It’s probably not an overstatement to suggest that Jack White is the last truly great guitar hero we’ve seen. Of course, plenty will soon follow, but White both with his various bands, The White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather, as well as his solo work, has achieved the position through a range of searing solos, undeniably raucous riffs and a guttural tone that feels as close to a Detroit piston initiating a pig’s squeal.
Of course, not just a guitarist, the singer-songwriter has made a steadfast career away from simply wielding his axe in the right way. But, in his heart, we’d imagine that White would call himself a guitarist first and foremost. So, who would the last great guitar hero call his favourite player of the instrument? We think we may have cracked it. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of his favourite players from across the years.
Naturally, this list is a movable feast. White, as any true music lover would attest to, could probably double or triple this list and then re-write every day for a decade and never be wrong. However, one thing that has never been up for contention is White’s love of Led Zeppelin calling them “an immovable force in music,” and boldly stating, “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like them.” With that in mind, the first name on our list of Jack White’s favourite guitarists simply has to be Jimmy Page.
Page’s influence from The Yardbirds through to Led Zeppelin is there for all to see in White’s approach. Not only dealing with the gut-punch roar of a chunky riff but also playing around with the blues solos that made Page a hero and White a star. A similarly influential musician in White’s life may have had a similar musical upbringing to Page but operated way outside of the mainstream.
Captain Beefheart didn’t just provide “one of the most unique records in music history” with Trout Mask Replica but White also cites Beefheart as being the musician to bring him to another of his favourite guitarists of all time — Howlin’ Wolf. All in all, it’s not a big leap to assume that for that reason alone Beefheart deserves his spot, whereas Howlin’ Wolf’s is never up for debate.
White is a huge blues fan. Using his record company Third Man Records to now help put out reissues of the Delta blues legends, one can safely assume that many of those legends are included as his favourites. One of the most obvious inclusions on this list, if you know your Jack White trivia, is Blind Willie McTell. The bluesman was a searing inspiration for White throughout his life, while saying “nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell, White also noted “I like the sense he wasn’t just a blues singer,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “He was a street-corner entertainer who would play in front of Piggly Wiggly markets and stuff.”
The same can be said for Robert Johnson, the man who allegedly sold his soul to the devil to make his guitar playing better, and the great Son House. White paid House, a unique and unbridled talent, the ultimate compliment when he covered his song ‘Death Letter’ on The White Stripes debut album, De Stijl. It confirms White as arguably one of the biggest blues fans on the planet.
Step away from the blues and you’ll find White’s tastes are still eclectic but rooted in gospel truths. One thing that can never be underestimated is how much of a Beatles fan White was. “Do not trust people who call themselves musicians or record collectors who say they don’t like Bob Dylan or the Beatles. They do not love music if those words come out of their mouths,” he once said. While it would be tough to include Bob Dylan the guitarist based on this point, and it should be stated his favourite Beatle was Paul McCartney, it can be safely assumed that White was a fan of George Harrison’s playing.
Considering he called Detroit home for so many years, naming The Stooges as one of White’s favourite bands is a no-brainer. The Iggy Pop-led group were charged full of the venom that would catapult White into stardom. Much of the grease found between his guitar strings was borrowed from the style of Stooges’ axeman Ron Asheton. Calling their 1970 album Fun House “the greatest rock & roll record ever made” means Asheton is a shoo-in for this list.
The final named included is another somewhat obscure one, showing the sheer eclectic weight of White’s musical tastes, though, considering he’s called ‘The Father of the Delta Blues‘ perhaps it’s not so obscure. Picking out Charley Patton as a particular hero, White said: “If a musician listens to Charley Patton and doesn’t hear anything at all, I don’t think they should call themselves musicians, because they’re obviously just looking for fun and kicks and a good time out of it.”
While we can’t be sure of White’s definitive list of favourite guitarists of all time, one thing is for certain; White values authenticity over everything. He doesn’t care for the most gifted sound or the different variations of tone one may achieve with a whammy bar. For White, playing music is all about expressing yourself and every guitarist below did a fine job of letting the music simply flow out of their mind, body and soul.
Below, you can find our list of Jack White’s favourite guitarists as well as a perfect playlist of their best songs to get lost in.
Favourite guitarists of Jack White:
- Jimmy Page
- Blind Wille McTell
- Captain Beefheart
- Son House
- Howlin’ Wolf
- Robert Johnson
- Ron Asheton
- George Harrison
- Charley Patton