The Most Influential Guitarists, Bassists, Drummers, and Piano/Keys Players Who Are NOT Primarily Blues Musicians

To clarify a point, by “the most influential” I mean, of course, the most influential to me. These are the players I consider as having influenced me the most, that are not expressly blues musicians. Why draw the distinction? Because if I didn’t, this post would be overrun with the usual suspects. So, given that I am by nature primarily a guitar player, let’s begin there, with the guitarists:



Mike Campbell

What Keith Richards is to rhythm guitar riffs, Mike Campbell is to “lead” guitar. Everything he plays, even when he’s just rippin’ it up, is still so incredibly, riffily melodic. Think of the guitar lines on “Breakdown” and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” as examples. Even the guitar on “The Boys of Summer.” I hate that song, but the guitar playing on it is incredible.


The Edge

Think of every great U2 song. Now, think of what is REALLY the hook. Exactly. It’s ALWAYS the guitar part. He’s capable of being a riffer, certainly, but mainly, he’s a textualist supreme. The Joshua Tree is essentially just an Edge record, as far as I’m concerned.


Marc Ribot

The coolest, most angular, most inventive guitarist who can still sound rough and raw and weird and funky. Listen to his playing on Jockey Full of Bourbon or Telephone Call From Istanbul.


Willie Nelson

His REAL nylon-string work, on display on records like Teatro, was, for me, my point of entry into playing my Martin 0018g. He showed me how that guitar was supposed to be played.


Tony Iommi

When I play electric guitar, if I’m to actually “solo,” this is who I try to sound like. His solos are like Hans Christian Andersen stories. On fire.


John Fogerty

When he just let loose and played, and didn’t overthink it, he was just an incredible tone monster, and a picking dictionary of American music. Go dig Green River.


Steve Cropper

The best, most soulful rhythm guitar player ever to hold a Tele. The reason why I have a Tele.


Charlie Christian

THE greatest jazz guitarist. Say no more …


Mark Knopfler

If you’re willing to consider “Sultans of Swing” a rock n’ roll song, then the solos on that song are possibly the greatest rock n’ roll guitar solos ever.



Jim Prescott (Jimi Jazz)

Because upright bass CAN be funky. And Jimi Jazz makes it so. Listen to G. Love’s first album. If you want to play funky upright bass, that’s how you do it.


Sebastian Steinberg

The funkiest, coolest, phattest alt-rock bassist ever. Soul Coughing was the greatest, most innovative, most unusual, most cool band, and their art-poetry-funk-hip-hop-Americana-beatnik-trashcan-altrock sound simply couldn’t have been possible without the impossibly fat bass tracks of Mr. Steinberg.


Paul Chambers

The greatest bassist ever. Period.



Because no one EVER rocked the bass harder.


Donald “Duck” Dunn

The soulfulest bassist on the soulfulest songs. I Thank You. Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay. Knock On Wood. Duh.


Paul Simonon

Because The Clash is the only band that matters, and EVERY bass line he played was perfect.


Charles Mingus

The greatest bassist-composer ever. And the weirdest. Listen to his playing on Money Jungle. Incredible. So painfully assertive and weird and florid and inescapably compelling.



Jean-Yves Tola

Because he played drums on those early 16 Horsepower records, and those are the best Gothic Americana records ever, and his drums make the sound come alive. Incredible snare work, every time. He just percolates.


John Bonham

The greatest rock drummer of them all, who could do more with straight 8s on the hat than … anyone. Go listen to All Of My Love. Ignore Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Just listen to John Paul Jones and Bonham together. It’s incredible.


Jimmy Cobb

The Rhythm Section! Say no more. My favorite jazz drummer, with the best jazz bassist.


Topper Headon

Ditto re: Paul Simonon and The Clash above, but on drums.


Bill Rieflin

Listen to Ministry’s live album “In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up.” DEVASTATING drums.


Stevie Wonder

Because the drum intro to “Superstition” is the drum beat I’ve been trying to play my whole life.


Al Jackson Jr.

Born Under A Bad Sign. That fill. Perfection.



Thelonious Monk

My favorite piano player. Period.


Sonny Clark

His records with Grant Green are the best guitar/organ duos in jazz, for my money. Which puts them above Wes and Jimmy. Which is pretty incredible.


Jimmy Smith

You can’t really talk about organ without him.


Bill Evans

So textural, so swingin’, so cerebral, so painterly, so moody, so impressionistic, SUCH touch, such grace. A philosopher, a zen pianist, a master.


Dr. John

The alpha and omega of all that is great in funky American music, as represented by what the keys are capable of.


Money Mark

Because Beastie Boys records have AMAZING organ/keys parts on them, and they’re usually Money Mark’s parts. So What’cha Want? More Money Mark.


And that, folks, is my list. Add all these players up, and you have the ne plus ultra of my (non-blues) musical influences.


Now, discuss.

3 responses to “The Most Influential Guitarists, Bassists, Drummers, and Piano/Keys Players Who Are NOT Primarily Blues Musicians

  • themusicianmark

    Very interesting read. Thanks for this. I totally agree with the likes of The Edge, he is the heartbeat of U2 for sure. Knopfler- a guitar God in my eyes. Jimmy Smith- yep as you correctly say you can’t talk about hammond organ without mentioning his name. Stevie Wonder- amazing. Some of my influences as a musician/ keyboard/piano player are Ray Charles- what a man what a talent. Elton John- my personal idol and the man who inspired me to want to learn the piano. Eric Clapton- in my own view one of the greatest guitarists along with BB King. Sorry to have gone off track but there’s my thoughts. 😀


    • pbistyping

      Great comment man, I dig, and full agreement on Edge, Knopfler, Smith, Wonder, et al …

      Also, LOVE Ray Charles. Love Ray Charles so much. But, can’t honestly say he’s an “influence” per se, cuz I could never even approach what he does! … As to Elton John, gotta confess man, not a fan. But that’s ok, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one … and finally, yep, Clapton was a huge factor for me, tho honestly, more as a directional asset than as a direct influence … from him, I went to Cream, to the Yardbirds, to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, which got me back to Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, which eventually led me to my truest heroes, Charley Patton, Bukka White, Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, etc.

      Hey man, mainly, thanks so much for the comment, I dig!

      Liked by 1 person

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