• November 29, 2011
    http://www.dead.net/features/blair-jackson/another-guitarist-poll-disses-jerry
    Another Guitarist Poll Disses Jerry!

    I should be used to this by now and have a tougher skin. But I can't help myself. I was outraged when the latest issue of Rolling Stone arrived a few days ago with its cover story on the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” The list was compiled from picks by a truly diverse group of guitarists young and old— including Trey Anastasio, Ritchie Blackmore, Tom Morello, Robbie Krieger, the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Scotty Moore, Andy Summers and Carlos Santana, to name just a few of the more than 50—plus a handful of rock journalists and music industry folks. The article reveals nothing about the poll's methodology—how many guitarists the respondents could list, what criteria should be considered, etc. Are these “favorites”? “The best”? “Most influential”? Probably all those things, to varying degrees.

    The #1 choice was no surprise—Jimi Hendrix, of course. And most of the other members of the Top Ten are names that have always placed high on these sorts of lists—and there have been a million of 'em—through the years: Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Eddie Van Halen, Duane Allman and Pete Townshend. All fine guitarists. OK, Chuck Berry is on there for essentially inventing one riff (and several variations thereof)… but what a great and important riff it was!

    Yet the glaring injustice in this top 100 is ranking Jerry Garcia as #46. Really? Below Johnny Ramone (#28)? Curtis Mayfield (#34)? Frickin' Randy Rhoads (#36; tragic death—always a good career move)? Bo Diddley (#27)? Cat had one riff he stole from Johnny Otis, and was not a good guitarist. But, yeah, influential for sure. Still, I'm not here to criticize other guitarists (though it sure is fun). I'm just sayin'…

    Alas, Jerry is never going to get his props in these sorts of polls, just as Phil never fares well in Greatest Bassists surveys (how absurd!), nor Mickey and Bill in Greatest Drummers lists. (I would also argue that Weir is a better and more inventive player than most in Rolling Stone's 100, too, but I guess it's too much to expect people to appreciate the subtleties and intricacies of his playing. After all, he's “just” a rhythm guitarist, right? Wrong!) The sad fact is that all the members of the Grateful Dead—and the group itself—will always be underrated by people unable to look beyond the surface cliché: an acid-rock band that noodled endlessly and aimlessly during their five-hour concerts for an audience of stoned hippies. This common misconception can be the only reason why the Dead didn't make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility back in 1993. Can you imagine?

    To enumerate Jerry's gifts as a guitarist here is preaching to the choir, I suppose. But let me just tick off a few salient points. No major rock guitarist ever traversed as many different styles and idioms as Garcia (no, not even Frank Zappa). He was comfortable playing blues, folk, jazz, country, free-form avant-garde, standards, bluegrass, Motown, Latin; you name it. Not only could he navigate through all those genres, he always sounded like himself when he did—the Garcia style is instantly recognizable and unique. He was a master improviser who, rather than automatically accepting conventional ideas about form and structure, constantly looked for opportunities to extend or escape those limitations. He took chances: His intoxicating spirit of adventure and musical fearlessness led him places that were often unexpected, weird, wonderful, beautiful, scary and just about any other adjective you can conjure. The landscape (and spacescape) he covered was unimaginably immense. He was the consummate ensemble player, sensitive to the musicians around him, but also not afraid to take charge and lead. At his best, his solos were masterful melodic constructions with brilliantly conceived tonal shadings and an indefinable—but clear—rhythmic logic that rivaled some of the greatest jazz musicians, from Django to Coltrane (both of whom he admired and studied). And the breadth and depth of his own songwriting and choices of songs to cover brought out so many emotions in his playing, that we, as fans, were privileged to accompany him on his remarkable musical journey that was at once intensely personal (for him and for us) yet somehow also drew us all together.

    Do I have to disqualify myself from this argument because I'm a Dead Head? To the contrary, I'm a Dead Head in large part because of Garcia's guitar playing. I've always been a guitar guy. I worshipped at the altar of Hendrix and Clapton in the '60s, but also dug Cipollina, Jorma and Barry Melton. John McLaughlin and Duane Allman blew my mind in the early '70s, and my life was enriched by Neil Young, Ry Cooder, James Burton and so many others later in that decade. I've seen Lindsey Buckingham be God-for-a-night with Fleetwood Mac, and Bruce Springsteen tear it up like no one else can. I've been transported by The Edge, dug the primal growl of John Lee Hooker's axe and enjoyed the fluid perfection of Mike Campbell. No one riffs better than Keith Richards, and in his prime Stevie Ray was just about untouchable. Bonnie Raitt is still killing it on slide and Bill Frisell exudes an elegant simplicity I find very appealing. Is there anything Los Lobos' David Hidalgo can't do? Flashy or tasteful, electric or acoustic—I just love guitar.

    But something about Garcia's playing spoke to me on a level that no other player ever has. Call it a soul connection, maybe. It's hard to communicate what that's like to others, but chances are you know what I'm talking about. Think about the opening of “Birdsong,” the quietest parts of “Stella Blue,” the roar of the climax of “Morning Dew,” the breezy lilt of a great “Eyes” solo, the dramatic ascension towards the end of “Slipknot!” or any number of other passages that sweep us up and carry us away. Perhaps he wasn't as influential as some other guitarists, but that's in part because he was a singular talent in what always was (and will be) a cult band.

    That's why Jerry's not #46 on my list. I can honestly say he's #1, and no else is even close.

    Jerry and his “Wolf” guitar, 1974.

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I should be used to this by now and have a tougher skin. But I can't help myself. I was outraged when the latest issue of Rolling Stone arrived a few days ago with its cover story on the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” The list was compiled from picks by a truly diverse group of guitarists young and old— including Trey Anastasio, Ritchie Blackmore, Tom Morello, Robbie Krieger, the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Scotty Moore, Andy Summers and Carlos Santana, to name just a few of the more than 50—plus a handful of rock journalists and music industry folks. The article reveals nothing about the poll's methodology—how many guitarists the respondents could list, what criteria should be considered, etc. Are these “favorites”? “The best”? “Most influential”? Probably all those things, to varying degrees.

The #1 choice was no surprise—Jimi Hendrix, of course. And most of the other members of the Top Ten are names that have always placed high on these sorts of lists—and there have been a million of 'em—through the years: Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Eddie Van Halen, Duane Allman and Pete Townshend. All fine guitarists. OK, Chuck Berry is on there for essentially inventing one riff (and several variations thereof)… but what a great and important riff it was!

Yet the glaring injustice in this top 100 is ranking Jerry Garcia as #46. Really? Below Johnny Ramone (#28)? Curtis Mayfield (#34)? Frickin' Randy Rhoads (#36; tragic death—always a good career move)? Bo Diddley (#27)? Cat had one riff he stole from Johnny Otis, and was not a good guitarist. But, yeah, influential for sure. Still, I'm not here to criticize other guitarists (though it sure is fun). I'm just sayin'…

Alas, Jerry is never going to get his props in these sorts of polls, just as Phil never fares well in Greatest Bassists surveys (how absurd!), nor Mickey and Bill in Greatest Drummers lists. (I would also argue that Weir is a better and more inventive player than most in Rolling Stone's 100, too, but I guess it's too much to expect people to appreciate the subtleties and intricacies of his playing. After all, he's “just” a rhythm guitarist, right? Wrong!) The sad fact is that all the members of the Grateful Dead—and the group itself—will always be underrated by people unable to look beyond the surface cliché: an acid-rock band that noodled endlessly and aimlessly during their five-hour concerts for an audience of stoned hippies. This common misconception can be the only reason why the Dead didn't make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility back in 1993. Can you imagine?

To enumerate Jerry's gifts as a guitarist here is preaching to the choir, I suppose. But let me just tick off a few salient points. No major rock guitarist ever traversed as many different styles and idioms as Garcia (no, not even Frank Zappa). He was comfortable playing blues, folk, jazz, country, free-form avant-garde, standards, bluegrass, Motown, Latin; you name it. Not only could he navigate through all those genres, he always sounded like himself when he did—the Garcia style is instantly recognizable and unique. He was a master improviser who, rather than automatically accepting conventional ideas about form and structure, constantly looked for opportunities to extend or escape those limitations. He took chances: His intoxicating spirit of adventure and musical fearlessness led him places that were often unexpected, weird, wonderful, beautiful, scary and just about any other adjective you can conjure. The landscape (and spacescape) he covered was unimaginably immense. He was the consummate ensemble player, sensitive to the musicians around him, but also not afraid to take charge and lead. At his best, his solos were masterful melodic constructions with brilliantly conceived tonal shadings and an indefinable—but clear—rhythmic logic that rivaled some of the greatest jazz musicians, from Django to Coltrane (both of whom he admired and studied). And the breadth and depth of his own songwriting and choices of songs to cover brought out so many emotions in his playing, that we, as fans, were privileged to accompany him on his remarkable musical journey that was at once intensely personal (for him and for us) yet somehow also drew us all together.

Do I have to disqualify myself from this argument because I'm a Dead Head? To the contrary, I'm a Dead Head in large part because of Garcia's guitar playing. I've always been a guitar guy. I worshipped at the altar of Hendrix and Clapton in the '60s, but also dug Cipollina, Jorma and Barry Melton. John McLaughlin and Duane Allman blew my mind in the early '70s, and my life was enriched by Neil Young, Ry Cooder, James Burton and so many others later in that decade. I've seen Lindsey Buckingham be God-for-a-night with Fleetwood Mac, and Bruce Springsteen tear it up like no one else can. I've been transported by The Edge, dug the primal growl of John Lee Hooker's axe and enjoyed the fluid perfection of Mike Campbell. No one riffs better than Keith Richards, and in his prime Stevie Ray was just about untouchable. Bonnie Raitt is still killing it on slide and Bill Frisell exudes an elegant simplicity I find very appealing. Is there anything Los Lobos' David Hidalgo can't do? Flashy or tasteful, electric or acoustic—I just love guitar.

But something about Garcia's playing spoke to me on a level that no other player ever has. Call it a soul connection, maybe. It's hard to communicate what that's like to others, but chances are you know what I'm talking about. Think about the opening of “Birdsong,” the quietest parts of “Stella Blue,” the roar of the climax of “Morning Dew,” the breezy lilt of a great “Eyes” solo, the dramatic ascension towards the end of “Slipknot!” or any number of other passages that sweep us up and carry us away. Perhaps he wasn't as influential as some other guitarists, but that's in part because he was a singular talent in what always was (and will be) a cult band.

That's why Jerry's not #46 on my list. I can honestly say he's #1, and no else is even close.

Jerry and his “Wolf” guitar, 1974.

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thanks blair!!! i just saw that list this past weekend also. if i remember, a few years ago there was another best guitar list from RS and jerry was top 10 or at least close. this list also had richard thompson in the 60's i think. whatever... you said what i wanted to very well. i'll chime in more...later...
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Curtis Mayfield (and Pop Staples) were hugely influential in establishing a melodic gospel soul style. A lot of Hendrix's less frenetic soloing derives directly from Mayfield. And Bo Diddley a one riff clown? I don't think so. Nobody at the time exceeded his range in exploring rhythm, tone, song styles and production. Like Cipollina's playing on Mona? It started with Bo. Give a listen. Hip-O Select has done three brilliant sets of his seminal work; the old Chess box is pretty satisfying too. I didn't see Richard Thompson on your list - from the late sixties on, he's produced a magnificent body of guitar work, rooted in the song structures and melodies but extending into weird and wonderful places.
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Agree wholeheartedly with Blair. Maybe not as extreme (#1 and nobody even close) but for sure #1. The point about Phil was unknown to me but not surprising. This fact again shows that the Grateful Dead were better together than any of it's individual parts, even allowing as Garcia is the best lead guitar. I guess things like this poll is why I put down Rolling Stone for good 30 years ago. Oh yeah, and I don't believe Jerry cared a whit where he stood in the rankings.
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Such as the fact that at least one dead guitarist has climbed above another in the list. How does that work? I must say I was disappointed that Jerry only came in at 46. He should be in the top five by my reckoning, but I'm biased of course - no point in posting this on a Bo Diddley website, after all.
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...a few times in the '60s and '70s. A one-trick pony as a guitarist. Don't get me wrong, I like him as a singer and songwriter and entertainer. But as a guitarist? I don't think so... Just my .02.
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His talent as a visual artist and a champion banjo player seemed to have given Jerry a huge edge over the rest of the rock guitarists past and present. The way he would effortlessly switch from finger-picking to flat-picking was amazing. His ability to add those little nuances as if they were brushstrokes blending beautifully on a canvas. Even down to the way his guitar was wired (see;Jer's rig @ Dozin.com) shows how on top of things he really was. It's that "cosmic banjo" that I had mentioned in a previous posting that is at the root of his unique sound. I would always look forward to the next tour to see how he would re-interpret either the sound or subtle stucture changes of the music being played. He was constantly improving his ability as a guitarist. I can't comprehend how some Dead-Heads can claim that "whats his name" sounds just like Jerry when he's really just running along side the bus hoping for a seat. Oh I could go on.........
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That was one of my questions - in the last poll, Jerry came in at #13 - I could live with that. But I simply cannot understand how RS could drop him 33 places - it doesn't make any sense at all. And the players listed ahead of him, many of them pointed out in your post - just crazy. There was a time a few years back when I was feeling the Dead were getting their due. Even RS was covering them favorably, including good reviews of a number of live releases, and some good PR about Furthur over the last couple of years. But this has to make you wonder. I was going to write to RS to kvetch a bit, but you are the better spokesperson - go for it Blair - you can sign all of our names! thanks for the post
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...the previous Rolling Stone list was David Fricke's specifically, I believe. Smart guy, good writer, likes the Dead. I do give RS some credit for at least making Jerry one of their call-out artists in the list--worthy of a paragraph written by a fellow guitarist (Carlos Santana) and a big photo of Jerry with his Travis Bean. The other thing I wanted to mention is RS's choice of "Key Tracks" (like suggested listening) for Jerry: "Dark Star," "Sugaree," "Casey Jones." Yes to the first; I think we could do better for the second and third...
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I like what I like what I like; you like what you like what you like. Jerry should have been way up there, but RS is all crap anyway. Pure unadulterated crap. those of us who know, KNOW. Weir never shows up on these lists, but we all know how amazing he is on rhythm. Who cares who is "best", anyway? Sometimes I am in the mood for the Ramones, or Black Sabbath, or AC/DC, or Simon and Garfunkel, or the GD. To quote Joe Perry (from somewhere back in the 1970s): Let the music do the talking. End of story. Use RS for bird cage lining.
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Blair, don't sweat it all us deadheads know how Jerry spoke to us through his immense range and talent. You forgot to mention his reggae work as well. A few years back they had Jerry at #18, which I thought was somewhat fair. Jerry was and always will hold a special place in our hearts. I also noticed there was no mention of Roy Buchanan either, so let's not get too bent out of shape over this list, they just don't know The Grateful Dead.
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I probably shouldn't have taken the bait. It's all just opinions... However, in general, I think Rolling Stone is really pretty good. They have good and bad periods, but I think they're in a good one right now. I've been a subscriber on and off since the summer of '69 and it's fair to say I probably would not have become a rock writer without Rolling Stone's shining example. I like that there's a place where I can read about My Morning Jacket and Jack White and Dangermouse and this week's pop flavor AND all the old farts I still love. And their political coverage has always been incisive and in-depth. I've never met a "best of" list that didn't piss me off... including the ones I've made up myself!
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So just for fun, here's my personal Top Ten: 1. Jerry Garcia (yeah, I'm with you Blair... nobody else comes close) 2. Steve Cropper 3. John Fahey 4. Robert Quine 5. Django Reinhhardt 6. Sonny Sharrock 7. Robbie Robertson 8. John Lee Hooker 9. Ali Farka Toure 10. Les Paul These are more like favorites than who I really believe is "The Best." The other thing about these lists is, aside from a few stalwarts, for me anyway this could change drastically in the next week or so... it's a continually evolving and fluctuating thing.
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Oh shit - and Dennis Coffey! He's gotta be in there somewhere too. Also, maybe it's a sign that I'm getting older, but I find these days that I find RS's political coverage much more compelling than their music coverage. For music I generally turn to Mojo or some such.
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I was looking for a place to vent my frustration and my FB page didn't do it justice. Thanks for writing this, I was hoping to find somewhere on this site. I just received that issue yesterday and when I saw Jerry at 46 I was POed. Obviously biased here, but he is clearly a better guitarist than most of the chumps in the 15-45 range on the list. You pointed out several names that stood out to me, here are a couple more-- Billy Gibbons, Mark Ronson, the dude from Queen. The list could go on and on and on. Jerry melded his own style out of so many genres. I cannot think of another guitarist influenced by blues, bluegrass, jazz, rock and roll, Spanish guitar, Motown, and etc... who created his own picking style. For him to be behind the guitarist for Black Sabbath is preposterous. Off Jerry, I find Jimmy Page's ranking a bit high at #3. He was incredibly sloppy live, as evidenced on the LZ DVD set that came out a couple of years ago. I find the first DVD unwatchable because of how sloppy his technique was. Like Blair, I also qualify my critique here as someone who thinks Jerry is the best, but understands that he is not everyone's cup of tea. Should he be #1 on such a list, no, but he is far better than 46. Also, I am a big fan of guitar blues and blues-based rock and roll, so not just a one-band guy. I have seen some of the best in the business and Jerry deserves more credit than he was given. This is why I have been complaining for a couple of years about this trend of "List" issues from Rolling Stone.
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I agree cactuswax, I breeze through most of RS today and mostly get my political fix from it. Matt Taibbi is one of the few journalists calling out politicians as they all should be doing. Two other notes, I agree with Blair on Bo Diddley and echo those who call for Richard Thompson to also be higher. Though not personally a big fan, he is quite good.
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To me Jerry Garcia is number one on almost any given list of the best and most influential guitarists ever. But every now and then I can understand Warren Haynes point of view, that Jerry wasn't the most technical guitar slinger ever but he had a lot of soul in his playing. Noticed a couple of hours ago that Jerry is certainly a more valued painter than guitarist. One of his drawings is on sale for almost $82.000. It's cold Quasar and is sold by some online company that specializes in Garcia stuff. One can also notice that the largest Facebook group dedicated to Jerry Garcia has 493.369 likes. The largest Joey Ramone group has 85.524 likes. The largest Grateful Dead Facebook group has 1.145.814 likes. That is a lot more likes than many other popular bands. I used to do my own lists but find it hard to choose between different musicians today. Some guitar players are certainly better than others but some have more heart and soul. Sometimes I prefer some and sometimes others. My favourite most technical guitar player is Frank Marino. I was very pleased when I found out about ten years ago that he is also an old fan of the Grateful Dead, even though Quicksilver/John Cipollina have/has had a bigger impact on his guitar playing. I have been a fan of Frank Marino since Fall 1979 and of Jerry Garcia since Spring 1976. Micke Östlund Växjö, Sweden
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The Garcia drawing is not cold ... it's called ... of course ... :-O
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A list of the greatest guitarists that places Garcia at 46, and doesn't include Satriani in the top 100, has about as much credibility as the Penn State athletic program. Maybe that's too harsh, but whatever.
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I think we all have our own idea anyway. Polls oftentimes are popularity contests and it always (or sometimes) seems that the wrong people get the credit for the wrong reasons. A lot of folks don't get the respect they deserve. I don't want to attack specific bands or players but we all have seen way too much media attention going to "the usual suspects". I think the Deads music in general and Garcia's playing is above the common denominator. The classical music of the rock world in some ways. The best of a lot of art goes unappreciated oftentimes. I don't need no "stinkin polls" -I know what I like and I think I know what you SHOULD like.
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I also think 46 seemed like it was way too low, I agree, but I do like the picture of Jerry, and it's always nice to see a Dead member in RS. Speaking of Rolling Stone, I must have gotten a free subscription from ordering Furthur tickets with my credit card, I've been getting it for about a year and am always happy to see anything related to our favorite band. I quickly unwrapped the issue which had a renewal card attached to the cover, and started looking for Jerry in the top 100, after finding his ranking I promptly tossed the renewal card in the trash. I'll just wait for my subscription to run out now, hopefully it will before they do publish that list for the top 100 bass players, drummers, or how about the the 100 best Grateful Dead shows!
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I've lived with this most of my life. People who don't connect with the Dead obviously aren't connecting with Garcia. For a lot of folks --easily most folks-- what the Grateful Dead did was and remains a complete mystery. Why would people follow them? How could anyone listen to so much of one band? Who cares what they played? And I learned ages ago to stop trying to "turn people on" to the music. Unless they request it. It just ends up being a rather depressing endeavor. I will say that I find it incredibly disheartening to read Garcia's name so far down on a list made by other musicians. You'd think at least THEY would be able to recognize what Garcia was doing. But that's not always the case. I remember going to see Stephane Wrembel play the Mint here in Los Angeles. The musicians from the bands that had played before Stephane were simply confused by what he was doing. I overheard them talking about how they could never play like that. They wouldn't even know where to begin, how to approach it. It was part awe, part dismissal. It's amazing to me that there are all of us here who have somehow managed to tap into Garcia's playing in a way that has been life-changing. To rise on the waves of his self-expression, to allow his playing to get deep inside of us and lift us to heights unimagined... And yet someone sitting right beside you can be just as oblivious as you are elated. What is it that allows us to get inside this musician and allows him to get inside of us? And what is it that keeps others from being able to experience that? Some come to it eventually, others never do. I have found that a good portion of those that simply cannot connect with Garcia's playing find a need to put it down, to minimize it. Otherwise they must face that they are missing out on something grand, something joyous and extremely powerful. Living here in Los Angeles, when people ask me what music I like and I respond with the Grateful Dead, the most common reply I receive is "Oh, I'm sorry." Why Los Angeles? I don't know. Hasn't happened to me anywhere else I've lived. But here, it seems VERY unhip to like the Dead. And so I wear my unhippness with pride. And yes, regardless of my respect, admiration and deep love for many other guitarists, Jerry would easily be #1 on any list I made.
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I, too, am loathe to try to turn people on to the Dead unless I really think they're going to be open to it. Can't take the rejection! I've been surprised through the years by the number of people who tell me they don't like the Dead because they "don't like country music." Jerry does have a lot of country in him, and it's true that I got into country through the Dead, but is that really their predominant sound? Maybe it is if you're looking at their body of work from '69-'74, their most prolific songwriting period...
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I have the opposite response, Blair, and it has nothing to do with their music. Many people to whom I have mentioned the Grateful Dead think they are a heavy metal band based upon their name and think I am some kind of metalhead or something. Quite the opposite, thank you. I also choose carefully those I try to turn onto the Dead. I understand it is just not for everyone, though to paraphrase an earlier post, it should be.
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...part of the appeal of the name "Grateful Dead" was that it would be creepy for a lot of people. It had that good shock value you wanted in the '60s! I guess we all take it for granted here...
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Hey Man, Not much you can do or say about the uninitiated. Particularly uninitiated pollsters. Garcia was a consummate player,we all know this. He had something that other guitarists( and pollsters) are lacking. His attitude and approach to playing music always had that egalitarian quality that comes through in the performance. Right on,blairj with all of the above adjectives and descriptions,etc. Well said...
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to the days of our youth when Dave Marsh was dissing the band and Jer early and often. No respect then either.
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Richard Thompson, #60?
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that's always my favorite line i hear people utter. i usually then say, 'you don't like johnny cash?' and they back peddle so fast...oh, i love him, but... you like johnny cash, you like country music. (listen to robbie folks!) i mean i get it, they don't like today's crap pop country, who does!!!, but don't throw out the baby with the bath water!
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...would make my Top 50, easy... He squeezes notes out of that Tele that can throttle you and make you beg for mercy. Not many players can do that. I'll never understand the Bruce haters or the U2 haters...
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The magic of Jerry was that he cared most about creating a special dynamic with the other musicians, and not at all about being in the spotlight. It was more about making it magic for everyone in the room at that moment, and less about ego. This was true in the Dead or in any other group he jammed with. It seems like it's becoming less hip to be into Jerry and the Dead these days, but it's really good to see young folk still finding out about them and digging it. So what if everyone else doesn't get it? We know, and to me that's all that matters.
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First of all, I personally always fear reading or even hearing about these lists. The institutions that write them are never accurate or even forthcoming as to what they are looking for or judging on. Not to mention, music is a language not a competition (sorry X-Craptor and No Ones Idol) I love music, or should I say WE love music. We love music more than some people that are professional musicians and producers. There are many styles of music and the only guitarist to have ever captured it all and mastered it all is Garcia. He then flipped it to his own unique style!!! And only Jerry has ever gone so far as to scrap his ENTIRE style to reinvent it again and again (66-68, 69-74, 75-81/82, 89-93) just to name a few periods of time. Like someone else mentioned, I grew up in Los Angeles and always got the weirdest looks for proclaiming my status as a Deadhead. It was particularly frustrating for me because I am African-American and grew up near South Central. It was expected that I was into rap/hip hop and though I enjoyed some of it and still do, the Dead was always my number one. I grew up in a musically diverse house, my parents were hippies too! “Once in awhile you can get shown the light….” Other guitarist I like, not that I can remember them all right now, but here is a shot “In the Dark”, John Cippollina, Jorma Kaukonen , JimmyPage, Jeff Beck, Stanley Jordan, David Gilmour, Trey Anastasio (sometimes), Joe Satriani….you get it. My point is that not one of them can bring me to my knees, tear up my eyes, make me laugh uncontrollable – with that “did you get it?” shit eating grin, send chills up my spin, send patterns and waves through my third eye….and that was just as I was driving to work yesterday, let alone seeing him live!!! Thank God I got to see 50+ GD shows and crazy amounts of Family Functions! Simply, Garcia is not only number one, but number two has never even existed! p.s. Garcia never gave two shits about a list, he didn’t believe in such trivial things. He believed what I believe, music is life and life is a grooving ass rhythm!!! Peace
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The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time /Rolling Stone 2006The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time 1 Jimi Hendrix. 2 Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. 3 B.B. King 4 Eric Clapton. 5 Robert Johnson--- 6 Chuck Berry 7 Stevie Ray Vaughan 8 Ry Cooder 9 Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. 10 Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones 11 Kirk Hammett of Metallica 12 Kurt Cobain of Nirvana 13 Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
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Do you know what I find odd? Jerry used to be #7. Then he was #13 Now he's number 46. I'm starting to feel like less and less people at Rolling Stone evrey year get our scene....
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One thing I didn't mention (actually there are many things...) is Garcia's adoption of MIDI sounds in his playing late in his career. I know many Dead Heads didn't care much for that development, preferring the purer, unadulterated tones we all loved so much. But you have to admit it was a very bold move that let him expand his sonic palette so much. I can't think of another rock guitarist who investigated that world as enthusiastically and adventurously as the J-man. Pat Metheny has certainly done his share of timbral synth-y explorations, but it's a way different kind of music.) I love that a lot of what Jerry did in that realm was genre-specific--adding honking sax to an R&B-ish tune, flute-ish sounds to "Birdsong," the "pocket trumpet" on "Built to Last" and "I Will Take You Home," and all those interesting, undefinable combos of sounds and shimmers and shadows of notes he'd suddenly let fly... I think it helped keep him interested in the later days...
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The 2006 list was created by one guy, I gather (David Fricke) and the new one is from a poll of 58 people, only three or four of whom are Rolling Stone writers; the rest are musicians...
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Forget about Jerry at #46 Here's what's worse. This is just another of the the same predominantly white, male, suburban, adolescent crap lists that Rolling Stone began peddling and re-peddling years ago. Their omissions show a lack of class and a lack of sensitivity. Truly unconscionable.
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From Rolling Stone is so vague. I mean really, what is greatest? Looking at the listand I only skimmed it I noticed that evidently according to Rolling Stone you can't be one of the greatest guitar players ever if you play classical or jazz guitar. Why pretend to define the whole world of guitar playing with just rock and electric blues? Because you can order how people look at guitar playing because you are the great omnipotent Rolling Stone! They should say greatest famous Rock and Roll and electric blues guitar players that fit into the hierarchy established by us and other rock journalists. But they don't. Greats - what do they mean - talented or famous or who can sell the most magazines? No Mississippi John Hurt, Segovia, Leo Kottke, Ralph Towner, Wes Montgomery, John Scofield, Mike Stern. How about Blind Blake? Most of the folks on the list couldn't even touch him. So many more that could be listed. Are there any guitar players from Africa or South America on the list? I doubt it. How Eurocentric. Just British and American guitar players. What a circle jerk. Nonsense like these polls reminds me of why punk needed to come around and shake up all the music establishment sell outs. Somebody on a punk site was commenting on this new 100 list and stated “Music is not a competition". And as for Jerry? don't know if Jerry was the greatest because what is the definition of greatest anyway? He is one of my favorites and was incredibly talented and versatile and sang to me and my heart sings when I hear the notes fly off his guitar. That's what counts.
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yes, i wondered this too. it's as if since they listed john fahey, leo kottke is out. robert johnson? then no john hurt. and by this logic, since they have hendrix, there should be no stevie ray...
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Much as I hate to admit it, for me The Grateful Dead were an acquired taste. I didn't start really listening untill I was 20, and saw my first show three years later. Perhaps the biggest reason for such a low ranking is that the vast majority of people voting didn't experience Jerry playing live. Ask anyone in a jam band who's the best and I bet the response will be a little different from this poll.
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... regarding African guitarists. I love the guy who plays guitar for Paul Simon (forget his name) and Bhakiti Kuhmalu (sp?) his bass player. I would recommend Bela Fleck's "Throw Down Your Heart" record and DVD for anyone interested in African music. Some amazing guitarists on there (D'Gary, for one).
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Interesting because about 2 years ago Rolling Stone released a similar list on their website and Jerry was in the top 20 (13th I believe). Anyway, as a musician myself, I can listen to Jerry's guitar all day and night (and many days do just that). He had a way of making his guitar cry, laugh, scream, groan, and do so many emotions that we can't do with words. I'll take Jerry's guitar ANY DAY over Keith Richards or Townsend for that matter.
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Man I agree with you on the guy who plays for Simon..He's been with him I know since the Rhythm of the Saints Tour in '92 and he is phenomenal...not Jerry but does a lot of the picking and the intricate playing JG did.
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Prettiest guitar playing I've ever heard.
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Seriously dude?? I agree Jerry needs much much bigger props but to cast Rhodes aside like that? Please! Ozzy has picked some of the best guitar players ever. Zakk Wylde should also be on that list. Go ahead yuk it up ...
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We wouldn't be havin' this conversation if RR hadn't met a tragic end. Even a great guitarist in Ozzy's band is still working in the service of what is, to my ears, mostly mediocre, if powerfully rendered, sludge-rock. Obviously, YMMV. I'd put Satriani or Vai ahead of both those guys just on the basis of the variety and creativity they displayed, as well as their enviable chops. But I'm not gonna pretend I'm an expert of either Rhodes or Wilde. Certainly both have impeccable reps in the metal world, which does take its guitarists very seriously. I have no doubt they were/are great axe-slingers. Just not my cup of tea. I don't even care for Eddie Van Halen particularly, though I can see why others do... AC/DC, too... Just not my scene at all.
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...when they ranked Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page higher than Jeff Beck, and thats not even the worst part, though as far as former Yardbird guitarists go, is sacrlige. The ommisions in favor of about 70% of the jokers on that list is even more astonishing! No Steve Vai? Steve Morse? Michael Hedges? Warren Haynes? Joe Bonamassa? Eddie Hazel? Segovia? Al DiMeola? Steve Howe? Roy Buchanon? Danny Gatton? ect? ect? ect? ect? edit - And probably the single worst ommision is Allan Holdsworth. Keith Richards makes the list, but not Brian Jones? No Frank Gambale? Stanley Jordan? John Scofield? Jan Akkerman?
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Had a discussion over the list on Facebook, with a friend who's into soul, punk and pop music. He thought it was fair finding Joey Ramone high in rankings because the impact Ramones had on the punk world. Since I know he's a big fan of Creedence since his childhood, I asked him what he thought of not finding John Fogerty on the list and he then said Fogerty wasn't that a great guitar player. If this friend of mine got to pick the top 100 guitarists of all time, Jerry Garcia wouldn't made the list at all. This friend of mine is a fan of Dave Marsh and I'm not. But I'll give him some credit. I totally agree with him that Jerry isn't really the best guitar player of all time, not if one should try to put ones owns feelings away. Myself I could agree on Jimi Hendrix being the most influential guitar player ever in rock music but he's certainly isn't the most influential player in jazz, country or blues. He might be on the blues list and maybe, maybe he would even be at the bottom of the 100 best jazz guitarists ever but not even close on the top 100 country pickers of all time. And then about Jerry. I agree he could play in different styles but he wasn't a great blues player. Jerry was good inside his main musical idioms, such as folk-, country- and laid back rock. He'd would fare quite well in lighter jazz fusion and atonal music but otherwise he was just a fair guitar player in most of the other styles he did. He was a great pedal steel guitarist but not among the greatest. He could do quite well on the acoustic guitar but there's tons of others that are much, much better. Tommy Emmanuel, from Australia, would out-play Jerry on the acoustic. But as much as I appreciate Tommy Emmanuel, I would rather be listening to Jerry at almost any given time. Micke Östlund Växjö, Sweden
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    Lightningsuppl…
    5 months 2 weeks ago
    uh, yeah
    There's no in between, you're either aware that the sounds from Jerry's guitar could never be equaled by any musician or artist on any level including raw talent, or you're not. Trying to convince a non deadhead that Jerry is the greatest would be a laughable notion just like trying to convince a deadhead that he's not. Jimi Hendrix is a genius and shreds as we all can agree, but he could never compare to Jerry or even be on the same list as Jerry. Jerry has a separate list and holds all 100 positions. Everyone who's a deadhead knows that like the sun rises and falls.
  • Default Avatar
    8-13-75
    11 months 4 weeks ago
    I'm a great a Jerry Garcia
    I'm a great a Jerry Garcia devotee as any you'll ever meet. I never saw anyone play with as much soul as Jerry, and that aspect of his musicianship is too often ignored. He had deep things to say and, often, in highly inventive ways. Once in a while, his licks are even startling, and I don't get startled by much. Jerry knew how to shape a solo brilliantly, and there may be no greater example than the Help>Slip solos from Great American 8/13/75. But awesome Garcia solos weren't just a thing of the seventies (e.g., May, 1977, one of Deadheads' favorite months to talk about.) Check out the Scarlet>Fire at Copps Coliseum 1990 sometime. Jerry had a beautiful, lyrical voice on guitar throughout his career... except, perhaps, at the very end when diabetes and drugs really did him in. However... while I'm not a lover of "greatest" lists, I can't help but put my two cents in. Jerry belongs somewhere in that top 100. I don't know where. But having seen guys like Frank Zappa, Robert Fripp, Jim Hall, Pat Martino, Bill Frisell and plenty of other greats play, Jerry isn't numero uno. I never saw Hendrix, but clearly he was some force of God. Adrian Belew didn't even make this list and, let me tell you, he's a MOTHERFUCKER on guitar, in his own weird way. This is an unpopular opinion, I'd bet, but I'd put the little known Henry Kaiser on here. Most people don't get his trip, but, if you do, it's amazing. At his peak, Trey Anastasio was beyond imagination. I was in the front for many of those shows in the early 90s, so I know from whence I speak. Jerry was wonderful, but he was also sloppy as hell, and he had nights where he was abysmal. He also had nights where you knew that, on that night, he was the greatest guitarist on Earth. All things considered, his technique was OK for a guy who basically taught himself to play the instrument, but it wasn't great. However, there's too much emphasis placed on technique. If technique were the ultimate benchmark, Jerry wouldn't be in the top 1000, let alone top 100. But he belongs in the top 100 because of the profound statements he made on guitar. Part of me wishes that we'd gotten to hear Jerry Garcia with perfect technique, to hear what he was saying crystal clear. However, a bigger part of me is glad that his shows were peppered with clunkers. It made him more human, and that's what made his playing so great. Honestly, I don't think he would've wanted to be first on that kind of list, though he probably would've felt honored to be up there among so many great names... in that kind of rarefied air. I bet that he would've felt that he didn't belong there. He was slightly uncomfortable with his greatness, and that humility was also another defining mark of the man that came through in his music. I always felt I was getting straight talk in his solos... not pyrotechnics designed to impress. Jerry just shared what was going on in his mind, and it was a very beautiful, ample and curious mind.
  • UncleJake
    3 years 1 month ago
    update
    Ok...I swear I thought that was an original idea, but I must have seen this quote sometime in the past. Maybe it sat in my subconscious until the truth of it hit me years later, and by then I'd forgotten reading it: "What advice do you have for aspiring guitarists? [JG]'.....The only danger is falling too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument.'" I think that's from a Guitar Player magazine where they interviewed Jerry.
  • UncleJake
    3 years 1 month ago
    Late to the Party
    ...and I hope it's not breaking rules, but there are too many current posts for me to read them all and see if this thought is a repeat. I'd love to see Jerry get his due from the rock/critic scene, but it's never going to happen. What I believe, and tell myself, is this: Jerry often ranks low on guitarist lists because Jerry wasn't truly a guitarist...he was a musician. He didn't "play the guitar" for a living, he made beautiful music for a living. He was like the amplifier that gathered the floating notes and made them audible for the rest of us. The guitar (and voice) just happened to be his "instrument" of choice to accomplish this calling.
  • Peachy
    3 years 10 months ago
    Well said - speaking with his guitar
    Amen- read your comment after posted mine- almost felt dumb as you cut to chase.. thanks!