The Valley's Top 10 Local Guitarists

It's no secret that the guitar is a very sexy instrument. Any guy older than 10 knows that guitars can be chick magnets, and good guitar players are treated like demigods among their peers.

But it's not enough to just own a guitar and be able to eek out the chords for Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." Six-string slingers are a dime a hundred, but ax men who excel at their craft are a much rarer breed.

Phoenix teems with guitar players, and some of them are actually pretty good. A handful of them are exceptional. Here we offer our take on...

The Valley's Top 10 Local Guitarists (in no particular order):

photo by Jesse "Cap'n"
1. Michael Johnny Walker (Sonic Thrills, The Love Me Nots): Walker's style  is equal parts  garage rock and punk, and he brings some old school style to the stage, too, playing vintage Mosrite guitars and twisting four simple chords into catchy little hooks. (Famous six-string kindred spirit: Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls).

photo courtesy of www.myspace.com/jackripperaz
2. Jack Ripper: At just 12 years-old, Jack Ripper has shredded his way to acclaim (literally), formerly playing with local metal band Kraized and opening solo for national acts. Ripper is heavily influenced by old school metal, and he plays the solo for "Crazy Train" better than anybody except, perhaps, the late Randy Rhoads. (Famous six-strong kindred spirit: Tommy Iommi of Black Sabbath).

3. Matt Harris (Another Killer Afternoon): Harris sings and plays lead guitar in Another Killer Afternoon, a band formerly known as Sinner Lane. Harris' guitar parts aren't particularly catchy, but his smoking solos are incredibly melodic and stand out because they're built to fit the harmony of the song, and not to necessarily show off dexterity and speed. (Famous six-string kindred spirit: Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains).

photo by Jeff Ambrose
4. Danny Godbold (What Laura Says Thinks and Feels): Godbold's an eclectic player — he can rock out on a wailing solo or pull back and do a breezy blues progression. His playing is mostly ornamental, adding punctuated chords and melodic backbones to his band's already multi-layered, multi-instrumental songs. (Famous six-string kindred spirit: George Harrison of The Beatles).

photo by Tony Winfield

5. Carvin Jones: Eric Clapton once called Carvin Jones "the next up-and-coming blues player," and Jones has just kept on coming, holding down weekly gigs at local venues like The Dirty Drummer, where he wails out blues standards and classic rock covers with aplomb. This man's finger's are fast and flashy, and he never misses a note. (Famous six-string kindred spirit: Stevie Ray Vaughan).

photo by Scott Keller
6. Steve Conley (F5): The best-known member of F5 is bassist Dave Ellefson, who played with Megadeth. But Conley's got some serious chops of his own, cranking out gritty, machinistic thrash metal riffs the way the late Dimebag Darrell of Pantera and Damage Plan did. Heavy metal runs on heavy riffs, and Conley's got them in spades. He also teaches guitar at Naked Dave's Music in Mesa. (Famous six-string kindred spirit: Dimebag Darrell Abbott of Pantera and Damage Plan).

photo by Giulio Sciorio
7. Rickey Serrano (Crash Street Kids): Serrano's a flashy guitar player, which is not surprising when you consider his band is a glam rock group. Serrano rips a page from 70s FM guitar gods to create a clean, crisp sound that's simultaneously huge and hook-filled. (Famous six-string kindred spirit: Marc Bolan of T. Rex).

photo courtesy of www.myspace.com/nicksterlingrocks
8. Nick Sterling: Like Jack Ripper, Sterling started playing guitar at age 7. By the time he turned 14, he already had endorsements with Gibson Guitars and Orange amplifiers. (He also has a column in Modern Guitars magazine). Sterling's style is a mixture of classic rock riffs and heavy metal solos, and he tends to play loud and fast. Live, he often plays with his guitar behind his back. (Famous kindred six-string spirit: Uli Jon Roth of The Scorpions).

photo by Diana Perrone
9. Chris Rutledge (Antique Scream): Yes, he looks like Kurt Cobain, and he's even left-handed, but Antique Scream singer and guitarist Chris Rutledge has his own style, born on meaty grunge riffs, progressive solos, and soulful jam-outs. (Famous kindred six-string spirit: Buzz Osborne of The Melvins).

photo by Giulio Sciorio
10. Frank Littlefield (Hollywood Heartthrob): Littlefield's dueling guitar solos with band mate Brent Sutton shine with melodic dexterity. He's got a bit of a metal edge in his style, but also brings classic rock touches to the table. (Famous kindred six-string spirit: Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin). — Niki D'Andrea

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