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Vince Gill’s 14 Favorite Guitar Players

Nashville’s preeminent guitar slinger shares his fave pickers, sliders and shredders

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Vince Gill doesn't just possess one of country music's most versatile voices; he's also one of the genre's most nuanced guitar players. Yet as he'll readily tell you, he's not solely a country picker. His influences run from Atkins and Watson to Clapton and Page. "I fancy myself more of a chameleon guitar player than most people will perceive," Gill tells Rolling Stone Country. "So it may surprise people when they see me play with Gregg Allman or hear me play the blues or rock & roll." In his own words, Gill, who has played at every one of Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festivals, opens up about 14 of his favorite players. —Joseph Hudak

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Albert Lee

"There is probably a side of Albert that moans and groans because I took so much of the way I play from him. The way he plays really speaks to me. The few gigs I had early on in my career were dominated by him, so I had to follow in his footsteps, playing with Rodney Crowell and with Rosanne Cash. We became great friends back in the Seventies, and I think he forgave me for playing so much like him. Yet as much as people think I do, I don't.  He's much different."

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James Burton

"He was the inspiration to Albert. It's the chain, how the link works. I knew James, but I didn't know everything I know about him now. Because I didn't know who played on Haggard records or on all these iconic solos. You'd see James playing with Elvis, and that was a great chair for James and the guitar, but he also played 'Suzie Q,' and played with Ricky Nelson way back in those days. So I had heard him forever, but didn't know it."

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John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison

"Paul was as good a guitar player as the other two. John was the great rhythm provider, and George had this great knowledge of these memorable hooky unmistakable parts. It's not unlike Creedence. John Fogerty wasn't a guitar player who would blow your mind, but all those parts were. I think in all these years, what you learn later in life is the gift is unhinging and economizing and editing."

Steely Dan in a 1975 recording session

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Dean Parks

"Dean is a session player in L.A. He's played on Steely Dan albums and is probably the most recorded guitar player around town. He's played on everyone's records. He has a brilliant mind. To me, guitar playing isn't all about the shredder who can play you 80,000 notes; it's the guy who can play a succinct part with four notes that will be more memorable than the 400 the guy with the whammy bar just played you. His versatility in what he can do is, to me, the most impressive thing."

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Big Al Anderson (NRBQ)

"He's an original guitar player. He plays unlike anybody I've ever heard. He plays with such a reckless abandon and sense of humor, yet he's the swingingest. We call what Al does 'the stink.' And he gets mad at you if you can play it pretty good. He got mad at me one time: 'Nobody beats my demos — you did.' But he is so much more versatile of a guitar player than people know. They hone in on NRBQ and that wacky thing, but he's a beautiful player."

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Doc Watson

"I have a great history in bluegrass and flatpicking and there were others who came along after Doc: Clarence White, Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, a lot of world class guitar players. But Doc was the first of the flatpickers. He probably inspired the world of bluegrass guitar more than anybody."