“People think that I walk in my door and a copy of Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton just flies off the shelf and into my lap," says Joe Bonamassa. "Not true. In fact, some of the music I listen to doesn’t even have any guitar in it at all."
Widely regarded as one of the greatest blues-rock guitarists of his generation, Bonamassa claims that a well-rounded musical diet is key to his creativity. "Listening to different genres can really open your own musicianship," he says. You can't just stay in one place."
There was a time, however, when Bonamassa's playlist wasn't so broad. At one point in his childhood, he refused to listen to music that was made after 1971. "I was the most tragically unhip kid around," he says. "My friends would ask me, 'Have you heard the new Van Halen record?' And I'd be like, 'Nope.' I was listening to Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush."
Bonamassa credits his childhood mentor, the late guitar virtuoso Danny Gatton, with opening his eyes and ears to a variety of sounds and influences. "Danny really changed my world," he says. "He would tell me, 'There's so much music out there. There's no way you can listen to it all.' And then there's guys like Ry Cooder and Billy Gibbons – they're musicologists. They know all the minutia. I'm not like that – I have ADD."
Funk, jazz, country, metal, fusion – all have a place on Bonamassa's iPod, right alongside his collection of blues favorites. Asked whether there is one form of music that he's completely allergic to, the guitarist laughs and says, "Anything that the kids call 'pop' these days. I was watching the American Music Awards, and I have to tell you, I didn’t have a clue who any of those people were. Everything they played sounded like it was made by machines. Boy, I sound like a cranky old man, don't I?"
On the following pages, Bonamassa runs down his not-so-guilty pleasures, five albums that will never make it into the Blues Hall Of Fame. But he loves them anyway.