Frank Zappa was an extremely influential American musician, bandleader, singer, and composer. Considered to be one of the most innovative, stylistically diverse musicians of his generation, Zappa composed music within a variety of genres and produced over 60 albums. He had a career filled with accolades and hits, experimentation, and discovery.
Working with his band and as a solo artist, Frank Zappa had the opportunity to work with a variety of musicians and industry professionals, all of which have enriched his experience as a bandleader and composer, especially in the case of some of his favourites.
Whether his favourite guitarists happen to be people he’s worked with or players that he admires, he’s had some great things to say about quite a few guitarists. He’s praised Guitar Slim, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Wes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, Bryan May, and Billy Gibbons over the years.
However, when it comes to his absolute favourites, he’s been quoted naming Jeff Beck, Johnny Watson, and Allan Holdsworth.
About Holdsworth, Zappa once said, “Well, there’s one other guy whose work I know should be included in that list who I respect and that’s Allan Holdsworth,” when asked about his favourite players.
When speaking of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Zappa commented, “Well, my original favourite guitar player was Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson not from a technical standpoint but from a listening to what his notes meant in the context in which they were played, and also Guitar Slim who was the first guitar player I ever heard that had distortion — even during the 50s. In a strange way I think I probably derive more of my style from his approach to the guitar from the solos I heard then.”
He even gave a bit of a mention to Guitar Slim. As for his other favourite, Jeff Beck, he simply says, “One of my favourite guitar players on the planet. From a melodic standpoint and just in terms of the conception of what he plays. He’s fabulous. I like Jeff.”
It’s always great to know what great artists think of their contemporaries, especially in the case of a man who often describes his fellow musicians in terms like, “I don’t know him,” or “I’ve never heard his playing,” and “he doesn’t do drugs,” which seem to be common descriptors he dishes out regarding his peers.
One might suppose that these comments are only fair, as he says himself, “I don’t listen to rock and roll.”