’90 percent of who I am today': Carlos Santana’s guitar inspiration might surprise you

In the midst of a long-hoped-for reunion of the classic-era edition of his old band, Carlos Santana is giving credit to drummer Michael Shreive for his role in creating Santana’s signature sound. In fact, Santana says Shrieve is responsible for “90 percent of who I am today,” adding that it’s not that unusual for drummers to play a far more critical role than they’re ever giving credit for with guitarists.

Santana began his career in the late 1960s with a tight focus on the blues before a new lineup that included Shrieve, who initially played with Santana from 1969-74, took his music in an entirely different direction. The transformation in advance of the band’s 1969 self-titled debut was stunning, and Santana only built from there over a stirring three-album run through 1972 that included Abraxas, Santana III and Caravanserai.

Shrieve, Santana says in the new edition of Guitar Player magazine, “opened me up from being a very ignorant, lock mind and feel person. If it wasn’t John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed or B.B. King, I didn’t want to hear about it. But Michael brought me a whole bunch of records by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Django Reinhardt, Baden Powell and Wes Montgomery — and he said to me: ‘You need to listen to this man, because this is you.'”

Santana points to earlier examples of this too-often-overlooked phenomenon in rock, too: “Eric Clapton in Cream wouldn’t have sounded that way without Ginger Baker, and the same with [Led Zeppelin's Jimmy] Page and [John] Bonham.”

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