Filter frontman and guitarist Richard Patrick joins us in naming our favorite pioneering players of early rock ’n’ roll.

The “golden era of guitar” could mean many things, depending on musical tastes, where you live, or what generation you grew up in. This month we’re talking about the 1950s and ’60s birth of rock ’n’ roll. Filter frontman and guitarist Richard Patrick joins us in naming our favorite pioneering players.

Q: Who’s your favorite guitarist from rock ’n’ roll’s golden era—the 1950s and ’60s?

Richard PatrickFilter

A: Buddy Holly because he was weird. But also Jimi Hendrix ... his avant-garde approach with feedback and the whammy bar made me realize the rulebook had been broken. We all get that a guitar player should learn his craft, but at the same time we need to tear that down. Buddy kept it simple and Jimi fucked it up. Bravo!

My current obsession is: The Zoom G5. I programmed a bunch of the patches and I’m obsessed to see what the kiddies think. I love noise. I love being able to make music relying on equipment. People who say you should be able to play everything on an acoustic guitar—that’s bullshit. I want more tech, more chaos.

Winston SmithReader of the Month

A: Link Wray and Jeff Beck. Link Wray because he pretty much defined the rebel as far as tone and punk attitude, and Jeff Beck made the pursuit of musicality and experimentation cool for all genres of guitarists from punk to jazz.

My current obsession is: To see how I can adapt my playing style and tone to genres of music I’m not very comfortable playing. Pushing my technique and ear into new territory. I have to learn 15 songs by this weekend, in three different keys, to play live in a genre I’m not familiar with, with musicians that play said genre as masters.

Andy EllisSenior Editor

A: Working back through the British Invasion bands, I discovered this era of music circa 1965. The Shadows led me to Duane Eddy, whose twangy, throbbing, cavernous tones inspire me to this day.

My current obsession is: My Phantom MandoGuitar. It’s designed to be tuned like a 12-string capoed at the 12th fret, although I tune it a whole-step lower: D–D–G–G–C–C–F–F–A–A–D–D. The top three string pairs are each tuned in unison; the lower three pairs are octaves. Deluxe chime!

Shawn HammondChief Content Officer

A: It’s a toss-up between Elvis sideman Scotty Moore (holy crap—the solo on “Hound Dog” alone!) and James Brown badass Jimmy Nolen. Nolen’s spare, gloriously funky lines knifed through the mix and were like absolute clockwork.

My current obsession is: My PureSalem Pink Beard fuzz, which can go from wonderfully organic and dynamically responsive to mutated and scuzzy.

Tessa JeffersManaging Editor

A: When I hear Chuck Berry, I’m immediately transported to a nostalgic place I know only romantically through the sounds of those times. Berry is ’50s golden guitar to me—most of his songs start with a variation of the same signature lick. Beyond that, he could sing and swing, inventing his own brand of rock ’n’ roll.

My current obsession is: Thinking about guitar phrasing in terms of voice or approaching melodic lines, like a singer would. My favorite players make their parts distinct and memorable, like a skilled vocalist catches you with their inflection.

Almost six decades after forming the short-lived Rising Sons, the two legends reconvene to pay tribute to the classic blues duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee on the warm and rootsy Get on Board.

Deep into Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder’s Get on Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, percussionist Joachim Cooder lays out, letting the two elder musicians can take a pass through “Pawn Shop Blues.” To start, they loosely play around with the song’s intro on their acoustic guitars. “Yeah, nice,” remarks Mahal off-handedly in his distinctive rasp—present since he was a young man but, at 79, he’s aged into it—and Cooder lightly chuckles. They hit the turnaround and settle into a slow, loping tempo. It’s a casual and informal affair—some notes buzz, and it sounds like one of them is stomping his foot intermittently. Except for Cooder’s slide choruses, neither guitar plays a rhythm or lead role. They simply converse.

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The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

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