Jimi Hendrix or Terry Kath - Who was the Greatest Guitarist of all Time?
As Terry Kath, guitarist of the rock band, Chicago Transit Authority, rips through an unimaginably-complex yet tasteful guitar solo, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stone Magazine's 2011 so-branded greatest guitarist of all time, leans over to Kath's band member, Walt Parazaider, to say, "Your guitar player is better than me."
This well-known quote takes place in 1967, as Chicago Transit Authority (CTA - now known as Chicago) plays a live gig at Hollywood's famous Sunset Strip nightclub, The Whiskey-A-Go-Go.
Chicago's phenomenal career began in L.A.
Their ever-growing tightness becomes the backbone of a new sound in Rock. With the addition of a 3 part horn section and thanks to militaristic, grinding, daily rehearsals led by Chicago's manager from 1967-1977, James William Guercio, Chicago becomes an 'overnight sensation'.
This next Hendrix quote shows the highest respect one musician can possibly hold for another. Hendrix, over the microphone in the middle of a concert says, "You gotta check out this guy Terry Kath. His band is CTA. He's the best guitar player in the universe." Chicago: Terry Kath FAQ - Chicago Rocks!, http://www.timmwood.com/kathfaq.html (accessed December 25, 2011).
Hendrix added Chicago to his tour for a short while where he and Terry developed a strong bond. The 2 superstars are known to have jammed at least one time onstage.
Maybe THE best example that displays Terry's Kath's awesome talent.
Cover of Rolling Stone's Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time!!!?
On the Cover of Rolling Stone?
To this day, Rolling Stone ignores Terry Kath's talent; and the magazine's editors continue to exclude the band Kath's wizardry helped make famous - Chicago.
It's ironic that the person named #1 on the greatest guitarists of all time list, Jimi Hendrix, declares Terry Kath the best; and Rolling Stone doltishly inquires, "Terry, who?" Ha-Ha!
A look at the partial, biased member list composing the Rolling Stone "greatest" voting committee may help explain:
Trey Anastasio, Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple), Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket), James Burton, Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Gary Clark Jr., Billy Corgan, Steve Cropper, Dave Davies (The Kinks), Anthony DeCurtis (Contributing editor, Rolling Stone), Tom DeLonge (Blink-182), Brian Hiatt (Senior writer, Rolling Stone), David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Jim James (My Morning Jacket). MLA: "Red Hot Chili Peppers News. Forum. Fansite. I'm With You News ..." Insert Name of Site in Italics. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Dec. 2011 <http://stadium-arcadium.com/>.
To be fair, highly-respected, "brand name" musicians like Don Henley and Joe Walsh also cast their votes as did many other world-class guitarists, musicians and writers.
The ORIGINAL Chicago Transit Authority
For Rolling Stone magazine to ignore Kath's guitar playing wizardry in favor of adding no-talent names like Carl Broemel and Nancy Wilson to a list of guitarists that are supposedly "The 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time", is a blatant travesty!
Kath could play circles around EVERY one of the 100 on this sham of a list.
Terry Kath composed "Oh Thank You Great Spirit" for his friend and contemporary, Jimi Hendrix, who died September 18, 1970. The song demonstrates Kath's prestissimo, fast-breaking, yet - deliberate note choices. This cut was indexed 8th. On Chicago VIII, released in 1975.
"Oh Thank You Great Spirit", over all other songs Kath penned, displays his full break free approach (if only for a moment in his short lifetime.)
"Oh Thank You Great Spirit" also proved to be a haunting, prevision for Kath's death in 1978. Kath was into guns in a big way. He owned many different types and makes, and friends say he had a near morbid fascination with guns.
While cleaning one of his many deadly toys at a friend's house, Kath played a game of Russian roulette... Unfortunately, Terry lost. Unaware a bullet was in the chamber, he pointed the gun to his head, pulled the trigger and was instantly killed.
Terry's amazing guitar virtuosity is displayed... "Oh Thank You Great Spirit."
A Challenge For Rolling Stone
Why are Terry Kath and Chicago on the Rolling Stone "they don't exist list"?
Is it because Terry and Chicago wrote incredibly difficult music most of these limp-listed names could not begin to simulate?
Is it because Kath's work is beyond your ability to write about?
Or is it because Terry was so good, he made your current directory a literal joke?
Following, is a fantastic way to resolve this question that's been raging for almost 50 years:
Assemble a group of young (as yet undiscovered) guitarists between the ages of 18-30. Play Terry Kath's solo from "25 or 6 to 4", his incredible solo found in "Ballet For a Girl in Buchannon", or perhaps his best guitar solo taken from "Oh Thank You Great Spirit" for these 100 hot-shots... But isolate them, thereby eliminating influential 'looks around the room', and most importantly, do not tell them who they are hearing!
Most likely, virtuoso guitarists at this age have never heard the name, Terry Kath. Keep the names of other Rolling Stone choices secret as well. Make this a double-blind test! Then...
Choose Nancy Wilson's best solo...
Or better yet, choose your #2 pick, Eric Clapton. Play Eric's absolute best guitar solo against Terry's. Then, let this group vote.
This would be a REAL test; not a political bunch of pure BS!
If YOUR #1 pick, Jimi Hendrix said Terry Kath is #1, does it not follow you, at the very least, give Terry consideration... Seems like plain, old common horse sense to this writer/musician.
Truth is, Rolling Stone magazine, you made a glaring, inexcusable decision to leave out the REAL "greatest guitarist of all time" - and thousands of other musicians know it!
© 2011 James Ranka