home to the mighty Howlin’ Wolf whose menacing, room-filling vocals were somehow matched firstly by Willie Johnson who was later replaced by the massively influential Hubert Sumlin. Wolf’s brand of Blues relied heavily on the music of his Delta forefathers and the hypnotic and circular guitar style of artists such as Charley Patton and Tommy Johnson were the backbone of his music. These arcane, country riffs were brought up to date and made city hip by Willie Johnson and Hubert Sumlin whose can be seen as a musical link between the original Delta guitarists and the Rock bands of the 1960s and 1970s. Although not as well-known and highly regarded as Johnson and Sumlin, Pat Hare was also a very important figure in Blues and Rock guitar with the use of savagely distorted power chords in his solo on James Cotton’s ‘Cotton Crop Blues’ proving influential on the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal sound of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The early 1950s were also a fruitful period for Country guitarists with artists such as Hank Snow, Joe Maphis, Speedy West, Jimmy Bryant, and Bud Issacs all contributing to the growth of the instruments prowess within the genre but there was no doubt about who was number one, at least in the minds of the record buying public. Chet Atkins’ marriage of old-time Country picking to Django Reinhardt’s swinging Jazz style was a revelation and made Chet not just one of the most sought after session men in Nashville but also a star in his own right.
One of Chet Atkins’ big influences and someone who not only made waves for his guitar playing but also his guitar building, Les Paul’s professional career began in the mid-1930s although he didn’t truly hit his stride until the late-1940s when he teamed up with Mary Ford, whom he would marry. Les’s use of distortion on the song included on this collection is one of the first instances of the technique on record. This was no mistake as Paul had been stretching the boundaries of the electric guitar ever since he was a youngster when he tried to amplify his acoustic by attaching the needle of his record player to his guitar so that he could use the speakers as a sort of proto-amplifier. Although this was only one of many sonic innovations which Paul developed modern audiences will most likely know him best as the man that created the Gibson Les Paul; the Rock ‘n’ Roll guitar, played by just about any fretboard botherer that can afford one.
1955 was a big year for music, and for guitar players in particular, as it announced the arrival of Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, two of the pillars of the first wave of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Both artists signed with Chess in Chicago and Bo was first out of the traps with his eponymous single that introduced the world to the Diddley Beat, a grafting of old African rhythms onto the guitar, that was buttressed by drums and maracas. Bo became an overnight sensation and his style was quickly picked up by contemporaries such as Buddy Holly who covered the ‘Bo Diddley’ in 1956 and then utilised the Diddley beat for his own ‘Not Fade Away’ the following year, which would become The Rolling Stones first top 5 hit in the UK and marked their initial appearance on the US charts.
Chuck Berry’s debut for Chess, ‘Maybellene’, followed not long after ‘Bo Diddley’ and the impact that release had was even greater than that of Diddley’s debut, with many considering the song the true starting point for Rock ‘n’ Roll guitar playing. The influence Berry would have on those that followed is immeasurable but suffice it to say that without Chuck modern music as we know it would be almost unrecognisable. Some of Popular music’s most important acts have cited Chuck as a primary influence with his songs being covered by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Elvis, The Animals, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, and many, many more of the 20th century’s musical giants.
Where Bo and Chuck drove their music with their guitars to the fore, many other Rock ‘n’ Roll greats were singers first, that maybe played a little rhythm, but had to find suitable musicians to play lead and these side men would also prove massively influential. Many of the guitar heroes of the late 1960s and the 1970s have gone on record to state the importance of the likes of Danny Cedrone, Scotty Moore, Cliff Gallup, Franny Beecher, and James Burton, all of whom managed to steal a little bit of the spotlight from the legendary front men they accompanied. Like Chuck and Bo there were those that needed no help as far as guitar playing went and artists such as Eddie Cochran and Johnny Burnette added their own ideas to the lexicon of the American guitar.
Around this time a new breed of Blues guitarist came to the fore, and one that wasn’t necessarily chained to the genre’s rural roots, as can be evidenced by the pioneering anddistinctly urban approach of Earl Hooker, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Jimmy Reed, Albert King, Roy Buchanan, Buddy Guy, and Freddie King, all of whose work was studied in great detail by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeff Beck, and many other guitarists at the top of the Hard Rock hierarchy.
As Rock ‘n’ Roll took over the teenage market, other styles had to adapt or die and this led to the emergence of the Nashville Sound in Country music, where the old fashioned fiddles and lap- steel’s were cast aside in favour of lush orchestrations and angelic choruses and almost none of the singers played guitar or were even allowed to use their own guitarists. Instead the session men of what was known as the Nashville A-Team were all pervasive and amongst those great session men – most of whom played on hundreds of recordings – Grady Martin, Ray Edenton, and latterly Pete Drake, stood out as the busiest but were not confined strictly to Country as Ray’s groundbreaking work with the Everly Brothers proves. Although Grady Martin played on scores of massive Country hits, he will forever be remembered for his accidental discovery of what would become known as the ‘Fuzz’ sound in the middle of a take for Marty Robbins’ ‘Don’t Worry’.
Although in Nashville you couldn’t pick your own guitarists, things were different in Bakersfield where Buck Owens was spearheading a threat to the dominance of the Nashville Sound and his guitar player, Ralph Mooney, was one of the era’s great steel guitar players. Nashville did still require a steel guitar man on occasion such as the great Don Helms whose playing on Patsy Cline’s ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’ must be one of Country music’s most iconic sounds. There were other Country acts that, like the Bakersfield artists, stood aside from the Nashville Sound and important guitarists such as Reno and Smiley, George Shuffler, Roy Clark, and Roy Lanham, all furthered the sound of the guitar in Country.
If Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Country guitar playing was in safe hands in the 1950s and early 1960s, so too was Jazz as a new generation of guitarists carved out their own niches on the instrument, with the likes of George Van Epps, Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, and Charlie Byrd, all proving that Jazz guitar had come a long way since the days of Charlie Christian. Most of the Jazz guitarists’ defining works were, unsurprisingly, instrumental pieces and by the late 1950s a new breed of Rock guitarist had emerged who, like his Jazz counterparts, didn’t feel the need for the whole singer and lyrics business. Audiences agreed and the Instrumental Rock sub-genre was born with the likes of Link Wray, Duane Eddy, The Ventures, and Dick Dale, with the latter going on to lead the Surf Rock genre through its infancy. The instrumental genre also spilled over into other genres, most notably in Soul with the amazing Booker T & the MGs, who were essentially the Stax label’s house band, which included the legendary Steve Cropper on guitar