Few guitarists have been as influential as the great Jeff Beck. He burst onto the British Invasion scene in the mid-’60s, coaxing incredible, often otherworldly sounds out of his battered Fender Esquire® guitar, immediately attaining guitar-deity status that endures to this day. Indeed, along with friends Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, Beck remains a member of the holy trinity of British rock guitarists.
Born in June 1944, Beck grew up in Wallington, England, and was interested in music from a very young age. He became intensely interested in guitar and the blues, and began his career in the early ’60s as a session player before being recruited as Clapton’s replacement in the Yardbirds in 1965 (on Page’s recommendation).
Beck was with the group only 18 months, but played on almost all their hits and became one of the first high-profile guitarists to experiment with distortion; his innovative sound was an immediate and major influence on psychedelia. Nonetheless, Beck left the group in 1967 and embarked on a variety of group and solo projects that continue today, leaving a distinctive mark on rock, jazz-fusion, electronic and contemporary music. His two albums with the Jeff Beck Group, Truth (1968) and Beck-Ola (1969), are considered early heavy rock masterpieces. In the mid-’70s Beck recorded two landmark jazz-fusion albums, Blow By Blow (1975) and Wired (1976).
He has continued recording, performing and touring from the 1980s through today, winning three Grammy Awards along the way and continuing to dazzle listeners with incredible natural command over the instrument that relies on sheer physical dexterity (Beck doesn’t play with a pick) and masterful use of vibrato rather than gadgetry to bend and shape notes.
Beck has guested frequently on other artists’ recordings and remains a highly influential player whose performances and recordings are much-anticipated musical events. Fender introduced its Jeff Beck Stratocaster guitar in 2001, the Jeff Beck Signature Stratocaster in 2004 and the Custom Shop Tribute Series Jeff Beck Esquire guitar in 2006.