From the moment that Sylvester Weaver recorded for the first
time with a slide in 1923, the technique of using a metallic object to press
the strings of a guitar has gradually been perfected. These are some of the
best examples of its use throughout history, in a list that is ordered
Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground - Blind Willie Johnson
The house of Blind Willie Johnson burned down in 1945, and that same night he returned to experience what he had masterfully left engraved almost 20 years previously, Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground. Johnson slept on the ashes of one of the few roofs he had known in his life, poor, and with nowhere else to go he decided to stay in what was the ruins of his house until his death, a few months later. He was buried in a tomb without a name, without the world crying for one of the greatest talents that popular music of the first half of the 20th century has given. 32 years after that, Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground left Earth aboard the Voyager Gold Disk, the spacecraft that Carl Sagan launched into space with the purpose that if there is intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy they will have an idea of what humans were like. Along with works by Bach, Beethoven and Chuck Berry, Johnson will make us proud when some being listens to the languid notes of his slide on his Stella. Ry Cooder has no doubt that it is "the most moving and transcendent piece of all American music."
Come On In My Kitchen - Robert Johnson
It is impossible to separate the figure of Robert Johnson from his legend; we do not really know much about one of the most legendary 'bluesmen' in history but we could say that it is unlikely that he sold his soul to the devil, at some crossroads, to be the best blues guitarist. What does seem clear is that his technique seems supernatural for the time. Listening to his incredible slide on the hypnotic Come On In My Kitchen, one understands that people would start crying in their concerts when he played it. The devil himself may never have appeared to him, but Robert Johnson fought against his own inner demons to give us some of the most visceral and heartfelt music of the twentieth century.
Dust My Broom - Elmore James
Elmore James is the most important electric slide guitarist of all time. On August 5, 1951, he decided to play in a recording session Dust My Broom, one of the songs from Robert Johnson's repertoire. The owner of the company decided to record it and the blues was changed forever. To the fierceness of his voice he added his aggressive use of the slide with the famous riff that would give him a place in posterity. It was recorded live through a single microphone and there were no more takes or songs. It did not matter, the rural blues had turned into an electric thunderstorm and the direction of popular music had changed forever. If you want to make the parallelism, this is the Johnny B. Goode of the slide guitar. There is a 99.9% chance that if you put a slide on one of your fingers you will play this riff ...
The Doors – Moonlight Drive (Robby Krieger)
Krieger is one of the most original guitarists in history, and so it is normal that his slide sounds totally his own; something that was one of the first things that caught the attention of Jim Morrison. In 1965 the first song they played together was a composition by Morrison entitled Moonlight Drive. On it Krieger began to improvise several things with the slide, with a style so unique and far from the blues masters that the singer asked him to play on all the songs. When finally they recorded it, on their second Strange Days album, Krieger returned to recover the magic of those first sessions.
One Good Man - Janis Joplin (Mike Bloomfield)
Mike Bloomfield was one of the first white guitarists to use the slide. In his work there are a number of examples but I am left with this excellent single from the album I Got Dem Ol 'Kozmic Blues Again Mama! from his friend Janis Joplin, who he helped, along with Nick Gravenites, to form a band after leaving Big Brother & The Holding Company. It is a great example of his mastery with the slide, which he had been playing since the time of Dylan's Highway 61 and, once again, his telepathy with the singers is proved again, perfectly accompanying Janis' blues lament.
I’m Yours & I’m Hers - Johnny Winter
Another slide giant, Johnny Winter. If Duane used a bottle of Corcidin to play it, Winter opted for a piece of pipe, which would become one of his hallmarks. In April of 1969 he released Johnny Winter, his first album for Columbia, which opened with one of his best songs, I'm Yours & I'm Hers, which highlighted his playing and a much more rock sound than usual, although on this album was not yet using his iconic Firebird but a Fender XII 66 with six strings. The song has two guitar tracks, Winter’s two, one with slide and one without, which sound at the same time - and the result is magnificent and became one of the favorite songs of Brian Jones (another one that could appear on that list). After his tragic death the Stones gave a free concert in Hyde Park and they opened it by interpreting this song.
Layla – Derek & The Dominos (Duane Allman)
You cannot write an article about slide and not talk about Duane Allman, it's like talking about Coca and not about Cola, about Lennon without naming McCartney ... I could have done this special with 10 Duane solos perfectly but I decided to choose only one by each artist. It could have been one of the Allman Brothers like Statesboro Blues, Mountain Song or anything from the Fillmore but in the end I decided on this one, much less representative but totally unique. Duane is pushed by Clapton (just like Clapton for him) and returns some of the most incredible notes in history with his slide. Nobody, not even Duane, returned to the intensity of his first solo, still in the electric part, or the melancholy that displays his strange solo in the coda, a perfect example of what Beethoven said: "to play a wrong note it's insignificant... to play without passion is inexcusable. " If Tom Dowd, the producer of the album, spoke of telepathy to explain the relationship between Duane and Clapton, here it is as if the eldest Allman was able to read the mind of the former Cream member, feeling all the passion, pain and rejection of his relationship with Pattie Harrison and transforming them into musical notes.
Sway - Rolling Stones (Mick Taylor)
Mick Taylor is another of the greats of the slide of all time, and he has left masterful examples throughout his career, whether with John Mayall or Bob Dylan, but the most important are in his four years as a member of "the greatest rock and roll band of all time ", the Rolling Stones. There are many examples, like his incredible Love In Vain on Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out or on several songs from Exile On Main Street, but I prefer the two incredible solos with his Les Paul (the first one with slide and the second one my favourite of his whole career) of the wonderful Sway, one of the best songs off Sticky Fingers.
Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) - George Harrison
The guitarist of the Beatles may not be a prodigy of technique but his originality and innovation on the six strings are available to very few, making George Harrison the most identifiable slide guitarist in history. Just listen to the first notes of his slide on this song and you will already find all the essentials you need, an extension of his personality, spiritual, happy and sad at the same time, like a breath of life made music. It is a piece of sublime music and, possibly, the one that best reflects his peculiar and unique sound on the slide, a sound that seems like a reflection of his own soul.
Who’s That Coming (Irish Tour) - Rory Gallagher
Rory Gallagher recorded Who's That Coming for the remarkable 1973 Tattoo but, as usually used to happen with the Irishman, the song found its best live version, specifically on the legendary Irish Tour the following year. For the song Gallagher abandons, momentarily, his legendary Stratocaster from 61 to play with one of his favourites on the slide, his white 66 Fender Telecaster. The results are as spectacular as one would expect from one of the best guitarists of all time.
Cold Cold Cold/Tripe Face Boogie - Little Feat (Lowell George)
Cold Cold Cold / Tripe Face Boogie, a medley that joins a blues with a boogie that had already appeared on Sailin 'Shoes (the perfectionism of Lowell George always led him to re-record songs). The final solo on the first with George's slide is a true beauty, at the height of one of those forgotten albums that is worth re-claiming, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now. Here again his favorite amp, a Howard Dumble, and a Gibson ES-345 Custom, one of the few guitars outside of a Stratocaster he used. Of course, he also ended up adding a pickup on the Telecaster.
In My Time of Dying – Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page)
The longest song (in the studio) of Led Zeppelin's career opens with one of the most iconic riffs in the slide's history beyond Elmore James' Dust My Broom. The song shows again to perfection the perfect greased machine that was the four members of the band, with Jones and Bonham laying the perfect mattress for Page to shine with the slide.The song is none other than Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed by Blind Willie Johnson but the Englishmen take it one step further and make it theirs (although it would not have been bad for them to recognize the original sources...). Live Page used his black and white Danelectro to interpret it.
Paris, Texas - Ry Cooder
Ry Cooder is one of the most important legends of the slide. He left his mark from very young in works for Captain Beefheart, the Rolling Stones and Randy Newman, as well as a more than interesting solo career. In the 80s, given his lack of commercial success, Cooder began working as a composer of soundtracks, among his most outstanding works are those of Pale Riders, Streets Of Fire, Crossroads and Paris, Texas. His work on the Wim Wenders film is one of the most important of his career, with some arid and exciting notes that sound like the Mojave desert that Cooder pulled out of his 50s Martin 000-18.
Tennessee Plates - John Hiatt (Sonny Landreth)
John Hiatt knows how to recognize a good slide. In 1987 he was presented with the incredible opportunity to choose his favorite musicians to record with, and he did not hesitate to choose Ry Cooder on guitar and that is how the wonderful Bring the Family was created. However for the live performances Cooder was not available and so Hiatt hired an unknown band, The Goners, whose guitarist he had fallen in love with, Sonny Landreth. This man stepped into the shoes of a legend and did not disappoint: the following year appeared the remarkable Slow Turning that was the first great proof that the slide had found another myth; it is enough to listen to the wonderful Tennessee Plates.
Desdemona - Allman Brothers (Derek Trucks)
There is no doubt that Derek Trucks is the heir of Duane Allman. His association with Warren Haynes resulted in a glittering period of the Allman Brothers and their second legendary guitarist pairing. Songs like Desdemona are among the best the band has ever done and Derek's solo with the slide is capable of sending chills down the spine.