Rick Wakeman

Keith Emerson

Ray Manzarek

Lyle Mays

The time has come. I have highlighted my favorite drummers, my favorite bass guitarists, my favorite guitarists, and my favorite vocalists... and we must NOT exclude the greatest keyboardists of all time.

Now, Kate... before you jump in defense of the womenfolk, I am currently racking my brain, to think of awe-inspiring female keyboardists, in the world of Rock music. And... well... I don't want you to think I'm sexist, but I am not coming up with any. BUT, if I think of one, I will be sure to include her...

But for now, let's get on with MY personal favorite KEYBOARDISTS...

To start, I am going to mention my new favorite keyboardist, and include a link to a video, that will blow you away. Who is he, you ask?


If the information I have read is correct, Jordan was admitted to the Julliard School of Music when he was 9 FREAKIN' YEARS OLD. 'Nuff said. You watch the video, and tell me I'm up in the night...

After watching this, do you think we need to go any further? Well, even if you said, no, we ARE... for there are a few other keyboardists that need to be mentioned.

Next, I need to mention another of my absolute favorite pianists. Although more a member of the Jazz world, LYLE MAYS is darned near the top of my list. Although a significant solo artist in Jazz and New Age, Lyle is best known for his work with the PAT METHENY GROUP. He even briefly ventured into the Pop/Art Rock realm, when he collaborated with Pat Metheny and David Bowie on the mid 80's song, "This is Not America" from the "Falcon and The Snowman" motion picture.


Keith comprises one third of the classic Progressive Rock band, EMERSON, LAKE and PALMER. A classically trained pianist, Keith performs some of the greatest piano/synthesizer/keyboard work of all time. Just go back and listen to some classic ELP albums, and I am sure you will agree. My personal favorite? TRILOGY. An album that I grew up with, and one that I hold near and dear to me, to this day.

While we dwell on the classic Prog keyboardists of the 70's, let us mention...


You probably know him from his work with YES, which has lasted off and on over the course of the legendary band's career. Known for his long flowing robes, and hair to match, Rick was the man behind some of the most "grandiose" keyboard work of 70's Rock. I also had the pleasure of hearing some of his solo works, including the "Airs" trilogy (Night Airs/Country Airs/Sea Airs), which are some of the most beautiful, quiet piano albums that I have ever heard.

Now, the one keyboardist that will make people scratch their heads, is CORY LERIOS. Now, most of you... possibly ALL of you (with the exception of Kate... you know who you are)... are asking WHO is Cory Lerios? And when I tell you that he was the keyboard player for PABLO CRUISE, then most of you are going to drop your head down on the computer keyboard... or even worse, CLOSE this post. But, all you need to do is listen to "OCEAN BREEZE", a song that closed out the debut album of Pablo Cruise. I am going to include a link to the LAST.FM site, which will take you directly to the song "Ocean Breeze", which will validate my putting Cory on this list. Pablo Cruise disappeared from the world of music, many years ago, but Cory has continued on doing score work for motion pictures. I periodically see his name during the credits of random motion pictures. Oh, and just as a disclaimer, you only need listen to "Ocean Breeze" until the vocals start. Not that the song totally derails, but the Classical charm is gone, at that point.


Next up... GREGG ROLIE!

First hitting the public eye as a founding member of SANTANA, Gregg continued on to be a founding member of Journey, who started off in a very similar vein to early Santana music. Although much of the early Journey music was instrumental, Gregg was the lead vocalist for the first few albums. After Steve Perry joined the band, and as the music of Journey became increasingly radio friendly, Gregg departed the band, later to be replaced by Jonathan Cain. Gregg Rolie later surfaced with The Firm, Abraxas Pool, and currently, The Gregg Rolie Band. For me, the magic of Gregg's playing can be found in early Santana music, as well as the first few Journey albums.

Next, I want to include another master of keyboards. As a member of THE BUGGLES, YES, ASIA, among other projects, I would be remiss to not mention GEOFFREY DOWNES. Able to conform to whatever project he was working on, I consider Geoffrey Downes to be one of the most adaptable keyboardists in modern Rock history.

Next: STEVE WINWOOD. The child prodigy behind such bands as Traffic, Spencer Davis Group, among others, Steve was often considered to be "an old man in a child's body" by his peers, including Eric Clapton. He is truly one of the most innovative, clever keyboardists to come out of the mid-60's British Invasion. Crossing into more Pop friendly waters, Steve Winwood was responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed music of the early 80's, including his album "Arc of a Diver".

I will also mention a couple other people that have impressed me over the years, although I don't think they hold up to some of the great Progressive Rock keyboardists, heretofore mentioned.

RAY MANZAREK of The Doors, was a driving force behind that band. His extensive Hammond B-3 solos added great dimension to the music of The Doors. He also excelled behind the studio console, producing some very memorable music during the 80's, including albums by X.

THOMAS DOLBY, although best known for his early 80's Pop hits, was also a very talented producer, and studio musician. If you dig out your FOREIGNER 4 album, you will notice that Thomas Dolby played the synthesizer on "Waiting For a Girl Like You", one of the most popular hits of the early 80's. He was also an original member of THE THOMPSON TWINS, not that I consider that his finest work.

MATTHEW BELLAMY is an incredible pianist, not necessarily known to the masses by name, but perhaps you have heard of his band, MUSE. I can only recommend that you catch Muse live, or pick up their live album/DVD called "H.A.A.R.P.". Then you will see what I mean...

Last, but certainly NOT least, FREDDY MERCURY. The voice behind QUEEN, and the extremely fluid pianist, showing obvious Classical training, Freddy not only makes my favorite "front man" list, but the keyboardist list as well. Again, just dig out those old Queen albums, especially from the era of "Night at the Opera", and you will see what I mean.

So, as usual, cast your opinion. Vote in the poll, or simply put me in my place. C'mon, Kate... I dare you! :-)

REVISION 9/10/2008:

As you can see, Kate did put me in my place. And although I thoroughly respect the work of Elton John and Bruce Hornsby (both of which should have been on the list), I really felt I needed to mention the work of the late Billy Preston. Thanks for the reminder, Kate. Billy has left his mark on countless recordings over the last fifty years, including some great work with The Beatles, Eric Clapton and among many other legendary performers. To be honest, one of my favorite performances from Billy Preston is found on an Electronica album called SPIRITUAL LIFE MUSIC. An album that would be considered a combination of Deep House and Acid Jazz, this fantastic album features some INCREDIBLE organ solos from the master of the Hammond, Billy Preston.


Kate said…
Alrighty, I apologize for not weighing-in on this sooner; I am now ready to issue my reply.

Rick Wright; Brian Eno; Mike Rutherford; John Cale; Bruce Hornsby; Elton John; Billy Preston.

That's my 2 cents! And I'm sure there's someone we're BOTH leavin' out... Not a woman among 'em! :-)

I am honored to have been "called out" on your blog. I bow to you in tuneful humility.
Kate said…
P.S.: When are we doing thereminists???