Every member of a band is equally important but the frontman who is there in the front singing and talking with the audience usually becomes the face of the band and the guitarist Ritchie Blackmore worked during his career with some pretty good ones. The list is long and some of them are Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner. But none of them are among his favorite ones.
He revealed that in an interview with Newsweek in 2017, mentioning four frontmans as some of his favorites of all time. Rock and Roll Garage selected what the musician said about those artists and his connection with some of them.
The 4 frontmen that Ritchie Blackmore listed as favorites
Keith Emerson (ELP, Nice)
Although the keyboardist Keith Emerson was never actually a real frontman, Blackmore mentioned him as one of the best of all time. His decision is probably related to the fact that the musician was a real incredible performer and always had the spotlight on him during his praised solos especially in ELP. “I always loved watching Keith perform. I was a big fan of the Nice. We used to play the rounds together back in ’68, ’69. To me, he was one of the best showmen and players. A very nice guy. I always liked watching him,” Ritchie Blackmore told Newsweek.
He had the chance to be in the same line-up as ELP years later when Deep Purple co-headlined the famous Cal Jam festival back in the early 70s with the Progressive Rock band.
He was part of the charity version of “Smoke On The Water”
In 1988, Emerson was part of the charity version “Smoke On The Water” made to help those affected by the Armenian earthquake. Besides Emerson and Blackmore, the cover also had names like Bruce Dickinson, Ian Gillan, Paul Rodgers, Brian May, David Gilmour and Tony Iommi.
Emerson tragically decided to take his own life back in 2016 at the age of 71. At the time, Blackmore lamented his death, saying: “Sad news to hear about Keith Emerson. One of my favorite keyboard players. Used to tour with him when he was in The Nice. Always extremely exciting to watch on stage. Also one of Jon Lord’s favorites. Loved his rendition of America.”
“He will be sadly missed. PS Not many people know this. Jimi Hendrix wanted to form a band with ELP called HELP. That was the insiders rumor I heard but it obviously never materialized,” Ritchie Blackmore said.
Freddie Mercury (Queen)
Another frontman that Blackmore chose as one of his favorites was the late legendary Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury. “People like that were so good at doing the show as well as playing the music,” he told Newsweek.
As he recalled in an interview for his documentary “A Ritchie Blackmore Story” (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), he heard Queen for the first time in 1974. “Queen, I first heard them doing a song about a train, this is about 1974 or 1975. I can’t remember the title but I was very impressed with the guitar playing and of course the singing. I’ve noticed that Freddie Mercury has a cross between Ronnie Dio and almost like an opera operatic type of voice. To me he was a true star, he knew exactly how to milk an audience, what a musician.”
“Some of the stuff they put down all those four part harmonies… very, very clever stuff. And of course there’s Brian, who is probably one of the nicest guys in the business, a brilliant guitar player to boot. I’ve worked with Brian on other stuff and he is such a nice man. He is a bit too tall but he can’t help that. Wonderful band, excellent band and I was very surprised that they did so well in America.”
“Because in America I’ve noticed they like the basic chord stuff, they like the Blues stuff, they like the three chord stuff, which would be like a Stevie Ray Vaughan. With Queen you’ve have probably 25 chords and a lot of changes. I’ve noticed the American market doesn’t usually go for that. But i’m surprised that they made it so big over here (In United States) and for that was a nice release.”
Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)
Besides being one of his favorite artists of all time, Ian Anderson is also one of Blackmore’s favorite frontmans. He has been a fan of the band since the early 70s and in an interview with Melbourne Radio back in 1976 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), he listed Anderson alongside Paul McCartney as one of his favorite artists.“I admire Paul McCartney and Ian Anderson. Especially Ian Anderson, his songs are just beyond me”.
“They’re beyond the public, by the way he sells to them. If you lived in America you would be surprised because he draws as many (people) as Led Zeppelin and all the rest. An excellent artist on stage in every way. But his writing is something that never ceases to amaze me, brilliant. I’d love to be in that way that he can put across a melody. I just write riffs and chord progressions. But I’m working on it,” Blackmore said.
He loved Jethro Tull so much back then that he used to watch them at least four times a year. He said that in an interview with Steve Rosen. “Say no more. Ian Anderson is a genius, especially with his later stuff. It’s horrifying to think how he wrote that stuff. But if you talk to him, he goes, ‘Oh, I just count two.’ But you can’t count two over that, it’s 9/ 5 1/2. Their guitarist, (Martin Barre) and the rest of the group have memories like computers to remember that.”
“I see them at least four times a year. In fact the last time I went and saw them was in Paris. They put me right in the front row. I thought, ‘Why do they want me in the front row right in front of Ian Anderson?’ So it came to the last number and Ian leaps off the stage. He lands in my lap and starts singing to me.”
“The spotlight is on me and I’m trying to act cool because my girlfriend was there. Whenever he brings out a new, LP I say I hope it’s not as good as the rest of them, because then I’ll feel a little bit better that I can’t write like that. And sure enough, he comes out with another blinder. He gets so involved he writes a symphony. Funny enough, we had a blow with them and they were lost; Barrie Barlow, the drummer, can’t keep a straight beat,” Ritchie Blackmore said.
Ian Anderson ended up playing on the track “Play, Minstrel, Play” from Blackmore’s Night 1997 album “Shadows Of The Moon”. It was the debut album of the guitarist’s medieval music band.
Considered the best guitarist of all time by millions of musicians and music fans, Blackmore said that Jimi Hendrix is one of his favorite frontman’s. But although he praised the guitarist many times, he told Guitar World in 1991 that he was impressed the first time he heard Hendrix but also said that he wasn’t a great player.
“I was impressed by Hendrix. Not so much by his playing, as his attitude. He wasn’t a great player, but everything else about him was brilliant. Even the way he walked was amazing. His guitar playing, though, was always a little bit weird. Hendrix inspired me, but I was still more into Wes Montgomery. I was also into the Allman Brothers around the time of those albums,” Ritchie Blackmore said.
But the Rainbow founder also believed that no one could compete with the American guitarist. He said that He recalled that in a radio interview (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). “He had the music down, he had the composing down, he had the singing down, plus he had the showmanship. So nobody could compete with something like that. I don’t think that really anybody has come up to what he could do.”
“Because he really does everything. His thing that I thought that was very interesting, most of the people that I know that play the guitar very well, are very subdued. They refuse to get into showmanship, they think that is below them. But to Jimi was part of the whole thing of learning the guitar. When I need some stimulation, ‘Hey Joe’ is the one that does it.”
“Because I think with Jimi he loved life, he loved to live and it showed in his playing. I think that if there are any comparisons to make. He is the Rock and Roll Errol Flynn. I think (the secret) was Jimi’s hands. Because they were very big, very strong hands, he had an amazing neck with the vibrato. There is only one other person that has a similar vibrato which is Johnny Winter. But I think that Jimi had that vibrato down so well. I mean, it was absolutely amazing. I think again it was the big hands. He had really big hands to kind of grab the guitar and pull it,” Ritchie Blackmore said.
Hendrix’s career was cut short in 1970 when he tragically passed away at the age of 27.