This list first surfaced on 5/29/10 in a response to a voter-based list released by Gibson.com. Barely two weeks went by when an update became necessary thanks to an LA Times Magazine article listing the 50 greatest guitarists of all time. The DMDB’s revised list of best guitarists was posted on the DMDB Facebook page. On June 26, 2011, the list was first posted on the DMDB blog when another Facebook page, Todays Song Is…, evoked some discussion about whether Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck was the better guitarist. Then a couple days later, I posted a video clip in tribute to Jeff Beck’s birthday (born 6/24/1944). It all brought to mind this list, so I reposted it on the blog with some vid clips, photos, and links.
In November 2011, Rolling Stone posted a new list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. As such, this post has been revised yet again to reflect the inclusion of that list. 34 lists have been compiled to create this aggregate list.
Click on names to see their entries in the Dave’s Music Database Music Makers Encyclopedia. The highlights – selected by browsing best-guitar-solo lists – link to videos.
1. Jimi Hendrix Highlight: “Machine Gun”
2. Jimmy Page Highlight: “Stairway to Heaven” (with Led Zeppelin)
3. Eric Clapton Highlight: “Crossroads” (with Cream)
4. Stevie Ray Vaughan Highlight: “Texas Flood”
5. Eddie Van Halen Highlight: “Eruption” (with Van Halen)
6. B.B. King Highlight: “The Thrill Is Gone”
7. Jeff Beck Highlight: “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers”
8. Angus Young Highlight: “You Shook Me All Night Long” (with AC/DC)
9. Chuck Berry Highlight: “Johnny B. Goode”
10. Duane Allman Highlight: “Dreams” (with the Allman Brothers Band)
11. Steve Vai Highlight: “For the Love of God”
12. David Gilmour Highlight: “Comfortably Numb” (with Pink Floyd)
13. Keith Richards Highlight: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (with the Rolling Stones)
14. Ritchie Blackmore Highlight: “Highway Star” (with Deep Purple)
15. Joe Satriani Highlight: “Surfing with the Alien”
16. Slash Highlight: “November Rain” (with Guns N’ Roses)
17. Randy Rhoads Highlight: “Crazy Train” (with Ozzy Osbourne)
18. Yngwie Malmsteen Highlight: “Black Star”
19. Tony Iommi Highlight: “War Pigs” (with Black Sabbath)
20. George Harrison Highlight: “And Your Bird Can Sing” (with the Beatles)
21. Pete Townshend Highlight: “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (with the Who)
22. Steve Cropper
23. Carlos Santana Highlight: “Europa”
24. Frank Zappa Highlight: “Zoot Allures”
25. Brian May Highlight: “Bohemian Rhapsody” (with Queen)
26. Robert Johnson
27. Mark Knopfler Highlight: “Sultans of Swing” (with Dire Straits)
28. Neil Young Highlight: “Cortez the Killer”
29. Kirk Hammett Highlight: “One” (with Metallica)
30. Les Paul
Eddie Van Halen
31. Tom Morello Highlight: “Bulls on Parade” (with Rage Against the Machine)
32. The Edge
33. John Frusciante Highlight: “I Could Have Lied” (with Red Hot Chili Peppers)
34. Robert Fripp Highlight: “21st Century Schizoid Man” (with King Crimson)
35. John McLaughlin Highlight: “Dream” (with Mahavishnu Orchestra)
36. Jerry Garcia Highlight: “Truckin’” (with the Grateful Dead)
37. Ry Cooder
38. Chet Atkins
40. John Petrucci Highlight: “Under a Glass Moon” (with Dream Theater)
41. Alex Lifeson Highlight: “Working Man” (with Rush)
42. Steve Morse Highlight: “Punk Sandwich” (with Dixie Dregs)
43. Buddy Guy
44. Peter Green
45. Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott Highlight: “Floods” (with Pantera)
46. Kurt Cobain Highlight: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (with Nirvana)
47. Rory Gallagher
48. Richard Thompson
49. Bo Diddley
50. Django Reinhardt
51. Eric Johnson Highlight: “Cliffs of Dover”
52. Steve Howe Highlight: “Starship Trooper” (with Yes)
53. Scotty Moore
54. Joe Perry Highlight: “Walk This Way” (with Aerosmith)
55. Mick Taylor
56. Billy Gibbons Highlight: “Sharp Dressed Man” (with ZZ Top)
57. Buckethead Highlight: “Nottingham Lace”
58. Albert King
59. Gary Moore Highlight: “Still in Love with You” (with Thin Lizzy)
60. Freddy King
61. Phil Keaggy
62. Jack White
63. James Burton
64. T-Bone Walker
65. Mike Bloomfield
66. Marty Friedman Highlight: “Tornado of Souls (with Megadeth)
67. Wes Montgomery
68. Mick Ronson Highlight: “Moonage Daydream” (with David Bowie)
69. Eddie Hazel Highlight: “Maggot Brain” (with Funkadelic)
70. Michael Schenker Highlight: “Rock Bottom” (with UFO)
71. Dickey Betts Highlight: “Jessica” (with the Allman Brothers Band)
72. Jonny Greenwood Highlight: “Paranoid Android” (with Radiohead)
73. Charlie Christian Highlight: “Solo Flight” (with Benny Goodman)
74. Zakk Wylde Highlight: “No More Tears” (with Ozzy Osbourne)
75. Allan Holdsworth Highlight: “Devil take the Hindmost”
76. Joey Ramone
77. John Fahey
78. Link Wray
79. Johnny Marr
80. Warren Haynes
81. Johnny Winter Highlight: “Highway 61 Revisited”
82. Dick Dale Highlight: “Miserlou” (Dick Dale & the Del-Tones)
83. Glenn Tipton Highlight: “Beyond the Realms of Death” (with Judas Priest)
84. Derek Trucks
85. Roy Buchanan
86. Neal Schon Highlight: “Any Way You Want It” (with Journey)
87. Humbert Sumlin *
88. Paul Gilbert Highlight: “Price You Gotta Pay” (with Mr. Big)
89. Adrian Smith Highlight: “Powerslave” (with Iron Maiden)
90. Ace Frehley Highlight: “Shock Me” (with Kiss)
91. Tom Verlaine
92. Leslie West *
93. Robin Trower Highlight: “Bridge of Sighs”
94. Mike McCready Highlight: “Alive” (with Pearl Jam)
95. Dave Davies Highlight: “You Really Got Me” (with the Kinks)
96. Danny Gatton
97. Andres Segovia *
98. Richie Sambora
99. Ron Asheton *
100. Dave Murray Highlight: “2 Minutes to Midnight” (with Iron Maiden)
This ranked list is an aggregate of the best-of-all-time guitarist lists below.
Roughly 3500 music fans were polled at Planet Rock Radio for best singer, guitarist, bassist, and drummer. The top 10 of each are listed.
Unranked list of 10 with commentaries. Another 15 with no commentary. Looks like a webzine.
Commentary on only 5 guitarists (although another 11 are listed) and all from the rock genre, not jazz.
List has no commentaries, but links to Nutsie.com where you can hear songs.
This is an all-genre list with no commentaries, but links to Nutsie.com where you can hear songs. List actually includes 200 guitarists.
Top 5 ranked list with commentaries.
List was compiled by votes over a month’s time. The end result is a ranked list with multiple ties and commentaries written by various writers. As the site indicates, votes came from the Gibson.com readers’ poll as well as Paolo Bassotti, Dave Hunter, Jeff Cease (Black Crowes), James Williamson (Iggy & The Stooges), Steve Mazur (Our Lady Peace), Martin Belmont (Graham Parker & The Rumour), and writers Ellen Barnes, Sean Dooley, Ted Drozdowski, Russell Hall, Arlen Roth, Andrew Vaughan, Aidin Vaziri, Bryan Wawzenek, Michael Wright.
In celebration of their 30th anniversary, Guitar World asked 30 different guitarists to comment on a favorite guitarist of theirs.
Unranked list with no commentary but links to videos.
Link is for a ranked list which includes a recommended song or album and indicates the main guitar used by the guitarist.
List only. No commentary. Site looks like a fan-based billboard.
List is identified as being from Guitar.com and says the list is based on votes compiled at Guitar.com. A short bio notes that St. James has been the site’s editor and is an author of several instructional guitar books.
Details of list are unclear. This appears to be a site in which fans can vote on favorites. The list includes 51 ranked guitarists, but does not indicate if ranking actually came from fan votes. There are brief comments from users.
Page offers multiple lists (acoustic, blues, hard rock/heavy metal, jazz, R&B/soul, rock) which are identified as being from DigitalDreamDoor.com, but these same lists do not appear to be on that site. All lists are ranked without commentary. Most are top 100 lists, except for the hard rock/heavy metal and R&B/soul, which are top 30 lists.
This ranked list appears to be generated by voter ratings and reviews. Clicking on a guitarist’s name takes one to a page with voters’ comments. List is apparently ongoing with more comments and ratings being added.
Site allows users to generate lists. This ranked list offers brief commentaries.
This ranked list, with commentary, is difficult to navigate on the Rolling Stone site since each guitarist has a separate page. To just see the list, check out TheInsider.com.
This is a list only with no commentary. For no explained reason, there are 53 guitarists in ranked list followed by another 100 names in no perceivable order.
Ranked list with no commentary. List appears to have been generated by original author and then others could vote on it. Author and date not identified.
Short list with only one-sentence commentaries.
This top 100 ranked list offers brief comments from site visitors. List appears to be voter-generated.
Top 10 ranked list with commentaries and video for each guitarist.
Top 100 ranked list with no commentary. Voted on by Total Guitar readers.