Saturday, May 5, 2012

Best Guitars from the 60s and 70s, and the Artists Who Played Them

Ian Anderson and Martin Barre, Jethro Tull in ...
Ian Anderson and Martin Barre, Jethro Tull in concert, Chicago 1973. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There have always been extremely talented musicians responsible for the world's most popular music, but the platform for the guitarists during the 60s and 70s was larger than those of the artists that came before them.

As the players became more and more famous, the demand for high-end equipment grew - as did those item's price tags. As the prices grew, culture placed more value on the particular tools those artists used.

Today, some of the most popular and expensive guitars are modeled after those played by artists in the 60s and 70s. The following is a list of just a few of the most influential artists to come out of the era.

Alan Holdsworth: Gibson SG Custom

If you do not know who Alan Holdsworth is, than you have ample reason to procrastinate with a YouTube surfing session. A British jazz-fusion guitarist, Holdsworth is quite simply one of the best guitarists ever, and has influenced some of the most unlikely (and technically skilled) guitarists today (such as Swede Fredrik Thordendal, of Meshuggah - the current bar for experimental metal for the last two decades).

Imagine a self-taught virtuoso influenced by Django Reinhardt, Jimmy Rainey, Charlie Christian, Joe Pass, Eric Clapton, and John Coltrane, and you still will need to hear Holdsworth signature sans-distortion legato sound in order to make an accurate visualization.

In the early 70s, Holdsworth's sound was produced by a direct line from his Gibson to a Marshall half-stack, although he later gravitated towards more obscure models of guitars. During the 80s, Holdsworth was one of the pioneers of guitar effects-processing (just ask Eddie Van Halen, who was one of many Holdsworth admirers). If you ever plan on getting an mfa degree in fine arts or music production, Holdsworth's various rigs will certainly be a subject of study.

Jimi Hendrix: 1968 black Fender Stratocaster, serial no. 222625

Seattle's own Jimi Hendrix used this left-handed beaut during his later legendary gigs and festivals: Fillmore East, Isle of Wight, Atlanta pop festival, BBC sessions and his last concert: Isle of Fehmarn, in Germany.

Anyone could buy a black strat, and most guitarists could learn Hendrix's bluesy riffs; however, no-one could perform like he did, and no one did what he did during the time he did it. Everyone, including online universities, rank Hendrix as the best performing guitarist ever. Not much else needs to be said about Hendrix. You already know.

Ian Anderson: small-bodied, Martin 0-16NY

Jethro Tull's theatrical frontman-floutist was also a fanboy of Martin acoustics, mainly for their ability to support both steel and nylon strings without losing out on sound. Anderson actually worked with Martin in the 70s to create a signature guitar specifically designed for both types of strings (the 0-28 Ian Anderson Signature Edition guitar).

Martin incorporated a new bridge design for the 0-28 Ian Anderson Signature Edition. The ebony, pyramid bridge utilized a triangular saddle-slot that allowed for the guitarist to place two kinds of Micarta saddles: a white saddle for nylon strings and an offset, black saddle for steel strings.

For this master performer, freedom of expression was key, and his signature Martin model certainly allowed for such freedom.

Obviously, there are more great artists and great guitars to explore, so check out the following resources:
  • - a huge database of guitarists, as well as a ranking of those guitarists (only one on this list made the top 100 - go figure. 
  • - enough pictures of vintage guitars to make any guitar player's mouth water (or hands itch).
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