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The 3 guitarists that Brian May listed as his heroes

Brian May


The 3 guitarists that Brian May listed as his heroes

Brian May is certainly one of the most unique guitarists in Rock and Roll music, besides his incredible playing and technique, he created his own guitar with the help of his father when he was young and always used a coin to play the instrument. He was a fundamental part of Queen‘s sound and was a real inspiration for countless guitar players all over the world.


He was even elected by the readers of Guitar World in 2020 as the best guitarist of all time. May obviously was flattered by the prize but didn’t agree with that and praised many of his peers in an interview with the magazine. He even mentioned three of them as being his heroes and Rock and Roll Garage selected what the musician said about those artists over the decades.

The 3 guitarists that Brian May listed as his heroes

Eric Clapton

One of the guitarists mentioned by Brian May as one of his heroes is the legendary Eric Clapton, who is only two years older than Brian. He first achieved fame as a member of The Yardbirds, then joining John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and of course, forming Cream with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, which is often called the first supergroup in the history of Rock and Roll.

Brian was deeply influenced by Clapton’s playing and even paid tribute to him, writing a song which was inspired by his work. The track is called “Blues Breaker” and was part of May’s solo album “Star Fleet Project”, an EP which was recorded by May and many guests like Eddie Van Halen in 1983.

In 2023, May reissued that album and in an interview with Cleveland in 2023, he was asked if Clapton had many any comments about that track. “I think he hated it! (laughs) But that’s OK; he’s entitled. He can do what he wants. I mean, Eric could do anything and he’ll still be our hero. That’s the way it is. There’s probably lots of things I disagree with Eric about, but that doesn’t change anything.”

“He’s been one of the greatest influences, inspirations of my life, and that’ll never change. I always get goosebumps if I get to be anywhere near him. When I’m playing with him, the couple of times I’ve done it, it’s a wonderful moment, experience,” Brian May said.

They performed together

As the musician noted, he had the chance to perform with Clapton a few times. One of the most memorable performances happened at one of the first Prince ‘s Trust concerts back in 1988. Both guitarists performed “With a Little Help From My Friends” alongside Joe Cocker and Phil Collins.

He recalled that experience in an interview for the Prince’s Trust Music channel in 2018. He said: (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) “Next to me (on stage) is Eric Clapton. I’m thinking ‘Ohh’, because he is my hero and still is. Eric turns to me and said: ‘So, this riff at the beginning, do you wanna play that riff?’ I kind of froze, because I’d assumed that being Eric Clapton, he would want to do it.”

“It’s something that every guitarist would love to do, you know. So he said: ‘Why don’t you do it? I’m very happy just to do the rhythm’. So I was kind of electrified and we did it. It was great,” Brian May said.

Hank Marvin

The oldest guitarist on the list is Hank Marvin, the guitarist and leader of the important and influential British band The Shadows. The group was formed in 1958, when Brian May was still a teenager learning to play the guitar and they were a big influence to him and of course, particularly Marvin.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2023, May recalled Hank’s influence, saying: “The Shadows Hank Marvin was an inspiration for all of us kids. He had an amazing, melodic, fluid sound,” Brian May said.

In 2020 the documentary “The Shadows at Sixty” was released and featured an interview Brian May gave in the 80s talking about the band. He recalled how he first discovered them. (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) “That’s when I was in school. You use to listen to everybody you could get your hands on. (…) It was his style (Hank’s) and Bruce (Welch’s) rhythm style. Everything about The Shadows, I say, was very original for the time,” Brian May said.

The band was active on and off multiple times over the decades and their most recent reunion happened in 2020. During their career, the band released 21 studio albums, the most recent one being “Reflection” in 1990. In 1996 a tribute album called “Twang!” was released featuring many special artists who were influenced by the band. May was obviously invited to be part of it and he covered the track “FBI”. May was also part of Hank Marvin’s 1992 album “Into the Light”, being a guest on the cover of “We Are The Champions”.

Ritchie Blackmore

The legendary Rainbow and Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore is another guitar player that Brian May admires a lot. He even was part of Blackmore’s documentary “Ritchie Blackmore Story” in 2015.

(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage): “He’s a fireball, you know. He really is beyond belief. His technique is incredible. Where did that come from? I have no idea. And this is before Hendrix. Ritchie really is a great originator and creator of the wild electric guitar.”

“No, it’s not just speed (That is Blackmore’s secret). There is a lot of people that can play fast now. But they can’t be Ritchie Blackmore. I think Ritchie will be remembered as somebody wild and untamed to the end of his days. I think that’s a magnificent thing to be. When people get things all in perspective, Ritchie will be right there as one of the cornerstones of what Rock and Roll is today,” Brian May said in the documentary.

During the same conversation he noted that although everyone thinks it is easy to play the famous riff for “Smoke On The Water”, no one actually can play it like Blackmore.

The Queen guitarist is not only a big fan of Ritchie’s work in Deep Purple, he already praised many times his records with Rainbow. He loves even the more commercial phase of Rainbow, which for example had the vocalist Graham Bonnet.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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