My man Delancey Leathers knows from guitar. Which is why I’m throwing his picks into this “supplementary” post. Who is this mysterious Mr. Leathers, you ask? It’s best that I don’t reveal his true identity, but I can say the man is capable of six-string sorcery that most mortals can only dream of.
Anyway, here’s his list.
I’m gonna use Rolling Stone’s foccacta list as the definitive mainstream model but also take into account the thousands of debates I’ve had with actual guitarists over the years.
Here are my top 10 underrated guitarists, in no particular order:
1. Django Reinhardt
How this guy is not on the RS list completely blows my mind. He’s the gypsy Jimi Hendrix and he did it all with two fingers. A complete natural with total command of the instrument, super inventive ideas and phrasing, and so influential there are legions of “hot clubs” all over the world that play the music he pioneered. Before Django the guitar wasn’t even taken seriously in jazz. He deserves to be in Rolling Stone’s top 5 and he’s not even on the freaking list.
2. Manuel Gottsching
Ashra‘s Blackouts is flat out one of the coolest guitar albums ever recorded. Every guitar player I know that hears it is blown away by its tastiness and innovation. The guy gets no credit or recognition. Whether he’s freaking out psychedelically in the early days of Ash Ra Tempel, or blazing electronic trails with his later stuff, he’s a true original and an innovator.
3. Les Paul
He’s on the RS list but he needs to be higher up. I’m not gonna regurgitate his credentials. He’s underrated because most people don’t understand what he actually did or how he did it.
4. Pat Martino
The best hard bop guitarist out there. His solos are like fast flowing melodic water. [Editor’s Note: Hey, I picked Pat, too!]
5. Scotty Gorham and Brian Robertson
Thin Lizzy baby! You can’t just list one since the awesomeness of one depends on the presence of the other. (Honorable mention to any of the other second guitarists in Lizzy.) [Ed’s Note: Hey, I picked them, too!]
6. Frank Black and Joey Santiago (the Pixies)
Another package deal. They are a beautiful Gibson-Fender/lead-rhythm marriage.
7. Adrian Belew
Stunt guitar mastermind. Might have the coolest guitar resume of all time.
8. Gary Lucas
The last of the Beefheart guitarists. Everything he does on the instrument is interesting.
9. Joe Pass
The Pride of New Brunswick, NJ. Another jazz Jedi that gets no love from the non guitar playing world. He transformed the guitar into his own personal piano.
10. Lowell George
An under appreciated slide guitar wizard and a great songwriter. The Little Feat name has been ruined by the bozos that carried it on after he died in 1979, but the albums where he is the main man have some sick guitar work… plus he punched out Mickey Hart. [Ed’s Note: I’ve been saying that we’re long overdue for more Lowell appreciation. Glad to see him on the list.]
Turk-Psych guitar wizard.