Many of today’s guitar players picked up their instrument because they were influenced not only by great songs but also by the guitarists who made them. And while there are many great guitarists out there, there are a few names that keep popping up as the most admired.
Here are our top picks for the best guitarists of all time.
Jimi Hendrix is regarded as one of popular music’s most influential electric guitarists. He’s admired both for his ability to combine effects (he’s the first guitarists to chain those effect pedals together) and his intense guitar-playing skills without the effects.
He delved in several music genres, including psychedelia, experimental rock, blues-rock and of course, rock. Born James Marshall Hendrix in the United States, Hendrix has been described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “arguably the greatest instrumentalists in the history of rock music.” Do yourself a favor and listed to his songs “Red House” and “Little Wing” and watch his rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Jimmy Page is widely known as the founder and guitarist of the English rock band Led Zeppelin. James Patrick Page actually began his career as a studio session musician–he played guitar on “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones, “I Can’t Explain” by the Who and “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks. Before being the mastermind behind Led Zep, he was a member of the band Yardbirds. Page’s playing portfolio ranges from heavy metal and rock & roll to folk rock, jazz and blues.
The only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, UK-born Eric Patrick Clapton is without a doubt one of the most influential guitarists of all time. Many young people know him as a solo artist, but Clapton was also a member of Cream and Yardbirds (like Jimmy Page).
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stephen “Stevie” Ray Vaughan is widely recognized as one of the most influential guitarists who revived the blues in the 1980s. Aside from blues music, this American electric guitarist also played rock, instrumental rock and jazz fusion.
Brian May achieved astronomical fame not only in scientific circles (he’s an astrophysicist!) but also in music, where he is known as the lead guitarist of Queen. The guitar he uses, which he calls the Red Special, is homemade by him and his father. He’s credited for composing hits such as “We Will Rock You,” “Who Wants to Live Forever” and “I Want It All.”
We’re not all rock & rollers out here so it’s time to put more focus on the blues. McKinley Morganfield, a.k.a. Muddy Waters, the Hoochie Coochie Man, is widely regarded as the father of electric blues. His recordings became the “roots music” of the Sixties’ youth counterculture. Fun fact: The Rolling Stones took their name from one of Muddy Waters’ songs.
Carlos Santana’s band, named after him, used percussion instruments you wouldn’t generally hear in rock music. They played congas and timbales, blending the music with his blues-based guitar lines and producing the unique and signature Santana sound.
Other top guitar players we look up to and consider to be among the best and most influential guitarists of all time are B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen, Pete Townshend of the Who, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Joe Perry of Aerosmith and Les Paul, without whom we wouldn’t have that iconic, much-loved electric guitar. Also, worth a special mention is Slash aka Saul Hudson of Guns N’ Roses fame.