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Eight Late Great Guitarists of the Rock Era

 The following guitar players have graced us with some of the best playing ever to come out of the rock and blues genres, these musicians all had their careers cut short by misfortune. Their untimely passing deprived them of well deserved, and highly successful futures, and the rest of us, the privilege of listening to them ply their trade. We can only imagine the music they would be producing if they were alive today. They have set a very high standard in the art and musicianship of the guitar that many have aspired to, but few have attained.


Danny Gatton, (Suicide)

Danny Gatton - " The Humbler" (September 4, 1945 - October 4, 1994) was a talented and enigmatic American guitarist who committed suicide at his Maryland home in 1994 while still relatively unknown to the public. A biography, Unfinished Business: The Life and Times of Danny Gatton by Ralph Heibutzki, was published in 2003. It has a voluminous discography. Danny Gatton was ranked 63rd on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time in 2003. Danny Gatton began his career playing in bands while still a teenager. He began to attract wider interest in the 1970s while playing guitar and banjo for the group Liz Meyer & Friends. He made his name as a performer in the Washington, DC, area during the 1980s, both as a solo performer and with his Redneck Jazz Explosion, in which he would trade licks with the virtuoso pedal steel playing of Buddy Emmons over a tight bass-drums rhythm which drew from blues, country, be-bop and rockabilly influences.
 On October 4, 1994, Gatton locked himself in his garage in Newburg, Maryland and shot himself leaving no explanation.    'Artist Discography'

Danny Gatton


Duane Allman , (Motorcycle Accident)

Duane Allman - (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American session musician and lead guitarist of the southern rock musical group, The Allman Brothers Band. Duane Allman is best remembered for his brief influential tenure in the band he helped co-found, as well as his inspired slide guitar and improvisational skills. Besides his work with The Allman Brothers Band, Allman led an established session musician life, lending his skills to the likes of King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Boz Skaggs, and Herbie Mann. He also had a major role on the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos.
  In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named Duane Allman as number two on their list of the greatest guitarists of all time, trailing only Jimi Hendrix. Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee. When he was three years old and his family lived near Norfolk, Virginia, his father, Willis Allman, a career United States Army sergeant, was murdered in a robbery by a veteran he had befriended that day. Geraldine "Mama A" Allman moved her family back to Nashville. In 1957 they relocated in Daytona Beach, Florida. In 1960, Allman was motivated to take up the guitar by the example of his younger brother, Gregg, who had obtained a guitar after hearing a neighbor playing country music standards on an acoustic guitar. Gregg said that after Duane Allman started playing, "he passed me up like I was standing still." Another important event occurred in 1959 when the boys were in Nashville visiting relatives. They attended a rock 'n' roll concert at which blues artist B. B. King performed and both promptly fell under the spell of his music. Gregg Allman recalls that Duane turned to him and said, "We got to get into this".
 Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident shortly after the release of "At Fillmore East". Allman was riding his motorcycle toward an oncoming construction truck that stopped in mid turn in front of him. Allman Brothers Band bass guitarist Berry Oakley died less than 13 months later in a motorcycle crash with a city bus, three blocks from the site of Duane Allman's fatal accident.    'Artist Discography'

Duane Allman


Frank Zappa , (Cancer)

Frank Zappa - (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993). Frank Vincent Zappa was an American composer, musician, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Frank Zappa had established himself as a very gifted and distinctive composer, electric guitar player and band leader. He worked in various different musical genres and wrote music for rock bands, jazz ensembles, synthesizers and symphony orchestra, as well as musique concrète works constructed from pre-recorded, synthesized or sampled sources. Musique concrète, is a form of electro-acoustic music that utilizes acousmatic sound, or sound that one hears without seeing the originating cause.
  Frank Zappa was a highly productive and prolific artist and he gained widespread critical acclaim. Many of his albums are considered essential in rock history, and he is regarded as one of the most original guitarists and composers of his time; he remains a major influence on musicians and composers. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and for most of his career was able to work as an independent artist. Frank Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. If you didn't get it the first time around, you probably won't get it now!
 Frank Zappa was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 1990. The disease had been developing unnoticed for ten years and was considered inoperable. After his diagnosis, Zappa devoted most of his energy to modern orchestral and Synclavier, (an early synthesizer and sampler), works. In 1993 he completed Civilization, Phaze III shortly before his death. It was a major Synclavier work which he had begun in the 1980s.    'Artist Discography'

Frank Zappa

Jimi Hendrix , (Accidental Overdose of Sleeping Pills)

Jimi Hendrix - (November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter. Jimi Hendrix is considered one of the greatest and most influential guitarists in rock music history. After initial success in Europe, he achieved fame in the USA following his 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Later, Hendrix headlined the iconic 1969 Woodstock Festival. Jimi Hendrix helped develop the technique of guitar feedback with overdriven amplifiers. He was influenced by blues artists such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Albert King, and Elmore James, rhythm and blues and soul guitarists Curtis Mayfield, Steve Cropper, as well as by some modern jazz.
  Hendrix won many of the most prestigious rock music awards in his lifetime, and has been posthumously awarded many more, including being inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. An English Heritage blue plaque was erected in his name on his former residence at Brook Street, London, in September 1997. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was dedicated in 1994 and in 2006, his debut US album, Are You Experienced, was inducted into the United States National Recording Registry, and Rolling Stone named Jimi Hendrix the top guitarist on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time in 2003. He was also the first person inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame.
 Jimi Hendrix died in London under circumstances which have never been fully explained.
Monika Dannemann Jimi's girlfriend, stated that Jimi Hendrix, unknown to her, had taken nine of her prescribed Vesperax sleeping pills. The normal medical dose was half a tablet, but Hendrix was unfamiliar with this very strong German brand.  Following a libel case brought in 1996 by Hendrix's long-term English girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, Monika Dannemann committed suicide.
  A former Animals "roadie," James "Tappy" Wright, published a book in May 2009 claiming Hendrix's manager, Mike Jeffery, admitted to him that he had Hendrix killed because the rock star wanted to end his management contract.
    'Artist Discography'

Jimi Hendrix

Jeff Healey , (Cancer)

Jeff Healey - (March 25, 1966 - March 2, 2008). Norman Jeffrey Healey, was a blind jazz, and blues-rock vocalist and guitarist who attained popularity, particularly in the 80s and 90s. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Jeff Healey was adopted as an infant and raised in the city's west end. When he was eight months old, Jeff Healey lost his sight to retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eyes. The eyes had to be surgically removed, and he was given artificial replacements. Healey began playing guitar when he was three, developing his unique style of playing the instrument flat on his lap.
  When he was 17, he formed the band Blue Direction, a four-piece band which primarily played bar-band cover tunes. Among the other musicians were bassist Jeremy Littler, drummer Graydon Chapman, and Rob Quail on second guitar. This band played various local clubs in Toronto, including the Colonial Tavern. Shortly thereafter he was introduced to two musicians, bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen, with whom he formed a trio, "The Jeff Healey Band". After being signed to Arista Records in 1988, the band released the album See the Light, featuring the hit single "Angel Eyes" and the song "Hideaway", which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
  The albums Hell to Pay and Feel This gave Jeff Healey 10 charting singles in Canada between 1990 and 1994, including a cover of The Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which featured George Harrison and Jeff Lynne on backing vocals and acoustic guitar.
  Over the years, Healey toured and sat-in with many legendary performers, including, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, BB King, ZZ Top, Steve Lukather, Eric Clapton and many more. In 2006, Jeff Healey appeared on Ian Gillan's CD/DVD, "Gillan's Inn". Healey discovered and helped develop the careers of other artists, including Terra Hazelton and Amanda Marshall. In early 2009, Healey's 'Mess of Blues' won in The 8th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Blues Album.
  On March 2, 2008, Healey died of cancer at St. Joseph's Health Center in his home town of Toronto. Jeff Healey's death came a month before the release of his album, Mess of Blues. Jeff is survived by his wife, Cristie, and two children.    'Artist Discography'

Jeff Healey


Rory Gallagher , (Alcoholism)

Rory Gallagher - (March 2, 1948 - June 14, 1995). Born in 1948 in Ballyshannon and raised in Cork, Rory Gallagher's rock 'n roll odyssey began at an early age when he saw Elvis Presley on TV and became inspired to get his first guitar. Rory would listen and learn from the likes of Lonnie Donegan, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis, many of whom Rory Gallagher went on to record with. While still at school during his early teens, Rory began playing with professional show bands throughout Ireland, whose repertoires included all the popular hits of the day. Not musically satisfied with this, Rory converted his latter showband The Impact into a six-piece R'n'B outfit and headed for Hamburg in the mid-1960s. On arrival, this line-up was soon trimmed down to his first trio. Rory went on to form Taste in 1967 a band who soon met with wide acclaim, and subsequently headed for London where they were an immediate success at London's famed Marquee Club, counting among their fans John Lennon.
  Rory Gallagher is the man who, without question, spearheaded and influenced the entire Irish rock movement. Remarkably, nearly 11 years after his untimely passing in June 1995, Rory's music is as popular as ever with his legion on faithful followers.
 Rory Gallagher's excessive use of alcohol, led to a failed liver transplant. Infection set in after the transplant, while Rory was still in the hospital in London, resulting in his death on June 14, 1995.    'Artist Discography'

Rory Gallagher

Roy Buchanan, (Suicide?)

Roy Buchanan - (September 23, 1939 - August 14, 1988) was an American guitarist and blues musician. He is noted for his use of note bending, volume swells, staccato runs, and pinch harmonics. Buchanan was a pioneer of the Telecaster sound and drew upon many diverse influences while learning to play his instrument. Buchanan used a number of guitars throughout his career, although he was most often associated with a 1953 Telecaster guitar, which he used to produce his signature tone. Rarely did Buchanan utilize 'stomp boxes' although later live performances utilized a digital delay. The 'sound' of Buchanan is essentially a Telecaster plugged into an overdriven Fender amp on 10.
  Roy Buchanan's musical career took him from underground club gigs in the sixties and seventies to national television, gold record sales, and worldwide tours in the eighties with the likes of Lonnie Mack, the Allman Brothers, and Willie Nile. Even posthumously, he has the respect of many guitarists and a large number of fans; his work is said to "stretch the limits of the electric guitar," and he is praised for "his subtlety of tone and the breadth of his knowledge, from the blackest of blues to moaning R&B and clean, concise, bone-deep rock 'n' roll." In 2004, Guitar Player listed his version of "Sweet Dreams," from his debut album on Polydor, Roy Buchanan, as having one of the "50 Greatest (guitar) Tones of All Time".
 On August 14, 1988, several hours after his arrest for public intoxication, Roy Buchanan was found hanging by his own shirt in his cell in the Fairfax County, Virginia Jail. His cause of death was officially recorded as suicide, a finding disputed by Buchanan's friends and family.    'Artist Discography'

Roy Buchanan


Stevie Ray Vaughan , (Helicopter Crash)

Stevie Ray Vaughan - (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American blues-rock guitarist, whose broad appeal made him an influential electric blues guitarist. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Stevie Ray Vaughan #7 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, and Classic Rock Magazine ranked him #3 in their list of the 100 Wildest Guitar Heroes in 2007. Vaughan was born on October 3, 1954, in Dallas, Texas, and was raised in the city's Oak Cliff neighborhood. Neither of his parents had any strong musical talent but were avid music fans. They would take Vaughan and his older brother Jimmie to concerts to see Fats Domino, Johnny Williamson III, Jimmy Reed, and Bob Wills.
  Even though Stevie Ray Vaughan initially wanted to play the drums as his primary instrument, Michael Quinn gave him a guitar when he was seven years old. Vaughan's brother, Jimmie Vaughan, gave him his first guitar lessons. Vaughan was later quoted in Guitar Player as saying, "My brother Jimmie actually was one of the biggest influences on my playing. He really was the reason I started to play, watching him and seeing what could be done." He played entirely by ear and never learned how to read sheet music. By the time he was thirteen years old he was playing in clubs where he met many of his blues idols.
 According to the findings as reported by the National Transportation Safety Board, the cause of the helicopter crash was determined to be inadequate planning by the pilot, and failure to attain sufficient altitude to clear an obstacle. Fog and haze, as well as the rising terrain were listed as contributing factors. All occupants including Vaughan, the pilot and three members of Eric Clapton's travel group were killed on impact.    'Artist Discography'

Stevie Ray Vaughan


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