Three Jamaicans on list of greatest guitarists

Ernie Ranglin

Leading international music magazine Rolling Stone has listed three Jamaicans, Stephen ‘Cat’ Coore (#91), Ernie Ranglin (#179), and Earl “Chinna” Smith (#181) among the 250 greatest guitarists of all time.

In its most recent publication online, Rolling Stone said of the mastery of Coore, a foundation member of reggae band Third World: “He practically redefined the heights that reggae guitar could soar to, with searing solos that can stand alongside those of the most acclaimed rock guitar gods.”

The magazine went further in its tribute to Coore by asking readers to check out Coore’s string work on the 1982 hit by Third World “Try Jah Love” as an example of why his lead guitar playing is sometimes compared to that of Carlos Santana.

About Ranglin, the magazine wrote: “It’s a simple equation: No Ernest Ranglin, no reggae. Ranglin was a chief architect of Jamaican ska in the early 1960s, inventing the rhythm-guitar pattern of playing on the upbeat, paving the way for rocksteady and then reggae. He played on the first international ska hit, Millie Small’s 1964 smash “My Boy Lollipop”, and came up with the classic riff on Toots and the Maytals’ seminal “54-46 Was My Number”.

Earl “Chinna” Smith
Stephen ‘Cat’ Coore

Earl “Chinna” Smith is described by Rolling Stone as perhaps the most recorded guitarist of the classic reggae era, playing on seminal works by Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Bunny Wailer, Sugar Minott, Jacob Miller, Black Uhuru, Mighty Diamonds, Augustus Pablo, Gregory Isaacs, and Freddie McGregor.

As a member of Bunny Lee’s Aggrovators, and later the Soul Syndicate, Smith influenced a generation of Jamaican players. Aside from his tight rhythm and riff playing, he was also known for coming up with guitar intros for songs such as Marley’s “Rat Race” and Dennis Brown’s “Cassandra”.

The number one spot on the Rolling Stone list was taken by Jimi Hendrix, with Chuck Berry in second place, and Jimmy Page third.

Also making the list are Edilio Paredes (244) from the Dominican Republic, and Trinidadian Lynn Taitt (204).

Taitt made his mark in Jamaica, basically creating the guitar sound of rocksteady music through his playing on the earliest recordings in that style, such as on Hopeton Lewis’ “Take It Easy” and Derrick Morgan’s “Tougher Than Tough”.