Few guitar players have had as varied and prolific a career as James Burton. Best known for his work with Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has also recorded with such notable figures as Emmylou Harris, Roy Orbison, John Denver and Elvis Costello. High points in his session work include the riff and solo he crafted and played on Dale Hawkins’ 1957 classic, “Susie Q.”
Hank Garland’s professional career spanned just 15 years, but the work he packed into that period was extraordinary. In addition to being a fixture on Elvis Presley’s recordings from 1957 to 1961, the Nashville-based session great backed Patsy Cline, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich and countless other country stars. Garland was also a gifted jazz guitarist who recorded with such legends as George Shearing and Charlie Parker. A tragic car crash in 1961 robbed him of much of his six-string skills, but his impact on the ’60s “Nashville sound” was incalculable.
It’s a measure of Steve Cropper’s greatness that John Lennon and Paul McCartney seriously considered doing some Beatles recordings with the legendary guitarist-producer. As a member of Stax Records’ in-house band, Booker T & The MGs, Cropper played on (and guided the sound of) seminal recordings by Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave and (especially) Otis Redding. Guitarists as varied as Jimi Hendrix and Syd Barrett cited Cropper’s influence. Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart and Neil Young are among those who’ve recorded with Cropper during his post-Stax years.
Dubbed “the most recorded guitarist in history” by Guitar Player, Tommy Tedesco played on thousands of ’60s and ’70s recordings, many of which became Top 20 hits. Based in Los Angeles, Tedesco lent his six-string skills to material by The Beach Boys, Cher and The Association, among many others. His film and TV soundtrack work was spectacular as well, including contributions to the themes for Bonanza and Green Acres, and to the soundtracks for Jaws and The French Connection, among others. Tedesco died in 1997 at the age of 67.
Known in the mid ’60s as “Little Jim,” Jimmy Page played on such pop classics as Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” Marianne Faithfull’s “As Tears Go By” and The Rolling Stones’ “Heart of Stone,” before going on to put together a little band known as Led Zeppelin. He also made significant contributions to The Kinks’ debut album, and played on The Who’s “I Can’t Explain.” Page once estimated that, during the early years of the British Invasion, he averaged three sessions a day, six days a week.
During the ’70s and early ’80s, Larry Carlton appeared on up to 500 recordings a year, his distinctive style gracing seminal albums by Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell and Michael Jackson, among others. His catalog of work also includes an array of film soundtracks and television themes, including the theme for Hill Street Blues, for which he received a GRAMMY award. Carlton’s ever-present ES-335 has earned him the nickname, “Mr. 335.”
No guitarist played a greater role in pushing country music onto the pop charts than Chet Atkins. During the ’50s and ’60s, Atkins (along with a handful of other titans, like Hank Garland) essentially created the “Nashville sound,” producing and/or playing on albums by Jerry Reed, Floyd Cramer, Don Gibson and countless others. Often called “Mr. Guitar,” Atkins was posthumously inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
As a member of Toto, Steve Lukather was the six-string force behind such classics as “Rosanna,” “Africa” and “I Won’t Hold You Back.” His session work has been just as impressive. As a guest player on more than 1,000 albums, Lukather has recorded with Paul McCartney, Elton John, Miles Davis and Michael Jackson, among many others. His crucial role in the making of Jackson’s Thriller album remains a high point.
Moving from Arkansas to Los Angeles in 1961 at age 24, Glen Campbell lent his formidable six-string skills to array of artists, including Frank Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Nat King Cole and, most notably, The Beach Boys. He and his fellow “Wrecking Crew” session players (which included Tommy Tedesco and Leon Russell, among others) also played on many of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” productions. In 1964 and 1965, prior to going solo, he was a touring member of The Beach Boys, and played on their legendary Pet Sounds album, as well.
Lee Ritenour began his career as a session player at the ripe age of 16, when he appeared on an album by The Mamas and The Papas in the mid ’60s. Since then, the multi-GRAMMY-nominated guitarist has played on more than 3,000 sessions, often using either an ES-335 or an L-5 acoustic as his go-to instrument. Artists who’ve sought Ritenour’s services through the years include Pink Floyd (for The Wall sessions), Steely Dan (for Aja), Aretha Franklin and Carly Simon.
Russell Hall, Gibson.com, April 18th 2011