Main guitar: Gibson SG Special
Compulsory listening: Black Magic Woman
Carlos Santana is one of the very last guitar heroes of the late-sixties still standing. He started off as Bill Graham’s champion, since that promoter who owned the Fillmore was also a percussion player and was particularly fond of Carlos’ blend of rock, latin music and psychedelic San Francisco influences. Thanks to Graham, Carlos’ band, Santana, got to perform at the Woodstock festival. This legendary concert, back when their first album wasn’t even out, made them instant legends. They were also heavily featured in the Woodstock movie in 1970 with their instrumental Soul Sacrifice. Carlos’ stinging lines are a beautiful mixture of jazz-influenced modal phrases with more straightforward blues licks, and a big hot sound that would only get bigger and warmer through his career as he moved to early Mesa Boogie amplifiers.
After a string of hit singles (“Evil Ways”, “Oye Como Va”, “Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen”), the Santana band underwent a number of personnel changes (including future Journey-founder Neal Schon joining on guitar), which resulted in Carlos becoming the only master and commander. He then took his music in a more jazzy direction, collaborating with John McLaughlin and Alice Coltrane.
Finally, he got a late-career megahit with Supernatural in 1999, an album that fused his fluid lines with the voices of guest stars who were very hip at the time of recording. It has sold an astounding 30 million worldwide, has won eight Grammys and has introduced a new generation of faithfuls to Santana’s music.