Top 10 Underrated Funk Guitarists

by Frederik Nielsen, May 29, 2018 . 4 min read

Top 10 Underrated Funk Guitarists

Watching a James Brown performance is an experience. The man had so much funk and soul in him that he just couldn’t contain it.

He had to let out.

However, would we have been able to escape him if he wasn’t backed a funky band? I think not. He would just have looked like a crazy person who shouldn’t have been given a microphone.

But with funk as the backdrop, his performance makes complete sense. With such rhythm, such soul, such funk, how could it not?

We get it James. We understand.

Yet, funk guitarists are underrated. Too often, they go unnoticed as the long list of shredders steal the limelight. But guitarists are just as much part of the backbone of funk as the bass and drums.

So this one’s for the great guitarists who made funk what it was (and still is).

Freddie Stone

As one of the Stone brothers in Sly & the Family Stone, Freddie helped shape the pop-funk style that gave birth to classics like “I Want to Take You Higher” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”.

Jimmy Nolan

James Brown was picky when it came to his band members, and Jimmy Nolan not only made the cut – he became a staple. With light chops and quick strumming, Nolan created his unique chicken scratch style. Al McKay, Nile Rodgers and George Clinton are just some of the legends influenced by Nolan. Check out “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, “Give It Up Or Turn It A Loose”, and “I Got You (I Feel Good).”

Al McKay

Already with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Al McKay was off to a good start. But then the left-handed guitarist joined Earth Wind & Fire and took it to the next level. Check out songs like “Shining Star” to see what I mean.

Eddie Hazel

Parliament-Funkadelic is so incredibly funky that only the very best cut it as their guitarists. Eddie Hazel was the man who tore up “Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On”. On “Maggot Brain”, he pulled off an amazing ten minute solo on. George Clinton told him to play like his mama just died. And he did, he did.

Tony Maiden

Speaking of solos, Tony Maiden is a name that doesn’t get mentioned quite often enough. Playing for Rufus & Chaka Khan, he pulled off some amazing licks on songs like “Tell Me Something Good,” “Sweet Thing” and “Once You Get Started”.

Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner

“Funk was born the day after the blues … to take away some of the sadness of the blues. Funk is a sort of happy blues, to me.” Thus spoke Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner of the Ohio Players. You’ve got to listen to “Love Rollercoaster,” “Fire” and “Skin Tight.” to see what he meant by that statement.

Leo Nocentelli

If you’re looking to study some of the great guitar pieces in funk, “Cissy Strut” by Leo Nocentelli is not a bad start. Nocentelli contributed many an imaginative chord and syncopated rhythm to the legendary band The Meters. Hence why he still holds the title of the King of New Orleans Funk.

Nile Rodgers

Inspired by Jimmy Nolan and Wes Montgomery, Nile Rodgers became an amazing funk player before turning into a disco star. His CV includes working with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Bowie, and, of course, Chic.

Steve Cropper

A shining example of how incredibly important guitar is to the rhythm in funk, Steve Cropper laid down some amazing riffs for Booker T & the MGs. With that as his base, he would later add the iconic fills you hear in songs like Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man”, Booker T & the MGs “Fuquawi” and Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour”.

Prince 

Having recently celebrated the two year anniversary of his death in a previous blog post, Prince deserves another mention here among the greats. The album “Dirty Mind” comes to… mind. But you needn’t look any further than “Kiss” to witness the slickness of Prince’s precision with the axe.



Get our free Alternate Tunings Guide!
Submit

Check out some other similar articles

Take advantage of our biggest backer-exclusive discounts and get your hands on this next-generation automatic tuner. Back the Kickstarter campaign today and be the first to receive the Roadie 3.

Johnny Cash: real name or not? Even though he passed nearly two decades ago, Johnny Cash is still popular today — even outside of his genre. His songs still have a profound impact on his listeners and his legend will probably outlive most of his peers.

Frederik Nielsen
Jun 5, 2020 . 3 min read

Picking the greatest musical moments in guitar history is almost impossible. Where do you even start? With the invention of the guitar?

Frederik Nielsen
May 5, 2020 . 4 min read

A list of musicians who died before the age of 30 would be too long to write. Even going through all of the members of the infamous “27 Club” would take ages.

Frederik Nielsen
Mar 4, 2020 . 3 min read

While most people are not sure if they have one genuine talent, some people are much luckier. 

Tamara Habchi
Mar 3, 2020 . 4 min read

There are enough obstacles to making it in the music industry. Succeeding with a disability is nothing short of a miracle. But it’s not impossible.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 25, 2020 . 4 min read

Despite what many people will tell you, you can earn more than decent money as a relatively unknown, professional guitarist. There are many ways to make money:

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 24, 2020 . 3 min read

When you think of the ukulele, you probably think about a tropical, Hawaiian beach with lots of sunlight. But people from all over the world have fallen in love with ukulele.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 18, 2020 . 5 min read

The second month of the year comes with a lot of celebrations. We have the Presidents’ Day, there’s also Valentine’s Day, plus all of the birthdays of amazing people we look up to.

Frederik Nielsen
Feb 17, 2020 . 3 min read

New year, New reviews? But wait, before we officially welcome 2020, let’s look back at some of our favorite reviews of 2019.

Tamara Habchi
Jan 8, 2020 . 4 min read

We’re almost at the end of 2019 and thought we’d round off the year with more spotlights on great guitarists that we come across online.

Frederik Nielsen
Dec 20, 2019 . 3 min read

15 years ago, the guitar world lost a legend. On December 8th 2004, a crazed fan killed Dimebag Darrell onstage.

Alec Plowman
Dec 8, 2019 . 4 min read

One of the most difficult elements of being a musician is finding your sound. As guitarists, we tend to wear our influences on our sleeves.

Frederik Nielsen
Nov 8, 2019 . 4 min read

Ever wondered what equipment some of the greatest guitarists of all time used?

Then look no further.

Frederik Nielsen
Oct 30, 2019 . 4 min read

We all know that the best way to practice guitar is to put the hours in. But, sometimes, even the best of us need some guitar playing motivation

Alec Plowman
Oct 8, 2019 . 4 min read

If you want to learn and master guitar, looking towards a guitar hero or two is never a bad idea.

Alec Plowman
Jul 24, 2019 . 3 min read

Roadie Tuner has received much support from musicians all over the world, as they share their personal preferences and opinions on how they use Roadie products.

Frederik Nielsen
Jul 10, 2019 . 2 min read

While it’s true that the music industry can often seem like a young person’s game, there are more than a handful guitarists who made it later in life.

Frederik Nielsen
Jul 4, 2019 . 3 min read

Ice-T is a legend. Not only can he claim to be the Godfather of Gangsta Rap, but he’s also very convincing as a TV cop.

Frederik Nielsen
Jun 11, 2019 . 3 min read

The beauty of being a musician is that the only musician you can be…is you. Jimi Hendrix left-handedly pioneered blues and rock guitar styles of playing with a head full of lucy.

Randall Nashleanas
Jun 10, 2019 . 3 min read

Around 4000 years ago, someone invented a gadget which could create sound using strings forged from the gut of a cow. As time progressed,

Randall Nashleanas
May 31, 2019 . 4 min read
We'll be bringing you recommended tabs and plenty of interesting quotes from guitar legends along the way!