2019 Readers’ Choice Awards

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Each year, Vintage Guitar magazine honors those who inspired and awed us as guitar players, fans, and listeners by inducting great players, innovators, and instruments to the VG Hall of Fame. We also choose Album of the Year and Player of the Year in four categories. For a list of prior inductees, learn more.

Vote! 2019 VG Readers’ Choice Awards

Nominations are solicited from editorial contributors and visitors to VintageGuitar.com, then a list of finalists is compiled with input from VG staff. So, please take a minute to vote below for an instrument, person, and music in all eight categories! Deadline for entries is January 10, 2020. New inductees and contest winners will be announced in the April issue.
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    Mark Knopfler (top left), Michael Bloomfield, Roy Buchanan, Vince Gill, Peter Frampton, Dick Dale, Ritchie Blackmore, Dickey Betts, and Mick Taylor.
  • Mark Knopfler Emerging in a late-’70s scene dominated by music very unlike what he was making, his superb, fluid fingerpicked lines relayed to the masses (via songs like “Water of Love,” “Sultans of Swing,” “Skateaway,” and others) that Dire Straits stood apart from other bands in its ability to span genres. His amazing technique has earned not only adoration, but work with a mass of musical heavyweights ranging from Steely Dan to Van Morrison to Bob Dylan and released a string of successful solo albums.

    Michael Bloomfield A silver-spoon kid from Chicago, as a teen learning to play, he’d sneak into the city’s South Side blues joints, often asking to sit in. By his late teens, he’d recorded with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and was just 22 when he played on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. His fluid, informed style drew praise from the likes of B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, and Buddy Guy. Though he favored a Telecaster early on, he later took to a ’50s Les Paul Standard and today is one of a handful credited with making the model supremely collectible.

    Roy Buchanan A kid from the Ozarks, he possessed a prodigious ability and flare for copping the style of superpicker Roy Nichols. He discovered the blues and, as a teen, 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.

    Vince Gill The Oklahoma native grew up playing bluegrass (including a brief 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.

    Peter Frampton A member of the British blues-rock band Humble Pie, he went solo in 1971 and, after recording four studio albums, released Frampton Comes Alive in the first week of 1976. Three months later, it was the best-selling album in the world on its way to achieving mythical status and inspiring generations (plural!) of others. Through decades of personal and professional ups and downs, he continues to make new music (including Album of the Year nominee All Blues) even while battling Inclusion-Body Myositis, which is slowly robbing him of dexterity.

    Dick Dale Taught to play piano and traditional Lebanese instruments before his family moved from Boston to California, he dove headlong into beach culture and the El Segundo music scene. Larry Collins showed him how to play a rock lead on an $8 guitar and by 1961 he was packing the 3,000-seat Rendezvous Ballroom every weekend night, using a Strat to ram rock instrumentals through Leo Fender’s new Showman model, created just for him! His legacy includes the Middle Eastern influenced “Misirlou” along with decades of notoriety and acclaim.

    Ritchie Blackmore A contemporary of Hendrix, Beck, Page, Clapton, et al, he stands apart as the neoclassical-heavy-metal harbinger of Strat-through-a-Marshall tone. A virtuoso and true “guitar hero,” his varied influences informed the blues-based licks on definitive classics like Deep Purple’s Machine Head album and its signature track, “Smoke On the Water.” Now in his mid 70s, he remains active, focusing on renaissance-style acoustic music.

    Dickey Betts Through his teens and early 20s, he played in several Florida bands including The Second Coming. When brothers Duane and Gregg Allman jumped aboard, they became a pioneering Southern-rock unit in which Betts’ more-traditional playing style countered Duane’s slide in a dual-guitar format that helped launch a genre known for harmony leads. Betts wrote and sang the group’s biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man,” and after its dissolution formed his own group, followed by Great Southern and others. His non-ABB catalog includes a dozen solo releases including this year’s Ramblin Man: The Dickey Betts Band Live at the St. George Theater.

    Mick Taylor Just 17 when he was recruited by John Mayall for the guitar slot in his renowned Bluesbreakers (following Eric Clapton and Peter Green), he was key to sparking the British Blues Invasion. Appearing on four albums, he was part of a 1967 tour that helped break the band in the U.S. His place in history was cemented by a five-year stint in the Rolling Stones, during which the band peaked artistically; “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses,” “Happy,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” “Angie,” and “It’s Only Rock ’n Roll” all bear his stamp.

    Mark Knopfler: Sebastien Gross/Wikimedia Commons. Michael Bloomfield: Elliot Landy/Wikimedia Commons. Roy Buchanan: Carl Lender/Wikimedia Commons. Peter Frampton: John Lill. Dick Dale courtesy of the Dale estate. Ritchie Blackmore: Joan Sorolla/Wikimedia Commons. Dickey Betts: Simone Berna/Wikimedia Commons. Mick Taylor: Larry Rogers/Wikimedia Commons.

  • Bob Taylor The acoustic-guitar company he co-founded in 1974 (and now bears his name) looked to go head-to-head with Martin from the start, and made its mark with low-profile bolt-on necks that could be custom-shaped and allowed for quick, easy adjustment. Today, the company offers a highly popular line of acoustic and electric guitars with a range of material and other options.

    Jason Lollar After graduating from the renowned Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in 1979, he started to design and build. In 1990, he began selling a single-coil pickup he’d been making for his own archtops, and what started as a sideline soon shifted his focus to winding. In ’95, he published Basic Pickup Winding and has since become an authority on the design and manufacture of pickups. His company, Lollar Pickups, makes an assortment for virtually every application and playing style.

    Jim Dunlop A chemical engineer by trade, he started building guitar gadgets in his spare time, beginning with a tuner that attached to the guitar body with suction cups and used a small reed as an indicator. He then developed a capo before expanding to picks and slides. In the early ’80s, he bought the defunct Cry Baby brand and began to make an updated version of the pedal. Its success spurred the acquisition of the MXR brand. Later lines included the Hendrix-inspired Fuzz Face, Uni-Vibe, and Octavio, along with the Heil Talk Box and Tortex picks. Dunlop was 82 when died on February 6, 2019.

    Robert Keeley Inspired by tweaking a hand-me-down Peavey, he pondered becoming an amp builder. But, while teaching at a technical college, he supervised a crew of students that modified old effects pedals and readily found players eager to use them. A company was born and it wasn’t long before his client list included Brad Paisley, Peter Frampton, and Ike Willis. Today, his original-design compressor and boost pedals are considered industry standards.

    Andrew Barta While working as a busy young guitarist and amp tech, down-time in a recording studio inspired the eventual founder of Tech 21 to create a high-quality tube-amp emulator for improving signal sent from instrument to recorder. His invention was dubbed Sansamp and it became the go-to in studios (and on stages) after its launch in 1989. Today, the company offers a range of studio-quality speciality DIs that offer high degrees of tone tailoring for acoustic and electric guitars as well as bass.

  • Dumble Overdrive Special (top), Ampeg SVT (above), ’66 Mosrite Ventures MarkV1966, and a ’57 Gibson Les Paul Junior.
  • Ampeg SVT Introduced in 1969, Ampeg’s Super Vacuum Tube (SVT) amp was configured as a head (weighing 85 pounds!) with two 8x10 cabs (each weighing 145 pounds) and used 14 tubes (including six 6146s) that produced 300 watts output. For bassists, it’s a true (if virtually immovable) vintage classic.

    Mosrite Ventures Models Semie Moseley’s flagship, its flipped-over-Strat shape may not have been completely original, but it was well-made, with a thin body bearing an elegant German carve, low frets, a narrow neck, and hot pickups. Dressing up the headstock with the name of the most popular instrumental-rock band ever was Semie’s greatest business move.

    Dumble Overdrive Special At the top of many “most desired vintage amp” lists, Alexander Dumble’s OD Special is the stuff of which legend and lore are born. Renowned for its response to a player’s touch, characteristic overdrive tone, and clear, defined clean sound, it’s the amp of choice for modern “player’s players” like Carlos Santana, Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Eric Johnson, and others.

    Gibson Les Paul Junior When Fender introduced the Strat, Gibson’s original Les Paul was suddenly deemed stodgy, heavy, and overpriced. The Kalamazoo crew’s response came in the form of a stripped-down, slab-bodied, plain-Jane version priced for beginners. Its P-90 pickup, full scale length, and set-neck design, though, made it a screamer that is today coveted for those attributes.

    Ampeg SVT: VG Archive. Mosrite Ventures: VG Archive. Dumble OD Special: Dean Gurr/VG Archive. Gibson Les Paul Junior: VG Archive.

  • From left: Joe Bonamassa Redemption, Peter Frampton Band All Blues, Greta Van Fleet Anthem of the Peaceful Army, Rival Sons Feral Roots, Eric Gales The Bookends
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  • This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of Vintage Guitar magazine. If yes, watch for an email notification of when it's available in our store.
  • This question is sponsored by The Official Vintage Guitar Price Guide 2020 and required to enter the giveaway.