On Music: Guitar Wizards Shred

Ransom Riggs

Update: OK, I guess the joke was too subtle! Watch these clips and listen verrrry closely ...

I'm borrowing the title of David's wonderful recurring column in order to pay homage to, and examine, a few of my own musical heroes. You see, sometimes an artist is just so humblingly gifted at one particular thing -- Picasso with his brush; Joyce with his pen -- that all you can do is sit back in awe and watch. There are such a precious few guitar players in the world who can have that kind of held-in-thrall effect on a whole audience at once -- virtuosos who don't even really need a backing band, thanks to the sheer majesty of their skills. I thought I would take a moment to honor those magic few here.

Many of these artists will be familiar to you; some may not. I invite you to take this opportunity to discover -- or rediscover, whatever the case may be -- a few of the guitar's great geniuses. In no particular order, here they are.

Paco de Lucia
Recognized as one of the most talented Flamenco guitarists ever, Spaniard Paco de Lucia has done much to popularize Flamenco all over the world. He's also crossover success story with jazz, funk, classical, and world music recordings under his musical belt. Is there anything he can't do?

Steve Vai
If Flamenco isn't your style, try a little Vai on for size. Ask any guitar freak and you'll get the same answer: Steve Vai is universally hailed as a saint of the six-string, who got his career started playing guitar for Frank Zappa (which, depending on how much you know about Zappa, you'll realize is ... hard). In fact, Zappa was known to refer to Vai as "my little Italian virtuoso," and he's listed in the liner notes of several Zappa albums as playing "stunt guitar." But hey, don't take Frank Zappa's word for it:

Eric Clapton
From his early work in the Yardbirds and Cream to his chart-topping solo hits of more recent vintage, just about everyone's heard Eric Clapton shred. But that's no reason to deny yourself the pleasure of another dose of Eric's magical electric boogaloo:

Rounding out our set today is the inestimable Carlos Santana (so famous he doesn't need a first name), a Grammy-winning artist named one the top 15 guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone. But the proof, as it were, is in the pudding:

My thanks to Santeri for his brilliant movie magic (so sorry YouTube decided to take these down, man).