Personalities | Glenn Tipton | Judas Priest to Rock God | Guitar Heroes
Clad head-to-toe in studded black leather and featuring a thundering rhythm section, a dynamic twin-guitar assault and one of the purest rock vocalists in music history, it simply doesn’t get any more ‘metal’ than Judas Priest. And the man behind many of the band’s greatest riffs and solos is guitarist Glenn Tipton (b. 1947).
Born in Blackheath, England, Tipton was a latecomer to the guitar, first picking it up at the age of 21. By the early 1970s, he was making a name for himself on the Birmingham club circuit in The Flying Hat Band, an early metal outfit in the vein of Black Sabbath. In 1974, guitarist K.K. Downing asked Tipton to join his own burgeoning metal band, Judas Priest. The partnership, with Tipton’s classically influenced style contrasting with Downing’s more straight-ahead, heavy blues-rock approach, proved a winning formula. Priest became one of the most influential heavy-metal acts of the 1970s, and the two guitarists spearheaded the twin-guitar harmony approach that ruled the new wave of British heavy metal.
In those formative years, Tipton maintained a primarily blues-influenced approach to his metal noodlings, occasionally adding neo-classical phrasing. An early example of his affinity for more complex harmony is heard in his solo in ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death’, from Stained Class (1978). Sonically, Tipton favoured a Fender Stratocaster, later switching to a modified Strat, swapping its standard single-coil pickup for a fatter-sounding humbucking pickup. As Priest’s sound began to modernize, with the mainstream success of British Steel (1980), Point Of Entry (1981) and Screaming For Vengeance (1982), so did Tipton’s sound and approach. During the World Vengeance Tour, he switched to the metal-approved Gibson SG, before getting an endorsement deal with Hamer Guitars, which crafted Tipton’s signature-model Phantom GT, a guitar he still uses today.
After a lull through the 1990s, which saw singer Rob Halford replaced by Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, Judas Priest reunited with Halford and revived their career. In 2009, they released A Touch Of Evil: Live, featuring previously unreleased live tracks. ‘Dissident Aggressor’ won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. Their Epitaph World Tour took place in 2011–12.
Judas Priest: Stained Class
Judas Priest: British Steel
Judas Priest: Screaming For Vengeance
Solo: Baptizm Of Fire
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