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(Credit: Rik Walton)

Music

Steve Howe names his three favourite guitar players

You may know Steve Howe as the guitarist from Yes; you may know him as the co-frontman from Asia; or you may know him as the man who played the flamenco interpolations on Queen’s seminal ‘Innuendo‘. The long and the short of it is that he’s a great guitarist, and there’s more to his catalogue than meagre blues riffs. With all that, to delve deeper, Far Out asked him who his favourite guitar players were.

“Well, if I’m to give you three, I’ll go with Les Paul, Chet Atkins and Wes Montgomery,” Howe revealed. “Chet Atkins was a great country player, and came up with a great country picking style; he played on The Everly Brothers stuff. But he also made a lot of great solo records, and was a very versatile player, so he inspired me to become a versatile musician.”

If Atkins is familiar to many of you, it’s because of his work with Dire Straits founder Mark Knopfler, as the two of them were regularly spotted in the 1980s chiming away together, sometimes to the sound of the two Everly Brothers singing before them. Atkins’ style of guitar playing was once considered far-reaching and intricate, but his way of tying country flavoured chords with the jagged style of blues proved to be influential, as it inspired a whole roster of musicians, who were determined to push the boundaries of popular music, as a form of instrumentation and prowess.

“You’re absolutely right,” Howe says during our interview. “Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins teamed up on a few occasions. But over time, I came to pick up other influences, such as Albert Lee. But the three guitarists – Les Paul, Chet Atkins and Wes Montgomery – were very good musicians. I discovered Les Paul through a collection of 78s my parents had, and they were very inventive records. And Wes Montgomery was an incredible jazz guitarist.”

Les Paul is probably better known these days for the guitar he helped inspire, but like Atkins, he was a guitar player of high repute, re-calibrating the configurations of everyday rock and roll. Paul McCartney loved his work, which made sense because McCartney’s riffs were full of character, crisp quality and sophistication.

Such was his commitment to the craft, Les Paul helped revolutionise the beginnings of rock music as we know it today. And then there’s Wes Montgomery, who was a jazz player extraordinaire, who demonstrated tremendous instinct in his playing that belied an animal instinct, and sense of musical pride in his work as an artist. What he brought wasn’t just clarity and sophistication, but tremendous clout and great musical intellect.

It’s because of this hybrid of influences that Howe could play with great gusto, generosity and best of all, versatility. So, whether it’s the Queen opus, or ‘Heat Of The Moment’ that you’re into, there’s no denying the fact that Howe is a guitar player par excellence, and his work as a musician is one that will outlast us all in the years to come. He is brilliant.

The full interview with Steve Howe is to follow later this week.

Steve Howe’s three favourite guitar players:

  • Les Paul
  • Chet Atkins
  • Wes Montgomery

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