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250 Great Guitar Players of All Time

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Rolling Stone just came out with their latest list of the greatest guitar players, now 250 strong, and I reacted so well that here we are. The new list is presumably a direct response to the Jan Wenner thing, and sure it's pretty and has a bunch of new additions that deserve recognition (I wanna say Skip James wasn't on the last list, I feel like Rosetta Tharpe might have been but not Brittany Howard), but it's still very funnily the same essential list as before - overrated 60s and 70s rockers in places of pride, with of course Jimi Hendrix at the top and John Lennon and Kurt Cobain unreasonably high...just now padded out at the bottom.

And perhaps even more glaringly, I don't think I could even name 250 guitar players, greatest or otherwise. It really just underlines the absurdity of making comparisons past a certain point. Or at all, really...different strokes for different folks, as it were...

Anyhow, here's a list of 250 great, underrated, and/or otherwise notable guitar players, assuming I make it that far. They are in the order only in which they occur to me - they're just numbered so I can keep count. Plus, I'm even linking to some of their GD songs so you can hear for yourself what's what...and check out the linked bios/features for more info...

1. Elvis Presley

That's right. If you're going to say John Lennon, you can as well have the original Fat Elvis on here.

Early on he tended to play a rhythm guitar on stage as a prop, then he was famously advised by Milton Berle to let the people see him instead...but in the first half of his seminal biography, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, Peter Guralnick also reports a young Elvis "expertly" playing the melody to the old standard "Under the Double Eagle" for school chum and future "Memphis Mafia" stalwart Red West, on a guitar that Elvis himself refurbished for shop class. And of course, at the 68' Comeback Special Elvis stole Scotty Moore's shiny new electric guitar and you can see him play more than rudimentary accompaniment on songs such as "Baby What You Want Me to Do", above.

2. Scotty Moore

Elvis' first guitarist invented syncopation. Probably not really. They do sometimes say he invented the power chord on "Jailhouse Rock", though this is not in fact the first recorded instance...but I think for all intensive purposes (sic) he did come up with the syncopated fingerpicking sound that accounts for one half of Rockabilly guitar; it's basically what Merle Travis and the Piedmont and Country Blues guitarists had played before, but in a new idiom. There's more to it than just being electrified...some kind of an intensity. He could also play the other, non-fingerpicking pentatonic-blues half, and you can hear both in the not one, but two phenomenal guitar solos on "Hound Dog".

"Hound Dog" is also a pre-eminent example of the hot, searing guitar sound associated with Rockabilly. I suppose that's an acquired taste as I've read where it's been unfavorably compared to something like a Jimi Hendrix, but it's certainly the genesis of Rock guitar...

3. Jimi Hendrix

He's got some good stuff.

4. Mick Taylor

But Mick Taylor played the greatest guitar solo of all time on this live performance of Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain" (totally different from the original) from Ladies and Gentleman: The Rolling Stones, He also played the second greatest a minute or two before that in the same song...all live, mind you.

He might just be the greatest. Too many different styles out there to really compare though...

5. Robert Johnson

The original, but...not necessarily the best, at least where "Love in Vain" is concerned. He is the whole package though, a one man band. Maybe the gold standard for "all that sound from one guy?".

I suppose it's the curse of playing accompaniment...it's hard for it to outshine the lead or the complete package. What really wows is that he's doing all this at once, and the records kick ass...

6. Robert Lockwood, Jr.

This man was Robert Johnson come again. He did learn directly from the legend, after all, and is the step-son (maybe common-law) of Johnson. Wikipedia says he's the only man to have been taught directly by Johnson...

7. Keith Richards

The original and the best...of the Rolling Stones guitarists...besides Mick Taylor. Well, they work in different areas so maybe not...necessarily.

I do love Keith Richards intensely (as a musician at least...though in fairness, if I had been playing at Altamont I probably would've kept going even after people started dying too), but I wouldn't put him over Mick Taylor if you're talking about greatest guitarists. But he does have killer taste and knowledge of what came before him - especially Country, but especially Blues - which is why the Rolling Stones' stuff sounds so much more...musical...than the Hard Rock that followed (not that the Who and Led Zeppelin don't have great stuff, just not nearly as much. Few do...).

It's been said that unlike most bands, the Rolling Stones didn't follow the drums but rather Keith's guitar. His parts are definitely easy to pick out on their early covers, and he also does fairly heavy lifting on "Love in Vain" up above.

Also he invented 60s Rock and Roll (citation needed).

8. Danielle Haim

I was surprised she wasn't on Rolling Stones' list. HAIM are almost singlehandedly keeping the electric guitar alive and relevant (for better or worse...). "My Song 5" is on my shortlist for one of the best records of the century so far, and the guitar solo is icing. Her playing on "Little of Your Love" is also very refreshingly un-cliched:

9. Memphis Minnie

Another very good addition to the new Rolling Stone list (admitted bias to fingerpicking over flat-picking here). There's kind of a bias both for and against this kind of accompaniment style when you're talking about great guitar playing....it's kind of hard to put it over straight guitar like Mick Taylor up there, but netted with the rest of the performance I would prefer a complete package like Memphis Minnie. And while I'm partial to this duet with Kansas Joe McCoy, "You Know You Done Me Wrong", "Me and My Chauffeur (Blues)" is truly legendary as a standard and really demonstrates MM's masterful playing from the start. Good interplay with her then-husband and musical partner Little Son Joe on the solo section too:

10. Mississippi John Hurt

There's going to be a lot of these Country/Piedmont Blues singer-players on this list, I can tell you right now. John Hurt in particular also has a wonderful repertoire, as touched on previously...I was kind of surprised he wasn't on the Rolling Stone list. "Stackolee" is a pretty good representation on all accounts, though he's certainly got more famous records like "Spike Driver Blues" and "Avalon Blues"...

11. Sister Rosetta Tharpe

With the caveat that it's in fact post-Chuck Berry, the performance of "Up Above My Head" up there (also featured in the documentary I've previously lauded, American Epic) is peak Rock & Roll, both guitar-solo-wise and overall. Maybe best solo(s) ever? Plus she was gay as hell way back in the 1930s...underrated at number 6 all-time.

12. Chuck Berry

A guy who does it all, Chuck Berry also wrote some of the greatest songs of all time. Standards, like "Thirty Days" (great Country crossover appeal), "Around and Around", and of course "Johnny B. Goode", fantastic even though I'm sick to death of it (give me "Maybellene" all day though), all with the bendy, double-stop filled sound that led to Keith Richards and 60s Rock & Roll. Slightly underrated even at number 2.

13. James Burton

Speaking of bends, Elvis' second guitarist (not counting his Army buddy Charlie Hodge...) was quite influential in that regard himself, famously using banjo strings on his guitar for maximum elasticity. And this particular solo on "Hello, Mary Lou" for Ricky Nelson also birthed Keith Richards and 60s Rock & Roll...

14. Hank Garland

…speaking of Elvis guitarists, "Sugarfoot" Garland recorded another one of the best guitar solos of all time on Elvis' cover of "A Fool Such as I", not long before the tragic car accident that cut short an extremely promising career in Country and beyond...

And of course, there's the song that brought him fame, "Sugarfoot Rag":

15. Hank Snow

And Hank Snow wasn't too shabby himself. Quite a different style, but he also plays a great solo on the original "A Fool Such as I". Plus Colonel Tom Parker managed the Canadian legend of Country too before moving on to Elvis...

See also, "The Golden Rocket":

16. Luther Perkins

At the risk of being backhanded, Johnny Cash's first guitarist proves the age-old adage, "its not what you got, it's the way that you use it". Even I can play what Luther picks on songs like "So Doggone Lonesome", "I Walk the Line", and "Big River", but to come up with such elegance...it's a rare talent even on a list such as this to play something memorable, even iconic...

And sure, this alternate take of "Big River" is obviously unusable but the solo's much better than what they ended up with, even if it's not played "correctly"...

Also, later on I say (spoiler?) that Django Reinhardt is the most disrespected guitarist on Rolling Stone's list, but after trying in vain to find a proper non-Wiki bio of Luther online and instead seeing him on a list of really-good-while-mediocre players I think Luther's the most disrespected period...

17. Bob Wootton

Johnny Cash's second guitarist was probably more...technical...than Luther. The solo on this live version of "Folsom Prison Blues" from Live at San Quentin is another all-timer. Of course, this is also from one of the greatest live shows of all time, so could be some of the other greatness is bleeding into my judgement...

Fun fact, it seems he was married for a time to June Carter Cash's sister Anita Carter.

18. Carl Perkins

Another one from San Quentin. Carl Perkins is way up there in my purely hypothetical Rock & Roll Hall of Fame...few have been so influential, and so great period.

It's impossible to choose just one representation of his acumen. The live performance of "Restless" kicks every ass. But this performance of "Waiting for the Sunrise" from George Harrison's legendary Rockabilly Shoes special is the greatest, maybe second greatest (see below) thing I've ever seen (musically, and therefore also sexually). This for me is the beginning and apogee of guitar playing:

Well, again, there's too much different stuff to compare...but come on, man. I mean, George Harrison looks like he's fully erect watching that...

19. Les Paul

The man who did it first. Though quite differently from how Carl Perkins figured, it turns out. And while the performance is sped up to change the key of the song, it's still extremely impressive. Also impressive - creating a prototype electric guitar out of construction surplus, making Les Paul the only inductee into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

20. Django Reinhardt

The man who did it first-er...and perhaps the most disrespected player on Rolling Stone's list. He did all this with a handicap, almost literally having a hand tied behind his back.

And yeah, I really like "Waiting for the Sunrise"...

21. Andrés Segovia

Perhaps the most disrespected player not on Rolling Stone's list. They say he made every finger on his picking hand sound like a different instrument...

By the by, I'm not all that familiar with Classical guitar playing. Or Flamenco. So that's why you can't expect a lot of it on this list. Probably unfair...

22. Chet Atkins

But as far as musicality goes, I have to give it to Chet Atkins, even over Segovia. It's one thing to play a march for military band on the guitar (see below)…it's quite another to play it with the utmost elegance and effortlessness.

Plus, he's one of the great deadwood guitarists. Like Mick Taylor up above, he demonstrates that you don't have to express emotion with your body to make phenomenal music.

I also like that he voluntarily brought up masturbation in an interview with Guitar Player Magazine...

23. Guy van Duser

Guy van Duser came up with the arrangement of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" that Chet Atkins picked up above. Absolutely brilliant.

24. Maybelle Carter

One hundred years later and more, we're still Carter Picking. But Mother Maybelle could also Travis Pick, as you see in "Cannonball Blues" below, and play La Pompe like no one's business backing up her daughters in the second generation Carter Family. Her enormous impact on not just Country but Rock & Roll that followed cannot be gainsaid.

Although...I do feel like Rolling Stone were overcompensating a little with their ranking her as high as they did…

25. Lesley Riddle

Mother Maybelle's known to have learned some things about the guitar from close Carter Family collaborator Mr. Riddle. As for what things exactly...it is hard to know, but apparently what they call Travis Picking in some form, as on the tune "Cannonball Blues" above which Riddle taught to the family, and bottleneck slide guitar (the Carter Scratch at least, as heard above on 1927's "Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow", pre-dates their meeting in 1928). But on top of that, he was also known for being the one to memorize the tunes to the songs A.P. Carter and he would go out to "collect" while A.P. took the lyrics.

Anyhow, that's some fantastic accompaniment on "Red River Blues". With a couple fingers missing too, not to mention a leg...

26. Grady Martin

We come now to the studio musicians. One or two of them at least.

That is to say, the "real" musicians...Grady Martin played on any number of hit records, from this rockabilly number by Johnny Horton, "She Knows Why", to Marty Robbins' "El Paso", "Saginaw" by Lefty Frizzell, and Elvis' "Devil in Disguise".

No disrespect to Stitch, or the ukulele...but few do it better than Grady.

27. Glen Campbell

Another guitar player who exemplifies range. Jan & Dean (killer solo on "Honolulu Lulu"), Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and countless more performers had him on their records as a session player. He was the "Capo King", master of tasteful capo use...

Plus he sang "Wichita Lineman" and a bunch of other of his own hits. And he was even a Beach Boy in their live shows for a few months in 1964 and '65...

28. Phil Baugh

The boy who plays them all. Another session guitarist who played on tracks for a ton of big names: George Jones, Ray Price, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra Jr., David Allan Coe...and he had a few hits himself, especially "Country Guitar".

Watch him play licks from a bunch of people on this list, including Chet Atkins, Luther Perkins, and Merle Travis...then check out even more on the sequel:

29. Merle Travis

Like Mother Maybelle, Merle Travis' influence has been enormous. They call it Travis Picking after all...though as we have seen and will continue to see, a lot of people played more or less like that both before and after Merle.

Though whereas the average guitar legend plays it with three fingers, Merle himself did it with just thumb and forefinger (I'm counting a thumb as a finger in the three fingers from before).

Pretty much everyone in Country or even Rock who's come since - Chet Atkins, Carl Perkins, Lindsey Buckingham (who would be on this list too except for I'm jealous and petty) - and their acolytes owes something to old Travie.

30. Tommy Emmanuel

Here is a living legend (at time of writing, knock on wood), one of Chet Atkins' Certified Guitar Players and also the most animated one. I forgot to put him on here earlier after Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed (who's since been moved to later to make room for someone I forgot about)…and, perhaps tellingly, I can't think of a particular killer performance to represent him as I could for the other two, except for this phenomenal tandem performance of "Walk, Don't Run" with the next guitarist on this list, Richard Smith (who I know only from this one performance, but it was enough goddammit).

But see his musicality, and a joy in playing not seen since Keith Richards...also he does Cameos, or did when I got one for a friend a couple years ago...

31. Richard Smith

See above. Kickass performance, and underrated musicality.

32. Fernando Sor

And now for something completely different. Here's a guy no one has heard play in over 200 years, but he wrote the book on guitar playing (one of quite a few, actually, but my sometime teacher only explicitly referred to this one). His Méthode pour la Guitare certainly gives an impression of genius...and in his day (1778-1839) he was said to be the best. Consider him to be to the guitar what Paul Morphy is to chess...

33. Randy Rhoads

Just in time for Halloween, not one but two all-time classic, Classically-inspired solos on "Mr. Crowley". Properly rated.

34. Roy Nichols

Merle Haggard's guitarist from the Strangers plays the quintessential Telecaster part to open "Swinging Doors", dovetailing off steel-guitar legend Ralph Mooney (outside the scope of this list, I'm afraid). And the solo? Second verse, same as the first...

I actually like that re-recorded version linked above better than the original...slightly different guitar, and Merle and everything sound like they've kind of aged into the part...here's the original for comparison:

35. Bernie Leadon

Solely on the basis of the solo from "Peaceful Easy Feeling", I place this man among the greats. That's not a steel guitar you hear, it's the ingenious invention called the B-Bender that makes the regular guitar sound like one. Great musicality in any case though.

36. Joe Perry

Rolling Stone has him too high considering who all is below him there, but I did get my start on Guitar Hero: Aerosmith after all..."Dream On" is legendary, plus you've got the riff from "Walk This Way" and everything from "Train Kept a Rollin'"...

37. Jimmy Lee Fautheree

Badly underrated. This Country and Rockabilly guitarist from the duo Jimmy & Johnny is said by a YouTube comment to have been one of James Burton's stated major influences...

I do love how June Carter in the background of this performance of "Sweet Love on my Mind" looks vaguely unimpressed though.

38. Buddy Holly

One of the first Stratocaster players. His solo from "That'll Be the Day" is so iconic and primordial that he used it in slightly varying forms on a whole bunch of recordings. My favorite is "Ting-a-Ling", but you also get it on "Rock-A-Bye-Rock"

Of course the Beatles got their start with "That'll Be the Day" and the like. But even as impactful as he was, Buddy was taken before his time...

39. Elena Yerevan

Classically trained and steeped in Flamenco and other popular traditions from around the world. Admittedly I don't know enough about Flamenco to say who she may take after, but I think her percussive playing is very impressive regardless. You can kind of see a little bit of everything on this rendition of "Stairway to Heaven", but she's also been covered here further before.

40. Duane Eddy

I've written about Duane Eddy before, and I re-iterate that I don't have him here for "Rebel Rouser" or the like (and I feel like he and Link Wray shouldn't have been so far apart on the Rolling Stone list...), but rather for the most beautiful playing of all time on "Along Came Linda".

41. Billie Joe Armstrong

I've written about this one before too, but the Green Day frontman doesn't get enough respect for his guitar playing...the solo on "Oh Love" is kickass as it comes, and there's all kinds of riffs from "American Idiot", "Boulevard of Broken Dream", the sophisticatedly simple guitar on "Wake Me Up When September Ends", etc....

42. Synyster Gates

Synyster f***ing Gates. "The Beast and the Harlot" has a phenomenal, multi-faceted solo even if it's too hard to play all in one go..."Afterlife" also has that very catchy harmonized opening into the solo with Zacky Vengeance:

43. Brittany Howard

I think the other guy from Alabama Shakes actually plays the really catchy guitar part on "Hold On", but just look at the killer solo on "Killer Diller Blues" (also featured in American Epic). Real tight.

44. Eric Clapton

I don't like him as a person or even musically very much, but he can play for true. Nice solo on "Blue Moon of Kentucky" with Carl Perkins et. al. here at about 2:15 (but definitely watch the whole medley). "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is also great:

45. Bradley Nowell

Solely on the basis of "Santeria", cause I'm ignorant about Sublime besides that and "Date Rape"...legendary solo and great guitar part all around.

46. Carlos Santana

Maybe just a tad overrated...mm, Rolling Stone...? But you do get a cool solo on this cover of "She's Not There" by the Zombies. And for the casual crowd, of which I am a part (make no mistake), "Smooth" is awesome:

And so is "Maria, Maria" (sampled on "Wild Thoughts"), with double duty on the classical and electric guitars:

47. Norman Blake

Another name featured here not long ago, great Country and Folk player of both the standard and resonator guitars for well over half a century. Love that style you hear on this performance of "Cannonball Blues" with June Carter, with whom he played back in the day as well.

48. Jun Senoue

The only reason 2000s Sonic games are remembered so fondly by many despite actually being trash (City Escape not withstanding) is the music, and Crush 40 are a major part of that. "Live and Learn" has got both a catchy riff and killer solo from guitarist Jun Senoue.

49. Skip James

Perhaps the true King of the Delta Blues Singers...? Again, I've got a strong bias towards fingerpicking, but even so I must say the accompaniment on "Crow Jane" really shines brighter than it tends to in this style of music.

50. Big Bill Broonzy

Another great player and singer, and the man who said that all songs are folk songs (not Louis Armstrong, as is commonly cited - he said that all white folks call him Louie). Top-notch repertoire besides his playing, and that's Pete Seeger singing and playing banjo on "John Henry" by the by...

51. Mike Oldfield

I was turned onto "Moonlight Shadow" in the course of researching the post on "Far Away From Home" by Groove Coverage, who made their name with a fantastic cover of Mike Oldfield's pièce de résistance. While I have to say that the guitar solos are full of clichés, they're also memorable as hell. Great song besides, and Oldfield also has the claim to fame of having composed the theme to The Exorcist, "Tubular Bells", on which he played most of the instruments:

52. Brian Setzer

Rockabilly revivalist and Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer can certainly play a hot guitar, as on "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut" (below), but I really love the melodic, sentimental interlude on "I Won't Stand In Your Way". One of my absolute favorite guitar solos ever.

53. Dave Davies

A riff so nice he used it twice, Kinks guitarist starts off "All Day and All of the Night" smashingly (another track off Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, hrm hrm), and then it only gets better in the solo breakdown. The essence of garage rock. See also "Tired of Waiting for You", a song saved by the somewhat late addition of Dave's guitar after prior recording:

54. George Harrison

OK, let's not go too crazy, but one thing we can certainly say is that being an acolyte of Carl Perkins, George could play some great Rockabilly - "All My Loving" has a fantastic solo.:

"I Saw Her Standing There" has excellent guitar work:

And besides, "Let It Be" does have one of the great Rock guitar solos, nice and heavy and really grabbing; the album version above that is, not the single version below with the anemic sounding electric guitar that's unfortunately more typical for George (I think he's said that that was the best British amps had to offer at the time):

55. Lonnie Mack

Legend has it that Lonnie Mack first devised his instrumental cover of Chuck Berry's classic "Memphis, Tennessee" when his singer didn't show up to a show...

In fact, it's not a legend, but it's a legendary true fact; one that would be immensely influential, as we will soon see...

He's also known for being one of the first guitarists to play a Flying-V Gibson, all the way back in 1958 when it was first introduced.

56. Johnny Rivers

Another legend relates that Elvis had planned to release his own version of "Memphis, Tennessee" in 1964, the year following Mack's hit. But first he privately shared his recording with his friend the criminally underrated singer-guitarist Johnny Rivers, who then quickly beat him to the punch by recording and releasing his own cut of the song that owes a lot to Lonnie Mack's arrangement. This one may be just an actual legend, cause it originates with members of Elvis' Memphis Mafia entourage of hangers-on and Johnny repudiated it vehemently...

But anyhow, Johnny's (among) the best. There's "Memphis" (lightyears better than Elvis' version, which was ultimately released much later in any case), but also "Secret Agent Man" is iconic, and there's the enchanting acoustic guitar on "Summer Rain"...disgustingly underrated.

57. Brian May

Properly rated. "Bohemian Rhapsody" says it all, but "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" has that infectious riff as well. Arena Rock is kind of an abomination, but Queen justify it...

58. Rivers Cuomo

Literally on the exclusive basis of "Say It Ain't So". I have heard little more (besides "Beverly Hills"...) and I don't need to. Excellent lyrics as well.

"Island in the Sun" is nice too...

59. George Barnes

I know George Barnes only from this record, but the man deserves much better. Known primarily as a Jazzman, by the age of 12 he was a card-carrying union musician; in 1938 he was hired as a staff guitarist for NBC at the age of 17.

Though left-handed, he did not play a left-handed guitar, using his dominant hand to fret (which does sound like it would make more sense, doesn't it...?).

He recorded with everyone from Bill Broonzy to Bob Dylan, and seems to have have made an effortless transition to Rock & Roll on "Lipstick on Your Collar" (with Connie Francis, a chameleon herself)….

60. Mick Ronson

Mick Ronson was both guitarist and arranger for David Bowie, among other accolades including being lead guitarist on Lou Reed's Transformer. The solo on "Starman" is simple but sophisticated, classically melodic. I don't know his other work so much, but props...

61. Joe Maphis

The last word in Country guitar. His playing is as godlike as his double-neck Mosrite guitar.

In this performance of the classic "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)" (a standard which he also wrote), he does it all - flashy lighting-fast picking that's also melodic, the alpha and the Amiga...he is not without peers when fingerpicking is considered, but where flatpicking is concerned, it's hard to top him in both technique and musicality...

62. Larry Collins

…though Joe Maphis' protégé has more than a few things going for him. Larry Collins is the only child prodigy I don't pathetically dislike out of envy (actually Angelina Jordan's cool too). Here he plays with both Joe Maphis and Merle Travis, eventually all on one guitar...he seems to fit in quite well, although Joe Maphis demonstrates an infinitely higher mastery than either peer in the same clip...

63. Budd Guin

This is like the third best DBZ theme and it still literally kicks ass. I have learned that the man who plays lead guitar is not composer Bruce Faulconer, but an assistant, Budd Guin, about whom not much else is known. Apparently a bunch of people other than Faulconer like Guin made significant contributions to the US soundtrack and have not been widely credited...

64. Jimmy Page

And so it must be, for so it is written...I'm not even crazy about Led Zeppelin but you've got "Stairway to Heaven", which would have been enough, but then there's also "Black Dog", "Kashmir", even "D'yer Mak'er"...

Only slightly overrated.

65. Dick Dale

Yes, there's nothing quite like Dick Dale. Jimi Hendrix is said to have remarked, upon hearing of Dick's colorectal cancer diagnosis, "You'll never hear surf music again." Or so says the man himself...

And indeed, "Misirlou" sounds quite distinct from something by the Beach Boys or Jan & Dean, despite a loose similarity. Is it down to the serendipitous Lebanese parentage of the guitar player, that lead him to a song in an unusual mode for Western music? Or perhaps the similarly unlikely penchant to play a right-handed guitar upside down with the strings kept reversed (Dick Dale having been left-handed)? A partnership with Leo Fender, founding father of electric guitar, couldn't have hurt, surely.

Alan Moore called this kind of thing a thermodynamic miracle...

66. Riley Puckett

The histories tell us that the guitar was originally made to be played in intimate settings, before small audiences - in parlors, as it were. Certainly not as a lead instrument in a band, unless we're talking a classical guitar ensemble...the lack of volume made it largely impracticable before Leo Fender & co. revolutionized electrification.

Back even before the Carter Family started recording in 1927, Riley Puckett was one of the first guitar players to popularize the kind of fancy acoustic guitar leads that Doc Watson and his successors would pick up on and really bring to the forefront.

This being the early 1920s, of course, one should manage one's expectations...lead and rhythm weren't so arbitrarily segregated as they have since become then either.

Puckett, like a lot of people on this list, also owed a lot to his singing, as in "picking-and-a-singing" - he is also an early yodeler in nascent Country Music, it would seem - but unlike a lot of people on this list (too few, probably) Puckett was blind. Not quite from birth, but due to a botched eye treatment not long thereafter...

67. Bayless Rose

Yet another great track featured in American Epic (you really must see it) is the Depression-Era "Old Black Dog" by Dick Justice, from the great tradition of musical coal-miners.

As you can see, Justice learned it from our man in question.

Not a missed opportunity for the new Undisputed, Bayless Rose was another guitar-playing coalminer, about whom not a lot is know - not even his race, and that was rather a big deal in those days...he did a little bit of recording in the early thirties and then seems to have lived quietly to the age of 95, dying in 1986 in his native Kentucky. Kind of a shame, since "Jamestown Exhibition" alone suggests he could outplay a lot of his peers on this list...

68. Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder on this list is a little bit of a cheat since it's not really oriented towards slide guitar...but those leads on Mick Jagger's star-turn "Memo From Turner" cannot be ignored. Nor can we fail to acknowledge his early stint with Captain Beefheart, his film work as on The Long Riders (see below), or his work to popularize and revive the musicians of Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club.

69. Bob Spickard

Some of you don't know his name, but that's the guy from the Chantays. One of them anyhow (stay tuned).

The surf rockers are known for their seminal hit "Pipeline", and quite rightly so. Originally named "Liberty's Whip" after the classic John Wayne/Ford film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it's a remarkably evocative piece of instrumental rock - doesn't the old name just suit it perfectly? The guys saw another movie though, this time about surfing, and that was that...

But personally I prefer "Move It". Great party feel...not as revolutionary as "Pipeline" I don't think, but it does move you...

70. Brian Carman

And now we have the other founding guitarist of the Chantays (that's Brian Spickard on your left edge in the video, Brian Carman is next to him). I am not really familiar enough with them to say, but based solely on this video I want to say the late Carman might have an edge as far as badassedness - he certainly shows he's still got it in 2010, and seems to have kept up with more contemporary guitar music to boot.

71. Ricky Byrd

OK, so did anyone else know the solo on "I Love Rock 'n Roll" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts was played by one Ricky Byrd? Discovering this was like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls for me...one of the best, most iconic Rock guitar solos ever and I never heard of him before this. It's a harsh industry, Music...

Speaking of, I feel like people tend to know by now but this was of course a cover of the original by the Arrows, who are obscure aside from "I Love Rock n' Roll"...

72. Maury Muehleisen

Again I'm afraid I'm telling tales out of school a little, but I do believe Muehleisen is doing the heavy guitar lifting on "Time in a Bottle" with Jim Croce (also a guitarist). The man was classically trained and classically underappreciated. He and Croce did have commercial success before they were both killed in the same plane crash, but they can't be said to have enjoyed it...

Very harsh industry

73. Tracy Newman

This rendition of "This Little Light of Mine" is such a nifty and catchy arrangement. Simply brilliant...

As I've mentioned before somewhere, this other video of Tracy Newman playing banjo has got an astounding number of views:

But her guitar playing is criminally underrated, even though she still performs today...

74. Blaze Foley

Another single-song judgement, from this performance alone I gather that David Michael Fuller was a cut above as a guitar player. Compare his playing on "Clay Pigeons" to the accompaniment played by John Prine here:

75. Blind Willie Johnson

Rare intensity on this cut, not to be confused with other versions recorded under the more obvious title "You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond". At last we are truly into the great tradition of blind Blues artists, though Willie was blinded in an accident at a young age rather than born that way. Johnson's also part of that other great tradition of Blues evangelists - and I'm not talking about the Rolling Stones (for once), the Reverend W.J. Johnson ran a straight-up church, apparently still in operation 100+ years later...

Both in his slide playing (for which he may have used a knife as a bottleneck) and singing, you can certainly hear some kind of fervor going on...

76. Allen Collins

Did you know that Lynrd Skynrd's Allen Collins plays both lead guitar parts on the guitar duel in "Free Bird"? So said Gary Rossington (see below).

77. Gary Rossington

Another slide player up here, Allen Collins' fellow Lynrd Skynrd guitarist (two out of three ain't bad for this list) played the iconic slide parts on "Free Bird", as well as the rhythm guitar.

78. Martin Barre

Those solos on Jethro Tull's "We Used to Know" stand up against any in the Rock pantheon - in technical terms and panache. Terribadly underrated.

79. Al Casey

The searing guitar on Sanford Clark's Rockabilly classic "The Fool" would have been enough, but Al Casey also recorded for Duane Eddy, for whom Casey also wrote the hit "Ramrod":

80. Bobby Darren

Despicably underrated Country performer - just look at how he plays, amidst the singing, on this clip from his show of "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine". Plus he's left-handed playing a right-handed guitar, and, like Dick Dale, doing it with the strings left reversed (they say he's "the man who plays guitar upside down and backwards").

No relation, and neither has his band The Drifters.

81. Sam Chatmon

Throughout this list there've been a lot of people who play like this - Country/Piedmont Blues fingerpicking and singing. And you know what? There's gonna be a few more before we're done...

But let that not take away from the remarkableness of the style and these players. Sam Chatmon performs with rare panache (there's that word again...) on this clip from late in his life. From the start, those bends are something else...

The Chatmons were one of the First Families of American music. As the Mississippi Sheiks, Sam and his brothers and father recorded the immensely influential "Sitting on Top of the World" in 1930, and a varying lineup recorded over 70 more songs through 1935.

A lifetime later in 1978, Sam only seems to have gotten better with age...

82. Toni Lindgren

Elle Cordova (late Reina del Cid) owes a fair bit to her guitarist Toni Lindgren. This is a great arrangement of "It's My Lazy Day". It's not easy to know what lead lines to play like she does here, no matter how effortless it may look. Plus, it's hard to sing while playing guitars...but playing on your back is actually easier FYI.

83. Tony Sheridan

You'll have heard this one off the Beatles' Anthology. Tony Sheridan was an up and coming British singer and guitarist when he met the Beatles during their early 60s Hamburg residency. He'd already been a television regular and had experience playing with a lot of big name American rock & rollers, including Eddie Cochrane and Gene Vincent - in fact he narrowly missed being a party to their 1960 car crash that killed Cochrane...

And you can certainly hear the Elvis influence on this performance of "My Bonnie". With the Beatles as backup pre-Ringo, he gives a smashing rendition both vocally and on the absolutely killer guitar solo.

Later he'd move away from Rock & Roll, though not without separate stints with both Ringo sans the Beatles, and the TCB Band of Elvis fame...

84. Etta Baker

Etta Baker started playing at the age of three and continued for most of the next ninety years. She was born in 1913 but not recorded until 1956, and it would be another forty or so years until she was paid for her recordings. But though she flew under the radar for most of her life, she nevertheless had a big impact on those in the know, such as Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan.

"Railroad Bill" (which you may recognize as "Cannonball Blues" from earlier on the list) shows off her uncommonly sophisticated fingerpicking - observe how it really kicks off about two-thirds of the way through.

85. Frank Hutchison

Yeah, I do really like "Cannonball Blues". But this isn't another threepeat, the songs just have the same name...

Frank Hutchison, a coal miner, was a contemporary of Bayless Rose and Dick Justice mentioned up above, and of a similar playing bent. But I think he really stands out here compared to most Country Blues practitioners - phenomenal slide and rhythm on "Cannon Ball Blues".

86. Blind Willie McTell

OK, this one really is "Cannonball Blues" a third time...

Another hugely influential Piedmont Bluesman (born blind in one eye, and blind in the other before his teens), Blind Willie McTell gives a rollicking performance on "Little Delia" thanks to his accompaniment as well as his singing. He was an itinerant singer and played around Atlanta for many years before being recorded by musicologist John Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1940, and then brought in "off the street", as it were, by Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegun for some recording in 1949. Though he was commercially unsuccessful, like several people on this list he's had outsized influence on musicians who've come since (again, Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan to name a couple) and he's remembered for uncommon slide work and for playing a twelve-string guitar for volume.

87. Odetta Holmes

So initially I didn't think Odetta was up there with Rolling Stone's other picks as a guitar player, per se, though as a performer I prefer her to most of them...but when I first heard this record, "Roll On, Buddy", the guitar did stand out to me despite how much the vocals stand out...and you know what, we do need to give more respect to outstanding rhythm guitar.

John Lennon will still not be appearing on this list though...

88. Paul McCartney

…but I did just remember "Blackbird". So Paul McCartney, surprisingly, is underrated. Also didn't he come up with "Helter Skelter"? Maybe not the guitar parts, but fair points...

89. John Fogerty

Love this solo on "Lookin' Out My Back Door". And no matter how much they play it into the ground, "Fortunate Son" is still legendary. Somehow underrated.

90. Lindsey Buckingham

OK, fine, he plays a good guitar. Very good.

91. Marv Taplin

Guitarist of one of the best groups ever, the Miracles, Marv Taplin's best known for the beautiful and understated opening to "The Tracks of my Tears", and rightly so:

But what about that iconic opening to "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"? And moreover, it's hard to hear him under the orchestra but he's really hitting it on the rest of the song too, part of what makes that appearance at the T.A.M.I. show a contender for best performance of all time by anyone...

92. Blind Boy Fuller

Another master of the Piedmont Blues style of fingerpicking, which he played on a metal resonator guitar. Fuller went blind in his late teens or early twenties and then tried to make a living off his playing and carrying on. They say he had a bad temper, but I probably would too if I suddenly went blind after a good stretch of sightfullness...

Quite popular in his day where many other greats were not, he made recordings with legendary Blues harpist Sonny Terry and was a strong, direct influence on Terry's partner Brownie McGhee, whom Columbia Records tried to market as "Blind Boy Fuller No 2.".

"Truckin' My Blues Away" is also, ultimately, from whence we get the saying "keep on truckin'"...

93. Link Wray

And so finally I too have Link Wray and Duane Eddy very far apart...well, anyhow, "Slinky" is a great record. Especially for 1959. "Rumble" of course is even more landmark, having come out the previous year...

94. Elizabeth Cotten

By now you know "Freight Train", no?

Classic fingerpicking, a style come to be known as "Cotten Picking" (but be careful). And on "Shake Sugaree", a top-notch accompaniment (to a beautiful performance by Cotten's great-granddaughter Brenda Evans, then 12-years old, natch). All left-handed on an upside down guitar...

95. Clarence White

The B-Bender came up before under Bernie Leadon; you can hear another example of it on "Nashville West", played by the man who co-invented it - Clarence White, who with his bandmate Gene Parsons devised it during their brief stint in the eponymous band Nashville West.

And if that track ain't Country...

Clarence White has many claims to fame, but besides the B-Bender he's know for being one of the Byrds' guitarists and playing on Sweetheart of the Rodeo. In addition to his definitive Telecaster playing, he also did a ton to for the acoustic guitar in Bluegrass, with the groups The Kentucky Colonels and Muleskinner, besides extensive session work on the side.

96. Barrie Cadogan

The Better Call Saul theme is more than enough to warrant a mention of greatness. Memorable as hell tune, and with an uncommon sound.

97. Kevin Neill

Karl Denver may be an acquired taste, but the guitar on this performance of "Wimoweh" (variant of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight") by Kevin Neill is unimpeachable. Masterful shredding, and I'm not someone who even goes for shredding...plus the cheeky interpolation of "Scotland the Brave" during the solo...


Though depressingly underappreciated, Neill played with some other big names in his day too, like Frankie Laine, and poor old Johnny Ray...

98. Al Jardine

Very underrated guitarist. Check out how he plays the "heeee-roos and viiiiii-llains" part of the eponymous Beach Boys non-hit. Definitely not something for acoustic guitar.

99. Oscar Isaac

Yep, he's up there with these professional-ass guitarists we've been talking about. If you've not seen Inside Llewyn Davis, it'll knock your proverbial socks off in more ways than one.

And if you have, you may wonder like I do why such a talented man continues to take on schlock like affecting an (intentionally) horrible fake British accent in Moon Knight, even after he's gotten that Star Wars money...

100. Jerry Reed

Yet another guy who does it all, except he's also one of Chet Atkins' Certified Guitar Players (no deadwood here though). Though he once remarked to Marty Robbins that he'd use his guitar for kindling if he could sing like that, his guitar playing is just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to finger-picking, Smokey and the Bandit theme songs (plural), and even catchy riffs like in "Amos Moses", few can compete with the Alabama Wildman...

Best for last? Not far off...

101. - 250. Those yet unborn

Plus, you know...all the snubs, and people I never heard of, couldn't identify, or just straight-up forgot. Frankly, this list became a lot harder to fill out after like 80 people. Not that there aren't more I could name, but I don't see 250 or even 125 happening, at least not in any meaningful way...

Please don't hate more than you hate other lists m(_ _)m...we are talking ALL time, after all... and I do apologize for the most blatant snubs...

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