Listicle: Bluesman Jake Nielsen names Top 10 guitarists

Tahoe Onstage

Jake Nielsen’s Triple Threat during an Aug. 13 appearance at Whiskey Dick’s Saloon. Nielsen is on the left. On the right is bass player David (Cuz Dave) Palmer III, Nielsen’s 10th greatest guitarist of all time.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Santa Cruz guitarist Jake Nielsen made his third appearance this week at Harrah’s Tuesday Night Blues, a weekly show from 8 to 11 p.m. with the Buddy Emmer Blues Band.

“Every time it gets better,” Nielsen said. “I learn stuff from Buddy every show. I watch him and soak it up like a sponge.”

Nielsen is putting together his second album, which he expects to be released before the end of the year.

Nielson was a bass player until his uncle game showed him an “Austin City Limits” performance by Stevie Ray Vaughan. The experience changed his life. He put away the bass and picked up a guitar. He said he learned to play by watching pro jams.

A student of great guitarists, Nielsen shared his top 10 favorites, which includes a flood of Texans.

  1. Stevie Ray Vaughan. “I was pretty much raised on Stevie Ray Vaughan songs. He can play clean and I love his tone and everything about him.”
  2. Jimi Hendrix. “Jimi is the inventor of shredding on guitar and the style he played was crazy. Sometimes I am feeling Jimi more. Stevie and Jimi are clearly the top two.”
  3. John Frusciante. The Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist has “a distinct funky rock style that I can instantly recognize.”
  4. Albert Collins. “The tone he gets off that Telecaster makes it sing. I play a Telecaster, too. I was big on him way before I played guitar. He’s the Ice Man.”
  5. Dimebag Darrell (Pantera). “Even though I play the blues, I’m a rocker through and through.”
  6. Freddie King. “He’s so aggressive. I love that style.”
  7. John Mayer. “Everybody thinks he’s bubblegum but the man can play guitar. A lot of blues fans might not like it, but this is my list.”
  8. Chris Cain. “He has a blues and jazz style and he is passionate. He’s one of my local favorites, for sure. And he knew who I was and that made me like him even more.”
  9. Eric Gales. “I don’t know where he’s from but I’ve been watching him online. He has a high energy style and plays a Fender Strat sound and he just frigin’ rips.”
  10. David (Cuz Dave) Palmer III. “He’s my bass player. He’s a shredder so I put him on my list. I had to give my band some love.”

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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