When I was growing up and learning how to play the guitar, I often looked for content to enhance my skills. Up to that point, I had bluegrass, country or oldies. Now, I did learn from the oldies from guitarists like Chuck Berry or George Harrison or John Lennon of the Beatles. From the Country music world I often learned from guitar greats like Jerry Reed, Luther Perkins (Johnny Cash), or Carl Perkins.
As I was exposed to other music genres such as Hard Rock, Blues, Heavy Metal and Punk, I began expanding my knowledge of styles. I loved the free form of Punk music for example. It had riffs and sloppy leads. I fell in love with Delta style Blues such as Muddy Waters. His style was so raw. Neil Young was another guitarist that I loved. His dropped D tuning turned my world around. Then you had Megadeth. Although, Megadeth had several guitarists in the band, each one brought out a different style to he sound.
But looking back, I have always had those records that I enjoyed playing over and over again. These records were my true beginnings as a young guitarist. It has always been said by my wife, that my musical tastes are very wide with the fact that I can listen to the Misfits one minute and turn around and listen to AC/DC then Bluegrass afterwards.
- I remember when I purchased Led Zeppelin II and hearing Jimmy Page on that record for the first time. I was blown away. The music was rooted so deep into the Blues, but yet, it was so heavy. Many consider Led Zeppelin as one of the first four major bands to create “Heavy Metal.” Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep are the other three bands.
- I also remember the first time I heard Black Sabbath’s “We Sold Our Souls For Rock N’ Roll.” A collection of songs on two LP’s from their first five records. I remember the heaviness and the leads of Tony Iommi. The first songs that I learned how to play was “Paranoid”, “Iron Man”, “War Pigs” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” The drop down tuning of Iommi was amazing. This record also opened me up to Jazz music.
- George Thorogood “Live” was another record I was exposed to. During the 11th Grade FFA Convention, I played “Nighttime” during the talent show. I won seventh place that year. The next, I placed second with one of my own songs. George Thorogood taught me how to play the slide. Deeply rooted in traditional Blues, Country and Rock n’ Roll, his music was fun to play.
- Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” was another great record. Ritchie Blackmore’s style was totally different than that of Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi and others. “Smoke on the Water” and “Highway Star” were among my favorite songs to jam to. Now, Dio and Deep Purple led me to Rainbow, a side project of Ritchie Blackmore. This man could play Classical and play the Blues.
- Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s “Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere.” This record taught me how to merge Country, Folk and Rock together with the drop D tuning. “Cinnamon Girl” was one of the first songs that learned how to play lead on. It was also Neil Young whom sort of taught me to play banjo. The cords he plays in that drop D tuning are the same that are used on the banjo.
- AC/DC “High Voltage” was another album that influenced my skills. Angus Young and his brother Malcolm were the perfect duo.The licks that Angus plays are in many ways reminded me of Chuck Berry. His leads are easy to play and yet I enjoyed what Malcolm’s complex guitar parts on songs like “Can I Sit Next To You” and “Little Lover.”
- Danzig’s debut in 1988 was another record that I often jammed to. John Christ’s Jazzy style of guitar mixed with Danzig’s Punk attitude, both made this a great record. “Mother” was one their songs that I quickly learned how to play. “Twist of Cain” was another song that I quickly mastered. It wasn’t long until I could play the entire record.
- “One More For The Road” by Lynyrd Skynyrd was a great all around record. “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird” were two songs that I could play all day on the guitar. Gary Rossington and Steve Gains were both brilliant. Then you throw in Allen Collins. It was Country, it was Rock and it was Blues.
- Judas Priest’s “Stained Class” was another record that exposed me to something new. It was heavy and it was fast. “Exciter” was the first song that I learned from this record. I remember the sheer speed of the opening riff and the first lead from that song. K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton were two great guitarists.
- The Four Horsemen’s “Nobody Said It Was Easy” was another album that I quickly mastered. The riffs for the most part were the same from song to song, but the leads were easy to learn for a boy of 13 years old.
- Eric Ambel and Roscoe’s Gang was another album that I totally wore out. “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” was a totally fun to play on the guitar. I love his version of Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues.” The entire album was fun to play along with. It also helped me to establish me as a vocalist.
- The Who’s “Who’s Missing” was another album that I learned much from. Many covers on here that allowed me to develop my own style when playing when I joined a band. Pete Townsend to me was what Rock n’ Roll was about. The man sure knew how to play. “Leaving Here” and “Bargain (Live)” were two songs that I remember playing all of the time on guitar.
These 12 records were it. As a young lad playing the guitar, there were the 12 records that inspired me to play. Although, many more have since inspired me, it was these 12 that were starting points for me. The Doors first record was what inspired me to pick up the bass guitar, but that maybe another posting for the future.