Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston guitarist Vernon 'Ice' Black breaks down his parts to their hit songs

 Vernon 'Ice' Black .
Vernon 'Ice' Black .

Vertex Effects' Mason Marangella has been doing a great job of shining a spotlight on session guitar heroes behind hit songs – we've heard from Paul Jackson Jr about his work on Thriller and Bad, Eddie Martinez on working with Robert Palmer and Run DMC, plus Dean Parks talking Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder. Now it's the turn of Vernon 'Ice' Black.

A master of pocket groove playing, Vernon's storied discography includes Aretha Franklin, Michael Bolton and Diana Ross. But his biggest-selling work has been with Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.

His role as Carey's guitarist goes back to her early days and he played on 1991's Emotions, using the A/DA MP-2 rack tube preamp with the custom Danny Ransom-painted guitar Vernon designed, assembled by Gary Brawer.

He uses it to showcase his work on Carey's title track from the album in the video above, as well as the Whitney Houston hits he played on. It doesn't feature a blade pickup selector for its trio of Seymour Duncan Hotrails, instead there are seven push-push controls to select each pickup individually or together, then others to split the Hotrails. It also has an onboard preamp to "add a little bottom and a little top – a smile EQ", as Vernon explains.

During his 13 years playing with her, Vernon performed in the band for Carey's hugely popular MTV Unplugged in 1992 – a performance that was rumoured to have come about because some detractors didn't believe Carey could hit the notes on her records outside the studio. Safe to say, they all went quiet afterwards.

Vernon also talked about his work with Whitney Houston, starting with the song One Moment In Time for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul before working on 1990's I'm Your Baby Tonight and Queen Of The Night on 1992's 45-million-selling Bodyguard soundtrack – the best-selling soundtrack of all-time and the best-selling album by a woman in music history.