Snarky Puppy's about page (with profiles of the artists) says this about guitarist Mark Lettieri:

Mark Lettieri is a guitarist, composer and sometimes producer residing in Fort Worth, TX. Lettieri works both on stage and in the studio with numerous artists and bands on local, national and international levels. He also writes and records instrumental guitar music under his own name. Mark joined Snarky Puppy in 2009 as a stunt guitarist, and the band has kept him around since, despite his growing collection of Van Halen t-shirts.

(emphasis mine)

What does this mean? Does a stunt guitarist specialise in stage dives and setting instruments on fire, or am I missing some terminology?

2 Answers 2


Well - the term "Stunt Guitarist" could be used to describe guitarist who can be seen live or in many YouTube video's doing things like playing the guitar behind their back, with their toes, using finger tapping to play both necks of a double neck at the same time and using their guitar as a drum while playing it as a guitar at the same time. Playing guitar on stage or in front of people is to a large extent - entertainment.

But the term "Stunt Guitarist" as it applies to Mark Lettieri means someone who is able to do things with their playing ability that few guitarist are capable of. To me - that is more entertaining than watching someone play a guitar with their teeth.

In an article about Steve Vai - the term is attributed to Frank Zappa in describing Vai. The quote appears below.

"Zappa coined the term “stunt guitarist” for Vai because of his ability to pull off the most difficult licks and runs that Zappa could toss his way."

Mark Lettieri is an incredibly talented and amazing guitarist! Like Steve Vai, he is in a league of his own. I am sure that the term "stunt guitarist" as used to describe Lettieri on Snarky Puppy's website refers to his superhuman guitar playing skills and ability to showcase those on stage in an entertaining manner.

No acrobatics or pyrotechnics required.

  • Adrian Belew, who was guitarist for Zappa in years before Steve Vai, applied the term "stunt guitarist" to himself as well, although this may be after the fact. Adrian Belew has also been credited at times with "Impossible Guitar Parts".
    – user1044
    Jan 17, 2016 at 0:55
  • @WheatWilliams I think you're mistaken -- "Impossible guitar parts" was a common credit for Vai on Zappa's albums, and I can't find any references for Belew being credited with the same.
    – NReilingh
    Jan 17, 2016 at 4:21
  • It just so happens that last week on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, Belew referred to himself in a Facebook post as Frank Zappa's "stunt" guitarist, as part of a remembrance about meeting David Bowie. "In 1978 I did my first tour of Europe as "stunt" guitarist and singer for Frank Zappa's band." He was mentioning this title in an informal sense, but hey, he's the man. facebook.com/AdrianBelew
    – user1044
    Jan 18, 2016 at 0:35
  • 1
    Here is Belew's entire lengthy post. You may need a Facebook account to view it. facebook.com/AdrianBelew/posts/10150588871654995
    – user1044
    Jan 18, 2016 at 0:37
  • 1
    @WheatWilliams looks like you have documented your case well to demonstrate that perhaps NReilingh may have been the one who was mistaken. Obviously the term has been applied to a few guitarist. Not sure who the term was first applied to though. It's not that important. But I think we all tend to get defensive when told "you're mistaken". NReilingh may not have seen your rebuttals since you did not put the @ sign followed by his name in your comments. Your comments all come to me since they are posted as comments to my answer. To be sure the intended recipient sees them use @ sign Jan 18, 2016 at 3:12

Per Frank Zappa himself:

The stunt guitarist's role is twofold: 1) to enable me to write guitar parts that I could never play myself, and 2) to reproduce guitar parts I've done on old records, because I can't sing and play lead guitar at the same time onstage. This year's stunt guitar player is also a very excellent guy named Michael Keneally.

(source: Hey Frank, Where You Goin' With That Guitar in Your Hand? 1988)

I think Adrian Belew qualifies as FZ's first "stunt guitarist", even if the term had not come up yet: Adrian was hired specifically to play lead & solo when FZ wanted to sing, and to sing when FZ wanted to play lead and solo. Also, prior to Adrian, Frank's touring guitarists were primarily rhythm guitarists, not tasked with taking over lead or solo duties, with a few exceptions for some guest appearances in early & mid '70's.


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