You Asked For It: 10 More Iconic Les Paul Players
One of our favorite things about the Gibson Lifestyle site is the discourse our articles inspire — and nowhere was that more evident than with our piece on 15 Iconic Les Paul players. Whether you agreed with our choices or felt that we'd forgotten your favorite axeman, the one thing we did realize was that there are truly too many Les Paul superstars to be confined to one list. In that spirit, we present 10 more Iconic Gibson Artists — and if we forgot your favorite guitarist again, well, we’re sure you’ll let us know.
Les Paul: We figured this one was kind of a given, but we completely understand why some of you were perplexed why the man who invented the Les Paul wasn’t included in our first article — and we feel your pain. While most of are familiar with Les Paul’s signature axe, younger readers may not realize that the 93-year-old Paul was not only an inventor but also remains to be an extremely innovative jazz guitarist. But don’t take our word for it, if you live in the New York area you can still see this five-time Grammy Award Winner (and Rock and Roll Hall Of Famer) perform at the Iridium Jazz Club every Monday night. If you want to see what you may be in store for you, check out the clip below.
Gary Rossington: As annoying as that guy is who yells out “Free Bird!” at every concert, we can’t hold it personally against Rossington. As a founding member of the legendary Southern Rock act Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rossington’s guitar parts were integral to jukebox staples such as “Tuesday’s Gone” and “Simple Man.” Despite seriously injuring himself in the 1977 plane crash that killed singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, Rossington is the only surviving member of the band’s classic line-up to continue to tour and record with the band — and his twangy rock licks seem to get better with age.
Gary Richrath: Richrath may not be a household name these days, but he certainly is in our comments section. In fact, we were so inundated with requests to include the 59-year-old guitarist of REO Speedwagon that was had to choice but to oblige you—and with good reason. Armed with his signature Les Paul, Richrath was the creative force behind power ballads like “Keep On Loving You” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and his playing style was able to unite the worlds of pop and rock into one infectious blend of music that still sounds as good on FM radio now as it did 30 years ago. Check out the clip below, which clearly showcases they don’t make guitarists like Richrath anymore.
Alex Lifeson: For over 40 years, guitarist Lifeson has held down six-string duties for the pioneering progressive rock act Rush—and he wouldn’t look nearly as cool doing it without his arsenal of Gibsons. Ironically Lifeson actually started out using a Gibson ES-335 and the Les Paul didn’t become his main axe until Rush’s 2007 Snakes & Arrows Tour. In other words, if you thought classic tracks like “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight” couldn’t possibly sound any better, we recommend catching Lifeson live next time Rush come through your town to see how his Les Paul tone can beef up even the greatest rock anthems.
Neil Young: What is there to say about Young that hasn’t already been written about countless times in the past? For the past half century this Canadian songwriter has penned hit songs in nearly every imaginable genre from rock to pop to rockabilly and everything in between. From folk classics like “Old Man” to unabashed rockers like ”Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black),” Young hasn’t just made a name for himself as one of the 20th century’s definitive songwriters but he’s also one of the busiest — in fact 2007’s Chrome Dreams II was his 30th solo album. However, we’ll always have a special place in our hearts for Young’s Les Paul-fueled collaboration with Pearl Jam on “Rockin’ In The Free World” back in 1993.
Peter Frampton: Frampton’s classic 1976 live album Frampton Comes Alive! has sold over six million copies in the U.S. alone—and while we don’t want to say that’s directly due to the fact that it shows him sporting a Les Paul on the LP cover, well, that clearly hasn’t hurt sales. In addition to his talented fretwork, Frampton was responsible for most people’s introduction to the talk box, which he used liberally on tracks like “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do?” Amazingly, Frampton seems just as relevant now then he did back in his heyday — and 30 years after the success of his live album, the guitarists latest disc Fingerprints won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album in 2007.
Mick Jones: Inspired by the one and only Johnny Thunders, a young European chap by the name of Mick Jones saved up his cash for a Les Paul Junior and taught himself how to play it — however we don’t even think Jones himself ever dreamed that he would also redefine the then-nascent genre of punk rock while he was at it. As the guitarist for the Clash, Jones — alongside the band’s frontman Joe Strummer — was able to unite the genres of rock, reggae and punk into a completely uncharted genre of music that wasn’t only credible, it was also commercially successful (the band’s legendary 1979 album London Calling has sold over two million copies to date). These days you can catch Jones performing in his latest project Carbon/Silicon alongside Generation X’s Tony James. (Check out The 10 Most Influential Albums Featuring Gibsons.)
Michael Bloomfield: Bloomfield may not be as recognized as Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen, his Les Paul has been the sonic foundation of everything from the Butterfield Blues Band to Bob Dylan’s nascent electric period. The use of his signature axe didn’t just make listeners want to check out the guitar, but along the way Bloomfield’s distinctive playing style and masterful control of vibrato also helped endear him to guitar legends like B.B. King and Muddy Waters. If you’re interested in hearing if Bloomfield could recreate these sounds live, we recommend picking up a copy of the double-album The Live Adventures Of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper, which will silence even the most hardened blues cynics. (Check out Gibson Custom's Michael Bloomfield model.)
Keith Richards: Richards is arguably the most famous rhythm guitarist ever — and although he reportedly owns thousands of guitars, some of his most memorable riffs have been performed on his Les Paul. In fact along with Slash, Richards is responsible for introducing this classic guitar to an entire new audience who wanted to accurately capture the tone of tracks like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Gimme Shelter.” While Mick Jagger’s flamboyant dance moves get a lot of attention when it comes to the band, we think that Richards and his Les Paul are the act’s true secret weapons — and the clip below is perfect evidence of that. (Check out 4 Great Riffs from Keith Richards.)
Mick Ronson: Speaking of guys named Mick, no list of iconic Les Paul players would be complete without including Mick Ronson. While throughout the course of his career he collaborated with legendary songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Lou Reed, his ultimate legacy is the fact Ronson was a member of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust’s Spiders From Mars band and is directly responsible for the guitar lines on tracks like “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City.” Ronson wielded his Les Paul Customs and Deluxes like weapons, attacking them with a studied precision and coaxing out both dissonant noise and some of rock’s most recognizable melodies — often within the course of the same song. (Check out Gibson Remembers Mick Ronson.)
Who did we miss? Give us an earful; leave a comment below and we'll consider your suggestions for Part 3!