When we think of musical heroes, we tend to think of guitar heroes. This is a popular musical instrument that has been adopted as the choice instrument by many rock stars throughout the decades. Depending on when you were born, you will have a different guitar hero.
Considering guitars and other musical instruments, we will look to cover many musical heroes. They were, after all, the reason why we started to learn to play particular instruments when it was our choice which one. Having said that, it is common for most music lessons to start on a piano, as this is the grounding every musician ought to have. But then, to encourage children to become interested in musical instruments can be about letting them find their instrument or guiding them to one that is easier to learn to play. This is why 4-stringed ukuleles and recorders remain popular school instruments.
So, to our heroes …
Many from the older generation will link guitar heroes with the 1960s, and so come up with the likes of Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, Page, and Marvin.
Many consider Jimmy Hendrix to be the greatest electric guitarist ever. He could even play his guitar upside down. He was not one for reading music, but then many musicians play by ear. With his composing and musical performances, he would fuse blues with jazz, rock, and soul. He is certainly something of a legend of his day.
Hank Marvin was the lead guitarist from The Shadows, Cliff Richard’s backing group. They certainly came out of the shadows to have hits with ‘Apache’, ‘Atlantis’, ‘Wonderful Land’, and other memorable instrumentals from this period. Their final UK tour was in the early 90s. It was Hank’s frequent use of his guitar’s tremolo arm that contributed to the group’s unique sound.
Moving into the 70s, 80s, and beyond, there is Brian May from the rock group Queen, who is known for his exceptional guitar playing on hits such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. You know, if you were there, the tune that had no chorus and many radio stations felt was too long to play when it was first released? Brian is not only a superb solo guitarist but a keen astronomer too.
More recently, Justin Hawkins can be associated with great guitar performances. His group, The Darkness, had a Christmas number one in the UK in 2003 with ‘Don’t Let the Bells End’. Beyond this date, we tend to admire many of the lead guitarists from groups as the ones that play the solo riffs.
When we think of pianists today, we think of Chinese pianist Lang Lang for his classical prowess and singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum for his jazz playing and singing.
In the past, and going back to the period of the early guitar heroes, Britain’s Russ Conway was a famed pianist. He had 20 piano instrumentals in the UK singles chart between 1957 and 1963, which were in his famed honky-tonk style. His most famous hit was ‘Side Saddle’ in 1959. All of these hits, he played on with a missing finger. It was during his navy service that he lost the tip of the third finger of his right hand. It was no mission against the enemy but while using a bread slicer. He remained in the Navy after his national service but was discharged in 1948 because of a stomach ulcer. It was after this he would go on to have a career in music.
Many drummers are session musicians, being brought into the studio to work on tracks for groups. However, some groups would have their regular drummers. The drum skin of base drums would either have the group’s name on it or that of the drummer.
Famous drummers include Ringo Starr of The Beatles, Brian Bennet from The Shadows, and Clem Cattini of The Tornados. The Tornados topped the British and American Charts with their hit ‘Telstar’ in 1962. In those days it was an achievement to make it in America. ‘Telstar’ was written by independent record producer Joe Meek, who was no longer alive by the time it was proven he had not copied the tune from a 1960 French film entitled The Battle of Austerlitz. This had frozen the royalties. Clem Cattini, however, drummed on, and was even in disguise for one performance, playing inside the costume of Bongo when The Wombles appeared on the UK Chart Show Top of the Pops in 1974. There is no doubt that Clem has added something special to every hit that he has drummed for. This has been hundreds of tunes and about 45 number one hits. So, there is something for young drummers to aspire to.
So, it would seem that guitars, pianos, and drums, are the musical instruments played by most of our heroes. Guitar heroes became the first types of musical heroes, playing the piano has always been seen as elementary to learning music, and then, of course, someone has to keep the beat when the genre requires it.