To the general public, the name Tony Maiden may not be as well known as other funk guitar icons. But mention the songs “Tell Me Something Good,” “Once You Get Started,” or “Ain’t Nobody,” and you’ll start to see the lightbulbs come on. In 1974, Maiden joined Rufus—which featured Chaka Kahn and was one of the biggest-selling bands of the 1970s—and went to work adding beautifully arranged funkiness to Rags to Rufus. Maiden was a very soulful singer who could go toe-to-toe with Kahn, and his guitar brought a funkiness that worked seamlessly with Khan’s soaring, jazz-influenced vocals.
Rufus was about great songs, vibe, pocket, and cleverly orchestrated arrangements. Dig the skanky, choked chord pattern on the intro to “You’ve Got The Love” on the live album Stompin’ at the Savoy, or the sultry, sliding double-stops on “Sweet Thing” (the latter of which was co-written by Maiden and Kahn for the album Rufus Featuring Chaka Kahn). Maiden’s guitar parts—which he played on everything from a Gibson ES-175 to an ES-345, Les Pauls, and a Fender Mustang (though recently he’s been playing rosewood Telecasters)—are a compositional marvel. His sublime rhythm work mixed melodic chording with delicious R&B lines, and tasteful effect use (check out his bluesy talk box work on live versions of “Tell Me Something Good”). But his guitar solos were impressive, too. In all, his playing style was a master class in the elements and techniques necessary to create imaginative parts with soul and finesse.