Richard Hugh "Ritchie" Blackmore is an English guitarist, who was a founding
member of hard rock bands Deep Purple and Rainbow. He left Deep Purple in
1993 due to a growing rift between Blackmore and other members in spite of
renewed commercial success. His current band is the Renaissance influenced
Blackmore's Night. Blackmore was ranked #55 in Rolling Stone magazine list
of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Blackmore was born in Weston-super-Mare, England, but moved to Heston, Middlesex at the age of two. He was 11 when he got his first guitar. His father bought it for him on certain conditions: "He said if I was going to play this thing, he was either going to have someone teach it to me properly, or he was going to smash me across the head with it. So I actually took the lessons for a year – classical lessons - and it got me on to the right footing, using all the fingers and the right strokes of the plectrum and the nonsense that goes with it." Whilst at school he did well at sports including the Javelin. Blackmore left school at age 15 and started work as an apprentice radio mechanic at nearby Heathrow Airport. He was given guitar lessons by Big Jim Sullivan.
He was influenced in his youth by early rockers like Hank Marvin and Gene Vincent, and later, country pickers like Chet Atkins. His playing improved and in the early 1960s he started out as a session player for Joe Meek's music productions and performed in several bands. He was a member of the instrumental combo, The Outlaws, and backed Heinz (playing on his top ten hit "Just Like Eddie"), Screaming Lord Sutch, Glenda Collins and Boz among others. While working for Joe Meek, he got to know engineer Derek Lawrence, who would later produce Deep Purple's first three albums. With organist Jon Lord he co-founded hard rock group Deep Purple in 1968, and continued to be a member of Deep Purple from 1968-1975 and again from 1984-1993.
With Deep Purple and Rainbow, Blackmore almost exclusively played a Fender Stratocaster. He is also one of the first rock guitarists to use a "scalloped" fretboard where the wood is shaved down between the frets. Fellow Fender player Yngwie Malmsteen also plays Stratocasters with scalloped fretboards.
One of Blackmore's best-known guitar riffs is from the song "Smoke on the Water". Contrary to the way most guitar players perform it, he plays the riff without a pick, using his fingers instead. He has two guitar solos ranked on Guitar World magazine's "Top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos" ("Highway Star" at #19 and "Lazy" at #74, both from the album Machine Head).
During the 1960s Blackmore played a Gibson
ES-335 but switched to a Fender Stratocaster after buying a second hand
Stratocaster from Eric Clapton's roadie.
However, the guitar was deemed unplayable by Blackmore due to the fact that
the intonation was too off to be fixed. Since then and right up until his
Blackmore's Night project Blackmore has used Stratocasters almost
exclusively. The middle pickup is screwed down and not used, with only the
bass and treble pickup selector set. Blackmore has also occasionally used a
Fender Telecaster Thinline during recording sessions.
In the 70s, Blackmore used a number of different Stratocasters. However, around the time of the Long Live Rock 'n' Roll album, Blackmore found one particular Strat that was his main guitar up until Blackmore's Night. Like most of Blackmore's guitars, this Strat had its fingerboard scalloped. The pickups in it have been changed quite a few times, as described below. Blackmore added a strap lock to the headstock of this guitar as a conversation piece.