Sunday, February 22, 2009 

Creedence Again At CRC

CREEDENCE AGAIN BY LEIGH HANLON. Great shooter, better friend, thrilled he took some time to come shoot us at CRC in Chicago last week. Did I mention I took the shot he uses for his blog? (your best friends are the ones who choose not to share your best/darkest secrets - heh heh heh)

Sunday, February 15, 2009 

Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

I guess the fact that Rolling Stone magazine named Jerry Garcia the 13th best guitar player of all time means nothing to you. I'm sure you could play just as well as him quite easily.

I love this anonymous comment I got very shortly after posting my blog on dealing with Whole Foods, and how they remind me a bit of certain Deadheads - you know: All wrapped up in message of "peace & love," but with their actions being completely contrary to that (did I mention I LOVE messing with Deadheads, for that exact reason?) FYI, I'm guessing this comment came from some ex-girlfriend who never had any shortage of opinions about what I should or shouldn't be doing, but somehow never had the persistence or talent to actually do anything themselves creatively (isn't that the definition of a critic?). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Maybe I also neglected to mention that I work in a busy Chicagoland recording studio, with many many talented musicians working or stopping by on a regular basis? More often than I'd like to admit, the house producer & bassist extraordinaire (Chip Znuff) dials up the Grateful Dead channel on the kitchen Sirius unit, where we're "treated" to seemingly never-ending live recordings of the Dead. Truth is, it's kind of like comic relief. Everytime a painfully out-of-tune song and/or vocal performance comes up (which is a lot), we just look at each other and say: Did I really just hear that? Damn. On a professional level, let's just say that if this studio - or any studio - were releasing product like that, they wouldn't be in business very long.

As far as the Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time" list: Let's just say that art & music is subjective, and comes down to opinion, which everyone of course is entitled to. For me, however, I also appreciate an opinion that actually has some thought & reasoning behind it - at least someone isn't just spewing out something they heard someone else say, or read somewhere. I'm also curious what their guidelines were for compiling this list (Speed? Taste? Innovation? Time? Feel?). I also notice they don't differentiate between musical genres of the players, like blues, jazz, classical, etc. If the title had been "Greatest ROCK Guitarists..." at least that narrows it down a bit. But since it doesn't do that, to me, their list is pretty much nonsensical, and smells of being put together by non-musicians. Hey, wouldn't that be fun - a top 100 list from professional guitarists. But maybe the Rolling Stone list was meant to create controversy & debate? Mission accomplished.

For starters, with all due respect to Jerry Garcia at #13 (for the record, I think he was a fine player, but for my money, the guitarist from Phish is even better), they list Kurt Cobain as #12. Huh? He & Nirvana were excellent (and I actually know Steve Albini, who worked with them), but Cobain was a singer/songwriter; not a guitar wiz.

Next... where the hell is Django Reinhardt on this list?!?!?!?! If you're talking speed, feel, time, taste, innovation - I've never heard anyone better than this breathtaking genius. Talk about lighting in a bottle. Every note counted; completely lyrical/memorable leads; impeccable rhythm chops; he didn't read a note of music (all self-taught). More, he did it all with a mangled left hand on the fingerboard (a 2-finger technique, actually), and managed to evade the Nazis too (he was a Gypsy). The recordings ain't great, but you can check him out (below). Hell, they even have annual festivals honoring the guy, both in the states and an open air event every May in his birth village Liberchies, a municipality of Pont-à-Celles, Belgium.

And what about some other amazing badasses they didn't bother mentioning: Chet Atkins, Leo Kottke, George Benson, Andres Segovia? Doc Watson? I dig Elliot Easton of the Cars a lot too - very tasty player with classic licks. Some might even throw Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac in there - very adept player with tons of hits, too. Or how about Joe Satriani? This could go on for days.

Finally (underneatch the embedded video), I found a list of the original RS article, enhanced by some commentary from whoever posted that list (NOT ME!). Enjoy.


1 Jimi Hendrix - Can't argue with this. Withrt, he could have been much greater.
2 Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band - Cetainly the greatest slide guitarist ever. Another career cut short.
3 B.B. King - I assume he's this high because of influence and what he accomplished in a long career. Technically, he's got the blues chops but doesn't really waver much from that.
4 Eric Clapton - I probably differ in opinion from many, but to me, Clapton peaked on Dekek and the Dominos and his solo records have been spotty at best. He was great for a time but never really blows me away.
5 Robert Johnson - Blues legend. Recordings aren't very listenable. Created so much but relatively unheard. I have trouble with this only because he really wasn't as good as many below him but without him, they wouldn't exist.
6 Chuck Berry - Should be no. 1 in my opinion. Created rock and roll guitar. People still try to copy his licks.
7 Stevie Ray Vaughan - Many people differ on Stevie. Some call him a Hendrix rip off. Either way, he was certainly a phenomonal guitar player.
8 Ry Cooder - Played so many different instruments and in so many different styles, it tends to water down his influence. Great player.
9 Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin - Always thought him a bit sloppy. Came up with great riffs and the Stairway solo is probably one of the greatest of all time.
10 Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones - Not sure about this. Great rhythm guitar player. Great song writer. Great guitar player? I'd put him around 25.
11 Kirk Hammett of Metallica - Some great stuff. Some crappy stuff. Would I put him this high? Probably not. Master of Puppets is a great guitar album though.
12 Kurt Cobain of Nirvana - No way. Yes he started grunge and alternate music. Was NOT a great guitar player. Wrote great songs. Should be around 50.
13 Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead - Never been a fan of the Dead so I feel that might unfairly lower my opinion of Jerry. I like some stuff but I've never listened to a Dead song and had the guitar work jump out at me.
14 Jeff Beck - Great player. Small amount of impressive recorded work. Besides Blow by Blow, not a lot of listenable stuff.
15 Carlos Santana - Very good. Impressive output. A bit repetitive in solo work. Great feel player.
16 Johnny Ramone of the Ramones - Started punk rock in America. Great player? Since any guitar player can learn a Ramones song in about 2 minutes, I would disagree. Influential but not great.
17 Jack White of the White Stripes - I have no idea why he is on the list at all let alone this high. The fact that Eddie Van Halen is at 70 and Jack White is 17 is a travesty. Rolling Stone has a huge bias towards this group.
18 John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers - Good player. Fun licks. A little high but Rolling Stone had to put some names on here that some of their readers would recognize.
19 Richard Thompson - Good player that not alot of people have heard of. Hard to find his CDs as many are out of print.
20 James Burton - Country guitar picker. I haven't heard anything from him so I won't comment.
21 George Harrison - Way too high. Nice slide guitar player. Not a great guitarist.
22 Mike Bloomfield - Great blues player.
23 Warren Haynes - Joined the Allman Brothers in 1989. Nice player. A little high on the list.
24 The Edge of U2 - Hard for me to comment on Edge. Created a style of playing. Did some really nice stuff. Not a great solo player though.
25 Freddy King - Another early blues player.
26 Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave - Always thought every Rage song sounded exactly the same. Too high on the list.
27 Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits - Should be higher. Great style. Great solos. Amazing stuff.
28 Stephen Stills - Very good player. Doesn't show off a lot but has the chops. Some acoustic work is very complex.
29 Ron Asheton of the Stooges - Sigh. I guess he's here for the same reason the Johnny Ramone is here.
30 Buddy Guy - Great blues player.
31 Dick Dale - The King of Surf Guitar. Great player. One of the fastest ever.
32 John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service - Never heard any of their music. Can't comment.
33 & 34 Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth - Great at making feedback noises. Created a new guitar style.
35 John Fahey - Brilliant folk guitar player. Probably only about 10 guys on this list could even play his stuff.
36 Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MG's - Played as a studio musician on countless records. Great solo player.
37 Bo Diddley - Blues innovator.
38 Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac - Haven't heard a lot of his stuff, but what I have was pretty good.
39 Brian May of Queen - Love his guitar work and sound. Amazing stuff. Should be way higher. Listen to the Sheer Heart Attack album (not the song) if you don't agree. Metalica even covered a song from it.
40 John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival - Swamp guitar at its finest.
41 Clarence White of the Byrds - Hard for me to pick out exactly what he played on the Byrds songs. Not sure about him.
42 Robert Fripp of King Crimson - Another group I never liked but he's obviously good.
43 Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic - Should be in the top 10. Equal to Hendrix.
44 Scotty Moore - Pioneer guitarist on many Elvis songs.
45 Frank Zappa - Should be in the top 10. Insane at 45. Half the guys above him couldn't play his stuff with a year of practice.
46 Les Paul - Most people only think of him as making the guitar. Was a great player also.
47 T-Bone Walker - Early blues player.
48 Joe Perry of Aerosmith - Some good stuff. Some stuff recorded while stoned and sounds horrible.
49 John McLaughlin - Influential jazz guitar player. Should be higher.
50 Pete Townshend - Created the windmill and some of the greatest guitar songs ever. Not a great soloist but should be higher.
51 Paul Kossoff of Free - Ok with this placement.
52 Lou Reed - I don't think even Lou Reed would put himself this high. Wrote some great songs though.
53 Mickey Baker - Early guitarist that played a lot of session work. Was on many big hits.
54 Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane - Love Jorma. Brilliant player. Should be higher. Solo work and Hot Tuna stuff better than Airplane songs.
55 Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple - Great soloist.
56 Tom Verlaine of Television - I like his stuff alot, especially the Matthew Sweet Girlfriend album.
57 Roy Buchanan - Great blues player.
58 Dickey Betts - Held his own with Duane Allman, I think that counts for higher than 58.
59 & 60 Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien of Radiohead - Here because the band is popular. I love Radiohead but not "greatest" guitar players.
61 Ike Turner - Not a fan.
62 Zoot Horn Rollo of the Magic Band - Played on Trout Mask replica. Not sure why here's on the list.
63 Danny Gatton - Virtuoso player, mostly rockabilly.
64 Mick Ronson - Played with Bowie and Ian Hunter. Not as well known as he should be.
65 Hubert Sumlin - Blues guitarist for Howlin' Wolf.
66 Vernon Reid of Living Colour - Really like his playing. Relatively short life span of the group affects his rating.
67 Link Wray - If you've seen a Quentin Tarantino movie, you've heard Link Wray.
68 Jerry Miller of Moby Grape - Moby Grape has some nice guitar work but I'd put 20 other guys on this list first.
69 Steve Howe of Yes - Should be way higher. Very complicated intricate guitar work.
70 Eddie Van Halen - Should be in the top 10. This is insane.
71 Lightnin' Hopkins - Early blues player.
72 Joni Mitchell - Very complicated player. Lots of strange tunings. Very melodic. Not a soloist though.
73 Trey Anastasio of Phish - I like Try a lot. Should be higher.
74 Johnny Winter - Should be in the top 20 or at least ahead of the other blues players. Great player.
75 Adam Jones of Tool - Like Tool's songs. Guitar never stood out to me. Guess i need to listen more closely.
76 Ali Farka Toure - West African player. Never heard of him. Can't comment.
77 Henry Vestine of Canned Heat - Uggh. Going to the Country is one of my all time least favorite songs. Maybe other stuff is good.
78 Robbie Robertson of the Band - Very underrated. Great "feel" guitarist. His guitar sounds searing on The Last Waltz. Should be higher.
79 Cliff Gallup of the Blue Caps - Played guitar for Gene Vincent (Bee Bop a Lula). Early impressive guitarist.
80 Robert Quine of the Voidoids - Also of Television. Like his work of Matthew Sweet's albums.
81 Derek Trucks - Nephew of Virgil. Competent player.
82 David Gilmour of Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb is one of the greatest solos ever. Should be way higher.
83 Neil Young - Not a great player but well known. I like his songs a lot but it doesn't make him one of the greatest 100 guitarists.
84 Eddie Cochran - Died early. Good pinoneer guitarist (Summertime Blues).
85 Randy Rhoads - Should be in the top 10. Amazing player. Died too young.
86 Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath - More of a riff player than known for solos. Probably why he's at 86.
87 Joan Jett - I have no idea why she's on this list. Where's Bonnie Raitt? She could play circles around Joan Jett. Looking good in leather pants gets you on the list I guess.
88 Dave Davies of the Kinks - I love the Kinks. Dave created some of the great early guitar styles.
89 D. Boon of the Minutemen - Haven't heard any of his stuff. Can't comment.
90 Glen Buxton of Alice Cooper - Very good player.
91 Robby Krieger of the Doors - Hate the Doors but respect Kreiger.
92 & 93 Fred "Sonic" Smith, Wayne Kramer of the MC5 - On here for one song - Kick Out The Jams.
94 Bert Jansch - Never heard his work.
95 Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine - Like Sonic Youth, the wall of distortion and sound. Not technically impressive.
96 Angus Young of AC/DC - He's better than you think.
97 Robert Randolph - Pedal Steel player. Have not heard him.
98 Leigh Stephens of Blue Cheer - ????
99 Greg Ginn of Black Flag - Good punk guitarist.
100 Kim Thayil of Soundgarden - Pretty good guitarist.



Whole Paycheck
I was recently having a conversation with someone about Whole Foods. Or, as some folks I know call it, "Whole Paycheck." Truth is, having dealt with them as a vendor (I've had my Totally Chipotle products on their shelves) and as a performer (one suburban Chicago store wanted me to perform for a grand opening event recently), I have a completely different perspective of this company than what most of their customers probably do. And check out this article at for another opinion.

Fact is, the Whole Foods staff culture kind of remind me of followers of the Grateful Dead - although I concede there's probably not so many drugs involved with WF. To me, beyond the GD "experience," the Dead's primary purpose these days is giving mediocre and beginning musicians hope: "Hey, I can play and sing as good as that!" Although I do like some of their studio efforts & tunes, as far as their live shows go: 1. They're rarely in tune 2. You pretty much HAVE to be high to enjoy musicians who play/sing out of tune and 3. They're definitely contrary to the notion that a song needs a beginning, middle and end to actually BE a song.

Whether or not you agree with these observations, it's interesting to experience the reaction from Deadheads if you DARE say this kind of stuff about the band. Beyond their outward philosophy of "peace, love, drugs, grooviness," I've had more than a few 'heads get downright violent defending them. I've truly felt things were leading to fisticuffs by stating my opinion to some fans (anyone else out there have a similar reaction?). Dealing with Whole Foods kind of reminds me of that.

In fairness, it's never really a treat dealing with any corporate grocery chain (lots of "little Hitler" egos, jaded/cynical buyers who know there are 100 products vying for 1 slot on their shelf, territorial store managers who hate their customers, but can only release it on vendors and in-store sampling clones, etc.). But I've found Whole Foods takes things to a whole new level, regardless of their hip, groovy, healthy, green, organic, "worldview" outward persona. Check it out:

Although they had gone so far as to list me on their posters, website, etc. for the grand opening of one of their surbuban stores, they never bothered to 1. Get me a contract or 2. Performance deposit - both of which are standard for pro performers. I guess I could have worked with them there, but two things that really made them memorable beyond the "typical" corporate chain experience:

1. Even though there was no sponsor or brand underwriting my show (I've done all kinds of shows highlighting sponsor's products in return for them footing the bill, no problem there), they refused to let me cook with my Totally Chipotle products. Did I mention I'd already had my stuff in their stores? And that I don't do any shows without at least one recipe featuring my brand?

2. They wanted me to carry my own insurance for performing in their store. Even though they wanted me to cook ONLY with their equipment, using products they already carry, under their roof?!?!?! That was, and is, a first-and-only in my experience as a professional entertainer.

Well, I can honestly say that, after having done all kinds of in-store appearances, festival dates, trade shows with big companies including Kraft Foods, Quaker Oats, X-Acto, Sunbeam, Dominick's, Jewel, Kroger and more, Whole Foods definitely takes the cake for being THE most difficult to deal with. Which finally resulted in me blowing off the gig altogether - I think that was a first for me, too.

Finally, I realize that putting this on the worldwide web may not be the wisest decision towards any possibility of dealing with Whole Paycheck again - hell, as long as it wasn't QUITE as bad as eating broken glass, I'd sell them my stuff again - but I hope to always be a least a LITTLE honest with how things really are in the food industry. Regardless of the price of being truthful - loss of income & being blackballed by a big, big corporate food chain.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009 

The Texas Hippie Coalition On Jerry Springer

I MET THE TEXAS HIPPIE COALITION AT ROCKLAHOMA 2008, and also for about 5 seconds at this year's NAMM Show in Anaheim. Also known as THC (ahem), they may look somewhat intimidating, but based on my short time with them - especially "Cowboy," their drummer who did some cooking with me - they seem like real nice lads, and very serious about their careers.

Beyond all that, I just found out they'll be in Chicago for a musical performance on "The Jerry Springer Show." And they'll also be stopping by 115 Bourbon Street on Chicago's southside to say hello, sit in (?) and do some cooking for The Rock & Roll Kitchen's Mardi Gras special on Feb 24. Wonder if they know any "food" songs? Or maybe some CCR?

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009 

CSNY Tribute Band

For those in the "know," it's the 40th anniversary of the original Woodstock concert this year, and my CCR tribute band is getting some inquiries for themed events. NOTE: For whatever reason, no one filmed Creedence Clearwater Revival at Woodstock, so their performance there isn't so well-known as some of the other acts, such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and many others.

Beyond that, I'm starting to meet other tributes involved with events which recreate the original Woodstock with tribute bands, which is starting to seem kind of cool, all of a sudden. One of the standouts to my ear & eye is a CSNY tribute from Crown Point, Indiana called "Marrekesh Express," and I think they're flat-out killer. They also have great chemistry amongst themselves, tribute band or not - I wonder how their songwriting skills are? Check 'em out: