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Angus Young: The Riffmaster Behind AC/DC

Angus Young Profile

Full Name Angus McKinnon Young
Birthday March 31, 1955
Birth Place Glasgow, Scotland
Instruments Guitar, Banjo
Genres Hard Rock, Blues Rock, Heavy Metal
Associated Acts AC/DC, The Easybeats
Notable Instruments Gibson SG, Marshall Amps
Social Media Facebook

As the kinetic guitarist behind one of history‘s most popular rock bands, Angus Young has enthralled generations of fans with his incendiary talent. Known for his blazing solos, iconic schoolboy outfit, and endless energy, Angus helped pioneer hard rock as lead guitarist of the legendary AC/DC.

Early Life in Scotland and Australia

Born on March 31, 1955 in Glasgow, Scotland, Angus Young was one of eight children. His family later relocated to Sydney, Australia in 1963, where Angus would truly begin his musical journey.

In 1961, his oldest brother Alex gifted him a cheap banjo he‘d found to replace Angus‘ broken plastic ukulele. Angus practiced relentlessly, even during school hours, much to the chagrin of teachers.

By 1965, another brother, George, had given Angus his first guitar – a secondhand acoustic. Angus immediately set to work learning chords and mimicking hits of the day.

Forming AC/DC with Brother Malcolm

In 1973, Angus and his brother Malcolm formed AC/DC in Sydney, Australia. Angus was only 18 at the time. The band‘s original lineup also featured fellow Aussies Dave Evans (vocals), Larry Van Kriedt (bass), and Colin Burgess (drums).

The brothers had a singular vision to create loud, blues-inspired hard rock. Angus‘ gritty guitar tone and catchy riffs became a sonic cornerstone of the band‘s sound.

AC/DC‘s debut album High Voltage (1975) contained classics like "It‘s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n‘ Roll)" that spotlighted Angus‘ talents. His schoolboy outfit was also established during this period as a way to offset his short stature.

Finding International Stardom

AC/DC achieved mainstream success with their sixth record, Highway to Hell (1979), propelled by Angus‘ iconic guitar work. But tragedy struck soon after when original frontman Bon Scott passed away in early 1980.

Remarkably, Angus and Malcolm rebounded to record Back in Black later that year with new singer Brian Johnson. Driven by all-time great riffs from Angus like the title track, "Shoot to Thrill," and "You Shook Me All Night Long," the album became a legendary landmark that cemented AC/DC‘s popularity.

During the 1980s, Angus‘ intricate solos and high voltage stage presence made him one of rock‘s premier guitar heroes. His duckwalk across the stage also became iconic. AC/DC remained heavy metal behemoths over the next several decades thanks to the riffwriting genius and showmanship of Angus Young.

Signature Guitar Sound and Style

So what defines Angus Young‘s instantly recognizable guitar tone?


  • Gibson SG guitar – With its double cutaway design, the SG allows Angus easy access to high frets critical for his solos.
  • Marshall amplifiers – Marshall‘s valve amps deliver the raunchy overdrive central to Angus‘ sound.
  • Guitar cable – A wireless setup enables Angus to roam the stage freely when soloing.


  • String bending – Angus frequently bends strings to produce scream-like sounds and emotive impact.
  • Vibrato – By rapidly manipulating the tremolo bar, Angus creates his signature shimmering vibratos.
  • Alternate picking – Angus is a virtuoso at rapid alternate up/down picking used in solos and riffs.


  • Rhythmic riffing – Songs like "Back in Black" demonstrate Angus‘ mastery of primal, headbanging rock rhythm guitar.
  • Melodic phrasing – Angus constructs solos with catchy melodic motifs, setting him apart from many "shredders."
  • Improvisation – Angus routinely improvises solos live, showcasing his creativity and technical chops.

Cultural Legacy as a Guitar Great

Angus Young‘s combination of prodigious talent and unpredictable energy has made him a titan among rock guitar gods. His legacy includes:

  • Pioneering hard rock guitar starting in the 1970s along with peers like Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi.
  • Crafting the template for live spectacle in heavy metal through his hyperactive onstage antics.
  • Garnering countless disciples (from Metallica to Guns N‘ Roses) who aim to emulate his rhythm playing and solos.
  • Building a catalog of iconic riffs known to all rock fans, from "Thunderstruck" to "Highway to Hell."
  • Remaining an active influence on up-and-coming rockers, proven by Greta Van Fleet‘s sound.
  • Selling over 200 million albums worldwide, putting AC/DC in rarefied company among music‘s top-selling acts.

Nearly 50 years since forming AC/DC, Angus Young remains a singular titan in rock history, loved by fans for his howling guitar madness. The riffs he birthed will ring out forever.

Favorite Angus Young Guitar Moments

As an ardent AC/DC fan, here are some of my personal favorite Angus Young guitar highlights that still give me chills:

  • Back in Black – The title track. That classic opening riff backed by the tolling bells still slays me every time.
  • Let There Be Rock – Angus‘ epic 6-minute solo is a masterclass in building tension and climaxing with a frenzied flourish.
  • Thunderstruck – Though one of his most straightforward rockers, that main riff is just perfect. The tone! The power!
  • Riff Raff – One of Angus‘ most frenzied solos. His fingerwork here is astounding.
  • Live at Donington – Whole performance is a fiery Angus masterclass. But the "Let There Be Rock" solo stands out.
  • Rock or Bust Tour – Watching Angus soar through "Shot Down in Flames" in 2015 as a 60-year old was inspirational. Long live rock n‘ roll!

For any aspiring guitarist or rock music fan, Angus Young‘s discography offers a bootcamp on blistering guitar brilliance. His talents could power entire cities, which is fitting for the most electrifying man in rock and roll!