Danny Gatton His uncategorizable playing style meshed country, rockabilly, and jazz. Dubbed “The Humbler,” he honed his chops in clubs in his hometown Washington, D.C. area (including with his own Redneck Jazz Explosion band, where he traded licks with steel-guitar legend Buddy Emmons) before being noticed by bigger names in the business including Les Paul and Eric Clapton. In 1990, he was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the song “Elmira Street Boogie.”
Mike Campbell Tom Petty’s sideman going back to their earliest days in Jacksonville, he was the creative spur who co-wrote “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “You Got Lucky,” and the lick seared into every guitarist’s brain, “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” Throughout the Heartbreakers’ run, his leads were an integral melodic element, often making the songs identifiable before a lyric was sung. Outside the group, his session playing likewise boosted the work of Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, and others. With Petty and Heartbreakers, he’s in the Rock Hall of Fame.
Robben Ford A five-time Grammy nominee, his use of space, time, chord voicings, and diminished passing tones has mined the sweet spot between sophisticated jazz harmony and traditional blues. With a reverence for B.B. King, Mike Bloomfield, John Coltrane, and Paul Desmond, he built a career on artistic integrity, mirroring his influences without mimicking them. A sought-after session player, he backed Miles Davis before recording a string of critically acclaimed solo albums straddling blues-rock, jazz, and fusion. Today, he shares his knowledge via video, online lessons, and clinics.
Pat Martino Raised by a jazz-loving father who sang in clubs, Martino was just 15 when when he moved to New York City in 1961, to play guitar professionally. His career flourished for two decades as he backed renowned horn players and pianists while also releasing 12 solo albums. In 1980, he nearly died after suffering a seizure due to congenital arteriovenous malformation. Surgery left him with amnesia and no recollection of his career or how to play. Devoting himself to re-learning, his next album was the 1987 live effort, The Return. He would release 15 more, the last being Formidable, in 2017. He died in November of ’21, leaving a legacy and musical philosophy that will inspire generations of jazz guitarists.
Ronnie Wood Born in London’s Hillingdon section, at 17 he was playing guitar with a band of locals inspired by R&B and smitten with the rock music imported from the U.S. In ’68, he was recruited to play bass in the Jeff Beck Group, then jumped back to guitar in The Faces. When that group dissolved in the wake of Rod Stewart’s exit, fortunate timing saw Wood replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones. Therein, he has played guitar, slide, steel, pedal steel, sitar, and a B-bender’d Tele. He has recorded seven solo albums; 2010’s stylistically diverse I Feel Like Playing includes appearances by Billy Gibbons and Slash. He has twice been inducted to the Rock Hall of Fame.
Tony Rice Influenced by Clarence White’s flatpicking, he became a master guitarist and vocalist with a complex musical vision that transcended bluegrass while embracing jazz and modern folk music. For most of his career, Rice played the Martin D-28 that once belonged to White; his rhythm playing was smooth and propulsive, and as a soloist, his superbly articulated solos were marked by cascades of well-chosen and cleanly picked notes that often injected new harmonic ideas that have inspired today’s best young fingerstylists, including Bryan Sutton, Molly Tuttle, and Billy Strings.
Vince Gill The Oklahoma native grew up playing bluegrass (including a stint in Ricky Skaggs’ Bone Creek) and absorbing the sounds of his heroes, including Buck Owens. He recorded three albums with ’70s country-rockers Pure Prairie League, then moved to Nashville to work sessions, write songs, and back Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris. His name ranks among the world’s best guitarists (in any genre) and his credits include 26 million albums sold, 18 CMA awards, membership in the Grand Ole Opry, and 20 Grammys.
Roy Buchanan He emerged as a kid from the Ozarks with prodigious ability and flare for copping Roy Nichols’ style – until he discovered the blues. As a teen, he began to develop a unique, unbounded style that touched on virtually every pop-music genre. With his renowned ’53 Tele, Buchanan employed an arsenal of technique with an emotive force that sang, soared, screamed, whispered and wailed. His work is exemplified by his first two solo albums and remained top-notch until his passing in 1988.