I'm trying to hit Like on Adrian's Newkie Brown shout-out but keep getting "an unknown error has occurred." So, manually: Like!
Stan, you describe pretty much how I got started in this gig, covering beloved artists and tunes (which, of course, I still do and always will). It's how I've always operated, very often being the "guy with the guitar" at gatherings and parties. Because my tastes range into artists that are fairly obscure, it's been a nice balance of familiar covers with those that are new to most people without having to actually write original material! Plus, for most of my life I was always playing by myself (now in the home studio, I play with myself, har har!), so came up with a style that tries to be the whole show-- rhythm, chords, and melody all at once. That was a habit I had to break when I started recording and mixing, I needed to back way off of that and record much simpler guitar parts so that things weren't too busy.
My biggest guitar influences/inspirations growing up were Andres Segovia, Leo Kottke, Jimmy Page, Brian May, David Gilmour, and Steve Howe. The next tier would include Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Mark Knopfler, and Chet Atkins. The common denominator is the feeling and emotion they bring to their playing, far, far more important to me than speed or shreddiness. I respect and admire that kind of playing but it just isn't anything I want to listen to on any kind of regular basis.
Later in life I have come to love the whole "wooden music" scene, americana style acts and "newgrass", in particular the mighty "Strength in Numbers" lineup of Mark O'Connor (fiddle), Edgar Meyer (upright bass), Bela Fleck (banjo), Sam Bush (mandolin), and Jerry Douglas (dobro). Their ensemble work uses their bluegrass instruments like chamber music, with each instrument having a fundamental part that interacts with the rest as opposed to the standard (and dead boring) bluegrass style of a progression played together, then each instrument solos over the progression, they all play it together again, song over-- lather, rinse, repeat. Zzzzzzzzz.
The songs that really made me want to learn to play guitar were I Feel Fine by the Beatles, Up Around the Bend by Creedence, and Black Dog by Led Zep. I'm of the age that I heard all of those right when they came out, and by the time LZIV hit, that was it-- I was hooked!