"Theme from Shaft" Guitarist Charles "Skip" Pitts, 1947-2012
by Dave Segal
on Tue, May 1, 2012 at 4:04 PM
Charles “Skip” Pitts, the man responsible for two of the greatest guitar riffs ever conceived—those from Isaac Hayes’ universe-conquering “Theme From Shaft” and the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing”—passed away today in Memphis from cancer at age 65. His wah-wah guitar riff in the former remains his most recognizable feat: It’s a deathless signifier for ultimate, stealthy cool, a lithe, staccato chattering that propelled millions of dudes’ fantasies of badassery.
(Tangent: “Shaft” became embedded in my memory banks due to it being used as lead-in music to televised Detroit Red Wing hockey games—which I watched with alarming regularity as a lad—in the early ’70s. Oh, the irony of a blaxploitation-flick song hyping a program featuring the whitest team sport in America.)
Besides these formidable accomplishments, Pitts also led Wilson Pickett’s Midnight Movers band and served as a Stax Records session guitarist, appearing on Rufus Thomas’ awesome “The Breakdown” and many others.