Great Funk guitarists follow the rhythm, and then find their spaces in which they can shine, dancing on top of the groove. They give funky personality to the all-mighty groove.
Read this article to learn about the greatest Funk guitar players ever to create fabulous Funk music. Listen to the below Spotify playlist with highlights from the masters of Funk guitar. Watch a video playlist at the bottom of the page with live clips of these best Funk guitarists in action…
See Phelps “Catfish” Collins take the spotlight with James Brown here. He looks so happy…that’s some real soul power there! Also I think this is the concert in Paris that ends the James Brown movie, Get On Up.
Standing on the verge of getting it on with the
Best Funk Guitarists & Riffs of all-time…
Listen to & follow this funky Spotify playlist.
Electrifying Funk — The Best Funk Guitarists & Funky Riffs Of All-time
I couldn’t say it any better than Gibson does here, “Perhaps because funk guitar centers on rhythm and repetition rather than flashy technique, the genre’s greatest practitioners often get short shrift in discussions about six-string giants. With all due respect to the shredders of the world, the players below deserve prime spots in the pantheon of guitar legends.”
A lot of fantastic funkateers have created some remarkable riffs over the years. The Funk guitar greats of the 1970s laid the foundation, and influenced today’s generation of fabulous funky guitar players & bands…
James Brown starts it off & gets in twice because he is Funk personified, and he employed a lot of guitarists over the years. These were the guys most influential on other Funk guitar players.
Jimmy Nolen was his most prolific guitar player. Listen to him shine on this alternate instrumental version of “Give It Up Or Turn It A Loose.” I love the funky honky tonk style here!
Phelps “Catfish” Collins plays fast, furious & scratchy for 9 minutes on “Superbad Parts 1, 2 & 3.” I think he’s the most underrated guitar player ever. I love his clean, funky strumming on James Brown classics.
The Meters & Leo Nocentelli get in next with “Cissy Strut.” You gotta love that guitar intro & his iconic soulful style.
Sly & The Family Stone
Freddie Stone had a huge impact on lots of future Funk guitarists. Sly’s singing, the bass, drums, and horns were usually in the forefront of Sly & The Family Stone songs, and still Freddie got some dope riffs in there. I love the way he comes in funky & mellow on “Runnin’ Away.”
Howard Scott was essential in creating WAR’s seminal, multi-cultural, genre-bending, funky sound. On “Heartbeat” they celebrate the beating heart of Funk — happy & syncopated. WAR’s music was complex, layered, and diverse. Scott never stood out, just created some of the best music ever made.
The Isley Brothers
On “That Lady,” The Isley Brothers keep the Funk guitar rhythm driving, and then really jam out with full-on funky effects. Shine my way!
Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire’s Al McKay is truly one of the shining stars of Funk. He’s surely got the feel & groove going strong on “Shining Star” — one of my all time favorite songs.
If I had to describe my own personal rhythm and resonance the song “Shining Star” vibes perfectly with my unique frequency. It sounds weird, but I believe we all have this unique resonance & frequency for our souls, but I don’t know how to describe it. Thanks to Maurice White, Al McKay, and the rest of Earth, Wind & Fire for articulating it so well in song.
The Parliament/Funkadelic family boasts several amazing Funk guitarists — Eddie Hazel, Garry Shider, Michael Hampton, (and once again) Catfish Collins, Blackbyrd McKnight, Ricky Rouse, and more.
On “Flash Light” it sounds like they all join in to keep the funky guitar rhythm going strong. And, on “Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On,” Eddie Hazel tears it up!
Read this fascinating article, an interview with George Clinton, Hampton, McKnight, and Rouse from Premier Guitar. They have an enlightening discussion about how Parliament/Funkadelic came up with its music, the gear they use, and other behind the scenes clues into their creative process.
What’s an all-time funkiest guitar riffs list without some killer blacksploitation soundtrack? Super Fly is the king of them all. Hear Curtis Mayfield go full wah-wah on “Junkie Chase.”
Kool & The Gang
Kool & The Gang was BAD before they got into disco & pop music. They were even the backing band for Hustlers’ Convention. Hear Claydes Charles Smith gettin’ down into one of the funkiest strums of all time on “More Funky Stuff” from 1973.
The Ohio Players
Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner of The Ohio Players was a one of a kind guitar player & character. Take a ride on “The Love Rollercoaster” with these Dayton funkateers.
The Brothers Johnson
George Johnson & his brother Louis played some of the funkiest stuff on the planet with individuality & soul. Listen to guitar player George get the Funk out yo’ face.
Booker T & The M.G.s
Steve Cropper of Booker T & The M.G.s always pops up in the discussions of greatest guitar players. On “Fuquawi” he plays funky & bluesy between Booker T’s organ & one of the strongest rhythm sections ever recorded.
Charles “Skip” Pitts
You probably don’t know his name, but you know his riffs. Skip Pitts was a Stax session guitarist that came up with the famous wah-wah guitar sound for Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft.” He’s also responsible for the famous chicken scratch riff in The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.” Skip Pitts had his hands in a lot of famous Memphis Soul songs. His recent band, The Bo-Keys, were a group of Memphis Soul veterans that played some dope instrumental funk & old school Soul. Thanks to Matty Dread of The Soul Funky Train for the suggestion to add him in.
Nile Rodgers is one of the most respected Funk guitarists by other musicians. Listen to “Good Times,” where Funk turned to disco. Rodgers found the perfect Funk guitar rhythm on this one…and it’s now one of the signature riffs of that playing style.
Today’s Funky Guitarists
The Red Hot Chili Peppers/John Frusciante
I’ve always loved the style of John Frusciante, formerly of The Red Hot Chili Peppers — especially when he’s playing at his funkiest, like on “If You Have To Ask.”
Eric Krasno of Soulive & Lettuce just jams! He’s a prolific player, and always out playing live it seems. He excels at Funk, Rock, and Blues guitar with a singular style & boundless energy. It’s like his guitar just flies “Up and Out” of every song without ever separating from the groove.
The New Mastersounds
Eddie Roberts of The New Mastersounds has a gorgeously soulful & Bluesy Funk guitar style & a wonderfully percussive approach to guitar playing. He’s also hard to pin down because his range is so wide and diverse. The New Mastersounds can play fast, furious Funk, or beautiful jazzy grooves. Roberts also has various side projects to show off all the incredible music he can make.
He says in this article, “I know for me the music is all about the groove and it’s all sort of dance-oriented, really. Those are the things that resound in me. I think as soon as I heard funk, especially like New Orleans funk, it just took hold of me. It just felt like a very natural way to play as well.” This reinforces what’s said before about the funk guitarist’s role as rhythm keeper, and not show off soloing guy.
Jordan Linit’s fantastic guitar playing, and masterful use of the wah-wah pedal proves Analog Son can play classic Funk with a contemporary approach, impeccable production, and unique composition that is among the best on today’s Funk music scene. Stay focused on this band as they evolve, and catch them in concert anytime you can.
The Funk will set you free…
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And, be sure you watch this YouTube playlist
highlighting all the greats listed above…
Do you have any recommendations for today’s funkiest guitarists? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll add to this list…