Every Guitarist Should Know These Solos, Says Joe Bonamassa

With his specific shade of blues rock, blending old-school blues and rock, as well as his virtuosic approach to these classic genres, Joe Bonamassa has a few solos in mind that all guitar players should know. Well, at least according to his opinion.

And no, these aren’t super-complex lead parts. Instead, they focus on phrasing and feel, and that’s most likely why he chose them while recently appearing in an interview with Rick Beato.

Essential Guitar Solos According to Joe Bonamassa

The first choice wasn’t that much of a surprise — B.B. King’s classic that has set the standards for modern guitar (via Ultimate Guitar):

“Learn ‘The Thrill Is Gone.’ It’s the definition of the simplest thing. Wonderful song. *Plays first few notes* You know what song it is.”

Joe Bonamassa: His Influences, Technique, and Soloing Style

Obviously, it’s an absolute classic. And although not exactly a shreddy virtuosic piece, “The Thrill Is Gone” has a lot to teach us about expressing yourself through an electric guitar. But once you have that sorted out, Joe has a different solo to recommend, something for those looking for a bit of a challenge:

“If you’re really more on a technical end, there’s Stevie [Ray Vaughan]’s ‘Scuttle Buttin’.'”

While “Scuttle Buttin’,” from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 1984 album “Couldn’t Stand the Weather,” isn’t what modern shredders might have in mind, the piece is fairly challenging to play if you want to do it the right way. Stevie was surely ahead of his time.

Going further into it, Joe also shared one of Albert King’s solos. However, he focused on a particular live version.

“The classic Albert King solo for me is ‘Live at the Fillmore,’ when he’s doing ‘Blues Power’… He was on fire with that solo. I watched that video a hundred times and just go, ‘If I had a time machine, I’d go to that concert.'”

Blues Power (Live)

The exact album Bonamassa is talking about here is “Live Wire/Blues Power,” featuring his 1968 performance over at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, California.

And Joe had another one to mention. He explained:

“Number four, listen to Paul Kossoff, ‘Fire and Water.'”

Free - Fire And Water (1970)

Of course, Joe has always been very open about his love for Free and guitar legend Paul Kossoff. Recently, he even straight out said that “the fact that they’re not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is criminal.”

New Generations of Guitar Players

During the interview with Rick Beato, Bonamassa also addressed today’s guitar landscape and how the newer generations of players have everything at their disposal. Quality learning materials are basically available free of charge online. And, for the most part, he sees that as a great thing.

“Now they can have great material and quality educational tools,” Joe said of aspiring musicians today. “They can just go to [Rick Beato’s] page — tons of lessons. And they can just woodshed, they learn how to play songs, and they write their own stuff — and they’re not even 17 years old.”

Bonamassa Live front row, worth the price!

“That is a great thing, and the interest in guitar is encouraging to me. I love it. I love the fact there are so many guitar players who are way better than I’ll ever be, at 20. They know the language. They know that they know the music.”

On the other hand, the modern technologies come with a downside. Back in Joe’s day, as he recalls, there were more opportunities for live performances. Instead, everyone is entirely relying on social media these days. He continued:

“Unfortunately for them, the farm system’s kind of gone… Now, the the only way for them to do marketing or get a following is to go on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube [and] become an influencer.”

Joe Bonamassa - "Twenty-Four Hour Blues" - Official Music Video

“It’s a good and a bad thing,” Joe argued. “Because it sums up their musicality in one-minute clips, not as a total. I would imagine some of them have a hard time making a leap from doing that to putting on a show because they never had the opportunity.”

“That was the thing. You just wanted to play in front of people. And you would hone your craft, your act, and your personality.”

For Joe, this particular aspect is what helped him become what he is today:

“My personality came because I did thousands of gigs, had to front it, and entertain people. I do feel empathy for the younger generation because of the farm system, and the notion that everything that you do, good or bad, will go viral.”

Joe Bonamassa - "Hope You Realize It (Goodbye Again)" - Official Music Video

“The cost of making records hasn’t changed”

In a recent interview with Guitar Interactive, Joe also reflected on how streaming has completely changed the business to the point where it’s impossible to make any decent money and pay off the expenses of making this music in the first place. He offered:

“I think after my next solo album. I have to reassess where the record business really is and go, ‘Are we not really just pretending that we’re not in the singles business?'”

“Everybody’s just like, ‘The new thing now is cassettes.’ I’m like, ‘Yes, I know. I had cassettes.’ We had it all.”

Joe Bonamassa - "The Heart That Never Waits" (Live) - Tales of Time

“I don’t know if one day we’re all gonna wake up and collectively say, ‘Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, I’d rather go back to paying $16.99 for a record.’ I don’t see that.”

“Once you give away the free samples, it’s hard to get the ‘marginally free’ samples. It’s a subscription service, but it feels like a free sample when your royalty per stream is .003 or .005, and then you got to pay the writers.”Top of Form

Bottom of Form

“The cost of making records hasn’t changed. The studios are still $2,000 a day. Musicians still — last time I checked — needed to pay their bills, and they’re only going up.”

(13-year-old) Joe Bonamassa • “Blues Jam” • 1990 [Reelin' In The Years Archive]

“The only thing you don’t have now is the cost of tape, which was 300 bucks a reel, now it’s $400 a reel. So the cost of making records has not changed, just the return — in the business world, they call it ROI, return on investment.”

Photo: Alberto Cabello (Joe Bonamassa (Black Country Communion) – 5880505158)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.