The lick and position in today’s lesson has been a mainstay for rock and blues players for decades, and it’s important to give it its proper historical tracing, and – more importantly – make sure it’s taught correctly.
Most folks will recognize this lick and position as being from iconic Gibson artist Jimmy Page, who did a lot to popularize its style. But the lick and position actually has its origins from Chicago blues great Otis Rush, whose song “I Can’t Quit You Baby” was covered by Led Zeppelin on the band’s debut album.
Rush, along with legendary guitarists Buddy Guy and the unheralded Magic Sam, pioneered what came to be known as the West Side style of Chicago blues, which often consisted of just guitar, bass and drums with a pleading, soulful vocal melody and a fiery, dramatic lead guitar attack.
Drawing on the foundations laid by players like Hubert Sumlin and Earl Hooker, these young West Side guitar heroes pioneered the sound that is fundamental to today’s modern electric blues. They were also pivotal in focusing the blues around stinging lead guitar melodies, as opposed to the Little Walter-style harmonica lead sound that powers such classics as Muddy Waters’ Chess sessions of the mid-50s. The guitar playing of Otis Rush is quite powerful and gutsy, and it’s easy to see why he made such a huge impression on Clapton, Jeff Beck, Mike Bloomfield and, of course, Jimmy Page.
Many guitarists attempt this tough lick but never execute it properly. In today’s lesson, I try to set the record straight by breaking it down into all of its elements – the bend, the barre, the pull-off and the hammer-on – and in lightning fast speed!—Arlen Roth