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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

Jimi Hendrix, left, is ranked the best guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone. (AP) Eric Clapton, shown here posing with a Gibson Les Paul guitar, is ranked #2. (AP/Random House)

Rolling Stone assembled a panel of some of the top guitar players in the world to compile a list of their favorite guitar slingers for a special issue of the magazine. Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, as you might have guessed, top the list. But who else made the cut?

Songs in this piece:

Eruption, performed by Eddie Van Halen
Johnny B. Goode, performed by Chuck Berry
Purple Haze, performed by Jimi Hendrix
Smells Like Teen Spirit, performed by Nirvana (featuring Kurt Cobain)
Rumble performed by Link Wray
Dust My Broom, performed by Johnny Winter and Derek Trucks
Back In Black, performed by AC/DC (featuring Angus Young and Malcom Young)
Brown Sugar, performed by the Rolling Stones (featuring Keith Richards)
That’s All Right, performed by Elvis Presley (featuring Scott Moore)
How High The Moon, performed by Mary Ford and Les Paul
Joyful Noise, performed by the Derek Trucks Band
See No Evil, performed by Television (featuring Tom Verlaine)
Don’t Owe You A Thang, performed by Gary Clark Junior
Little Wing, performed by Jimi Hendrix
Bliztkrieg Bop, performed by the Ramones (featuring Johnny Ramone)


  • Alan Light, Rolling Stone contributor. He profiled some of the players on the list, including Derek Trucks, Carlos Santana and Hubert Sumlin.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

    That picture of Clapton looks like his Blind Faith days.

    • Antonio Fartgas


  • Jasoturner

    No Frank Zappa?  That’s a serious oversight.  Dean Ween (a.k.a….) is pretty darn good, too.

    • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

      Sorry, Zappa’s on the list at No. 22 but we just didn’t get around to talking about him, or so many other great players. It was hard for me to leave out the sound of Ry Cooder’s Memo for Turner with Mick Jagger.

      • Jasoturner

        Ever hear Wayne Johnson on Arrowhead?  Pretty awesome, but pretty obscure.  He toured with Manhattan Transfer I believe.

  • Shlebs

    Bob Oakes confusing Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo for Jimi Hendrix this morning was  cringe-inducing.

    • Jasoturner

       Poor Bob, but we still love him…

    • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

      Hey, at least he got Eddie confused with another guitar god, Jimmy Page. 

  • Frank S.

    Dick Dale…………..surf’s up.

    • 65noname


  • Gordon Hardy

    Blitzkrieg Bop, not Pop. And spell Blitzkrieg correctly, please!

    • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

      Sorry about that.

  • Djassane2009

    This list is just for the USA because I know some very very good guitar player just to give you couple f them Diblo and Jimi Mbaye just saying thank you love your show.

    • Gearhead_7

       Hey Djassane2009, all of the members of AC/DC, which includes Angus Young,  their lead guitarist, were born in Scotland or England, and then all moved to AUSTRALIA, for various reasons.  Just so you know, none of these countries are in the USA.

      • jefe68

        And Eric Clapton is form England.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1375256133 Lisa Shockley

    Brian May at only 26? He is one of the top 3, maybe 2, best. And, Richard Thompson is in my top 5, as is Gary Moore.

  • jefe68

    It’s clear that the title should be greatest blues and rock guitarist as there are no jazz players at all. No Charile Christian, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, Jim Hall, John Abercrombie, or Bill Frisell. Nor is there any mention of Mike Stern, the late Emily Remler to name a few.

    And Johnny Winter is number 63? He could give Hendrix a run for his money and there are recordings to prove it. There are few bootlegs of the two of them jamming and Winter is in fine form. That man could play some blues.

    For my money the #2 spot goes to Jeff Beck who has out done Clapton in recent years by being so much more innovative. Clapton has played it safe for the last 20 years, still he’s one of the greatist. Stevie Ray Vaughn deserves to be in 4th or 5th not Keith Richards, although he is in one of top 5  greatest rock bands of all time, that’s for sure. Some days I think the Stones are the best.

    • Carypeeno bullshine

      Jazz is manure!!

  • RolloMartins

    My guess is the best rock guitarists are no match for the best jazz and classical players. Parkening, Charlie Christian, Pat Metheny, Segovia. ‘Nough said.

  • Larry

    J.R Weitz, Derek Trucks

  • TJPhoto40

    Placing Mark Knopfler at 44 is a bad joke, meaning that he should much higher than that.  But this isn’t the first time RS has featured a “greatest guitarists” list that is riddled with bad judgment and ridiculous ratings.  At least Tom Verlaine is in there, as he should be.   

  • JLH

    Dear Robin,
      I always enjoy you, but never so much as I did today when you let out a truly lovely satisfied sigh when the last Hendrix segment began to play.

    Thank You! 

    • Alex Ashlock, Here and Now

      Isn’t that a great version of Little Wing?

  • Fake

    Carrie Brownstein? Doug Martsch? Isaac Brock? Johnny Marr??


    • Fake

      and graham coxon!!!

      • Fake

        is there a link to this full list? Did Mick Ronson even make the cut??

        I like that it didnt include any wankery type guitarists and its a pretty good list. but it goes too far in the other direction. John Lennon does not belong on a great guitarists list. Great frontman/songwriter/singer sure. But guitarist? not really. He’s just so good at the other things it makes it seem like he’s a great guitarist too. Same goes for Lou Reed. I love him to death but its hard for me to put him on a list like this.

        • Rachel_Rohr

          Hi, I’m a producer at Here & Now. The full list can be seen here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-guitarists-20111123  (There’s also a link to the special issue in the write-up at the top of this page.)

  • Ben

    Where is Walter Trout or Otis Grand?

    These so called Top 100 or whatever someone wishes to call them is meaningless.
    Its what you enjoy.
    Top this or that is crap. Its something for all these people to keep busy working at, even if its unproductive.
    Maybe the problem is too many people doing to many useless tasks.


  • 65noname

    And don’t forget the best of them all, duane eddy and the greatest rock instrumental of the 50′s, “rebel rouser”

    • Glabston Horsegreaser


      • 65noname

        no, I don’t think that he ever recorded that.

        • Glabston horsegreaser

          Yes he did, it was on the album”65noname is a manure bag”

  • Smiclops

    The fact that Trey Anastasio didn’t even make the top 100 is completly redic. I mean Kurt Cobain making it on there and figuring that even if you don’t enjoy Phish you can appreciate that Trey can outstrap him technically by miles. That goes for Garcia too, I love the guy but he doesn’t rip it up like Trey, or Tyler Perry for that matter who I think was even lower on the list than Cobain…..tisk tisk. Also, No Pat Metheny? No Dean Ween? Sub par list at best, I could go on forever especially if you take into account some lesser known but still unbeleivable artists that are out there today.

    • Smiclops

      But I guess since Trey he was a voter for this list that might have had something to do with it. He did make it onto David Frickes picks, albeit at number 73. Spin put out a decent list as well in May…also missing Trey but adding a good number that was missed on this list. http://www.spin.com/articles/spins-100-greatest-guitarists-all-time 

    • joeseddit

      I like Trey too, but he’s not as good as Garcia. Who’s Tyler
      Perry?  Aint he an actor or something’? I
      dunno, maybe he plays guitar too. But better than Jerry? Don’t think so.

    • Grapecherry

      I would put Trey in the top 10. It’s okay, though, as a Phish fan you get used to the discrimination. I don’t think non-Phish fans have ever come to terms with how insanely talented of a band they are.

  • Jim

    Hendrix always makes #1 on these lists.  it’s understandable given that he died and that cemented the legend and no one wants to blaspheme.  I recently listened to a few Hendrix records and just wasn’t that impressed.  Clapton and Steve Winwood have a live CD from a show or shows they did in Madison Square Garden and two of the tunes that really shine (and put Hendrix versions to shame) are Little Wing and Voodoo Child.  Of course, with all these lists it comes down to whose music speaks to you.  My favorite guitar player is Albert King.  When I listen to Clapton or Stevie Ray and others what I hear is the tremendous debt they all owe to Albert.  One fantastic picker – no pic just great fingers.  I’m glad someone mentioned the guitarists from Wishbone Ash – both are great and together are something else.  I am also partial to Alvin Lee of Ten Years After – great blues, great rock.  For a totally organic player it is hard to match Neil Young.  When he is in the groove, he is hard to beat.  Steve Winwood, though known for keyboards can hold his own with an axe.  For great riffs, I would go with Keith Richards.  Satisfaction, Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Gimme Shelter (the list goes on).

    • Antonio Fartgas


  • Rambis

    Whats the deal with this never ending obsession with lists??

    • Jasonyoung0410

      why the fuck do you care???

  • Claude Johnson

    yeaah im a little ahead on the guitar cuz I play everyday and its fun you know, I justhad to learn and well I did, anyways Imma tell you my big secret on the guitar scales, One secret I know is that when your playing, you can ask yourself what am I playing? so what I do is talk with other more experienced guitar players who could tell me more about other guitar scales and changed tones dude, Until I looked on youtube and saw this great website, now if you go here you can get even more experience and better understanding! I swear this helps man, try it out, then tell me how it went for you bro.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Guitarissts-Johnson/100003136566864 Guitarissts Johnson

    I’m looking for a personal talent for my guitar lessons. I learned few chords at:
    and need to learn more..Please help!!

  • joeseddit

    Anybody ever comment on RS’ list? I used to all the time but
    now Disqus says I don’t have the right browser but I do. Can’t post any
    comments. Anyone else having the same problem? I’m wondering if they’ve
    intentionally shut me off or if everyone’s shut out. I’d appreciate an answer.

  • Jasonyoung0410

    no SLASH?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!What the HELL is wrong with you?????????!?!?!?!?!

    • joeseddit

      Aint that him at 65?

    • Bg

      Did slash wear oxford bags?

      • Antonio fartgas

        no he wore joxford bags

  • Esteban

    No David Gilmour songs? Comfortably Numb, Time, or Shine on you Crazy Diamond could easily be in this list.

  • Terrypierce12

    you all wrong its buddy guy,who is regonize by the greats as the one.

    • Dr Sammy tweeterbug

      Gary Moore is the best

  • Ray Jeske

    Phil Keaggy, more creative than virtually all on these lists, both electric and acoustic.  And lists that don’t include Tommy Emmanuel are absurd.  Was Allan Holdsworth listed?

  • Andres Delgado

    Honestly, I think Jonny Greenwood is one of the greatest, and not recognized by many.
    He’s from Radiohead, Key Tracks: (Paranoid Android, Just, My Iron Lung, and Creep)

  • http://www.facebook.com/vanrompuy.git VanRompuy Git

    Watch one night in Dublin with Gary Moore, staggeringly good, he is the best ever!1

    • Bryan lagonda

      I agree, Gary Moore was the best guitarist of all time, no argument!!

  • Jox Trap

    Watch One night in Dublin with Gary Moore, in particular Parisienne Walkways, you will NEVER see more spellbinding playing than this!! 

    • Bryan Lagonda

      Yes I agree he was probably the best guitarist ever after Jimi Hendrix, his Parisienne Walkways on”One night in Dublin” was staggering!1

  • Rick Jones


  • Craig Hardin


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