Carlos Santana: An Axe Legend Who Never Quits

When Carlos Santana was making music with his band in his 20s, he said that it was during a time where there was a revolution of conscience. We still talk about the key figures from that era, including Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Jimi Hendrix, and Mother Teresa. Although Santana wouldn’t include himself in that conversation, he is an Axe Legend today with a career that spans almost 50 years.

The Early Days of Carlos Santana as a Guitarist

Santana says his primary influences growing up were T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, and John Lee Hooker. After he started playing the guitar, he joined various bands and developed his signature sound in Tijuana. As Santana heard more folk and jazz, he began fusing different rhythms and techniques into his style. It would be his first step toward becoming a legend.

Santana’s first big break came in 1966. He was chosen with some other musicians to form an emergency band for a Sunday matinee at the Fillmore Auditorium. That same year, he formed a band with other street musicians that became popular in San Francisco. Bill Graham, who helped Santana with his first break, gave the band a massive boost by arranging for them to play at Woodstock in 1969 before their first album released. The band’s first album would reach No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard 200 after being released in August 1969.

Axe Legend Steve Lukather

Carlos Santana Has Led an Epic Life as an Axe Legend

You can find plenty of “fast fact” pages online about Carlos Santana. They’ll tell you about how he learned the violin before the guitar, how he loves to read books, and has won ten Grammy Awards. Santana even owns a Mexican restaurant chain called “Maria Maria.” The truth is that Carlos Santana has led an epic life. When he’s writing music, he’ll face a wall with a yellow legal pad. He describes it as a fax machine that lets him communicate with Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and whoever else wants to show up for the jam session.

In 2000, Santana told Rolling Stone that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about his reality. “My reality is that God speaks to you every day,” he said in the interview. “There’s an inner voice, and when you hear it, you get a little tingle… all of a sudden, you hear this voice [say] write this down.” When the world is quiet, Santana credits two people for helping him experience a resurgence in the 1990s and 2000s. First, his ex-wife Deborah comes to mind. He describes her as a “guiding light,” although they divorced in 2007 because of irreconcilable differences.

Santana also credits Clive Davis from Arista Records when other record companies felt he was too old to keep recording. What makes Carlos Santana such an axe legend today is the fact that he uses almost no effects pedals. He’ll connect his PRS signature guitar to a delay, wah-wah, and a custom amp switcher. An Electro-Harmonix Big Muff helps him develop the sustain that became his trademark. Whether you got to know Carlos Santana in the late 1960s or didn’t hear of him until the release of Supernatural in 1999, this guitarist changed the world with his music. He is one of the few musicians who transcends all genres.


In his earlier years, Carlos Santana was a staunch Gibson man, before being endorsed by Yamaha with the launch of his SG signature models. However, since the eighties, Santana has been using Paul Reed Smith guitars (PRS) almost exclusively, with the Santana signature versions.


Awards and Summary Facts

  • In 2015, Rolling Stone magazine listed Santana at No. 20 on their list of the 100 greatest guitarists.
  • He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
  • Santana has received ten Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards.
  • He owns a restaurant chain in the USA known as Maria, Maria, named after one of his hits records.
  • Santana is one of very few bands named after their guitarist.

Check out the new Axe Legend Santana set!

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