Home Music Music Lists

How 10 Guitar Gods Got Started

Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and more all had humble beginnings

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Berry was married with a kid and held a succession of joe jobs before his gigs playing the blues in local St. Louis bands turned into anything more than a hobby. Credit pianist Johnnie Johnson for the push: Berry started playing with Johnson's trio in 1953 after the group's regular guitarist fell ill. Thanks to Berry's knack for showmanship and his fast-improving guitar skills, the sideman soon became the bandleader, and signed to Chess Records in 1955. That's Johnson playing piano on Berry's first single, "Maybellene," which topped the R&B chart the same year.

Linda Vartoogian/Getty Images

Gary Clark, Jr.

Clark was just a teenager playing small gigs when he met Phil Antone, the proprietor of Austin's venerable club Antone's. Impressed by Clark's chops, Antone introduced him to Jimmie Vaughan and put him onstage with the likes of James Cotton and Hubert Sumlin. It wasn't long before Eric Clapton came calling, who invited Clark to play his Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010 and later brought the up-and-comer along to open his Brazilian tour in 2011.

Show Comments