A recent article in the Washington Post asserted that the electric guitar is in danger of succumbing to a “slow death.” One explanation for this so-called demise, claimed the newspaper, is the lack of guitar heroes among the current generation of musicians. Since the article appeared, however, many sources have chimed in with repudiations of that assertion, pointing to an exciting new crop of players percolating just beneath the mainstream radar.

Even renowned Nashville-based guitar dealer George Gruhn—a source for the Washington Post story—was surprised by the newspaper’s conclusion regarding the state of electric guitar, telling the Dallas Observer that “by no means is the market for the guitar simply dying.”

Recently I spoke with guitarist J.D. Simo—himself a guitar “hero” to many—and asked him if he believes the electric guitar is losing its preeminent spot in contemporary music. His answer? A resounding, “No!”

“I think it’s ridiculous to say that,” observes Simo. “I see bands and guitars everywhere. To me, when I look at the state of the electric guitar, I go toward things I think are really great. Like Heath Fogg and Brittany Howard from the Alabama Shakes. They’re both great, creative guitar players who are out there in a big way, influencing millions of people. There are also people like Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline in Wilco, making great music and using the guitar in a different way. The same is true of Ryan Adams. I think we’re fine, as far as the state of electric guitar goes.”

Blues guitarist Lance Lopez seems to concur. As a member of the Supersonic Blues Machine, a “supergroup” that’s included among its collaborators such six-string maestros as Billy Gibbons, Robben Ford and Warren Haynes, Lopez has witnessed first-hand the fervor generated by the likes of Joe Bonamassa and John Mayer. “There are guitar heroes out there,” he told the Dallas Observer, “… whether that crosses over to a mainstream audience is another matter.”

As for us, we humbly assert that the audience for electric guitar artistry is very much alive and thriving. Moreover, a new generation of players is carrying the torch high, keeping one eye on tradition while pushing forward into new creative vistas. Lest anyone have doubts, check out the young players below, each of whom represents the best among a broad landscape of exciting young guitar “heroes.”

Marcus King

Who: Marcus King

Age: 21

Where: Greenville, S.C.

Main Influences: Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Jimi Hendrix, Gary Glark Jr.

Tools of the Trade: King’s guitars of choice include an early ‘70s SG, a 2016 Gibson Memphis 1964 ES-345TD Reissue, and a 2016 Les Paul Goldtop ’57 Reissue. A photo of his cherished SG, leaning against an amp, adorns the cover of The Marcus King Band’s debut LP.

Why He’s Worth Watching: No less an authority than Warren Haynes has championed King as a major talent. Soul Insight, the debut album by King and his band, was issued by Haynes’ own record label. Moreover, his latest record, titled simply The Marcus King Band, was produced entirely by Haynes. Although only 21, King has opened shows for the likes of the Foo Fighters, Gov’t Mule and the late Johnny Winters. "Marcus is the first player I’ve heard since Derek Trucks to play with the maturity of a musician well beyond his age," Haynes says. "He’s very much influenced by the blues, but also by jazz, rock, soul music, and any timeless genres of music. You can hear the influences, but it all comes through him in his own unique way.”

Website: http://marcuskingband.com/

 

Christone Kingfish Ingram

Who: Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Age: 17

Where: Clarksdale, MS

Main Influences: B.B. King, Elmore James, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters

Tools of the Trade: Ingram’s red ES-335 is a mainstay of his performance gear.

Why He’s Worth Watching: Ingram began playing drums at 6, bass at 9, and added lead guitar at 11. By seventh grade, he was already booking shows in his native Clarksdale—where he also took classes at the town’s famous Delta Blues Museum. Though only 17, he’s already shared the stage with the likes of Buddy Guy, and has appeared on national television shows. “I never thought anything like this would be happening,” says the young player, commenting on the attention that’s come his way. “No words can describe it.”

Website: www.christonekingfishingram.com

 

The Struts

Who: The Struts

Age: Young and Eager

Where: Los Angeles (by way of the UK)

Main Influences:  Queen, Slade, Rolling Stones, ‘70s glam rock

Tools of the Trade:  Guitarist Adam Slack is avidly devoted to his Les Paul Junior.

Why They’re Worth Watching:  These British up-and-comers are making serious inroads into the American rock scene. Their latest single, “One Night Only,” from their forthcoming second album, furthers the band’s reputation for framing ‘70s-style rock in a contemporary vibe. “This song is mainly about the relationship between a performer and his/her audience,” says frontman Luke Spiller. “After touring throughout the United States, we’ve developed a strong relationship with our audience and started to feel more responsibility to them — mainly to give a great show every night.”

Website:  https://www.thestruts.com/home

 

Marquis Knox

Who: Marquise Knox

Age: 26

Where: St. Louis, Missouri

Main Influences: B.B. King, Pinetop Perkins, David “Honeyboy” Edward

Tools of the Trade: Fittingly, Knox’s go-to guitar is an B.B. King Lucille Epiphone.

Why He's Worth Watching:  Born and raised in St. Louis, with family roots in Grenada, Mississippi, Knox learned guitar from his grandmother, Lillie, a former sharecropper. Along with his “Uncle Clifford,” he was mentored by St. Louis bluesman Henry James Townsend, a National Heritage Fellow and revered figure in St. Louis blues. Early on, Knox opened for a host of blues greats, including B.B. King, Pinetop Perkins, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and Hubert Sumlin. Recorded when he was 16, his debut album, Manchild, was nominated for a Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut. Living Blues awarded the disc their “Best Debut Artist Award.” His most recent album, Black and Blue, was released just this month (August). Culled from a live 2016 performance, the record features a trove of Knox originals plus two covers.

Website: http://marquiseknoxblues.com/