Deemed "seriously ass-whoopin'" by Carlos Santana, female guitarist Orianthi burst on the scene in 2009 thanks to the killer trifecta of Carrie Underwood, the Grammys, and the King of Pop. Born in Adelaide, Australia, Orianthi Panagaris was only six when she fell in love with the guitar thanks to her dad's record collection. Legendary names like Clapton, Hendrix, and Santana influenced her to take lessons, and she spent five years on the acoustic guitar before switching to the electric at the age of eleven. The guitar-heavy music of Def Leppard, Van Halen, and Whitesnake dominated her teenage years, and at the age of 18, she met her hero when she was invited to jam with Santana during a soundcheck. That soundcheck evolved into a half-hour guest shot during that night's concert, and with Carlos' enthusiastic endorsement, she went on to share stages with acts like Prince and ZZ Top, as well as earning a support slot on Steve Vai's 2007 world tour. Also in 2007, Orianthi signed with the Geffen label and released her debut album, Violet Journey, which featured her vocals and fretwork. Having moved to Los Angeles, Orianthi's musicianship was later exposed to millions of television viewers when she joined Carrie Underwood's band for a 2009 Grammy Awards performance. That same year, an email invitation arrived asking her to audition for Michael Jackson, who was assembling a band for a 50-date residency at London's O2 Arena. One blistering rendition of the "Beat It" solo was enough to land the gig, but the King of Pop unexpectedly passed in June of that same year. Orianthi sang at the memorial service, and rehearsal footage of the guitarist backing the Jackson was featured in the popular film Michael Jackson's This Is It. Her second album, Believe, arrived several days before the movie's release, featuring the Top 20 single "According to You." Believe was re-released in 2010 as Believe (II) with four different songs including a cover of John Waite's "Missing You". ~ David Jeffries
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