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9. Curtis Mayfield

| March 31, 2008

The 20 All-Time Greatest Chicago Guitarists


9. Curtis Mayfield

It’s easy to forget what a guitarist Curtis Mayfield was. Obscured beneath forming The Impressions, helping give voice to the Civil Rights movement, recording one of the greatest soundtracks of all-time, and his nearly fatal accident was an ace. Blurring his skill further was the fact his big solo hits (“Superfly,” “If There’s A Hell Below”) were bass-driven. But his style wasn’t so subtle to be unnoticeable. Self-taught, Mayfield often tuned to a piano’s black keys, though Vee-Jay Records’ Calvin Carter explained it best in a 1981 interview: “I never met a guitar player who played the guitar the way Curtis did. Everything was on open strings, and it sounded very unusual. I don’t care where you’d go, you’d always hear people say, ‘Play me some Curtis Mayfield-type guitar,’ and they’d know what you were talking about.”

— Steve Forstneger

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