Who’s the Greatest Rock Guitar Player of ALL TIME?

by Rex Carroll on Monday, June 27, 2011 at 11:40am

So a friend of mine posted a question on my FB page … “Rex, who’s the best rock guitarist of all time?” Taking the bait, I started recalling recent events….

In 2010 President Obama convened a blue-ribbon panel of distinguished politicians, statisticians, mathematicians, physicists, audiologists, economists, hair stylists, fashion consultants and electrical engineers to answer a question of utmost national security: WHO, EXACTLY, IS THE GREATEST ROCK GUITAR PLAYER OF ALL TIME?

The delegates were all ushered to the convention in Washington D.C. for seven days where the President himself presided over the panel. As it turns out, President Obama is also considered a leading authority on the subject of great rock guitar; it has been discovered that his iPod contains well-known rock classics like “Can U Get Wit It” by Usher, “Bump Dat Street Mix” by 50 Cent, and the entire “Doggystyle” cd by Snoop Dogg. On that basis, his opinions were equally weighted into the conclusions of the panel.

As adjuncts to the convention, Musicians Local #249 was also in attendance, as well as A & R staff from Sony, EMI, and BMG. And weighing in on the ancillary question of “should those lazy-assed good-for-nothing rock musicians pay to play?” unbiased representatives from the Rave, and the Brat Stop, were also consulted. The suggestions to include a licensed Rexologist were considered, and then ignored.

Things got off to a bit of a rough start. Upon arrival, the mathematicians insisted they should receive higher billing than the statisticians; if anything, the statisticians should be the OPENING ACT for the mathematicians, and NOT the other way around. They were almost about to cancel, until it was pointed out that both groups were equally co-billed, and their order of presentation was flip-flopped each day. The mathematicians accepted this, with some grumbling and a few snide remarks about the statisticians as “wannabe” mathematicians.

The economists, for their part, were furious with the “Beer and Pretzels” format favored by the President. Going to their contract, they referenced the 6-course gourmet dinner specified in the rider. Things got a bit heated, and Musicians Local #249 was called upon to resolve the dispute. The ruling came down in favor of the economists, who thereafter received their 6-course gourmet dinner. (Everyone else got beer and pretzels).

On the first day, a long list of candidates was drawn up, including many famous and/or well-known rock guitar players. Familiar names like Eric Clapton, Edward Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, along with other names like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Yngwie Malmsteen were all thrown into the mix. Additionally, there was discussion whether actors, lead singers, or other people who don’t actually PLAY the guitar, but simply POSE with one from time to time, should be included. (On this point there was some disagreement. Some of the delegates wanted to limit the candidate list to people who actually PLAY the guitar, while some of the delegates wanted to include themselves or the children of their relatives.)

Finally, the discussions got under way. The distinguished politicians were the first to present. The Honorables Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Wiener, and Mr. Schwarzenegger gave impassioned pleas to consider the morality of the various candidates with consideration as to how many children had been fathered out-of-wedlock by each candidate.

Next, the audiologists presented their findings as to which guitarist was the LOUDEST. Any candidate whose amp goes to ELEVEN was given extra credit. For supporting data, the economists presented sales receipts for Marshall Stacks, Dual Rectifiers, Fender Strats, Les Pauls, and various distortion pedals.

The electrical engineers then reported on how much electricity was required to support the volume level, the hair dryers, and the ego of each candidate. The statisticians also presented figures that counted the quantity of amplifiers on the stage, the number of pedals in each pedalboard, and also how high each musician had to reach to plug into his amp.

Further to this discussion, the average number of notes per solo were calculated for each guitar player and multiplied by the number of concerts per year. Factoring in a plus/minus ratio of groupies vs. venereal disease, an aggregate calculation was then arrived at for number of notes played over a 10-year period, accurate to within two bottles of hair gel.

The mathematicians then weighed in with data regarding gross concert revenues, merchandising reports, radio play, and generally declining album sales across the board. At this point the A & R reps from the major labels presented counter-arguments claiming it was “none of their business” as to the ACTUAL album sales numbers, and reminding everyone that “we’re deducting the ENTIRE COST of this convention from their royalties, anyway!”

The physicists then engaged a lively debate over whether intelligent life exists among rock guitar players in general, or whether indeed they should be considered as a separate species altogether. Finally, the hair stylists and the fashion consultants gave a slide show, referencing who had the most hair, the hippest clothes, the coolest super-model girlfriends, and which ones really needed liposuction and/or Botox. Guitar players found to be still wearing spandex after the year 2005 were immediately disqualified, thus eliminating Yngwie and several others.

Towards the end of the week, the mathematicians requested an extra day to process all the accumulated data, but when Musicians Local #249 advised they would then have to pay double-scale for the overtime, the decision was made to turn over all the data to the pentagon for processing.

That Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, an anxious media horde gathered in the rose garden and waited with baited breath for the definitive word from the esteemed panel of experts as to WHO IS THE GREATEST ROCK GUITAR PLAYER OF ALL TIME. Stock markets waited with anxious anticipation for the news while law enforcement around the country kept an uneasy eye on the masses gathered coast-to-coast around their TV screens, knowing there might be violence if the people didn’t get the candidate they wanted.

President Obama was all smiles and thumbs-up as he strode confidently towards the microphone: “My fellow Americans, and citizens of the world, at this great juncture of human history, we can now know with certainty, with confidence, once and for all, WHO. IS. THE GREATEST. ROCK GUITAR PLAYER. OF. ALL. TIME. On behalf of the wise gentlemen you see gathered around for this glorious photo-op, it gives me great pleasure to report to you that all the various data have been considered and tabulated, the numbers have been crunched, and the report is in. As the result of a 3-way trade between Sony, The Chicago Bulls, and Clear-Channel, involving DRAFT PICKS, POLICY INFLUENCE, and SEASON TICKETS, it is my great pleasure to report to you today that his airness, MICHAEL JORDAN, will hereafter be known as the GREATEST ROCK GUITAR PLAYER OF ALL TIME.”

Michael Jordan's Guitar

This guitar was allegedly offered on eBay for $10,000 according to By the Horns.

Guitar follies, and what were you REALLY thinking??!!

This was written by Rex Carroll on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 12:02pm, snatched up and tweaked by me and re-posted for your blogging enjoyment. ~rcsm

So I just got back from Elements of Rock in Uster. Uster is near Zürich, Switzerland. Apart from the fabulous festival and everything that goes with it, what really makes me laugh is how many ways can the old geezer find to screw it up THIS TIME??!!

Here’s the inner game that goes on in my head – it’s called, “Wait a minute – what song am I supposed to be playing??” The game goes something like this:

Between Whitecross, King James, and The Rex Carroll Band, I must have at least a half-dozen or so songs that are all in the key of F#. Furthermore, many of them are in a similar tempo, and many of them are all based on what I like to call “riff-rock” which is to say, the primary song riff is built from a pentatonic scale harmonized in fourths. If that sounds complicated, it’s not – just think of the opening riff from “Smoke on the Water” and you’ve got the idea.

What happens next is, you get out on the stage, and there’s a million small distractions…

  1. Hmm, sounds like one of my pedals is behaving erratically.
  2. Gee whiz, the monitors don’t sound the same as they did at the sound-check.
  3. Good looking crowd – uh oh, there’s a guy at the back who doesn’t seem very interested.
  4. I wonder if McDonald’s is open after the gig?
  5. Accck, my brilliant diminished arpeggio isn’t working out – quick, batman, default to that old blues lick you’ve been ripping off since you were, what, 12 years old…
  6. Man, this Marshall stack sounds awesome…I wonder if I can get 2 of them next time…
  7. What’s up with that ginormous delay sound?? Remind me to kill the sound man after the show.
  8. I wonder if the Bears are gonna be any good next season.
  9. What? I can’t hear you – wait, let me just turn my amp up a LITTLE LOUDER, there, that’s much better.

So, now you’re out on the stage, things are going (reasonably) well, the crowd appears to be having a good time, none of the drums or guitars has fallen apart (yet), and you’ve managed to block out the above-mentioned distractions, and the guitar even seems to be staying IN TUNE! So far, so good.

And then, just when it’s all going GREAT:

“And now, our next song, the ‘Working Man’s Blues'”

and Rexxy goes, “OK, F#…just like all the other F# songs….no problemo” aaannnnddddd, ACTION!

Um, what was that again? … uuhhhh, can’t seem to remember it … uh, um, err, uhh, hang on, let me just keep a holding pattern on this F# note a little longer… uhh, err, no, um, can’t seem to find the riff, uhh, ummm….UH OH…

Meanwhile, Benny is screaming his head off at me “WORKING MAN’S BLUES, WORKING MAN’S BLUES YOU IDIOT” Hahaha and I’m thinking, “too many blasted songs in the SAME KEY and the SAME RIFF… well you’ve really boxed yourself into a corner THIS time, old man, now, how are you gonna escape from your predicament????” Fact is, the chords, the riff, the lyrics, everything just completely disappeared from my brain and the only thing I could think of was, uhhh, I think there’s maybe TOO MANY songs I’ve written that all sound alike….

(Haha yes, yes, I know, that’s maybe a bit of an indictment on the songwriting, perhaps, Mr. Carroll? The court would like to know do you plan to keep regurgitating these same old riffs or perhaps one day will you come up with SOMETHING NEW???!!! … For now I think I will plead the fifth, that’s maybe a different topic for a different conversation!)

Now, 20 years ago, this is the kind of thing where I maybe would have completely panicked and the rest of the gig might just go completely down the drain. However, these days, anymore, I’ve learned to accept the premise that even the great (or so they say in the press, haha) Rexxxx Freeekin Carroll will screw up. Not if, but simply, WHEN!! 

When I saw Benny and Mike laughing at me, I couldn’t help but laugh along with – because at the end of the day, as the saying goes…it’s only rock and roll….so I said to myself, “Screw it – the “Working Man’s Blues” song has now become the REX CARROLL BAND FREE FORM JAZZ EXPLORATION in the freekin key of F# — which is a fancy way of saying I have NO idea what I’m doing here…

And so you just turn it up, step right out in front, have another go at that (supposedly) brilliant diminished arpeggio, and wonder if anybody in the crowd has caught on to your game. (or lack thereof)

Now that, my friends, is simply the NORMAL day at the office for me and as much as it drives me nuts to be making the same mistakes over and over again, at least it gives me a goal that -ONE DAY- I hope to actually play the PERFECT GIG with NO mistakes. Hahahaha, that’s probably not gonna happen in this lifetime, but then, that’s what heaven is for, right? I’m tellin’ ya right now, THAT will be a minor miracle and I think it will ONLY happen in heaven, because here on this earth, hmmm, I guess I’ll just borrow an old Bob Carlisle lyric – “it’s a LONG WAY to paradise” !! Amen, brother Bob, amen, I couldn’t say it any better.

The postscript, of course, entirely predictable:

When talking to the fans after the show, several people approached me to say “wow, what was the name of that INCREDIBLE jam you guys were doing? That was the HIGH POINT of the concert!”

Sure, I say, that number is called the “I-can’t-remember-the-words-or-the-chords-BLUES JAM.”

Of course.

…time to go PRACTICE.

Welcome to Rex’s Blog

Rex Carroll is a name thrown around in music circles around the world, often with great reverence among those who are familiar with his music. We would like to introduce you to the man behind the music. Public figures often never step outside their public persona. We want to strip away the interviewers and the microphones and amplifiers, and let Rex speak for himself.  We know you will enjoy getting to know him.



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