Watch the History & Players online guitar lesson by Kelly Richey from Focus On: Blues-Rock Power Trio
Jimi Hendrix was my very first influence. The very first song I ever heard by Hendrix was “And The Gods Made Love” and the first time I ever heard feedback! From Hendrix I learned the connection between distortion and sustain, what could be done with delays and a wah wah pedal. It was through Hendrix that I began my journey into the world of tube amps and speaker configuration, live performance and the world of recording.
While Jimi Hendrix guitar parts soared over top of his rhythm section, Jimmy Page was an intricate part of the power trio sound of Led Zeppelin. Page opened the door to power chords, riff driven grooves, rhythm and leads that were interdependent with John Bonham and John Paul Jones as well as Robert Plant’s vocals. My journey continued to evolve as I saw the difference between Zeppelin's studio versions of songs and their live performance recordings, mainly the soundtrack and movie footage from The Song Remains the Same, a movie I went to see a dozen times as a teenager. It was through Page that my love for recording grew, and I was inspired to want to record and produce my own records. Jimmy Page showed me the importance of creating musical space, articulation, speed (and also some chaos), with a form of syncopation with his bandmates that I'd never experienced.
NOTE: Creedence Clearwater Revival helped me see the brilliance of three chord songs before I ever even discovered the blues.
Eddie Van Halen took everything I'd learned about simplicity and added a layer of technical ability that no one had ever seen. I was heavily influenced by Eddie’s guitar tone and loved how Eddie Kramer mixed his guitar panned hard to one side in the mix while adding reverb panned hard to the opposite side, so a single guitar track sounded like you were in a stadium. This was a drastic departure from the psychedelic guitar sound of the 1960's and early 1970's. I never did a lot of tapping like Eddie, but I did begin to pull in pinch harmonics as they were being used by Billy Gibbons (who introduced me to that "Texas" sound).
I first discovered Eric Clapton through the record Cream Live. This is where I learned to jam with others and interact in a more tightly woven connection with a band, allowing a more complicated drumming approach to be my foundation rather than something I had to play to (or with). Through Cream Live I grew comfortable with musical chaos and learned to see patterns in music that I could begin to recreate in my own playing. I would later revisit Eric Clapton when I put The Kelly Richey Band together and began to play blues in the early 1990’s.
Another big influence was Joe Walsh and the James Gang, especially “Funk #49”, a powerful riff-driven song with a groove that pulled from blues, rock, and funk. I played in a number of acoustic folk-rock duos during the first half of my career, and Joe Walsh’s work with the James Gang highly influenced me; but his work with the Eagles and his production of Dan Fogelberg’s Sounioneres record that drove my interest for production and recording.
Then came SRV, and I found myself getting back to the basics of guitar tone and eventually learned that tone started in your hands and on the neck of your guitar; from there the sound is amplified, not the inverse. By the time SRV hit the scene, I had developed all the speed I was going to develop and his right hand technique helped me take my playing to a whole new level by adding a left and right hand muting technique for either a funky sound or a "flat tire" approach when playing with a shuffle. SRV’s ability to bend strings and command righteous tone out of each and every note of his guitar was something that sent me on a quest for the perfect tone, maximum amount of sustain, and overall groove that would rock people to the edge of their chairs. His ability to emote drew me in.
And then there as Roy Buchanan, quite possibly my most favorite guitar player. I saw Roy play live three times and all three times he played as a three-piece. Roy played with such emotion and precision, raising the bar even higher in my search of taking a “journey” with my guitar and creating a conversation with music alone.
NOTE: David Gilmour was not in a “power trio”, but his guitar playing was one of my biggest influences and helped me to distill what I learned from Jimi Hendrix's and Roy Buchanan's playing techniques.
Jeff Beck Wired and Blow by Blow were woven in along the way, giving me an example of a player that used his fingers instead of a pick. Jeff also used his whammy bar differently than any other guitarist I'd seen.
Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush sprinkled in influence, as well as Alex Lifeson of RUSH. Listening to Alex Lifeson helped me to develop much of my core strength as a guitarist in a power trio, as he completed the circle between a rather complex, yet straightforward rock n’ roll sound with more groove orientated sounds of blues-based power trios like Cream, Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix.