10 Giants Of Slide Guitar

Here are 10 great slide guitarists well worth hearing who have played a key role in the style's advancement.

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The history of slide guitar goes back to Africa, where musicians playing one-stringed violins used bones or similarly shaped and smooth-surfaced objects to vary the pitch of their string. In America, that instrument became the diddley bow. And from there the technique was transferred to guitar. Anyone who's heard Derek Trucks lately knows there's been considerable evolution since. Here are 10 great slide guitarists well worth hearing who have played a key role in the style's advancement:
  • Robert Johnson Columbia Records proclaimed this guitarist "King of the Delta Blues" decades after his death in 1938 at age 27. Although records by Charley Patton, the Mississippi Sheiks, and plenty of other Delta blues artists far outsold Johnson during his life, his posthumous popularity has fulfilled the label's wishful thinking. It has also made Johnson famously photographed holding a Gibson KG-14 one of the most influential early rural Mississippi slide men and led rightly so to the canonization of such Johnson recordings as "Cross Road Blues" and "Traveling Riverside Blues." Watch Robert Johnson's "Crossroad"
  • Blind Willie Johnson This Texas preacher and gospel bluesman played slide in open D, a excellent tuning for his gruff vocal style on such classics as "The Soul Of Man" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine" the latter a stunning showcase for his nimble slide playing in both the high and bass registers. Watch Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault But Mine"
  • Muddy Waters The great blues innovator is slide guitar's primary link between the acoustic and electric eras. Among the dozens of classics he created while minting the ensemble sound of electric Chicago blues are "Can't Be Satisfied" and "Rollin' and Tumblin'," which has been covered by Cream and a host of other notables. Only a handful of guitarists, in particular ex-Waters sidemen Bob Margolin and Paul Oscher, can recreate Muddy's distinctive, unhurried, whinnying slide tone. Watch Cream's "Rollin' And Tumblin'"
  • Elmore James James' hair-raising emotional resonance and burning intensity more than compensated for his lack of diversity. His open E sound on the gems "The Sky Is Crying," "Dust My Broom," and more is unmistakable thanks to his use of a hyperamplified acoustic guitar with a crudely attached pick-up. On top of that, James' crackling high-voltage singing is packed with thrills. Watch Elmore James' "Dust My Broom"
  • Mick Taylor One of the hallmarks' of Taylor's long career with John Mayall, the Rolling Stones, and as a solo artist is his thick-voiced slide playing, most often on a Les Paul Standard or an SG. Taylor's slide tour-de-force with the Stones was the rarely played Exile On Main Street jewel "All Down The Line," where his brawny exuberant style took the band back to their earliest blues roots. Watch The Rolling Stones' "All Down The Line"
  • Duane Allman This late guitar legend is by far the most emulated and revered slide player of the rock era. Whether on a Les Paul or his cherry red SG, Allman achieved a buttery tone with a coricidin bottle for slide and a Marshall at his back. His most famous slide playing is featured on the Allman Brother's version of "Statesboro Blues" from Live At Fillmore East and on Derek & the Dominos still-inspiring story of lost love "Layla." Thirty-eight years after his death debate rages among hard-core Allmans' fans about whether Duane or Derek is the band's best all-time slider. Watch Allman Brothers' "Statesboro Blues"
  • Billy Gibbons If you've heard ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid" or their rock radio classic "Tush," you've heard what Gibbons can do with a Les Paul and a slide. Often he'll tune to open A or open E before donning the metal tube. Just this month the Gibson Custom Shop has begun building exacting reproductions of Gibbons' most famous Les Paul: the iconic '59 Sunburst Standard the Texas guitar slinger dubbed "Miss Pearly Gates." Watch ZZ Top "Tush"
  • Ry Cooder Cooder has extended slide's blues roots in all kinds of directions starting with a traditional base and moving into Cuban music with the Buena Vista Social Club, African music with Ali Farka Tour, and just about any other direction in folk music he's chosen to travel. Watch Ry Cooder's "Vigilante Man"
  • Sonny Sharrock No less than the father of free jazz guitar, this late musical adventurer applied the trilling and modal explorations of John Coltrane to Gibson L-5s and Les Pauls, the latter plugged into a Marshall half-stack in the final years of his career. Sharrock's slide playing wasn't for the faint-hearted, but it was relentlessly adventurous and uncompromising. Watch Sonny Sharrock's "Quartet 1"
  • Dave Tronzo This wild modernist's slide playing is perched directly on today's cutting edge and his influence is bubbling up from the jazz and psychedelic underground. A trip to the videos on Tronzo's MySpace page yields all the details of his unconventional, wailing and yet intensely lyrical style. Of course there's plenty of other examples of slide genius out there Son House, Bonnie Raitt, Lowell George, Robert Nighthawk, the Edge, and Sonny Landreth, are just a few more. Thanks for the report to Gibson.com.
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      JesterShred
      HH_Emo_666 wrote: Wheres the Allman Brothers at?
      ummm... Duane ALLMAN is an ALLMAN brother... and he's mentioned... duh...
      Lonely_wolf11
      Come on!! Slash? Very good guitar player but not with the slide!!... If you say Perry,Harrison,B.B.King,Gilmore...What about Clapton?!!
      tands
      i think this is a more then fair list, these are the people that took slide guitar to new places, I love George Harrison but he never did that, David Gilmour, amazing but he never did that either. If they were on the list I would be like wtf.
      acoustielectric
      T-Unit33 wrote: I feel like, even though technically he isn't a slide guitarist, Robert Randolph should at least have been mentioned in this article.
      Robert randolph is the man!
      acoustielectric
      There should be more on the list because some slide players not on there are just as good or better than some that are on it.
      TimboSlice
      Seriously - Haynes, Trucks, Harper, Gordie Johnson...they even play Gibsons too, while a few players on the article list were Fender men.
      Radical Bob
      It's good to see some solid blues guitarists recognized.. funny to see how 90% use Gibson equipment but what can ya do..
      squallerrleon
      Imaginary requirement: plays slide guitar more than once. Secret requirement: plays a Gibson. Where's Bobby "Lazyfoot" Johnson? And Lucious "Hot Water" Swanson? Or Jimmy "Tuna Cassarole" Memphis?
      MetalUpYourRear
      If people would actually read the article, they would realize that Derek Trucks is mentioned at the beginning, before the list. Plus, the list is more about the founders and innovators of slide guitar playing. Not EVERYBODY who is awesome...
      AdamDK
      Here are 10 great slide guitarists well worth hearing who have played a key role in the styles advancement :
      That's why all the people you lot are moaning aren't on the list aren't on there. ADVANCEMENT in the style aka the innovators.
      stephen_rettie
      WesBizarre wrote: how about Slash?!
      What about slash? a massively average slide player who uses it in very few songs. by NO means worthy of being on this list.
      mikeyyy333
      joe bonamassa would've been a good call..but why no seasick steve? the dude only has like 3 strings on his guitar yet the sounds he creates are incredible...
      nightraven
      checkeded
      Radical Bob wrote: It's good to see some solid blues guitarists recognized.. funny to see how 90% use Gibson equipment but what can ya do..
      i'm not surprised. gibson guitars are great for slide since the fretboards are far flatter than fenders. and they'd look a bit weird playing traditional slide on ibanez guitars
      LPDC
      WhiteStripesIII wrote: Guardian1108 wrote: not to sound dumb, but Jack White is a pretty good slide guitarist right? maybe not legendary but still great right? Yeah, he is pretty good actually - see Death Letter live at Blackpool.
      Then you may aswell go right back to son house! lol that version is pretty epic though
      Supersonic64
      yeah i saw this off the gibson website. i thihnk this was a decent list. think they focused off of the blues era more than the rock era but a decent list never the less
      JDZYX
      RockDragon wrote: What about Rory Gallagher? Plus this is a cool article, but should it really be in the news section?
      YES! RORY GALLAGHER! And I don't really think it should be in the news section either.
      druz15_UG
      Guardian1108 wrote: not to sound dumb, but Jack White is a pretty good slide guitarist right? maybe not legendary but still great right?
      this, he uses his slide for new inventive things o which is awesome.
      MoFly41
      Im glad they gave The Edge honorable mention. He's pretty unbelievable at slide.
      ndschroede23
      Cool article, but news? That's debatable. Maybe UG needs a section for top-tier general discussion articles like this. It's not news at all, in any way, but it is cool to have, and I'd like to see more things like this, more than just the random treads in the forums.
      flame_mc
      Stevie Ray vaughan did an amazing job with the slide... and gilmour it's great too, but well, that's just my opinion
      WhiteStripesIII
      Guardian1108 wrote: not to sound dumb, but Jack White is a pretty good slide guitarist right? maybe not legendary but still great right?
      Yeah, he is pretty good actually - see Death Letter live at Blackpool.