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Excellent instrumentalists who are better known as singers


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Showing 1-25 of 61 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 3, 2012 6:40:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2012 7:42:51 PM PDT
TGT says:
A number of people who play one or more instruments very well have become better known as singers, to the point that most fans never even knew about these stars' instrumental talents, which is a shame. I am stressing people who are truly masters/(near-)virtuosos on their instruments, not just mere dabblers. Let's list these folks from any genre of music. I'll start.

Phil Collins - masterful on the drum set

Karen Carpenter - also masterful on the drum set

Sheila E - masterful on latin percussion as well as the drum set
(I think this one has returned to her roots as a percussionist and has de-emphasized the singing part of her career. I haven't seen much of her since she quit running around in the street with Prince back in the 1980s.)

Nat King Cole - excellent jazz pianist before being marketed as a singer

Charo - "oochee coochee" girl is actually a trained and very talented flamenco guitarist

I'm sure people on this forum can give other examples that I don't know about.

Posted on May 3, 2012 6:52:41 PM PDT
Joni Mitchell - keyboards, guitar, dulcimer

Posted on May 3, 2012 7:37:30 PM PDT
BigBadAzz says:
Steve Winwood - known primarily as a singer, but is also an excellent keyboard player. Did some stellar session work on Hendrix's 'Voodoo Chile' from the "Electric Ladyland" album.

Posted on May 3, 2012 7:47:51 PM PDT
Stevie Wonder.

Posted on May 3, 2012 8:01:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2012 8:15:43 PM PDT
TGT says:
H. C. R. Crall says:

Stevie Wonder.

Well, maybe. But I see him more as one who's singing and instrumental talents are equally prodigious and well-displayed, along with someone like Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, or Ray Charles. I'm thinking more in terms of one who only rarely or never uses an instrument (other than the voice) in a masterful way during a concert.

Could we throw in Steven Tyler? Before he started singing with Aerosmith, I think he began his career as a drummer who could also decently fiddle with harmonica and piano, but I don't know how good he was on these other things.

I heard Aretha Franklin was pretty decent on piano.

How good was Elvis Presley on guitar (and piano)? I've never heard him play piano, but I've seen pictures of him at the piano as one the Sam Phillips' original artists at Sun Record Studios.

Posted on May 3, 2012 8:10:01 PM PDT
LvB Fan says:
Steve Winwood is also a pretty good guitar player. Clapton always gives him accolades for that.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2012 8:12:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2012 8:14:14 PM PDT
Mick Jagger.
Good on harmonica, and can play good rhythm guitar and piano.
Only occasionally seen with a guitar on stage.

Posted on May 3, 2012 8:58:19 PM PDT
Grace Slick--had a very distinctive and excellent keyboard style, and also played recorder.

Paul McCartney--sure, he's known for his instrumental skills, but not nearly as much as his singing/songwriting. The average Joe knows him more as a singer than as a kick-azz bassist. And how many people outside of Beatlefans know he played every instrument on "McCartney" and "McCartney II"?

Marc Bolan--known as a singer/teen idol but his guitar playing in the early 70s was up there with the very best from the UK scene at the time.

Phil Collins is like the poster-child for this thread. His 80s/90s career almost wiped out his earlier reputation as a drummer. His 70s work easily puts him among the best half-dozen or so drummers in rock history. I was just watching a youtube clip of "The Cinema Show" from '74 and his feel, imagination and virtuosity behind the skins is overwhelming.

Jon Anderson--many people see him as the singer of Yes, and might not even know he plays any instruments at all. But he played every instrument on his debut album "Olias Of Sunhillow"--guitars, harp, keyboards, percussion--and the end result was stunning.

Posted on May 3, 2012 9:27:34 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2012 9:27:48 PM PDT
John Mayer

While I'm not really a fan of his work, I must admit that the guy has some real guitar playing skills.

Posted on May 3, 2012 10:18:57 PM PDT
B-Jak says:
David Byrne is incredibly underrated as a guitar player. Check out his rhythms in the movie, "Stop Making Sense".
In country, both Glen Campbell and Vince Gill are freaking monster players.
Of course, Phil Collins was great in Genesis as a drummer, but in Brand X...well, you kinda have to wonder why he settled for the crap he's put out as a singer. Oh, yeah. The average listener will pay big bucks for cheez.
.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2012 10:58:44 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2012 11:02:17 PM PDT
Winwood's a fine, no, make that a great guitarist, too. Plenty of evidence on YouTube, both vintage and recent, that proves that out.

My nomination? Many (most?) casual music listeners just think of him as the pasty-faced, big-haired singer of the Cure, but Robert Smith has some serious skills on the guitar also.

Posted on Aug 20, 2012 11:05:24 AM PDT
Steelers fan says:
Philip Bailey--congas, kalimba

Posted on Aug 20, 2012 11:08:32 AM PDT
Steelers fan says:
Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis--vocals, piano

Posted on Aug 20, 2012 11:30:32 AM PDT
vivazappa says:
Neil Young can tear a guitar in half.
Maybe he's known best for that but were it not for his unique vocals he would just be a guitar player in a band.

Posted on Aug 20, 2012 11:39:01 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 20, 2012 11:39:30 AM PDT
zlh67 says:
Paul Rodgers (Bad Co) is known of course for his great voice but actually played all the intruments on his solo debut ("Cut Loose", a highly under-rated album imo; I actually listen to it more than most Bad Co albums...).

Roger Taylor of Queen is known primarily as "just the drummer" and occasional lead vocalist with Queen but he too is pretty proficient and played all the instruments on his earlier solo efforts and also played guitar on at least one Queen track ("More of that Jazz" I believe...).

Posted on Aug 20, 2012 11:44:00 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 20, 2012 11:48:56 AM PDT
Shining Star says:
Marvin Gaye - an excellent drummer, piano and keyboard player.
Curtis Mayfield - could play guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, drums and saxophone with ease.
Maurice White - outstanding drummer and kalimba player.

All 3 were also supreme composers and producers as well.

Posted on Aug 20, 2012 12:50:56 PM PDT
C. Batty says:
Barbara Mandrell is a phenom. She grew up in a music shop and can play just about anything her parents put in her hands. She is probably best known, outside of vocals, as a saxist, but she broke into the business playing steel guitar for Patsy Cline. When she was 13.

Posted on Aug 20, 2012 2:20:47 PM PDT
K. Carter says:
I was going to mention Glen Campbell, but someone beat me to it. His latest (and final) album is fantastic.

Posted on Aug 20, 2012 2:45:15 PM PDT
Prince is definitely underated as a guitar player !

Posted on Aug 21, 2012 4:28:04 AM PDT
Johnny Bee says:
John Cale - violin , viola, bass guitar, electric / accoustic guitar, piano / keyboards.

Posted on Aug 21, 2012 5:42:23 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 21, 2012 8:33:39 AM PDT
Steelers fan says:
Mandrell can sing R & B, too; I like her version of "If Loving You Is Wrong".

Posted on Aug 21, 2012 5:55:07 AM PDT
D. Mok says:
Roy Orbison. He was called the third-best guitarist at Sun Records -- doesn't sound like much, but when you consider that the top two were Scotty Moore and Carl Perkins, it's quite a bit. And especially when considering the story that, initially, Sam Phillips had actually liked Orbison's guitar playing more than his voice.

Posted on Aug 21, 2012 6:34:01 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 21, 2012 6:35:50 AM PDT
Frankie Avalon played the trumpet.

Bobby Goldsboro started out as Roy Orbison's guitar player. Went from cool (anything with Orbie is COOL!) to the ultimate schlock artist, ugh.... (Had to run down a BAD weepie country 45, "Butterfly for Bucky" after reading about it on Darryl Bullock's WORLD'S WORST RECORDS Uk blog.)

Glen Campbell seems to have tried to play down his guitar work since he went middle-of-the-road vocal in mid-'68. All those Gary Usher hot rod rock projects in the early '60s, etc.... Why he doesn't want to be remembered for those Mr. Gasser & the Weirdos and Ghouls' DRACULA'S DEUCE albums, I can't tell.

Love Sonny James guitar work. Ditto for Hank Snow's flat pickin'.

Oops, almost forgot: Shoji Tabuchi, mean fiddle player for David Houston's band, and Jack Greene was Ernest Tubb's drummer.

Posted on Aug 21, 2012 7:57:57 AM PDT
L. Crosby says:
Paul McCartney - for his excellent bass lines, piano, drums
Sting - an excellent bass player also
Lindsey Buckingham - awesome on guitar, acoustic and electric
Ian Anderson - awesome on acoustic guitar, and flute of course
These four guys are such incredible musicians as well as their 'front man' status!

Posted on Aug 21, 2012 8:36:58 AM PDT
Steelers fan says:
Bobby Goldsboro, king of country schlock, backed bluesman Jimmy Reed on guitar. In his memoirs, Keith Richards indicates that Goldsboro showed him how to play a mysterious blues chord about which he had been wondering.
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Discussion in:  Music forum
Participants:  40
Total posts:  61
Initial post:  May 3, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 6, 2012

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