When it comes to legendary rock guitarists, most kids know about the big three: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards.
|A Young Steve Cropper|
But there has been a pantheon of gifted and innovative guitarists contributing to the evolution of popular music over the years. From blazing bebop and country soloists to soulful blues and jazz players, here are the top five most influential guitarists every kid should hear.
Steve “The Colonel” Cropper
Born in Dora, Missouri, Steve Cropper began playing the guitar at age 10. By the time he turned 15, he received his first mail order mail order guitar and was already gigging with the local musicians. Inspired by his heroes: Lowman Pauling, Chuck Berry, Chet Akins, and Jimmy Reed, Cropper formed the Royal Spades with fellow guitarist Charlie Freeman.
The Royal Spades, who eventually changed their name to Mar-Keys, recorded their first hit single, “Last Night,” in 1961, But Cropper is best known for his longtime session work on Stax Records. Backing up artists like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, and Johnnie Taylor, Cropper’s guitar playing is sparse and expressive, and his rhythm chops are legendary.
During his time with Stax Records, Cropper composed classic soul songs such as “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” “In the Midnight Hour,” and “Soul Man.” Blending the sweet sound of country with the raw emotion and hypnotic groove of American blues music, Cropper invented Memphis Soul style guitar. In 1966, Cropper was named the “greatest living guitarists” by Britain’s Mojo Magazine, and his music has influenced rock gods like Keith Richards and Jimi Hendrix.