Mononymous Guns N Roses axeman Slash isn’t a pure blues player. His style is far more indebted to fellow blues-loving players who adopted the old school bends and licks into the foundations of classic rock. Think Mick Taylor, Jeff Beck, or Jimmy Page. Those are the players that helped Slash establish his signature half-soul/half-shred style.
According to the guitarist himself, however, the blues played a major role in the development of his playing. “All of my playing is basically influenced by blues players,” Slash told. “That might sound surprising, but really, that’s where my whole trip comes from. Like a lot of people, I started backwards. Growing up, there was all kinds of music being played around me, and blues was definitely a part of it. I didn’t know I was an aspiring guitarist at the time, however — I didn’t pick up the guitar till I was 15.”
It might have been Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton who kicked off Slash’s exploration of the guitar, but when he became more comfortable with the instrument, he began seeking out the legends that influenced his influences. As he followed the trail back through the years, he found out that almost all of his idols took after classic blues guitarists.
“I realised that the licks were pretty much the same stuff I’d been listening to all along – only the context that was different,” Slash continued. “I’ve listened to a lot of great blues guitarists, but the two guys who I go back to consistently are Albert King and BB King. Their appeal never fades. Albert King I love because of his singing, screaming, one-note bends. He’s been a huge influence on me.”
“And with BB, it’s that one-note thing, too, but it’s more about his overall style period. Everything he does just speaks volumes. The two players… Whatever it was about their sound and approach, it really got to me. If I had to choose a third player, it would definitely be Buddy Guy. He’s a big one.
“He has this, like, mayhem approach to the blues. [laughs] I always liked what he did. It was rough and gritty. That’s what great about the blues: whatever you want to do with it, it can work if you do it with spirit and attitude.” It’s easy to see how Slash would employ the work of these legends into his own magnificent work.
Check out some of Slash’s picks in action and respect the classics.
Slash’s favourite blues guitar players:
- Albert King
- BB King
- Buddy Guy