The guitar lick in the classic song “Green Onions” is a very oft-imitated and quoted riff that was originally played by Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs. It is truly one of the real “foundational” licks of rock guitar, and has been the kick-off riff in countless jams ever since it was first heard. It’s also like a backwards version of the “I’m a Man” Muddy Waters lick, which is another archetypical riff that is used over and over again.
You’ll notice that I play it in a very special “pared down” way, which uses great mini barre chord “shortcuts” to play this lick with both great speed and ease at the same time. For example, the opening part, in the key of E, uses only one finger for the required E, G and A chords, while at the same time doing the necessary muting of unwanted strings.
This is what I would call an extremely “economical” approach towards playing these kinds of positions, and you’ll see how the same economy applies to the A, C and D positions in the second part of the song in a slightly different, but equally effective, manner. It’s all one-finger playing at its finest! Hope you get a lot out of it.
Hope you enjoy!—Arlen Roth