The Shredder Behind '100 Guitar Licks' Speaks

Jul 8, 2012
Originally published on September 18, 2012 6:47 pm

By now it isn't news that a Chicago guitarist recorded 100 famous rock licks in chronological order without breaking a sweat. The video of Alex Chadwick blazing through "Smoke on the Water," "Day Tripper," "Satisfaction" and others, all in one 12-minute take, has gone certifiably viral.

But what remains surprising after repeat viewings is how fluidly one song transitions into the next — almost as if they were meant to be heard together.

"They all kind of spring from the same well," Chadwick tells NPR's David Greene. "Those artists were building off of each other over time, so it kind of does work naturally."

Hear Chadwick's full conversation with Weekend Edition Sunday — including the reason why one iconic riff didn't make the list — by clicking the audio link on this page.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


If you wanted to survey the history of rock 'n' roll guitar, where would you start?


GREENE: This is where Alex Chadwick started. He's a guitarist, not the voice many of you know from public radio. This Alex Chadwick sells guitars at the Chicago Music Exchange. And his video of 100 guitar riffs has gone completely viral. It begins with Chet Atkins "Mr. Sandman" from 1953. And it launches into this blistering medley of iconic licks from Link Wray's "Rumble" to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," all the way to Number 100, St. Vincent's "Cruel."


GREENE: Alex Chadwick joins us from the studios of WBEZ in Chicago. Alex, welcome.

ALEX CHADWICK: Hi, David. Good to be here.

GREENE: And we should say, I mean, as we were sort of hearing it, it goes fluidly from one riff to the next in this 12 minute opus. I mean, it's all in all one take. How did you come up with this list of songs? That must have been tough.

CHADWICK: Yeah, that was - you know, that was tough. There's a lot of lists of, you know, greatest rock songs or greatest riffs that magazines and other musicians have compiled over the years. It was a combination of that and just kind of our favorite riffs at the store. And then, we did a little bit of history - a little bit of historical fact finding with Billboard charts and that sort of thing.

GREENE: Let's listen to a stretch of the music, just to kind of hear how these songs all follow one another and come together.



GREENE: Alex, that is crazy. There's a list of what we heard. That was Dick Dale's "Misirlou," Safari's "Wipeout," Beatles, "Day Tripper," The Who's "Can't Explain," and Rolling Stones "Satisfaction," which I'm sure a lot of us recognize.

That's amazing. I mean it really all - it sounds like those songs sort of belong together, those riffs.

CHADWICK: Yeah. Well, I mean I think they all kind of spring from the same well. And those artists where building I think off of each other over time so it, you know, it kind of does work naturally.

GREENE: Is there a transition you're particularly proud of?

CHADWICK: Yeah, the "Sweet Home Alabama" into "Walk this Way," that was my favorite little light bulb moment.


CHADWICK: And not to finish the whole riff for "Sweet Home Alabama," and instead I just kind of stumbled into the opening riff for sort of Aerosmith. And it just so happened that the two movements were similar enough in structure and musicality that it could be the same song.


GREENE: Working in a guitar shop, I guess I, you know, people must come in and play riffs. Are there some that you're just totally sick of hearing?


CHADWICK: You know, I've been doing this for a while now so it's just kind of background noise at this point.

GREENE: Well, one reason I ask is that there is that famous scene from "Wayne's World," where they're in a guitar shop and this sign says: No "Stairway to Heaven." And sure enough, you did not put "Stairway to Heaven" on your list. I mean, is that some kind of law of the land for guitar salesmen?


CHADWICK: At least since that movie came out, it seems to be. Yeah. You're right, that was the exact reason we left it out of the video.


GREENE: And can - you denied them, too.


GREENE: Alex Chadwick, he's the guitarist featured in the video "100 Guitar Riffs: A Brief History of Rock 'N' Roll." You can see it on our website, And Alex joined us from WBEZ in Chicago.

Thanks, Alex.

CHADWICK: Thank you, David.

GREENE: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.