Guitar gods... where’d they go?

Continuing the discussion from Is Rock Dead? Discuss:

I was talking with some friends a while back and I think there’s a correlation between the lack of “guitar gods” that this generation has vs the perceived decline of rock as a genre. My opinion anyway.
As you look through the history of rock, you’ll find endless lists of guitarists that have been huge influences on those after them. We all know the lists, but as you look around the current landscape, it’s certainly a much shorter list of innovative players and influencers.
I just find it interesting.

Here’s one guy that’s newer, been getting some good reviews.

That’s just it. There are a bunch of guys out there like Abasi. I don’t mean that in a demeaning way, he’s great! I just mean that there are a bunch of those kinds of players that are slightly under the radar, but they don’t seem to have the impact that those generational players had (ie, Hendrix, Page, Clapton, SRV, EVH, etc).
Even now, you could mention any one of those guys in a crowd of general music listeners and find that the majority are well aware of them. Today’s virtuosos? Not so much. Some of the well known ones that come to mind for me would be guys like Brad Paisley or John Mayer.

Today’s virtuosos are at a disadvantage in that other than technique, it has all been done before. Who is around today to give the contrast Hendrix gave in relation what you heard on the radio? When you heard the Osmonds, the Monkees, the Supremes, then Purple Haze, you knew this was something different. Same with Led Zep 1, Jeff Beck Group, Cream, etc.
Also, to put SRV in context, he came at a time when people were tired of hair bands and contrived music, and were longing for something soulful. EVH stood you on your ear, and what followed him was an army of players trying to emulate him but coming up short.
What does all this mean? Number one, in terms of popular music, guitar oriented stuff has very, very little chance of being mainstream, so there are probably hundreds of flat out killer players who aren’t being heard. Two, the indie route is their only option, and it takes a lot of work to get a following, where the guys you mentioned all had a lot of push behind them, and many of the “supergroups” didn’t last as long as it takes for an indie group to get past square one.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you want to be considered an influential guitarist today, you need to live for the opportunity to eke out a living doing what you love and hope that’s enough. People on this forum live in a much heightened awareness of who’s who in the music world. Go ask ten people if they know who Eric Johnson, or Joe Bonomassa, or Steve Via are, and you might get a more realistic view.
Maybe Taylor Swift can woodshed with Jeff Beck for five years. She’d have a pretty good shot.


This guy is pretty god-like.

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I don’t know. Actually, I think this generation has a MONSTROUS advantage over previous generations. The access to gear, effects, learning resources, etc is off the charts by comparison. Those guys had none of that. They had to innovate. Les Paul had to create what he wanted and invented gear and concepts that we still utilize today; both in the guitar AND recording worlds. Hendrix pioneered effects that we still use. Eddie Van Halen sat in his garage and built things to do what he heard in his head. He doesn’t get nearly as much credit as he probably should for the stuff he came up other than his playing.
Similar to the “is rock dead” discussion, I think players are looking for the instant gratification that modern technology has provided.

I don’t believe for one second that all has been done and there is no room to innovate. I just don’t think that many are willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears that previous generations would have out of necessity.

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Lets not forget that there were huge hype media machines behind the creation of the legends of Hendrix, Paige, etc.

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I was going to say Tosin Abasi and Guthrie Govan to answer the question posed in the thread, as they are both incredible players… I have to say though, emotionally they leave me pretty cold compared to this:

We’ve lost a few real deal guitar colossuses in recent years… Sad, Gary’s passion and fire are unmatched…


I think you hit two high points here that I glossed over. One, yes it’s a lot easier to learn by tab and tutorials than by ear, so getting to a reasonable level of proficiency is a whole lot easier than learning by ear. The problem with that, IMHO, is that is like learning how to type on a keyboard, as opposed to writing a novel. Learning by ear, and trying to guess how stuff was done, probably required a higher level of commitment, and weeded out a lot more people, which is part of point number two.
I don’t believe for one second that all has been done and there is no room to innovate. I just don’t think that many are willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears that previous generations would have out of necessity
An eloquent summation. As Andrew points out below, many of the guys with monster technique today have very little feeling, or maybe a better way to put it is their technique doesn’t translate as emotion to the listener. I’ve been fortunate enough to see Beck, Page, Hendrix, and Clapton live. The one common thing they all had or still have, is they make the guitar connect with the audience in a very primal way, and it is not their technique that floors you, it is how what they play portrays the point they are trying to get across. For instance, learning how to play like Clapton is doable. Seeing him do it live, and shivering from how much it moves you is a totally different thing.
I truly believe that the guitar will always be around, and that the next group of “Gods” will take their thrones by combining great technique with a firm basis in the blues, and blend that into something new that connects on an emotional, rather than technical level. That learning process is not easy, and as you said, it is blood sweat and tears to put it together.


I don’t think the list is shorter, I think it’s just that people don’t care any more. There are plenty of great guitarists out there. I think the problem is that there are so many out there that it’s hard to stand out.

Once something becomes common, you stop getting celebrities in that area.

Thousands of people do that, and don’t get any sort of special recognition for it. It’s not that these people don’t exist, it’s just that nobody really cares any more.

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I don’t think there’s any lack of innovation. I think that we just live in a time where innovation is the norm. And if you do invent something new, within months everybody else can do it too and people are looking for the next innovation. The cycle is just way faster today than it was 30 years ago, so you can’t make a career out of innovating unless you do it constantly.

Gary Moore was very special. He was able to draw from both the blues tradition and the rock/shred tradition that Tosin Abasi and Guthrie Govan seem more influenced by.

Are there some contemporary stand-outs that draw from both sides?

The only one that immediately comes to mind is Derek Trucks…

Welp. Here’s your modern guitar gods IMO. Basically a change of religion if you want to use the analogy of gods.

On a side note you have guys like Pete Thorn, Brent Mason, Tim Pierce that are still gods imho, but the general public has never heard of them. I dunno…if you’re a god and no one has ever heard of you are you still a god? Haha…maybe a demigod?

You still have guys like John Mayer and Brad Paisley that are legitimately skilled guitar players but have god status because of other reasons apart from their guitar work.

Is to possible to be a ‘former’ god? Food for thought… “I was a god, but not anymore lol”

Yeah, of those, I’ve only seen Beck & Clapton live, but I agree wholeheartedly. Dynamics are another HUGE part of the equation. It’s one thing to blast a full-on 8/16 bar solo and dazzle everyone for a few seconds. It’s a whole other thing to have the audience eating out of the palm of your hand and hanging on each new note and nuance, waiting with bated breath for the denouement of the story the guitarist is telling with their playing.

Nailed it in one, Bob - beautifully expressed! While I agree with @holster that the current generation has the “online information explosion advantage”, that applies primarily to the fundamental mechanical and technical aspects of playing, whereas a playing style born of years of road work in front of paying customers is an entirely different animal.

…and on the “blues” aspect - I think that is significant, particularly in regards to these aspects of emotion & dynamics. I remember watching a video recently where Rick Beato expressed the view that the lack of “the blues” in recent rock & pop music might be one of the factors relating to tepid interest from the world in general. I think he has something there…

This is a great, thought-provoking thread. Hat tip to all y’all. :smile:

A player I stumbled across on the web a few years ago who hits that combo of chops and feeling is Eric Gales. Absolutely fits the mold Andrew described, using his connection to his instrument speak to us all… and the unbridled joy he brings to his playing really warms my heart every time. Oh, and he’s a lefty and plays a normally-stringed axe. No big deal. :wink: