CHICAGO — It has been a while since I have had a chance to dig into some more music. A constant reminder of my failings in this field is my 13-year-old musician son. As I am hoping that he is the next Jonny Lang who will support me in my old age, off he went this summer to a week of rock ‘n roll camp.
Can you imagine this: a week of playing rock all day and most of the night? This kind of reminded me of the movie “School of Rock” with Jack Black. Black played a very talented but dysfunctional musician who morphs into a very good teacher of rock music to young kids and finds his own niche.
While in this day and age I suppose there are many rock ‘n roll camps throughout the U.S., my research identified one in Chicago run by the National Guitar Workshop, which actually runs this program all over the country during the summer in places like Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Nashville.
The camp sessions usually last one week, but if you want more, you can book into another city over the summer.
The Chicago version takes place near Elgin on the campus of a local college where all the “campers” sleep in the college dorms. According to my son, there was a concert each night put on either by the students or the counselors and instructors. He told me Buddy Guy showed up one night to jam. Wow! Where do I sign up?
Not only do the campers get instruction on the instrument of their choice but they also learn stage craft, amp settings, special string wirings and all kinds of nifty tricks that no one ever taught me. He must have been up late every night as he did nothing but sleep for two days straight after coming back from this camp.
He definitely learned some new techniques and tricks of the trade, which he showed me when we doing some jamming together. I pulled out my 25-year-old Guild acoustic and played rhythm to his leads.
We started talking about bands and guitarists and got into contested discussions. This, of course, forces me to do some research. After some Googling and sorting through a number of sites on the best rock bands of all time, I found one that at least approximates to some degree my own thinking. As with any list, there are caveats as to how the author made his or her decision process.
This list was provided by MSNBC’s Eric Olsen on March 30, 2004. His rules for inclusion and exclusion are as follows:
• The group had to be an actual band and not solo artists with backup bands. This eliminated a lot of people such as Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan (and I suppose Janis Joplin, who would have been on my list).
• The bands had to be within what Olsen calls the “greater circle of rock music” and had to generate all or most of their own material.
• Other factors included staying power (popularity over time), musical and cultural influence and the “It’s a Wonderful Life” factor, which is the damage that would be done if the band were to be removed from rock history (the greater the damage, the greater the band).
Let’s see if you agree with Olsen:
So what happened to incredible groups such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Jefferson Airplane; Pearl Jam; and Nirvana? Wait! There is hope. Olsen does give us a list of what he calls “honorable mentions”. Here they are in alphabetical order:
• Allman Brothers Band
• The Band
• Beach Boys
• Black Sabbath
• David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars
• The Clash
• Creedence Clearwater Revival
• The Cure
• The Doors
• The Eagles
• Earth, Wind & Fire
• Buddy Holly and the Crickets
• Prince & the Revolution
• Roxy Music
• Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
• The Who
Though I feel a little bit assuaged, what happened to such seminal bands as the Kinks, the Dave Clark Five, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Traffic, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention as well as Cream?
A logical question sprouting from the above list is: Who are the greatest rock guitarists of all times? While no slight is intended to the drummers, bassists, organists and pianists of rock bands, the preeminent musical instrument in rock ‘n roll is the guitar and what a musician does with it.
It took me a while to find a decent and balanced poll. This poll comes from CBS News on Aug. 6, 2002. The poll was conducted by the British magazine Total Guitar. Surprisingly, no woman made the top 100 guitarists (no one listens to Bonnie Raitt’s slide guitar?).
In fact, only one woman made the list of 440 guitarists (Tracy Chapman, who would have not been my choice). Because the criterion for choosing this list wasn’t evident, I can’t frame it for you. Let’s take a look:
I sure would like to know the criteria for this list.
While there are some very good guitarists on this list, whatever happened to Alvin Lee (Ten Years After), Rory Gallagher (Taste), Johnny Winter, George Harrison, Mick Taylor, Michael Bloomfield (Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Electric Flag), Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead) and blues guitarists such as BB King, Albert King, Robert Cray, Jonny Lang and of course Buddy Guy?
Speaking of Jimi Hendrix, there is a new biography of him that was recently published by Sharon Lawrence called “Jimi Hendrix: The Man, the Magic, the Truth.” It was recommended to me by a life science venture capital friend who, like me, is also into solid 1960s rock.
This book makes for a good read about Hendrix, who died on Sept. 18, 1970 at the age of 27 in London as he overdosed on pills. He would be about 63 if he were still alive today. The book has some interesting pictures of him as a child and at different stages of his career.
This just in! You may remember earlier this year I mentioned that the first rock super group Cream got together after a 35-year hiatus for three concerts in London. Well, it appears that they are now coming to the U.S. for a limited tour that starts at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 24, 25 and 26.
See you next week!
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