Nominated and selected by the TrueFire community, the following ten players join TrueFire’s 100+ Gifted Guitarists You Should Know list in recognition of their extraordinary talent and musical prowess. They are listed in no particular order. Click here to see the full list and learn more about this series.
Don Mock’s musical upbringing probably closely parallels that of any guitarist who started out in the 60’s. As a teenage athlete, Don’s competitive spirit spilled over into his early playing experiences as all the local players tried to see who could learn the latest and fastest solos from rock guitar hero’s like Alvin Lee, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Mike Bloomfield. Don’s reputation grew from the rock/blues guitarist to the jazz guitarist in the Northwest. After evolving through the various rock, blues and jazz phases, borrowing from all the best, Don is now the master of his own style, a style that is literally a “fusion” in the purest sense of the word.
Don played in several Seattle area top rock and jazz bands. He began his teaching career in 1972 at the Cornish School and Olympic Jr. College, both in Washington State. In 1974 Don met guitar legend Howard Roberts and soon managed guitar teaching seminars in the Northwest for Howard. In 1977, Howard brought Don to Los Angeles to help start the Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT).
Mock is well known among guitarists for his amazing technique and total command of the instrument. His improvising concepts have been documented in several instructional books. Don currently teaches and helped develop the Roberts Music Institute in Bellevue, Washington with Jay Roberts, son of Howard Roberts. Don and Jay also have an exciting guitar duo and can been seen performing throughout that area. Read on for more about Don and the other Gifted Guitarists you should know…
Official Website: www.DonMockGuitar.com
Joe Louis Walker
In many ways, Joe Louis Walker’s story is unusual. Born in San Francisco and now based in Westchester, NY, he was part of the Bay area blues scene in his early teens, and by the time he was 16 he had soaked up the sounds of T-Bone Walker, Amos Milburn, Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson. As he grew up, he found himself on stage with such disparate tutors as John Lee Hooker, Thelonius Monk, the Soul Stirrers, Steve Miller and Jimi Hendrix. And by the time he was 19 he had built a close friendship — they were roommates for many years — with Mike Bloomfield.
Bloomfield’s tragic early death persuaded the young Walker to change his life. He enrolled at San Francisco State University, earning music and English degrees — and performing regularly with a gospel group, The Spiritual Corinthians.
In 1985, he came back to the blues, fronting a new band he called The Bosstalkers, and making five albums for the Hightone label, before signing to PolyGram’s Verve/Gitanes label, for whom he recorded another six albums. These records served as an entrée into the international market. Sterling appearances at major festivals throughout Europe (North Sea Jazz, Glastonbury, Nottoden and Montreux among them) led to further tours and festivals in Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Ireland, Turkey and Brazil.
Along the way he played President George Bush’s inauguration, helped President Bill Clinton induct B.B. King into the Kennedy Centre Awards, and performed on America’s most-watched late-night television shows.
Official Website: www.JoeLouisWalker.com
Mark tells us about himself on his web page. “I studied piano and clarinet as a youngster in Minnesota, and started guitar by borrowing my sister’s Sears Silvertone acoustic and imitating Peter, Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger, and Kingston Trio records. I also played guitars with the kid who lived over the back fence, performing for hospital patients and church groups.
At that point the Beatles arrived, and guitar became my main non-basketball focus. Our duo became a junior high rock band, where I learned to play barre chords and keep a steady tempo. Acoustic pop players influenced me considerably during the ’60s: Paul Simon, Stephen Stills, the Beatles and James Taylor. That led to the British greats John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, Chicago blues icon Big Bill Broonzy, and eventually the late jazz virtuoso Joe Pass.
I received my degree in music from Stanford in the mid-70s, and commenced my teaching/performing career. I look back at this time as my apprenticeship, preparing me to compose, arrange, perform, and teach. Every hour I spent on music, whether it was studying Bach and Beethoven or lifting fingerpicking licks off records, was educational and worthwhile.
I wrote my first book, The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking, in 1985. About this time I began writing for Frets Magazine, and eventually was hired as an assistant editor in 1986.”
After Frets was discontinued, Hanson won a Grammy and continued to produce educational materials for acoustic guitar by co-founding Accent on Music.
Official Website: www.AccentOnMusic.com
Siggi Mertens is a German guitarist who has gathered quite a following via YouTube. Mertens has been a teacher for more than 30 years now and is known as one of the best guitar tutors in the world. He has taught millions of guitar students all over the world via you tube. (The instructions are given in English so all native speaker can understand it. People outside the USA, Britain or Australia can understand it as well cause Siggi´s “school English” is easy to catch for non native speakers).
On his web page, Mertens tells how he played with the band Marylin at the end of the 70’s and how they were popular at his hometown of Münster and the surrounding region. “The Cologne record company sent us to Switzerland to record the 2nd album, we gigged from north to the south of Germany, played great venues and festivals, even the world convention of young unions in Sevilla.”
In the late 80’s he played with another band called Razzle Dazzle. In the 90’s Mertens rejoined his old friend Willi Landsknecht who had been the lead singer with Marilyn, and recorded a nice little German album that was truly influenced by Willi’s attitude towards art with one of Mertens’ favorite songs on it called ‘Hamburger Straße’.
Johnny Ketzel und die Schließer (Johnny Ketzel and his Warders) is Mertens’ current band project.
Official Website: www.Siggi-Mertens.de
John Petrucci is best known as the guitarist and founding member of the progressive metal band Dream Theater. He is also the band’s producer and main lyricist as well as an original member of the acclaimed Liquid Tension Experiment with Tony Levin. John is a long standing veteran of Joe Satriani’s prestigious G3 tours along with Steve Vai, Eric Johnson and Paul Gilbert.
John grew up in Kings Park, NY, a small suburban town on Long Island. He began playing guitar at age 12 and quickly realized music was his passion and that the pursuit of excellence on his instrument would consume him for the years to come. To that end, he practiced for at least 6 hours a day in an effort to further his understanding and technical abilities as a guitar player. At age 18, he attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston along with schoolmate/bassist John Myung where they fatefully met drummer Mike Portnoy and quickly formed the nucleus of what was to become Dream Theater.
John proceeded to take his band on a very successful musical journey including many gold and platinum CD and DVD releases as well as extensive world tours . He has received many notable awards in the various guitar publications throughout the world, including the 2007 “Guitarist of the Year” as named by the readers of Total Guitar magazine and “Best Metal Guitarist” in the 2010 Reader’s Choice Awards poll in Guitar Player magazine.
Official Website: www.JohnPetrucci.com
Multi award winning guitarist and composer Martin Taylor has established a unique musical career as an internationally acclaimed musician, and his inimitable style has seen him recognized as the world’s foremost exponent of solo jazz guitar playing. Although completely self taught, he has enjoyed a remarkable musical career spanning across five decades, and during that time has invented and developed a way of playing the guitar that is admired, and often imitated, by guitarists all over the world. As well as being a true guitar innovator, he is also a master concert performer, dazzling audiences with his solo shows, which combine virtuosity, emotion, humor, with a strong stage presence.
He spends much of the year traveling the world, playing in concert halls in Europe, North America, Japan, Asia, and Australasia as well as presiding over the uniquely innovative Martin Taylor Guitar Academy Online. When not touring he divides his time between Scotland and California.
As well as his solo concerts and recordings, he has also collaborated with musicians from many different musical genre including, Stephane Grappelli, Chet Atkins, Bill Wyman, George Harrison, Dionne Warwick, Sacha Distel Bryn Terfel and Jamie Cullum.
He has received a record 14 British Jazz Awards as a guitarist, and as a composer he was nominated for “Best Contemporary Song” in the BBC Folk Awards in 2009. The prestigious Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama made him an Honorary Doctor of Music in 2010.
Official Website: www.MartinTaylor.com
Rusty Cooley received his first guitar on his 15th birthday and never looked back. Unsatisfied with local Instructors, Rusty began teaching himself through Doug Mark’s Metal Method and various other instructional books and videos. During High School, Rusty took music theory classes and also attended the National Guitar Workshop. During his senior year, Rusty was offered his first teaching job at the same store, where just three years earlier, he had bought his first guitar. Some of Rusty’s early influences included: Rhoads, Malmsteen, Becker, Gilbert, Holdsworth, Paganini, Bach, Vai, Gambale, Moore, MacAlpine, Taffolla, Friedman, Howe, Kotzen, Firkins, and Housholder. He was also influenced by many styles including: Jazz, Classical, Funk, Blues and even Country, if you can believe that.
After High School, Rusty continued studying Music Theory at the local college, as well as Music History and Class Piano. In 1989, Rusty joined the local rock band Revolution. Revolution wrote, performed and recorded all original music. They became one of Houston’s top drawing bands. Revolution opened for national acts like Badlands, Nitro, Every Mothers Nightmare, and South Gang.
2007 saw the release of his Dean Signature Guitar, the RC7 Xenocide. Rusty has also been featured in Guitar One, Guitar World, Guitar Techniques, and Axe magazines, and has written his own column for Guitar Player magazine titled “Metal Guru”. With a stable and impressive band lineup, Rusty is currently writing and recording Outworld’s second CD which promises to capitalize on the strengths of the debut CD and demolish all expectations
Official Website: www.RustyCooley.com
From the wilds of Manhattan to the shores of Japan and Germany, jazz guitarist Vic Juris has covered an impressive range of territory, musically as well as geographically. Inspired by rock and roll legend Chuck Berry, the Jersey City native first picked up a guitar at the age of ten. With no musicians in the family, he taught himself to play and was soon appearing with rock and R&B bands throughout the tri-state area. But the young rocker’s taste soon changed. In his late teens Vic discovered jazz and classical music. He was hooked. From there it was on to a career with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Phil Woods, Jimmy Smith, Sarah Vaughan, Chico Hamilton, Dave Liebman, Richie Cole, Mel Torme, Eddie Jefferson and Nancy Wilson. From the beginning Vic’s voracious appetite for new musical experiences led him to explore any and every jazz artist he could hope to learn from. He drew on other idioms as well: blues, swing, bebop.
Vic currently tours as a special guest, with his own band or in duo with vocalist Kate Baker. He is also one of the leading jazz educators throughout the world. He has written two books published by Mel Bay, “Vic Juris Inside/Outside: Original Play-Along Modern Jazz Guitar Solos” and “Modern Chords:Advanced Harmony for Guitar.” Both books are highly regarded by up and coming guitarists. He currently teaches at The New School for Social Research, Rutgers University, and Lehigh University.
Official Website: www.myspace.com/VicJuris
Jay Roberts was born in California and is the son of legendary jazz guitarist and world renowned educator Howard Roberts (founder of the Guitar Institute of Technology). Although stylistically versatile with a Rock, Blues and Jazz background, his heart is found in improvising and teaching. Growing up with a very musical family, Jay found himself playing multiple instruments including Guitar, Drums and Bass, and studying extensively with his father, mentor and best friend H.R.
Jay is the founder of RMI (Roberts Music Institute), an accelerated learning facility located in Seattle/Bellevue Washington. Being a music school with an emphasis on performance and student interaction, Jay is actively involved with students on a day to day basis, teaching classes, ensembles and private lessons.
Jay studied both guitar and drums as a child and began teaching at age 14. Since then, as an educator, has provided well over 50,000 private and group lessons on guitar, drums, and bass. The core curriculum has always been based on the brilliant, innovative and accelerated learning techniques created by Howard Roberts. Having studied under Howard for many years, Jay still refers to HR’s reference materials for inspiration and direction.
Jay has won several electric guitar competitions, including Seattle’s Best Guitarist in 1992 and 1993, sponsored by Yamaha, and the Jimi Hendrix National Electric Guitar Competition, sponsored by Gibson Guitars. Jay’s debut solo CD “Son of a Dirty Guitar Player” is a tribute to Howard Roberts ” and his latest is “Pocket Deuce,” with Ben Lacy.
Official Website: www.RobertsMusicInstitute.com
Born in 1954, Scott Henderson grew up in an era where blues-rock was at its peak. His formative musical years took place in South Florida where he played the clubs with all kinds of bands playing everything from Led Zepplin to James Brown. He was influenced by Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, and the great blues guitarists Albert King and Buddy Guy. Scott finished school at Florida Atlantic University, then moved to Los Angeles where he played and recorded with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, bassist Jeff Berlin and “Players”, and a four year stint with Weather Report’s Joe Zawinul. He is perhaps best know for his work with Tribal Tech.
In 1991, he was named by Guitar World as the #1 Jazz Guitarist, and in January 1992, he was named #1 Jazz Guitarist in Guitar Player’s Annual Reader’s Poll.
His first solo blues album “Dog Party”, won best blues album of 1994 in Guitar Player. The second blues album for Mesa/Bluemoon Records pairs Henderson with legendary vocalist Thelma Houston. “Tore Down House” was released in April 97, and received four star reviews in Jazz Times, Guitar Player, Guitar, Guitar Shop, and L.A Jazz Scene Magazines. Scott has also released two albums with “Vital Tech Tones”, a trio collaboration with bassist Victor Wooten and ex – Journey / Vital Information leader Steve Smith on drums.
Scott is on the faculty at Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, and has written columns for Guitar Player, Guitar World and Guitar School Magazines.
Official Website: www.ScottHenderson.net