100 greatest guitaristsJimi HendrixI feel sad for people who have to judge Jimi Hendrix on the basis of recordings and film alone; because in the flesh he was soextraordinary. He had a kind of alchemists ability; when he was on the stage, he changed. He physically changed. He became incrediblygraceful and beautiful. It wasnt just people taking LSD, though that was going on, theres no question. But he had a power that almostsobered you up if you were on an acid trip. He was bigger than LSD.What he played was fucking loud but also incredibly lyrical and expert. He managed to build this bridge between true blues guitar — thekind that Eric Clapton had been battling with for years and years — and modern sounds, the kind of Syd Barrett-meets-Townshendsound, the wall of screaming guitar sound that U2 popularized. He brought the two together brilliantly. And it was supported by a visualmagic that obviously you wont get if you just listen to the music. He did this thing where he would play a chord, and then he would sweephis left hand through the air in a curve, and it would almost take you away from the idea that there was a guitar player here and that themusic was actually coming out of the end of his fingers. And then people say, "Well, you were obviously on drugs." But I wasnt, and Iwasnt drunk, either. I can just remember being taken over by this, and the images he was producing or evoking were naturallypsychedelic in tone because we were surrounded by psychedelic graphics. All of the images that were around us at the time had this kindof echoey, acidy quality to them. The lighting in all the clubs was psychedelic and drippy.He was dusty — he had cobwebs and dust all over him. He was a very unremarkable-looking guy with an old military jacket on that waspretty dirty. It looked like hed maybe slept in it a few nights running. When he would walk toward the stage, nobody would really takemuch notice of him. But when he walked off, I saw him walk up to some of the most covetable women in the world. Hendrix would snaphis fingers, and they followed him. Onstage, he was very erotic as well. To a man watching, he was erotic like Mick Jagger is erotic. Itwasnt "You know, Id like to take that guy in the bathroom and fuck him." It was a high form of eroticism, almost spiritual in quality.There was a sense of wanting to possess him and wanting to be a part of him, to know how he did what he did because he was sopowerfully affecting. Johnny Rotten did it, Kurt Cobain did it. As a man, you wanted to be a part of Johnny Rottens gang, you wanted tobe a part of Kurt Cobains gang.He was shy and kind and sweet, and he was fucked up and insecure. If you were as lucky as I was, youd spend a few hours with him aftera gig and watch him descend out of this incredibly colorful, energized face. There was also something quite sad about watching him.There was a hedonism about him. Toward the end of his life, he seemed to be having fun, but maybe a little bit too much. It washappening to a lot of people, but it was sad to see it happen to him.With Jimi, I didnt have any envy. I never had any sense that I could ever come close. I remember feeling quite sorry for Eric, who thoughtthat he might actually be able to emulate Jimi. I also felt sorry that he should think that he needed to. Because I thought Eric waswonderful anyway. Perhaps I make assumptions here that I shouldnt, but its true. Once — I think it was at a gig Jimi played at the Scotchof St. James [in London] — Eric and I found ourselves holding each others hands. You know, what we were watching was so profoundlypowerful.The third or fourth time that I saw him, he was supporting the Who at the Saville Theatre. That was the first time I saw him set his guitaron fire. It didnt do very much. He poured lighter fluid over the guitar and set fire to it, and then the next day he would be playing with aguitar that was a little bit charred. In fact, I remember teasing him, saying, "Thats not good enough — you need a proper flamethrower, it
needs to be completely destroyed." We started getting into an argument about destroying your guitar — if youre going to do it, you haveto do it properly. You have to break every little piece of the guitar, and then you have to give it away so it cant be rebuilt. Only that isproper breaking your guitar. He was looking at me like I was fucking mad.Trying to work out how he affected me at my ground zero, the fact is that I felt like I was robbed. I felt the Who were in some ways quite asilly little group, that they were indeed my art-school installation. They were constructed ideas and images and some cool little pop songs.Some of the music was good, but a lot of what the Who did was very tongue-in-cheek, or we reserved the right to pretend it was tongue-in-cheek if the audience laughed at it. The Who would always look like we didnt really mean it, like it didnt really matter. You know, yousmash a guitar, you walk off and go, "Fuck it all. Its all a load of tripe anyway." That really was the beginning of that punk consciousness.And Jimi arrived with proper music.He made the electric guitar beautiful. It had always been dangerous, it had always been able to evoke anger. If you go right back to thebeginning of it, John Lee Hooker shoving a microphone into his guitar back in the 1940s, it made his guitar sound angry, impetuous, anddangerous. The guitar players who worked through the Fifties and with the early rock artists — James Burton, who worked with RickyNelson and the Everly Brothers, Steve Cropper with Booker T. — these Nashville-influenced players had a steely, flick-knife sound, reallykind of spiky compared to the beautiful sound of the six-string acoustic being played in the background. In those great early Elvis songs,you hear Elvis himself playing guitar on songs like "Hound Dog," and then you hear an electric guitar come in, and its not a pleasantsound. Early blues players, too — Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Albert King — they did it to hurt your ears. Jimi made it beautiful and madeit OK to make it beautiful. Duane Allman If the late Duane Allman had done nothing but session work, he would still be on this list. His contributions on lead and slide guitar to dozens of records as fine and as varied as Wilson Picketts down-home 69 cover of "Hey Jude" and Eric Claptons 1970 masterpiece with Derek and the Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, constitute an astounding body of work. But Allman also transformed the poetry of jamming with the Allman Brothers Band, the group he founded in 1969 with his younger brother, singer-organist Gregg. Duane applied the same black soul and rebel fire he displayed as a sideman to the Allmans extended investigations of Muddy Waters and Blind Willie McTell covers and to his psychedelic-jazz interplay with second guitarist Dickey Betts in live showpieces such as "Whipping Post." Although Duane and Gregg had played in bands together since 1960, Duane did not learn to play slide until shortly before the start of the Allmans. In his only Rolling Stone interview, in early 71, Duane said that the first song he tried to conquer was McTells "Statesboro Blues." Allmans blastoff licks in the recording that opens his bands third album, At Fillmore East, show how far and fast he had come — and leave you wondering how much further he could have gone. In October 1971, eight months after the Fillmore East gigs, Allman died in a motorcycle accident in the bands home base of Macon, Georgia. B.B. KingThe self-proclaimed "Ambassador of the Blues" has become such a beloved figure in American music, its easy to forget how revolutionaryhis guitar work was. From the opening notes of his 1951 breakthrough hit. "Three O Clock Blues," you can hear his original andpassionate style, juicing the country blues with electric fire and jazz polish. Kings fluid guitar leads took off from T-Bone Walker. Hisstring-bending and vibrato made his famous guitar, Lucille, weep like a real-life woman. It was the start of a hugely influential blues-guitar style. As Buddy Guy put it, "Before B.B., everyone played the guitar like it was an acoustic."King grew up on a Mississippi Delta plantation and took off in 1948, at twenty-three, for Memphis, where he found fame as a radio DJ onWDIA and earned the nickname "Beale Street Blues Boy." Along the way, he picked up a uniquely eclectic vision of the blues, blending theintricate guitar language of country blues, the raw emotion of gospel and the smooth finesse of jazz. His Fifties classics — "Every Day IHave the Blues," "Sweet Little Angel," "You Upset Me Baby" — are tender as well as tough, and 1965s Live at the Regal remains one of
the hottest blues-guitar albums ever recorded. King remains unstoppable, touring hard and cutting albums such as his recent EricClapton collaboration, Riding With the King. Eric Clapton It first appeared in 1965, written on the walls of the London subway: "Clapton is God." Eric Patrick Clapton, of Ripley, England — fresh out of his first major band, the Yardbirds, and recently inducted into John Mayalls Bluesbreakers — had just turned twenty and been playing guitar only since he was fifteen. But Clapton was already soloing with the improvisational nerve that has dazzled fans and peers for forty years. In his 1963-65 stint with the Yardbirds, Claptons nickname was Slowhand, an ironic reference to the velocity of his lead breaks. But Clapton insisted in a 2001 Rolling Stone interview, "I think its important to say something powerful and keep it economical." Even when he jammed on a tune for more than a quarter-hour with Cream, Clapton soloed with a daggerlike tone and pinpoint attention to melody. The solo albums that followed Layla, his 1970 tour de force with Derek and the Dominos, emphasize his desires as a singer-songwriter. But on the best, like 1974s 46I Ocean Boulevard and 1983s Money and Cigarettes, his solos and flourishes still pack the power that made him "God" in the first place. Robert Johnson Johnson is the undisputed king of the Mississippi Delta blues singers and one of the most original and influential voices in American music. He was a virtuoso player whose spiritual descendants include Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Jack White. Johnsons recorded legacy — a mere twenty-nine songs cut in 1936 and 37 — is the foundation of all modern blues and rock. He either wrote or adapted from traditional sources many of the most popular blues songs of all time, including "Cross Road Blues," "Sweet Home Chicago" and "I Believe Ill Dust My Broom." Johnson, the illegitimate son of a Mississippi sharecropper, poured every ounce of his own poverty, wandering and womanizing into his work — documenting black life in the Deep South beneath the long shadow of slavery with haunted intensity. "It was almost as if he felt things so acutely he found it almost unbearable," Clapton said of Johnsons music. Legend has it that Johnson made a deal with the devil to acquire his guitar gifts. There was certainly a lot of daredevilry in his flouting of standard tempos and harmonics; his records are breathtaking displays of melodic development and acute brawn. Johnson died in 1938 at twenty-seven, poisoned by a jealous husband. Fifty-eight years later, a box set of his recordings was certified platinum. "Hell Hound on My Trail," Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings (1990) Chuck Berry There would be no rock & roll guitar without Chuck Berry. His signature lick — a staccato, double-string screech descended from Chicago blues with a strong country inflection — is the musics defining twang. He introduced it in his 1955 Chess Records debut, "Maybellene," and used it to dynamic effect in nearly two dozen classic hits in the next ten years, including the best songs about playing rock & roll: "Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music" and "Johnny B. Goode." Born in San Jose, California, in 1926, Berry learned to play guitar as a teenager but did time in reform school for attempted robbery and moonlighted as a beautician in St. Louis before "Maybellene" made him a star. Berrys career was sidelined by a two-year jail stint in the early 1960s; his only Number One single was the mildly pornographic singalong "My Ding-a-Ling" in 1972. But Berry was the first giant of rock & roll guitar. Nothing else matters. Stevie Ray Vaughan With the blinding stratocaster fireworks on his debut album, Texas Flood, in 1983, Stevie Ray Vaughan kicked off a blues-rock renaissance when the music needed one most: the heyday of hair-spray metal and synth-pop. Until 1982, Vaughans fame was limited to clubs in central Texas, where he perfected a brass-knuckled soul influenced by Jimi Hendrixs psychedelia and the funky twang of Lonnie Mack. But after David Bowie saw him at the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival (a rare gig for an unsigned act), Vaughan was invited to play on Bowies Lets Dance. By the late 1980s, he was filling arenas with his longtime band Double Trouble. On August 27th, 1990, Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in East Troy, Wisconsin, after leaving a venue where he had just jammed with his guitarist brother Jimmie, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jeff Healey and Robert Cray. He was thirty-five. Ry Cooder In Ry Cooders hands, the guitar becomes a time machine. Ever since he began as a teen prodigy in the Sixties, he has been a virtuoso in a host of guitar styles going back to the most primal bottleneck blues, country, vintage jazz, Hawaiian slack-key guitar, Bahamian folk music and countless other styles. Hes combined these different musical idioms into his own eclectic style as one of the worlds foremost performing musicologists. He got his start playing the blues with Taj Mahal in the Sixties and, after a stint in Captain Beefhearts Magic Band, began making solo records such as Paradise and Lunch and Chicken Skin Music, unearthing obscure folk tunes like "Vigilante Man" and "Boomers Story" and breathing slide-guitar life into them. Cooder also gave one of the most significant guitar lessons in rock & roll history: During his sessions with the Rolling Stones in 1968, he taught Keith Richards five- string open-G blues tuning, which Richards used to write some of his greatest riffs for songs on Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Exile on Main St. He played on the Stones "Love in Vain," which features Cooder on mandolin, and on Randy Newmans "Lets Burn Down the Cornfield." Since the Eighties, he has composed acclaimed scores for films such as Paris, Texas. He continues to explore sounds from around the world, collaborating with African guitarist Ali Farka Toure on the 1994 Talking Timbuktu and assembling old-school Cuban musicians for the wildly successful Buena Vista Social Club. Jimmy Page In the 1970s, there was no bigger rock group in the world than Led Zeppelin and no greater god on six strings than Zeppelins founder-captain Jimmy Page. Nothing much has changed. The imperial weight, technical authority and exotic reach of Pages writing and playing on Zeppelins eight studio albums have lost none of their power: the rusted, slow-death groan of Pages solo, played with a violin bow, in "Dazed and Confused," on Zeppelins 1969 debut; the circular, cast-iron stammer of his riffing on "Black Dog," on the bands fourth LP; the melodic
momentum and chrome-spear tone of his closing solo in Zeppelins most popular song, "Stairway to Heaven." Pageactually built Zeppelins sound and might from a wide palette of inspirations and previous experience. In the earlyand mid-1960s, Page was a first-call studio musician in London, playing on Kinks and Everly Brothers dates andhoning his production skills on singles for John Mayall and future Velvet Underground vocalist Nico. And beforeforming Zeppelin in London in the late summer of 1968 with singer Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham andbassist John Paul Jones, Page had been the lead guitarist in the final lineup of the Yardbirds.Keith RichardsIn his forty-one years with the Rolling Stones, Richards has created, and immortalized on record, rocks greatestsingle body of riffs — including the fuzz-tone SOS of "(I Cant Get No) Satisfaction," the uppercut power chords of"Start Me Up," the black stab of "Jumpin Jack Flash" and the strum and slash of virtually everything he plays on theStones 1972 classic, Exile on Main St. Richards is not a fancy guitarist; his style is a simple, personalized extensionof his teenage ardor for Chuck Berry and the swarthy electricity of Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf. Born inDartford, England, in 1943, he was expelled from a technical college when he was sixteen. He immediately joinedhis childhood friend Mick Jagger and another R&B aficionado, Brian Jones, in a combo, Little Boy Blue and theBlue Boys, that by 1962 — with bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts — had become the Rolling Stones.Richards is routinely hailed as the most indestructible of rock stars, but he credits his music with giving him life. Ashe told Rolling Stone last year, "You gotta be a real sourpuss, mate, not to get up there and play Jumpin Jack Flashwithout feeling like, Cmon, everybody, lets go. " "Happy," Exile on Main St.(1972)Kirk HammettOn any given night, at least half the parking lots in America have a car with the windows down, the speakerscranked and a couple of dudes sitting on the trunk playing air guitar to Kirk Hammett solos. Hammett is so steepedin metal history that he reportedly paid for his first guitar at fifteen with ten dollars and a copy of Kiss Dressed toKill. Metallicas dense thrash redefined hard rock more completely than any band since Led Zeppelin. Hammettslead guitar is the emotional heart of the music, from acoustic angst ("Fade to Black") to badass flailing ("Master ofPuppets"), and, in "One," the sound of a guitar tapping out a cry for help in Morse code, over and over, until theparking lot closes down.Kurt Cobain"Grunge" was always a lousy, limited way to describe the music Kurt Cobain made with Nirvana and, in particular,his discipline and ambition as a guitarist. His cannonballs of fuzz and feedback bonfires on1991s Nevermind announced the death of 1980s stadium guitar rock. Cobain also reconciled his multipleobsessions — the Beatles, hardcore punk, the fatalist folk blues of Lead Belly — into a truly alternative rock thatbloomed in the eccentric, gripping hooks and chord changes of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Come as You Are."Recorded six months before Cobains suicide in 1994, MTV Unplugged in New York reveals, in exquisite acousticterms, the craft and love of melody that illuminated his anguish.Jerry GarciaGarcia was a folk and blue-grass obsessive who started playing guitar at fifteen. It was those roots, as well as alifelong love of Chuck Berry, that gave his astral experiments with the Grateful Dead a sense of forward momentum.Garcia could dazzle on slide ("Cosmic Charlie") or pedal steel ("Dire Wolf"), but his natural home was playing leadonstage, exploring the frontier of psychedelic sound. The piercing lyricism of this tone was all the more remarkablefor the fact that he was missing the third finger of his right hand — the result of a childhood accident while he andhis brother Tiff were chopping wood. He died in 1995 in rehab for his longtime drug habit. But his guitar still shineslike a headlight on a northbound train.Jeff BeckBeck was the second of the Yardbirds three star guitarists, leading the groups swing into R&B- charged psychedelia("Shapes of Things," "Over Under Sideways Down") with his speed and deft manipulation of feedback and sustain.In 1967, Beck formed his own heavier variation on the Yardbirds — the Jeff Beck Group, with then-unknown singerRod Stewart — which added heavy-metal pow to British blues and became a major role model for Jimmy Pages LedZeppelin. But Becks commercial peak came in the mid-1970s, with an idiosyncratic style of jazz fusion (whiplashmelodies; artful, roaring distortion; whammy-bar hysterics) that he still plays today with undiminished class andferocity, when he isnt in his garage at home in England working under the hoods of vintage cars.Carlos SantanaThe piercingly pure tone of Santanas guitar is among the most recognizable sounds in popular music. A toweringmusician who brought Latin rhythms and jazz improvisation to rock, Santana formed the first lineup of hisnamesake band in 1968. His varied influences — from Mike Bloomfield and Peter Green to Miles Davis and JohnColtrane — resulted in a singularly innovative approach. A fiery, impassioned soloist, Santana articulates fluidpassages that culminate in lengthy sustained notes. From Santanas career-breakthrough performance atWoodstock in 1969 to the 2000 Grammys — where he won eight awards for Supernatural, tying Michael Jacksonsrecord — Santana has remained a compelling musician with a devotional spirituality fueling his muse.Johnny RamoneJohnny Ramone invented punk-rock guitar out of hatred: He couldnt stand guitar solos. So the former JohnnyCummings of Queens, New York, played nothing but concrete-block barre chords on twenty-one albums and 2,263shows with the Ramones. His elementary attack was part of the essential simplicity — matching last names, two-minute tunes, a strict uniform of black leather and ripped denim — with which the kings of Queens ruled punk rockfrom the mid-1970s until they called it quits in 1996. But there was more to Johnnys sound than bricks ofdistortion. "In sound checks, the band would do a couple of songs without vocals," recalled the bands late singer,Joey Ramone, in 1999. "Id listen to Johns guitar and hear all these harmonics, these instruments like organ and
piano that werent really there. And he didnt use any effects." Johnny now lives in retirement in SouthernCalifornia.Jack WhiteWhite has become the hottest new thing on six strings by celebrating the oldest tricks in the book: distortion,feedback, plantation blues, the 1960s-Michigan riff terrorism of the Stooges and the MC5. Onstage, decked out like apeppermint dandy, he violates classic covers (Dolly Partons "Jolene," Bob Dylans "Isis") with fireball chords andprimal, bent-string scream. He is also an acute orchestrator in the studio, stirring the scratchy-78s atmosphere ofBlind Willie Johnson sides, 1970s punk and Led Zeppelin-style drama into his own howl. Dont pay attention to thenotes; White is not a clean soloist. Hes a blowtorch.John FruscianteIn 1989, Eighteen-year-old John Frusciante, a bedroom-guitar prodigy from Californias San Fernando Valley whohad never played in a group before, auditioned for his favorite band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He got the job —replacing Hillel Slovak, who died of a drug overdose in 1988 — and transformed the Peppers rascally punk funkinto beefy arena pop. On the 1992 multiplatinum album,BloodSugarSexMagik, Frusciante fortified the bandsbone-hard grooves with a mix of Hendrixian force and, in the hit ballad "Under the Bridge," poignant Beatlesquemelody. When Frusciante abruptly quit the Peppers in the middle of a Japanese tour in 1992, he left a big hole in thegroups sound that was only filled with his drug-free return on the Peppers 1999 comeback album, Californication.Richard ThompsonRichard Thompson is the greatest guitarist in British folk rock — and thats only one of the genres he has mastered.He was eighteen when he co-founded the English folk band Fairport Convention in 1967. By the time he left, in 71,Thompson had created a seamless world music for acoustic and electric guitar drawn from Celtic minstrelsy,psychedelia, Cajun dance tunes and Arabic scales. He is also one of Britains finest singer-songwriters. His recordswith his former wife Linda, made between 1974 and 1982, are marvels of hair-raising musicianship and emotionalcandor. Try to see him live, with an electric band: The solos run long and wild.James BurtonJames Burton mainly plays a dark-red 53 Fender Telecaster that he bought in a Louisiana music store when he wasthirteen. Hes performed a lifetimes worth of hot licks and fluid solos on it, on songs such as Dale Hawkins "SusieQ" and Ricky Nelsons "Hello Mary Lou." As an in-demand Sixties sessionman, Burton played often-uncreditedguitar and Dobro on countless records by artists ranging from Buck Owens and Buffalo Springfield to FrankSinatra. In the Seventies he anchored the touring bands of Elvis Presley and Emmylou Harris. Burtons country-rock style combines flatpicking and fingerpicking; hes also a master of a damped-string, staccato-note "chickinpickin."George HarrisonAs the Beatles lead guitarist, George Harrison never played an unnecessary note. In his solos and fills, he prizedclarity and concision above all things. But every note made history, from the Cavern Club R&B frenzy of his breaksin "I Saw Her Standing There" to the hallucinogenic splendor of his contributions to Revolver and the maturedelegance of his work on Abbey Road. John Lennon and Paul McCartney dominated the Beatles revolutionarycourse through 1960s pop, but Harrison defined the musical character of those innovations in his explorations ofstudio technology, tonal color and Indian scales. At the same time, he never strayed from the terse, earthy qualitiesof his first love, 1950s rockabilly, and his biggest idol, Sun Records star Carl Perkins. Harrisons finalalbum, Brainwashed — recorded in the years before his death from cancer in 2001 — features some of his finesttwang.Mike BloomfieldBloomfields reputation as the American white-blues guitarist of the 1960s rests on a small, searing body of work:his licks on Bob Dylans Highway 61 Revisited, his two LPs with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and his sublimejamming with Al Kooper on 1968s Super Session. Born in Chicago, Bloomfield grew up in local blues clubs, wherehe worked with many black legends. His modal runs and jabbing breaks were executed with pinpoint force in aringing-bell tone. Bloomfields gifts faded as he fell into drug abuse. He died of an overdose in 1981.Warren HaynesHaynes is possibly the hardest-working guitarist on the planet — a cornerstone of the Allman Brothers Band, leaderof Govt Mule, pivotal member of Phil Lesh and Friends. Displaying controlled intensity, hes a meaty and masterfulslide player, as well as a soulful singer and songwriter. Steeped in the uncut blues of Muddy Waters and ElmoreJames, and especially bitten by the heavy rock-trio sound of Cream and Mountain, Haynes has kept the blues-rockThe EdgeRarely has a guitarist achieved so much by playing so little. Most of what the Edge (real name Dave Evans) played onU2s early albums, from Boy in 1980 to the 87 global smash The Joshua Tree, can be described thusly: circularskeletal arpeggios swimming in oceans of reverb; few conventional chords or solos. But the elegant urgency of theEdges minimalism on those records perfectly framed and fueled the earnest, flag-waving theatricality of Bonosvoice. With U2s swerve into apocalyptic dance music on 1991s Achtung Baby, the Edge coated his riffs in extremedistortion and electronic treatments but without betraying his playing credo: Less is most.Freddy King
King was born in Texas, but in 1950, when he was sixteen, his family moved to Chicago, where he would sneak intoclubs to play with Muddy Waters band. His style was a mixture of country and urban blues, and his instrumentalsides such as "Hide Away," "Just Pickin" and "The Stumble," from the early Sixties, had immense impact on theBritish blues scene — Eric Clapton says King was one of the first guitarists he tried to copy. His playing employedtaut, melodic riffs that erupted into frantic, wailing solos on the upper strings. King, who also recorded for theCotillion, Shelter and RSO labels, died at forty-two of heart failure in 1976.Tom MorelloIn the early days of Rage Against the Machine, Morello watched local California metal guitarists play "as fast asYngwie Malmsteen" and realized, "That wasnt a race I wanted to run." So he began to experiment with the toggleswitch on his guitar to produce an effect like a DJ scratching a record. The result was true rap metal and aredefinition of the guitars potential. Morello absorbs hip-hop mixology as a true son of Grandmaster Flash and theVoodoo Child, making his riffs rumble and boom like crosstown turntable traffic.Mark KnopflerDire Straits founder and solo artist Mark Knopfler emerged at a time when guitar virtuosos were spurned by punksand New Wavers. Yet from the first stinging notes of "Sultans of Swing," Knopflers roots-based approach andsupple, burnished leads found almost universal appeal. A fingerpicker who favors Fender Stratocasters — aKnopfler-designed Strat was introduced in July as part of Fenders "Artist Series" — hes known for his rich tone,sinuous melodicism and rangy, fluid solos. "My sound is fingers on a Strat," he once said.Stephen Stills"Hes a musical genius," Neil Young said of Stills in a 2000 interview. He should know. The two have beenbandmates and competing lead guitarists on and off since 1966: in Buffalo Springfield, the supergroup Crosby,Stills, Nash and Young, and the short-lived Stills-Young Band. But those groups ego-and-drug dramas haveobscured Stills prowess as a musician — he played nearly every instrument on Crosby, Stills and Nashs 1969 debut— and especially as a guitarist. In Springfield and CSNY, Stills challenged and complemented Youngs feral breakswith a country-inflected chime. And a continuing highlight of CSNY shows is Stills acoustic picking in "Suite: JudyBlue Eyes" — a paragon of unplugged beauty.Ron AshetonNobody ever accused Ron Asheton of being a nice guy. "Any guitar player worth his salt is basically a thug," his leadsinger, Iggy Pop, once said. "They test you with that thug mentality. They ride you to the edge." Asheton was theDetroit punk who made the Stooges music reek like a puddle of week-old biker sweat. He favored black leather andGerman iron crosses onstage, and he never let not really knowing how to play get in the way of a big, ugly feedbacksolo. This spring, Asheton joined Iggy and the other Stooges for their first gigs in nearly thirty years. He still soundslike a thug.Buddy GuyA key influence on Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy put the Louisiana hurricane in1960s electric Chicago blues as a member of Muddy Waters band and as a house guitarist at Chess Records. Anative of the Baton Rouge area, he combined a blazing modernism with a fierce grip on his roots, playing franticleads heavy with swampy funk on Howlin Wolfs "Killing Floor" and Koko Taylors "Wang Dang Doodle" as well ason his own Chess sides and the fine series of records he made with harp man Junior Wells. One of the last activeconnections to the golden age of Chess, Guy still plays with his original fire.Dick DaleDick Dale reigns across the decades as the undisputed king of the surf guitar. In Dales own words, "Real surfingmusic is instrumental, characterized by heavy staccato picking on a Fender Stratocaster guitar." Moreover, its bestplayed through a Fender Showman Amp — a model built to spec for Dale by Leo Fender himself. IgnitingCalifornias surfing cult with such regional hits as "Lets Go Trip-pin," "Surf Beat" and "Miserlou," Dale madewaves with his fat, edgy sound and aggressive, proto-metal attack. "Miserlou," released in 1962, marked the first useof a Fender reverb unit — creating an underwater sound with lots of echo — on a popular record. Fittingly, itsparked a surf-music revival when director Quentin Tarantino used it in the opening scene of Pulp Fiction.John CipollinaCipollina was half of the twin-guitar team — with Gary Duncan — that drove San Franciscos Quicksilver MessengerService, the best acid-rock dance band of the 1960s. Cipollinas spires of tremolo, enriched with the erotica offlamenco, in "The Fool," from the bands 1968 debut, and his ravishing improvisations in Bo Diddleys "Mona" and"Who Do You Love" on 69s Happy Trails, are supreme psychedelia, authentic evidence of what it was like to be atthe Fillmore in the Summer of Love. The classic quartet lineup of 1967-69 made only two albums, thoughQuicksilver re-formed with various players over the years. Cipollina, who suffered from severe emphysema, died in1989.Lee RanaldoThurston MooreWhen Sonic Youth burst onto New Yorks downtown scene in the early Eighties, guitarists Thurston Moore and LeeRanaldo got plenty of attention for attacking their axes with drumsticks and screwdrivers. But their real legacy cantbe bought in a hardware store; its the way theyve opened rock guitar up to the world of alternate tunings. On thebands masterpiece, 1988s Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth created their own language of strange and blissfulguitar noise. Neither Moore nor Ranaldo is a master of technique, but theyre both virtuoso soundsmiths, and ageneration of alt-rockers — from Nirvana to Dashboard Confessional — owes them big.
John FaheyJohn Fahey created a new, enduring vocabulary for acoustic solo guitar — connecting the roots and branches of folkand blues to Indian raga and the advanced harmonies of modern composers such as Charles Ives and Béla Bartók —on an extraordinary run of albums in the 1960s, released on his own Takoma label. Fahey knew American pioneersong in academic detail; he wrote his UCLA masters thesis on blues-man Charley Patton. Fahey was also a precisefingerpicker addicted to the mystery of the blues as well as the music, a passion reflected in apocryphal album titlessuch as The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, from 1967. Fahey endured illness and poverty in the 1990s, but re-emerged to a new wave of acclaim from bands such as Sonic Youth. He continued touring and recording — often onelectric guitar — until his death in 2001.Steve CropperAs a member of the stax records house band Booker T. and the MGs, Steve Cropper, a white guy from WillowSprings, Missouri, was a prime inventor of black Southern-funk guitar — trebly, chicken-peck licks fired withstinging, dynamic efficiency. If Cropper had never played on another record after 1962s "Green Onions," hisstabbing-dagger lines would have ensured him a place on this list. But he also played on — and often co-wrote andarranged — many of the biggest Stax hits of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Four decades after "Green Onions," hecontinues to perform and record with his seminal, down-home touch.Bo DiddleyDiddleys beat was as simple as a diddley bow, the one-stringed African instrument that inspired his nickname. Butin songs such as "Mona," "Im a Man" and "You Cant Judge a Book by the Cover," his tremolo-laden guitar arguedthat rhythm was as important as melody, maybe more so. Born in Mississippi, he grew up as Ellas McDaniel inChicago, where he studied violin and learned how to make both violins and guitars. His late-1950s singles onChecker could be both terrifying ("Who Do You Love") and hilarious ("Crackin Up"). The sounds he coaxed out ofhis homemade guitar were groundbreaking, influencing just about everyone in the British Invasion.Peter GreenMany six-string devotees — including fellows named Carlos and B.B. — insist that Britains greatest blues guitaristisnt Clapton or Beck, its Peter Green. In the Sixties, first with John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, then as the originalfrontman for Fleetwood Mac (long before Stevie Nicks entered the picture), Green played with a fire and fluiditythats rarely been matched. But in 1970, with the Mac on the verge of super-stardom, Green quit the band, saying heneeded to escape the evils of fame. It was the beginning of a long, drug-fueled breakdown that would include stintsin mental institutions and on the street. Miraculously, Green recovered and took up guitar again in the mid-Nineties; though his leads arent as authoritative now, the spirit of a true survivor is in every note.Brian MayWhen the lead singer of your band is Freddie Mercury, youre lucky if anybody notices your guitar playing at all. ButBrian May was every bit as flamboyant as his frontman in terms of getting attention, and he defined the sound ofQueen with his upper-register guitar shrieks. May juiced the treble all the way for a clear and piercing tone, playingsolos with grandeur and campy feather-boa humor. From "Killer Queen" to "Bohemian Rhapsody," May offeredcounterpoint to Mercurys operatic falsetto, pushing glitter rock over the top until the sound was sheer heart attack.He will, he will rock you.John FogertyIn the late 1960s, at the height of psychedelic excess, John Fogerty wrote, sang and played guitar with CreedenceClearwater Revival like a man from another decade: the 1950s. His impassioned vocals and plainspokenworkingmans politics were a big part of CCRs crossover appeal on underground-FM and Top Forty radio. ButFogertys taut riffing, built on the country and rockabilly innovations of Scotty Moore and James Burton, was thedynamite in CCR hits such as "Born on the Bayou" and "Green River." Fogerty can also be a lethal jammer: See hisextended break in CCRs 68 cover of Dale Hawkins "Susie Q."Clarence WhiteA child-prodigy bluegrass picker, White found early fame with the Kentucky Colonels, but hes best remembered forhis association with the Byrds. His classy twang first popped up on their 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday,came through loud and clear on 1968s Sweetheart of the Rodeo and only grew more important as the band delvedfurther into country rock. Whites fame among players was sealed with his co-invention of the Parsons/ WhiteStringBender, which enables a regular guitar to simulate a pedal steel. Its used by everyone from Jimmy Page toKirk Hammett. Sadly, the man who brought it to prominence died way too soon, mowed down by a drunk driver in1973.Robert FrippStarting in 1969 with King Crimson, this native of Dorset, England, has helped define prog-rock guitar. RobertFripps trademarks are swooping fuzz-tone solos that skirt the fringes of tonality; slashing rhythm parts in an arrayof tricky time signatures; intricate, finger-punishing single-note lines. In the mid-Seventies, Fripp and his friendBrian Eno invented the "Frippertronics" infinite tape-loop system, thus helping create a new subgenre: ambientmusic. As a sideman, Fripp played on David Bowies Heroes; as a producer, he handled Peter Gabriels secondalbum and the Roches 1979 debut.Eddie HazelHazel was the guitar visionary of George Clintons Parliament-Funkadelic empire. Born in Brooklyn in 1950, Hazelgrew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, where he fell in with Clintons funk mob. For the title track to Funkadelics 1971album Maggot Brain, Clinton famously asked Hazel to imagine the saddest possible thing. Thinking of his mothersdeath, Hazel unleashed ten minutes of sad acid-rock guitar moans. "Maggot Brain" became a landmark, and Hazelinspired disciples from Sonic Youth to the Chili Peppers with a Strat full of cosmic slop. Hazel died in 1992. Theyplayed "Maggot Brain" at his funeral. You can still hear his soulfully twisted freakouts in P-Funk gems such as "Ill
Bet You," "Music for My Mother" and "Standing on the Verge of Getting It On." Scotty Moore Moore played electric on the eighteen epochal sides Elvis Presley cut for Sun Records in 1954 and 55, including "Thats All Right," "Good Rockin Tonight" and "Mystery Train." His mix of country picking and bluesy bends would later be termed rockabilly. When the King signed with RCA, Moore went along with him, and the result was another round of classics: "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," "Too Much" (the last featuring a particularly angular Moore solo). Later, Elvis would turn to Nashville and L.A. session guitarists, but when he wanted to reconnect with his roots for his 1968 comeback special, Moore got the call once again. Frank Zappa Frank Zappa was a drummer (at age twelve) and composer (writing a string quartet in his teens) before he got serious about the guitar. But in his more than four decades on stage and record, Zappa — who died in 1993 — soloed with the same discipline and experimental appetite that he applied to the rest of his protean legacy: symphonies, doo-wop parody, big-band fusion, sociopolitical satire. For a man who ran his Mothers of Invention with an iron fist, Zappa was actually a joyful improviser who combined the melodic rigor of his orchestral ideals with the dirty, frenzied pith of his earliest love, 1950s R&B. He also came up with the best instrumental titles in the business, including "Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin" and "In-A-Gadda-Stravinsky." Les Paul Les Paul, born Lester Polfus in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on June 9th, 1915, is a guitar inventor as well as a player. He was tinkering with electronics at age twelve and built his first guitar pickup from ham-radio parts in 1934. By 1941 — after a career as a hillbilly star under the names Hot Rod Red and Rhubarb Red — he had built the first solid-body electric guitar prototype. In 1952, Gibson began selling the Les Paul model, now a rock & roll standard. He was also a pioneer in multitrack recording and a staggeringly talented guitarist, cutting a string of futuristic pop hits with wife Mary Ford in the early Fifties. T-Bone Walker T-Bone Walker invented the guitar solo as we know it — he was the guy who figured out how to make an electric guitar cry and moan. Born in Texas in 1910, he was a bluesman touring the South by the age of fifteen. As early as 1935, he was playing primitive electric-guitar models. But he shocked everyone with his 1942 debut single, "Mean Old World," playing bent notes, vibrato sobs and more wild new electric sounds that other guitarists hadnt even dreamed of. Walker invented a new musical language, from the urban flash of "The Hustle Is On" to the dread of "Stormy Monday." Through the Forties and Fifties, he led his suave L.A. jump-blues combo on classics such as "Youre My Best Poker Hand," "I Know Your Wig Is Gone" and "Long Skirt Baby Blues." Joe PerryJoe Perry has spent most of his three decades in Aerosmith being compared to Keith Richards: as the guitar pirate and songwriting foil toAerosmiths own Jagger, Steven Tyler. But Perrys admiration for both Richards riffing and Jeff Becks screaming leads was grounded inblues and R&B: Perrys immortal pimp-roll lick in "Walk This Way" was a natural progression from Aerosmiths early covers of RufusThomas "Walking the Dog" and James Browns "Mother Popcorn." And everything Perry loves about Jimi Hendrixs iridescent lyricismcomes through in Aerosmiths "Dream On," one of the only power ballads worthy of the term.John McLaughlinAfter playing with British Blues Bands in the mid-Sixties, McLaughlin moved to New York, where he helped pioneer the jazz rock thatbecame known as fusion in the early Seventies. Miles Davis jazz-rock classic Bitches Brew doesnt just feature McLaughlin, it also boastsa track named after him. In 1971, McLaughlin formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which combined the complex rhythms of Indian musicwith jazz harmonies and rock power chords. McLaughlin played blizzards of notes, clearly influenced by the sheets of sound of his idol,John Coltrane. The first two Mahavishnu albums, The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire, are every bit as incendiary as their titlessuggest.Pete TownshendPete Townshend destroyed guitars almost as much as he played them in the mid- and late 1960s, smashing his Rickenbackers and Stratsin frenzies of ritual murder at the end of the Whos stage shows. But he also pioneered the power chord on the Whos 1965 debut single, "ICant Explain," and on the follow-up, "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, "Townshend was arguably the first in rock to use feedback as asoloing tool. Live at Leeds is an exhilarating display of his unique guitar violence, while Whos Next, the Whos greatest studioachievement, shows how much melody and beauty there was inside Townshends thunder and lightning.