You’re probably familiar with Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and other legendary blind pianists. But are there any famous blind guitarists?
The answer is yes. And when you hear them play, there’s nothing to even suggest they might have a visual handicap. Here are 14 blind guitarists you need to hear to believe.
Blind Guitarists You Must Listen To
1. Blind Willie Johnson
Though Blind Willie Johnson is one of the most influential blues artists in history, he was a relatively poor preacher and street performer throughout his lifetime. Many of his songs included a strong theme of faith.
One of his most famous songs, “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” was chosen for the 1977 Voyager Golden Record. This was a collection of songs and items representing Earth that were released into space for other life forms to find. You can check out this remarkable song in this YouTube video.
2. Doc Watson
Doc Watson is one of the most famous bluegrass guitarists of all time. He was influential in the folk music revival scene, but he was respected across many genres: he played country, blues, and gospel music as well. Though Doc Watson could both flatpick and play fingerstyle, though he was best known for his flatpicking work.
3. Jeff Healey
Jeff Healey may be one of the most famous performers on the list. He primarily played and sang blues-rock, and the Jeff Healey Band performed the soundtrack for the film Road House, starring Patrick Swayze. Healey’s band is known for their song “Angel Eyes,” which reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Healey has also toured with a number of accomplished musicians, including BB King, The Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt, and Eric Clapton.
4. Jose Feliciano
Jose Feliciano is a guitar player with a unique style: he blends together elements of blues, rock, flamenco, and more. In the 1960s, he found fame performing songs in both English and Spanish. Even if you haven’t heard his name, you’ve almost certainly heard “Feliz Navidad,” his famous Christmas single.
5. Johnny Hiland
American guitarist Johnny Hiland started playing and performing at an early age. Though his roots are in bluegrass, he’s since branched out to blues, rock, and country. Hiland has a career as a solo artist, but he’s also worked as a session musician with prominent country artists including Ricky Skaggs, Hank Williams III, and Toby Keith.
6. Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller is one of the best-known Piedmont Blues guitarists. He became completely blind by the age of 24. He performed locally and amassed a following before signing with the American Recording Company.
As one of the many blues guitar players with “Blind” in his stage name, Blind Boy Fuller influenced even non-blind blues artists. Some seeing artists (including Bob Dylan, who briefly went by “Blind Boy Grunt”) started including “Blind” in their stage names because it was so strongly associated with blues.
7. Blind Joe Reynolds
Blind Joe Reynolds began his career as a recording artist in the late 1920s. Unlike many artists on the list, he wasn’t born blind; he lost both eyes after being shot with a shotgun. Despite his loss of sight, Blind Joe Reynolds was known for his ability to play with a bottleneck slide. He was also a sharpshooter who claimed he could sense targets by sound.
8. Blind Mississippi Morris
Blind Mississippi Morris is a contemporary blind musician. He became completely blind at the age of four due to congenital glaucoma. He still performs solo blues on the famous Beale Street in Memphis and has released three albums.
9. Bryan Lee
Bryan Lee was an American guitarist and singer who focused mainly on Chicago blues. He primarily played in the French Quarter of New Orleans, performing five times a week for 14 years with his band. He eventually earned the nickname “Braille Blues Daddy.”
10. Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton
Though Jerron Paxton was born in 1989, his remarkable blues music hearkens back to the 1920s and 1930s. The Wall Street Journal noted that he is “virtually the only music-maker of his generation…to fully assimilate the blues idiom of the 1920s and ’30s”
Paxton went blind as a teenager, but he didn’t let that slow down his music career. In addition to blues, he also plays jazz, country blues, Cajun music, and ragtime.
11. Jay Owens
Jay Owens started playing guitar young, and he was playing professionally by the end of high school. He was a pioneer of both electric blues and soul blues. Although Owens was born in 1947, his debut album was not released until 1993. He also played alongside many prominent musicians including Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and Donny Hathaway.
12. Blind Lemon Jefferson
Blind Lemon Jefferson is known today as “The Father of Texas Blues.” He became famous in the 1920s largely due to the originality of his performances. He was one of the first commercially successful male solo singer/songwriters. Blind Lemon has a high-pitched voice and a unique way of playing acoustic guitar, both of which have influenced more contemporary blues and rock guitarists.
13. Blind Willie McTell
Blind Willie McTell started playing guitar in his early teens. Like some other famous players, he was best-known for playing Piedmont blues music. But McTell’s style really set him apart. He played the blues using both slide and fingerstyle techniques. But his choice of instrument also really set him apart; while his contemporaries used six-string guitars, McTell played using a 12-string.
14. Blind Blake
Blind Blake, an American guitarist, recorded a number of songs for Paramount Records in the 1920s and 1930s. Though blues historians know he was born blind, not much else is known about Blind Blake. But his unusual and memorable playing style has proven to be his most lasting influence: his solo guitar work sounds a lot like ragtime music played on piano.
Let These Guitarists Inspire You!
Even if you aren’t blind, seeing visually-impaired musicians overcome adversity can be tremendously inspiring. Whether you play blues, rock, folk, or any other genre, we hope you’ve discovered some great new artists to listen to!
Still have some questions on blind guitar players? Here are some answers:
Yes; throughout history, there have been several well-known blind guitarists. Some of the most famous ones are Blind Willie Johnson, Doc Watson, and Jeff Healey.
There are plenty of well-known blind guitarists. Many of the best-known players are blues guitarists from the early 1900s, but there are talented blind guitarists playing today, too.
Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles might just be the most famous blind musicians, though both are best known as piano players. There are several famous blind guitarists, and the most famous is probably Doc Watson.
Yes. Jeff Healey plays a blind guitarist in the movie Road House, but he is blind in real life too.