Greatest Guitarists of All Time

The AWESOME! page has random music stuff that I think is cool. You never know what you will find here!

Occasionally on the AWESOME! page, I write about the never ending debate of the Greatest of All Time. I’ve given my picks of the Greatest Artist of All Time (September 30, 2018), Greatest Double Albums of All Time (November 8, 2017) and Greatest Frontmen of All Time (July 24, 2019).

It’s time to stir the pot again. Here’s my list of the Greatest Guitarists of All Time, as well as some others that would make many GOAT lists.

First…Close but not on my top 5 list.

Eric Clapton – I know, you guitar purists are outraged. He’s fabulous. He’s influenced thousands of other guitarists. He’s the definition of blues rock music. He’s in the top 5 of every list ever made – except mine.

Carlos Santana – He’s been relevant in seven decades. His fusion of rock and Latin American jazz is groundbreaking. He almost made my list.

Prince – He makes a lot of top 50 lists, I put him in more rarefied air. His super bowl halftime show in the rain was one of the great spectaculars of all time. Watch his guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps from the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony – it has become one of the most legendary guitar solos of all time.

OK – here are my top 5.

5 – David Gilmour – my favorite music is progressive rock, and the greatest prog rock group is Pink Floyd. So it’s no surprise that David Gilmour makes my list. But his mastery is so much more than amazing guitar riffs. His guitar solos complement perfectly the dreamy feel of the songs. He makes the solos sound simple, but they have a complexity that showcases his mastery. His guitar work on my favorite song of all time – Comfortably Numb – is true greatness. I’ve featured it before in the blog – see my post from June 28, 2017 for a concert video clip of his performance of Comfortably Numb that will astound you.

4 – Les Paul – Paul makes my list as an innovator as well as a master musician. He is the only person who is a member of both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as well as the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame. He was a pioneer of the electric guitar, and he invented techniques like overdubbing, tape delays and multi-track recording. And yes…he was an amazing guitar player. His guitar licks from the 50s were a sound never before heard, and they became an influence to guitar players forever after.

3 – Jimmy Page – Electric guitar and hard rock go hand in hand. Led Zeppelin is arguably the greatest hard rock band ever. So, the guitarist of Led Zeppelin has to be included in this list. His guitar riffs are brilliant. He created unique sounds from the guitar by using alternate tunings and distorted tones which became a signature of the band. My favorite – Kashmir.

2 – B.B. King – Rock music evolved from the blues. There were many great blues guitarists – Robert Johnson, Albert King, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn – but the greatest was B.B. King. He gave the name “Lucille” to his guitars, and Lucille is nearly as famous as the man who played them. When he played the guitar, it sounded like it was singing.

1 – Jimi Hendrix – This remarkable musician only released four albums and he was in the public eye for only five years before his untimely death at the age of 27. But his guitar playing made him a legend – he is number one on most GOAT lists. He made guitar feedback into a musical instrument in itself. He made distortion sound like a singing bird. He made the wah-wah pedal become a standard for rock guitarists. His performances at the Monterey Pop Festival and at Woodstock are among the most iconic moments in rock and roll history.

Here’s Hendrix performing Purple Haze. The stuff Hendrix does with a guitar is amazing. A left handed guitarist, playing a right handed guitar upside. Now, that’s unique!




2 thoughts on “Greatest Guitarists of All Time”

  1. OK, gotta comment on this one.

    Won’t spend much time debating Mark’s selections but will make two general comments:

    Les Paul and Jimi Hendrix (and Link Wray) were innovators, perhaps geniuses, but great guitar players?

    Love the blues more than ever. Love B.B., Albert, Clarence, Robert, Robert, others, but greatest of all time? Most music is based on 3-chord progressions; they do great things but not as innovative as I would like.

    Honorable mentions, I agree with Mark and add some others: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Paul Simon, Joe Walsh, Mark Knopfler, Brian May

    I think Jimmy Page is honorable mention.

    Now for my top picks (which might surprise you because I’m not particularly a fan of most of their music, in general):

    Randy Rhoads is close to top 5 if only for what I consider one of the greatest guitar performances of all time. Listen to Ozzy Osborne’s “Mr. Crowley” live version on youtube.

    Glen Campbell and/or Roy Clark might make my top 5. I’m not a country guy but they are great guitarists.

    Eddie Van Halen has to make the list. I’m generally not into 80’s glam rock but the man could play guitar (Glen Campbell was one of his mentors).

    Where the hell is Terry Kath? Even Hendrix said that Kath was a better guitarist than he was. Kath doesn’t even make Rolling Stone’s top 100. Such a crime. Listen to Chicago 1, 3, 5, and 7. From complex and innovative hard driving rock on Chicago 1 to jazzy, blues/funk on Chicago 7. Enough said.

    Mark and I agree on David Gilmour. Might be my No. 1

    No Rick Witkowski from Crack the Sky? Great guitarist, not top 5. Love you man.

  2. I have to agree David Gilmore hand both the art of less is more and amazing melodic lines. He wasn’t flashy (Yngwie Malmstein) sp? Or technically great (Joe Satriani) whom I like. I think Jimmy Page had the whole package, so for me it’s a two way draw between Gilmore and Page. This is how I feel here and now, heck tomorrow it might be Eddie V and that is what makes music great. It touches your soul

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