7 Blues Guitar Players Who Influenced Eric Clapton:
Elmore James was a Mississippi born bluesman. Perhaps best known for "Dust My Broom," James was an influential slide player -- popularizing open guitar tuning and often credited as the founder of blues rock. He played rough and tumble music that shot to primal emotions of the soul. Raw guitar playing and gritty vocals were his staple sound that could be heard all over songs by Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and George Harrison ("For You Blue").
This quote from the Rock Hall just about sums it up: "Legend has it that Robert Johnson met the devil at a crossroads and gave him his soul in exchange for mastery of the guitar. Steeped in mystery, killed mysteriously, his legend eclipsed only by his skill, Robert Johnson may be the first ever rock star."
Muddy Waters fused Mississippi and Chicago blues, electrified the genre, and released an impressive catalog of first-rate blues on Chess Records. Another disciple of Robert Johnson, Muddy also appreciated the work of Son House and Big Bill Broonzy (whom he would honor with Muddy Water Sings Big Bill). Later in life, Muddy became a personal friend of Clapton -- the man who further brought the blues to the masses.
Clapton picked up on Big Bill Broonzy early on. In an interview with NPR, Clapton credited Broonzy as "an extremely good technician" and a "great player. Noting the sound of Broonzy's foot tapping in "Hey Hey," Clapton marveled, "His rhythm — it's absolutely perfect."
Broonzy was a dynamo on an acoustic guitar. Even the folk seen in the fifties championed his music, with supporters like Pete Seeger and Brownie McGhee. One doesn't have to listen long to see the bits and pieces Clapton inherited from from Big Bill.
Jimmy Reed, like B.B. King, reached both black and white audiences in the fifties and sixties. His music influenced an entire fleet of pioneer rock and rollers. There is a simplicity to Reed's playing that is infectious and familiar. His harmonica playing also influenced Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder. Clapton told NPR, before getting and amp, he tried to sound like the electric players Jimmy Reed and Chuck Berry. He even covered Reed's "Aint That Loving You" on 461 Ocean Boulevard.
B.B. King was a pal and mentor of Clapton's. In return, Eric Clapton opened more doors for King and other blues artists, bringing them into the spotlight. According to Guitar Player, Clapton found inspiration in King when he "alternated between minor and major pentatonic scales in his solos."
The duo even recorded an album together, Riding With The King, and won a Grammy -- completing the circle of a legendary friendship.
Chuck Berry is in a stratosphere of his own, if for no other reason than bringing the electric guitar to the forefront of popular music. Arguably, the true king of rock and roll, Berry took rhythm and blues into new territory. Not an old time blues player, but certainly and innovator. His style, swagger, and chops have been ripped, recycled, and repeated throughout music history -- continuing to this day. Clapton said Chuck Berry "laid the law" for playing rock and roll guitar. He was right.