Emerging from a frenetic mid-1960s London music scene, Steve Howe cut his teeth playing in a number of psychedelic rock bands including the Syndicats, Tomorrow and Bodast before replacing Peter Banks in Yes in 1970. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work in Yes, the ridiculously talented musician shared some of his favorite string-benders.
(June 20, 1924 to June 30, 2001)
“He changed my life completely. Andres Segovia, Django Reinhardt—I could go on for 20 names. But the single guy that kind of had it all was Chet and Chet Atkins for me is my top guitarist and biggest hero if you like. But not only because of the way he played, which was phenomenal with the country picking, but he also set something in my mind where you could have a room in your house and record. You could be a producer for a label and you could help people in their careers, like he did with The Everly Brothers. And he was there with Elvis, when Elvis started. So Chet had a pattern of a history and I don’t think many people could do it again. But I’ve certainly done a lot of different things and that’s been enjoyable too. I think that’s why Chet did it.”
(March 6, 1923 to June 15, 1968)
“Wes Montgomery was a jazz guitarist who reinvented [that style of playing]. The fluency, beautiful sound and textural style of Wes [was splendid], particularly when he was doing octaves, but not exclusively. He was a wonderful, single-line player. I think the second most influential guitarist I’ve experienced is Wes. But not least of all because I saw him live, at Ronnie Scott’s, when I was 16 years old. I already had one of his albums, the one called The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery and a friend of mine said he was delivering an amp to Wes Montgomery and he asked if I wanted to go to Ronnie’s. I said yeah. I think I was underage, but I looked older, so I was lucky. So I sat in about the third row back and this was literally mesmerizing stuff. I’ve got a wonderful DVD where there are clips of him playing on television and one of them starts in Holland actually. And he just walked into a room with three guys he never met and said, ‘Let’s play.’ That’s how great this guy was. He could lead and was brilliant.”
(October 18, 1926 to March 18, 2017)
“Rock guitar development started with Chuck Berry, for sure. Chuck was one of those influential guitarists. So while on a lot of levels, he doesn’t fit with Chet and Wes, I think I’ve got to bring him into play because he was followed on by your Frank Zappa, your Steve Morse and all the great guitarists. I think all of the great rock guitarists that I love, and there were many of them, basically started with Chuck.”
Just a correction: It was Peter Banks, and not Tony Banks, that Steve Howe replaced.