It’s been just over a year since the death of the legendary Les Paul, an eclectic musician and inventor whose pioneering contribution to the development of the solid-body, electric guitar is credited with making “the sound of rock ’n’ roll possible.”
So, it’s a good time to pay him tribute by recalling a few of the many memorable riffs his guitar innovations have helped make possible. Here are some of my favorites, and feel free to add yours in the Comment section below.
I’ll start with two “soft,” slow, hypnotic riffs: Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” and Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.”
Then let’s try some classic rock ‘n’ roll:
• Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”
• The twangy guitar of Duane Eddy on “Forty Miles of Bad Road” and “Rebel-‘Rouser”
• Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” which unfortunately has become one of the most overplayed songs in modern music history
And then move on to two more hypnotic hooks:
• Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy”
• Jefferson Starship’s “Runaway”
And a couple of rock superstars:
• Bruce Springsteen with “Born To Run” and his classic “Dancing in the Dark” video (complete, of course, with the pre-cougar Courteney Cox)
• And the Rolling Stones, the kings of the instantly recognizable rock guitar riff: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar” and “Start Me Up”
• And the spectacular Bill Kirchen, a rockabilly guitarist known as “The Titan of the Telecaster.” He played on Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s 1972 remake of “Hot Rod Lincoln” with its wonderful ending:
They arrested me and they put me in jail,
and they called my pappy to throw my bail,
and he said, “son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’
if you don’t stop drivin’ that hot … rod … Lincoln.”
Here’s Kirchen’s expanded seven-minute version — stick around for his mid-song tribute to guitarists ranging from Johnny Cash to Muddy Waters to Marty Robbins to the Ventures of “Walk — Don’t Run” fame.
And we’ll end with a tribute to the surf guitar and the likes of Dick Dale, the undisputed King of the Surf Guitar.
Junior Brown’s seven-minute “Surf Medley” wraps together all sorts of favorites. Here’s a short, live excerpt: