Con­tin­u­ing his look at the great slide play­ers Har­ri­son Marsh turns his at­ten­tion to the in­flu­en­tial style of The King Of Slide Gui­tar.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Har­ri­son Marsh looks at the in­stantly recog­nis­able slide play­ing of El­more James.

It’s hard to over­es­ti­mate El­more James’s in­flu­ence on slide gui­tar. Start­ing as side­man for Sonny Boy Wil­liamson II and in­flu­enced by Robert John­son and Tampa Red, The Mis­sis­sippi born guitarist had his first hit in 1952 with Robert John­son’s Dust My Broom. The slide intro would go on to be­come one of the most recog­nis­able blues phrases of all time. James was among the first Delta blues­men to ‘go elec­tric’, us­ing an acous­tic with two De Ar­mond pick­ups that he fit­ted while work­ing in an elec­tri­cal shop. This in­stru­ment cou­pled with El­more’s dis­tinc­tive style. cre­ated the fa­mous bit­ing gui­tar sound that com­ple­mented his raw blues vo­cals. His back­ing band, fea­tur­ing drums and a horn sec­tion, be­came known as the Broom Dusters and started out play­ing in Chicago shar­ing stages with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Wa­ters. The ‘King of the slide gui­tar’ as he be­came known, was self-taught from a young age, though spent a short time play­ing with Robert John­son who no doubt in­flu­enced him. Songs such as Dust My Broom show how en­er­getic his play­ing was, with in­ter­play be­tween vo­cals and slide gui­tar breaks that has been em­u­lated ever since. Songs such as The Sky Is Cry­ing and Shake Your Money Maker bridge the gap be­tween blues and R&B and have been cov­ered by nu­mer­ous play­ers in­clud­ing Pe­ter Green, Al­bert King and SRV. Hen­drix, the Stones and All­man Broth­ers have all stated James as an in­flu­ence, and in the play­ing of Fleet­wood Mac’s Jeremy Spencer it’s more than ob­vi­ous. Com­monly us­ing open D tun­ing and finger­style, James’s riffs and so­los tend to cen­tre around one fret po­si­tion: the 12th fret over the I chord, the 5th fret over the IV chord, and the 7th fret over the V chord, with phras­ing re­lent­lessly com­ing back to these chord shapes. Hav­ing played ex­ten­sively through­out the 50s, record­ing with many dif­fer­ent la­bels and pro­duc­ing a string of hits, El­more James died aged 45 in Chicago in 1963, shortly be­fore he was due to tour Europe. Although he never saw his in­flu­ence on elec­tric blues, most slide play­ers since must cite him, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, as an in­flu­ence.

songs like the sky is cry­ing and shake your money maker have been cov­ered by play­ers in­clud­ing pe­ter green, al­bert king and srv

NEXT MONTH Har­ri­son looks at the slide style of Stones and May­all guitarist Mick Tay­lor

El­more James: a huge in­flu­ence as player, singer and song­writer

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