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Top 10 Greatest Electric Guitarists
My Top 10 list comes from who I've either listened closely to over the decades or have seen in concert.
It's understood there are a variety of guitar styles; Rock, Blues, Jazz, Classical, etc. Please note the other excellent or influential guitarists I indicate in the paragraph below my #10.
I often discussed with my guitar-loving friends in High School, who are their Top 10 favorite guitarists. Decades later, one name remains at the top of my list as well as the list of many others; Jimi Hendrix. It was 46 years ago the rock guitar legend passed at age 27.
To this day his rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” remains my favorite song. Jimi nailed this Bob Dylan song like no one else. His rendition of “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock is legendary. I was too young to see him play live, but did get to meet his father briefly at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show in Anaheim in 1999.
Free-spirited Jimi poured his creativity and intensity into playing a right-handed Fender Stratocaster with his left hand. Jimi was a gifted, self-taught, shy, yet bold, lefty guitarist who experimented and perfected unique sound techniques like no player before him, especially the use of feedback. I love Neil Young’s quote “There was no one on the same planet.” Till today Jimi remains the most influential rock guitarist. Jimi was so iconic, there's a stamp of him.
2. Eric Clapton has it all: the look, feel, talent and a voice. I did see Eric live at a benefit concert at MSG in NYC. He was excellent. My favorite Clapton leads/riffs are from his songs:“Have You Ever Loved a Woman”, “Layla” and “Forever Man.” His rendition of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” with Steve Winwood is great. A truly great player and guitar historian who’s done so much to expose us further to many excellent guitarists via his annual Crossroads Guitar Festival concerts.
3. Jeff Beck, a master guitar technician who as Clapton said “If you listen closely, it’s like he’s pulling the sound” I did get to see Beck once at Hofstra University years ago. It was an amazing 1-hour performance. He did not come back on for an encore. Two must see performances on YouTube of Beck’s “Cause We Ended As Lovers” at Crossroads Concert (2007) and his rendition of the Beatles “A Day in the Life"
4. Jimmy Page: Founder and producer of Led Zeppelin. I still love to listen to his leads in "Whole Lotta Love”, "Heartbreaker" and “Stairway to Heaven” to name a few. I did get to see him live once. What a powerful player and performer.
5. Stevie Ray Vaughan: A Texas blues player who was obviously influenced by Hendrix. However, what a player in his own right. Had the blues voice to match an intense and fluid playing style. I often listen to what I consider his best performances: “Crossfire” and "Pride and Joy" and his rendition of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” with his band Double Trouble. Well respected by the great ones, especially Eric Clapton.
6. Carlos Santana; an emotional, Latin flavored guitarist who’s like no other. "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va" were only the beginning of his greatness. Also his version "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is so good and moving.
7. Roy Buchanan: An amazing blues musician from Arkansas who had mastered tone and technique with his Telecaster like few guitar players before him. Les Paul once said regarding his playing style "He travels down a different road." I did see him in concert at Stony Brook University when I was a teenager. His performance was memorable. He was a big influence on Jeff Beck. I love his version of "Green Onions" at Carnegie Hall.
8. Eddie van Halen: speed, skill, musical and has contributed so much to making van Halen a global rock band. His leads in "Jump" and "Runnin with the Devil" are just a few examples of how well he plays.
9. Pete Townshend: showman extraordinaire, creative guitar genius. Love his playing/riff in “Eminence Front” and in so many classic Who songs, too many to mention.
10. Larry Carlton: a guitarist, guitarist who has done a ton of session work for many well-known artists such as Steely Dan to name one. His lead in the TV theme music for "Hill Street Blues" is so good. His lead in Steely Dan's "Take Me Alive" is smoking. I did see him live twice at the Blue Note in NYC. He's a flawless performer who is so skilled.
There’s many more memorable and influential guitarist that deserve mention and could easily float in between my 6-10 list above. Among them; the well-respected Chet Atkins, Roy Clark, Mark Knopfler, Lee Ritenour, BB King, Albert King, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Dickey Betts, Duane Allman, Derek Trucks, Joe Walsh, Steve Lukather, Jerry Garcia, Eric Johnson, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, George Harrison, David Gilmour, Chuck Berry and the legendary solid-body electric guitar pioneer and player; Les Paul.
Who’s your Top 10 Greatest Guitarists? Let me know, and let the debate rage on.