100 Greatest Guitarists

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Frank Zappa
David Redfern/Redferns22/100

22. Frank Zappa

"When I was learning how to play guitar, I was obsessed with that album," Phish's Trey Anastasio said in 2005 of Frank Zappa's 1981 collection of intricate and blistering solos, Shut Up 'n' Play Yer Guitar. "Every boundary that was possible on the guitar," Anastasio said, "was examined by him in ways that other people didn't." As the absolute boss of his bands, including the legendary lineups of the Mothers of Invention, Zappa fused doo-wop, urban blues, big-band jazz and orchestral modernism with an iron hand. As a guitarist, he drew from all of those sources, then improvised with a furious and genuine delight. His soloing on "Willie the Pimp," on 1969's Hot Rats, is an extended studio party of greasy distortion, chomping wah-wah and agitatedblues slaloms. In concert, Zappa would "walk around, doing his thing, conducting," Anastasio recalled. But when he picked up his guitar for a solo, "he was completely in communion with his instrument... It just became soul music."

Key Tracks: "Willie the Pimp," "In-a-Gadda-Stravinsky"

The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: Frank Zappa

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