Under The Influence…

There are artists who have influenced fellow artists profoundly in one shape or form and who have pioneered in their own way a part of music. Think of them as musician’s musicians.  Sometime the public doesn’t ever really catch on to how much they inspired the other musicians that they are devoted to.


Gram Parsons

Nov 1946 – Sept 1973

Parsons was a pioneer of the 70’s rock movement in such bands as International Submarine Band, The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers. He was best known for his “anticipation” recordings of the rock country movement of the 70’s. He has a self-described style of “Cosmic American Music”. Parson’s was the originator of the whole “California acoustic country rock” movement.  Besides the Eagles, Poco and all the rest, he hung out with Keith Richards a whole lot,  influencing their “country/ acoustic” period of the early 70’s.  He died of a drug overdose. Maybe because he tried to keep up with Keith.  Bad idea.

He died without knowing that he not only changed country music (“outlaw” country might not have happened without him) but rock music as well. 


Jeff Buckley

Nov 1966 – May 1997

Raised as Scotty Moorhead, Buckley was an acclaimed American Singer, songwriter and guitarist. Known for his ethereal singing voice, he was considered to be one of the most promising artists of his generation, especially after the release of his critically acclaimed 1994 debut album ‘Grace’. At the height of his popularity Buckley drowned during an evening swim in 1997. There was speculation of suicide as he had taken prescription drugs for his bi-polar disorder before the swim. His work and style continue to be highly regarded by critics and fellow musicians.  His cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ is the quintessential version.


Townes Van Zandt

Mar 1944 – Jan 1997

Townes was a musician’s musician in his time, though a virtual unknown until after his death. He was a Country Folk-Rock performer and poet with a style often referred to as “Out-law Country”. Being a heavy drinker, he lived a reclusive life during the 70’s in a cabin in Tennessee making music. He Died on New Year’s Eve 1997 due to complications from heart surgery. He has left a legacy of music that to this is day held sacred and performed by a bevy of musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, My Morning Jacket, and even the Meat Puppets.


The Band

Okay, probably the best “known” band on the list but I believe their influence has been vastly underrated.

With the release of “Music From Big Pink” they stopped psychedelia in it’s tracks.  Eric Clapton himself said after hearing the record, he just felt silly with his paisley scarf and immediately quit the band Cream. 

And it didn’t stop with Clapton.  Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, CSN&Y all site The Band as a major turning point in music.  All of them quit noodling and left some of the self-indulgence for a straight ahead no-nonsense approach.  They all even dressed like The Band with jeans, jackets and maybe an old hat or two.

And what about the “most influential band” of all time, The Beatles?   Ever notice that the frilly puffy shirts of the summer of love went away to old 3-button tee shirts and beat up jackets by 1968’s ‘White Album’?

‘Big Pink’ was released in the summer of ’68.  The Beatles played their new single, ‘Hey Jude’ live (vocally) on The David Frost show in late August.  During McCartney’s ad lib screaming during the ‘Na-Na’s’ you can hear him scream “Take a load off Fanny, take a load off me, yeah!”



Big Star

(Alex Chilton December 28, 1950 – March 17, 2010)

Big Star was an American rock band formed in Memphis,  in 1971 by Alex Chilton, Chris Bell,  Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel. The group broke up in 1974.  The band’s musical style drew on the work of  British invasion groups including The Beatles and The Kinks, as well as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and other U.S. acts. To the resulting power pop, Big Star added dark, nihilistic themes, and produced a style that foreshadowed the alternative rock of the 1980s and 1990s. Before they broke up, Big Star created a “seminal body of work that never stopped inspiring succeeding generations” in the words of Rolling Stone magazine.  They were the quintessential American power pop band. 


Link Wray

May 2, 1929 – November 5, 2005

One of the more influential guitarist of the Fifties, Link Wray introduced the distorted fuzz-tone sound on his million selling single. “Rumble.” Link Wray is credited with having more influence than his track record might indicate. Pete Townshend of the Who has referred to him as “the king.”  Ray has been called the godfather of the guitar power chord and the father of heavy metal rock. In fact, he might be this and more.

 Wray was unwilling to compromise his music to appeal to the masses. It was his attitude as well as much as his guitar skills that appealed to the punk rock crowd when they discovered him in the 1970s.

Many of the three track recordings were issued on the 1971 Link Wray, a critically acclaimed LP that sold little and was largely made possible by admiring rock stars like Peter Townsend, Jeff Beck, Bob Dylan and Ray Davies.



The Ramones were the first punk rock group having inspired bands both in the US and the UK. Much of the Ramones’ style was in part a rejection of what was happening with bands such as Led Zeppelin and what they considered long and over-produced tracks with self-indulgent guitar solos.

In response, they developed a fast straightforward style with songs that were often under two minutes. This style would eventually evolve to become what is today, considered power pop and punk.

The Ramones were fiercely competent at it and the songs were catchy as hell, burrowing deep into the brains of those who had the privileged to see them perform, among them the members of the Sex Pistols and The Clash in 1976. Besides influencing the UK scene, the Ramones also influenced key personnel in the West Coast punk scene.

 Know any more influential artists that you feel don’t get their due?

Gram Parsons

Link Wray





2 responses


    Ummm, Buddy Holly? Certainly not unknown THEN but many young people today don’t know that he is why a lot of great music sounds the way it does. And he could turn a lyric, too.

    September 9, 2011 at 3:21 am

  2. How about Roy Buchanan or Dick Dale?

    September 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm

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