My Top Twenty Favorite Rock'N'Roll Guitarist
Topographical Oceans by Roger Dean
All Good People
212 Overture/The Temples of Syrinx
The Immigrant Song
Foreplay Long Time
Man On the Silver Mountain
Do You Feel Like We Do
Bridge Of Sighs
Blue On Black
Love To Change The World
Steve Morse Guitar Solo
Rocky Mountain Way
25 Or 6 To 4
Rock 'N' Roll
This hub article is dedicated to the recent compilation of top 100 hundred guitar players of all time produced by Rolling Stone Magazine. I don't know who wrote the article and at this point really don't care as it was, in my opinion, a joke. Now that my top twenty rock'n'roll guitarist is complete, I can start working on my top 100.
I immediately scanned the list for my favorites and to my surprise found that many didn't even make the list. I thought for sure that Tommy Bolin would at least be in the top twenty, then not finding him there, would be in the top fifty, but for some unexplainable reason he was left off.
I then created a list of my favorites to compare to Rolling Stone's list and found that many others on my list didn't make the cut either such as Robin Trower and Peter Frampton, WOW!
So without further ado I give you a list of my top twenty and the reason they placed where they did.
1. Jimi Hendrix
Jimi is credited for making the statement Knowledge Speaks, Wisdom Listens I saw this on a bumper sticker soon after I got sober seven years ago and these words have stuck with me ever since, truer words were never spoken. He was a true master, often imitated but never matched, one of his more famous quotes supports this when he said
"I've been imitated so well I've heard people copy my mistakes."
My favorite Hendrix tune is Voodoo Child as it seems to exemplify his bending notes and love for feedback. I wore Axis Bold As Love out as his tunes have always mimicked my philosophy of the World. He left us way too early under somewhat mysterious circumstances. While doing research for this article I read many different articles about his death. I always suspected that the common myth of overdosing on LSD was exactly that . . . a myth, as it just didn't make any sense based on my own extensive hands on knowledge of the drug.
I find it somewhat amusing that many of his lyrics have been misinterpreted by the public and feel a kinship in that regard as much of what I write is often misinterpreted. After all
"Even Castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually."
"See ya on the other side . . . don't be late!"
2. Carlos Santana
I've seen Carlos play three times in various venues but by far the best performance was a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in the early 80's. He can really strut his stuff and make his guitar sing. He can give you hard core riffs such as on All I Ever Wantedor slow it down and make it sing as on Europa; Earth's Cry, Heaven's Smile.
The great thing about his music is that it stands the test of time and is recognize as great by young and old alike. The first album I really listened to was Inner Secrets that a friend of mine had, songs like Open Invitation, Stormy and One Chain (Don't Make No Prison) worked for me and after that it was on. Soon after I bought Abraxas and Santana III, the song I Ain't Got Nobody That I Can Depend On is a rock'n'roll classic.
However that being said, the tribute paid to him by the production of Supernatural (1999 ) and all the great songs that came from that CD, was simple a great way to commemorate his contribution to Rock 'N' Roll.
3. Stevie Ray Vaughn
The first time I saw Stevie Ray, I took my little brother to his concert for his birthday. The Rainbow Music Hall in Denver on S. Monaco St. (no longer there) was two AMC movie theater's with the middle wall torn down and made a great place to see concerts. Neither one of us had ever heard of the guy, but for five bucks a ticket and general emission, we figured what did we have to lose.
Boy were we in for a show, we got there early and ended up getting second row center seats. He started out sitting down with his cowboy hat pulled way down over his eyes so you couldn't see his face. By the end of the show he was playing the guitar behind his back, with his teeth and even caught in on fire. He did a little Who number on stage with feed back and just stunned the crowd with an awesome rendition of Voodoo Child to end it.
We were stunned and for sure one of the best shows I've ever seen. Well, needless to say we went out and bought his first album and wore it out, I'm sure our parents just loved Stevie Ray as the only way to listen to Rock'N'Roll is loud, good thing my room was in the basement.
4. Tommy Bolin
Tommy was a natural and basically self taught, I instantly made a connection with his music and his background. Although he wasn't with us long, as he battled drugs and alcohol and eventually lost, he made a big impression on me. His two fairly well known albums Teaser and Private Eyes were great, but even in the early 80's only a few short years after his death of a drug overdose, his music wasn't well known.
Classics such as Post Toastee, Bustin' Out For Rosie and of course Teaser were some of the better known songs he produced, however my all time favorite, is People, People, which I think was a song written as a cry for help, evidently no one was listening.
Anytime, anyone dies of a accidental drug overdose it is tragic and sad, however his seemed to be especially tragic as he was at the height of his career and touring at the time with another great guitar player Jeff Beck. Having battled alcohol and drugs for 27 years, I could have easily shared his fate on numerous occasions and only through the grace of God have I been allowed to learn to live a sober life.
It seems he spent much of his adult life broke and high, a lifestyle that I shared for many years. It is not until one becomes sober and alters their perspective do they realize what they have missed, or even why they felt the need to remain stoned all the time.
His music revealed a beautiful soul and I still feel the heartbreak of his death!
Brother, brother, help me please, I'm as lonely as I can be.
All my friends are scaring me, But if you forget me then I will leave.
Sister, sister, what can I do? I'm in love with tootsie too.
Please excuse me if I am low, But me feelings just have to show.
People, people, hold my hand. Where in the hel is this promised land?
Float right past me, oh I like your style.
Seek it, seek it, seek it, seek it, you're here for a while.
Mother, mother, so good to me, Praying just so I can be.
My father, my father, my only one, I hope you're proud of this your son.
Listen to them play now....
5. Jeff Beck
Known as a consummate professional, Jeff really came into his own as a great guitar player when he joined with Max Middleton and put out the album Blow By Blow. His classic guitar riffs on Freeway Jam are what I consider his best music, although he can be found on many albums playing guitar for many of the greats of the industry, including but not limited too . . . Mick Jagger, Kate Bush, Roger Waters, Donovan, Stevie Wonder, Les Paul, Zucchero, Cyndi Lauper, Brian May and ZZ Top.
Of course, his next album with Jan Hammer (a master in his own right) can make any guitar player shine and has done so many times, Jeff's work on Wired really showed his diversity.
However I believe Blow By Blow to be his best work which included such great songs as Thelonius (written by Stevie Wonder), 'Cause We Ended As Lovers and Freeway Jam.
6. Steve Howe
How (excuse the pun couldn't resist) the lead guitar player for Yes didn't make Rolling Stones list is true mystery to me as this man combined classical guitar with mind expanding Rock 'N' Roll songs. His work on All Good People, practically created a whole new genre of Rock as 'Artistic Rock' using classical guitar. The next album Fragile allowed him to combine classical with electric on the song Roundabout and established this new genre as his own.
I finally saw this band in '91 on the reUnion tour on a round stage at McNichols Arena (In Denver, CO) and although it was widely known that the members didn't get along you couldn't tell by the music played that night. It was a spectacular show, allowing each member to show case their talent collectively and individually.
For me Steve Howe will and is the only Yes guitarist as he instilled in me the ultimate in professionalism and truly opened my mind to a new way of thinking about Rock 'N' Roll. Those early Yes albums brought out the creativity in my art and of course the cover art by Roger Dean didn't hurt either.
Although Topographical Oceans wasn't their best work, the cover art was truly inspiring.
7. Toni Iommi
Toni was the and still is the classic Heavy Metal guitar player of which all the other hard rock guitar players are judged by. He may not have been the fastest or the best but his simplistic yet intricate riffs stand the test of time. His work on Fairies Wear Boots or War Pigs still bring out the animal in me. Having seen him play on multi occasions, I can truly say that he was the best of his genre. No other Heavy Metal guitar player has quite the sound of Toni Iommi.
I have often heard that Ozzy made Black Sabbath, but I disagree. Toni and the rest of Sabbath actually allowed Ozzy the chance to shine, not the other way around. He didn't try to play too fast and had just the right tempo for the music that was produced.
His riffs are often imitated but never truly matched and his unique ability to go from fast to slow with just the right pitch allowed their music to become well defined. I'd rather listen to Toni's guitar than any other Heavy Metal artist and their are a lot of good ones out there.
8. Alex Lifeson
The guitarist for Rush, Lifeson's work was epitomized in the song 2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx on the Album 2112 which is arguable their best. Their early days were mainly just Heavy Metal as in much of the work on their first albums Rush and Fly By Night, however the song of the same name showed that they has the potential for commercial 'hits'.
My personal favorite style, although they have had many different kinds, was when they concentrated on more science-fiction and fantasy oriented themes in their music, such as on albums 2112, Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres.
As they became more popular and is usually the case they sold out to the demands of the studios to provide more mainstream radio oriented music. Their compromise on the next two albums Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures still provided their fans with edgy sci-fantasy themes, while still producing their unique sound.
How Rolling Stone could place Alex Liveson in the high 90's (97) on their list escapes me and considering his impact on Rock 'N' Roll for the 70's, 80's and 90's is perplexing.
The Temples of Syrinx and the introduction 2112 Overture is still consider a classic of it's genre and beyond a doubt one of the best Heavy Metal Rock tunes of all time!
. . . and the meek shall inherit the Earth!
We've taken care of everything, the words you read, the songs you sing, the pictures that give pleasure to your eye!
. . . sound familiar!
9. Jimmy Page
What can be said about Jimmy Page that hasn't already been said, not much. Led Zeppelin was never my favorite band as too many of my contemporaries liked them way too much for me to jump on the band wagon (oops that pun was too easy)!
I learned to appreciate their music much later in life, however one of my favorites was The Immigrant Song. Jimmy was a guitar players guitarist and a true giant in Rock. He was able to bring to life the blues in Rock 'N' Roll like no other guitar player before him or since.
Of course, Stairway To Heaven maybe the classic Rock 'N' Roll song of all time, his work on many other songs is equally as noteworthy! (am I a pun master or what?)
10. Tom Schultz
Although Tom Schultz may not be as well known as the others in my top ten he deserves this spot for the originality that he brought to his unmistakeable sound. I remember going to see Boston play in the tenth grade, after their first album. Everyone thought that he had somehow computerized his guitar as it produced a sound like no other before him.
The album of the same name as the band had a brand new feel to it and ushered in the computerized space age of what I felt would be one of the greatest bands of all time. Foreplay Long Time and More Than A Feeling was playing on every radio station in the country. This band just couldn't miss, especially after their next album Don't Look Back achieved as much success as the first.
Unfortunately for Boston fans everywhere the band had other plans and never did much of anything after they initially burst onto the scene in the late 70's!
11. Eddie Van Halen
Without a doubt Eddie was one of the better guitar players to break into the music scene in the late 70's and early 80's, however one of the main ingredients of greatness is learning to be humble and he never seemed to get that. Van Halen's first album of the same name was an awesome achievement of it's genre with such power tunes as Running With The Devil, Ain't Talking About Love and Atomic Punk they definitely secured their place among the best Hard Rockers of their time.
His guitar solo on Eruption, a all time favorite of mine and the intro to You Really Got Me, instantly propelled him to the top, the next few albums became more and more commercial and ultimately lost it's appeal for me. They were only an average band live and their attitude towards their fans, which was perhaps a symptom of the 80's only served to turn me off toward them and their music.
12. Ritchie Blackmore
Blackmore is another guitar player who's self proclaimed greatness, also served to turn me off from his music. His riffs while playing for Deep Purple are legendary, such as Highway Star, My Women From Tokyo and Smoke On The Water and were often imitated but hard too match as Tommy Bolin admitted too.
His guitar solo on Child Of Time is classic and I still enjoy his music today. One of my favorite hard rock tunes of all time came later, when he created the band Rainbow and came out with the Classic Man On The Silver Mountain, but this to seemed to portray his obsession with himself. Part of being great is to allow others to make that determination and his attitude towards his fans and band mates created a sense of a self absorbed adolesent wannabe, a big turn-off for me. Of course, you don't have to like the musician to like the music.
13. Peter Frampton
Peter came out in the seventies with what arguable was one of the greatest live albums of all time, Framptom Comes Alive. This album appealed to a wide range of fans and propelled him to stardom. However I once heard an interview with him and this was confirmed after seeing him perform live on stage, that the reason he played with his back to the stage is that he didn't want his audience to steal his technique, truly a pathetic assertion.
As a youngster and die hard fan I interpreted this as arrogance, and never bought another album. This too was one of the reasons Eric Clapton didn't make the list, as his live performances were over priced, very short, with no encores. Both great musicians and worthy of the list, Peter won out over Eric, based on his unique sound and Humble Pie beginnings (sorry couldn't resist). Do You Feel Like We Do will go down in time as perhaps the all time great live recorded songs of it's era.
14. Robin Trower
Here is a awesome guitar player that never sold out and cranked out some innovative and truly unique sounds in a time when everything was being tried. A guitar player that, although never very popular with mainstream fans was considered one of the masters of his era. His work on Bridge Of Sighs propelled him to another level among guitar enthusiasts.
Known for his ability to bend notes and often compare to Hendrix, he initially gained fame with his work as the guitar player for Procul Harem and their great album Whiter Shade Of Pale, the song of the same name achieved moderate success and is an all time favorite of mine.
15. Kenny Wayne Shepard
His remarkable rise to stardom is no accident, considering his musical influences and ability, not to mention the opportunities he was given early. However that being said, you can easily hear his ability shine on His second album Trouble Is . . . with the classic song Blue On Black, his signature song.
Heavily influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughn, you can hear this in his music on a wide variety of songs. Perhaps one of the few remaining natural blues guitarist, his music certainly stands the test of time and in my humble opinion should be considered one of the all time best.
16. Alvin Lee
Going Home and Wood Choppers Ball which he played at Woodstock were the songs that perhaps have been played more often than any of his other work, including I'd Love To Change The World which was a signle put out later with Ten Years After.
I saw him play much later in his life when He opened for Black Sabbath after Ozzy had left the group and he was very impressive although I sensed the crowd had no clue to who this legendary guitar player was.
17. Steve Morse
Here is truly great guitar player that has never gotten the credit he is due. I saw him play at the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver front row center in the early 80's at a all acoustic show with such greats as John Mclaughlin, Al Di Meola, and Paco De Lucia and is one of my top five concerts of all time.
His work with the Dixie Dregs is what I consider awesome and his best, although he worked with many talented musicians, including but not limited to Deep Purple, Kansas, Joe Walsh and Triumph.
18. George Thorogood
Although many would not consider George a great guitar player his albums and remakes of classic blues songs established himself as great in my book. Who Do You Love a cover of a Bo Diddle song is my favorite which has been played by many including Santana.
A die hard baseball fan and good player in his own right (won Rookie of the Year playing 2b in a semi-pro league in '76), his band the Destroyers, made him give up the only true sport in my opinion to concentrate on music. Later in life I put together a competitive softball team that won many championships and named them the DESTROYERS in his honor.
19. Joe Walsh
Another great guitar player that had much success with two great bands The James Gang and The Eagles, before moving on to a solo career. This versatile ax man went on to record many great hits on his own, and is consider a humble yet over achieving musician.
His first true success came in between The James Gang and The Eagles when he released the single Rocky Mountain Way with Barnstorm a true Rock 'N' Roll classic. He helped transition The Eagles to greatness with Hotel California with his unmistakable riffs on Life In The Fast Lane, moving The Eagles from a country sound to a harder rock type style.
Perhaps his greatest achievements in music was when he left The Eagles for a solo career and put out the album But Seriously Folks . . . and the classic Life's Been Good. Having played with many greats in the business and achieving recovery from addiction in '95, I consider him one of the best.
20. Terry Kath
Perhaps the least known artist on the list, his work on Chicago Transit Authority is profound and truly remarkable. His guitar solo's in the middle of 25 Or 6 To 4 and on Introduction on their first album is legendary.
I once heard, but have been unable to substantiate this, that Jimi Hendrix remarked after playing with him that he was the best guitar he had ever played with. he had other great solo's such as on I'm A Man, but the range on 25 Or 6 To 4 is just stunning, definitely worth listening too!
He also was a great singer as his talent is showcased on the hits Color My World and Make Me Smile, his guitar playing was overshadowed by the sound that Chicago became known for 'Rock with a Horn Section'. His tragic 'accidental' suicide in 1978, left me saddened and stunned.
Well, this is my list and of course because great music and guitar playing is in the ear of the beholder, I'm sure some will disagree with my top twenty rock'n'roll guitarist, the guitarist that made the list and the order, but these are the musicians that made the biggest impact on my life.
Writing this article brought back many memories of days gone by and made me realize just how 'lucky' I have been to hear some of the greats perform live. I hope you learned something new about my favorites guitar players, as I did in researching the material for this article.
Please forgive me if I made any mistakes in writing this article as the research was extensive, but not being a seasoned professional may have made some. If I have, feel free to point them out in the comments section as I only learn from my mistakes and it will give me the opportunity to correct them!
My hat goes off to Brandon Harris a programmer for Wikipedia as much of the research was done on his site and any earnings made from this article will be sent to his site as a tribute to his dedication and obvious musical interest, thank you and God bless the guitar players of the World and their contributions.
My top twenty rock'n'roll guitarist list revealed the research and time it takes to compile such a list is truly staggering, but worth it . . . I certainly hope you learned as much as I did.
Links to other related hub sites
- Top Ten Blues Songs That Make Me Smile
- Top Twenty Greatest Albums of the 70's- Hotel California-The Eagles
- Myths About The Eagles' Hotel California
- Al Di Meola, America's Best Guitarist.
Who am I or anyone to say who the best guitarist in America is? I'm saying it here - It's Al Di Meola, and here's some of the reasons why!
- Kosmo on HubPages
I'm a man with lots of hobbies but little money. My interests include archaeology, ancient history, rock 'n' roll, jazz, art history and...