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Famous Guitarists from Chicago

Chicago has a reputation as one of the great music cities of America. Legends such as Nils Lofgren, Curtis Mayfield, Billy Corgan, and Carlos Johnson all learned their trade in the Windy City and became famous all over the world. But they are not the only gifted guitarists that plied their trade in Chicago and there are many more that are continuing the high tradition.

Billy Corgan

Billy Corgan was the leading figure behind the Smashing Pumpkins and developed a highly lucrative career as a guitarist, songwriter, producer and singer. Forming the band in 1987, he recruited James Iha, D’arcy Wretzky, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. The musical direction of the band was driven by Corgan, who used elaborate production techniques to elevate the band’s sound.

Nils Lofgren

Being a member of Bruce Springsteen’s highly successful band, the E Street Band, Nils Lofgren is one of the most famous guitarists in the world. He also was a key member of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse and has played with the finest musicians in the world. In 2014 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Since then he has created an enviable reputation as a solo artist and regularly plays to sell out arenas.

Terry Kath

Chicago must go down as one of America’s most favorite ever bands, and their performances and recordings in the ‘60s and ‘70s prove this. Their lead guitarist was Terry Kath and as well as being a founder member of the band he also wrote many of their songs. His singing style has often been compared to the legendary Ray Charles which is high acclaim indeed. Kath grew up in a family of musicians where he just did not learn guitar but other instruments also such as the banjo and the drums. But it was his guitar playing that defined the sound of Chicago and was the base for many of their songs.  

Curtis Mayfield

In the world of soul and R&B, Curtis Mayfield has to be one of the greatest ever stars. He was also a prolific songwriter and his lyrics always had something serious to say. Mayfield was known to have a political conscience and he was a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement during the late 1950s and 1960s. He started life as part of the Impressions but is better known as a solo artist where he was prolific. 

Carlos Johnson

Chicago is famous for blues music and one of the city’s greatest ever blues guitarists has to be Carlos Johnson. His signature left-handed playing style is quite unique as he still uses a right-hand guitar, thus he has to play the instrument upside down. Johnson was renowned for his aggressive playing style which attracted fans in their thousands to queue up and listen to this incredible musician. Carlos Johnson was a leading figure in the Chicago blues movement during the 1970s, but his reputation traveled much further afield. These exceptional musicians are some of Chicago’s finest and their guitar playing will live with us for a very long time.    

Carlos Johnson