Axe Murderers

Here’s a can of worms for you….

Greatest rock guitarist of all time.

Tough one I know, and sure to start heated debates.  But let’s do two things first.

Number one: take Chuck Berry off the list.

He invented it.  Period.  You can’t argue this so don’t try.

The only thing you could argue is that he lifted the entire style from his poor half drunk piano player, Johnny Johnson.  The licks he played (See intro to Johnny B. Goode) were basically trying to play a piano on a guitar.  The keys he played in were also piano, not guitar keys (Bb’s, etc, not “open A’s and stuff a guitar player would use).

But maybe we’ll get to that another day.

Number Two:  Take Jimi Hendrix off the list.  He’s the “Sgt Pepper” of guitar.  It all went Technicolor after that and nobody knew you could do the stuff with a guitar that he did.

So who is left to top a list?

Well, Clapton is god right?  Always knew when to be tasteful and to shred.  He’s gotta be at the top.

Jimmy Page?  Yeah.  But probably side by side with Jeff Beck.  Both masters.  Personally I was probably influenced more by Page because of his lean toward blues, but it’s hard to say.

I used to always say it was David Gilmour.  When you can hum a solo as much as a song then you know the player is something special.  That’s Gilmour.

Eddie Van Halen would be high on anybody’s list.  He changed the way people played.  Not really for the better, but HE was great at it.  After Eddie everybody felt like they had to be more “athletic” than musical.  The faster the better and if you can use your right hand on the fretboard as well, then you MUST be good.  Not necessarily.  Eddie knew when to reel it in.

For sheer feel I give the nod to Keith Richards.  He makes a guitar talk to you without you knowing.

And let me submit a wildcard.

Somebody that knows tastefulness more than possibly any other guitarist to ever play in a band.

Sometime it’s what you don’t play.  And sometime it’s knowing when to let it crank to eleven.

That would be Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

He always got the tone perfect, and knew what the song called for.

And isn’t it about the song?  Really?

1. Chuck Berry

2. Jimi Hendrix

3. Eric Clapton

4. Keith Richards

5. David Gilmour

6. Jimmy Page

7. Pete Townsend

8. Eddie Van Halen

9. Duane Allman

10. Mike Campbell

And yes….Damon Johnson should be on the list.  Just didn’t want the BJS to seem self-aggrandizing….


Have a list?



11 responses

  1. burt osborne

    Elliot Easton (The Cars) is one of the most underrated guitar players ever. The Cars are not thought of as a guitar heavy band, but the next time you hear one of their songs just focus on the guitar. His stuff is awesome.

    I’m not saying he’s the greatest. I am saying he should be considered on any list of great ax men.

    It is my opinion that he is the 2nd greatest left handed guitar player ever. Of course, #1 on that list is a no-brainer.

    March 20, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    • Dave Evans

      Mr Easton is superb.

      March 20, 2011 at 11:15 pm

  2. John Junkin

    1. Angus Young
    2. Randy Rhoads
    3. Billy Gibbons
    4. Steve Gaines
    5. Brian Robertson
    6. Jimmy Page
    7. David Gilmour
    8. Slash
    9. Eddie Van Halen
    10 Malcolm Young

    March 20, 2011 at 2:25 pm

  3. Vicki Welch

    For my money, Jimmie Vaughan’s one of the most underrated guitarists around…and coincidentally, it’s his birthday today.

    March 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm

  4. m lang

    1)Rory Gallagher
    2)Mike Campbell
    3)Jimmy Page
    4)Keith Richards
    5)Pete Townsend
    6)Duane Allman
    7)Jimi Hendrix
    8)Gary Moore
    9)The Edge
    10)JJ Cale

    March 20, 2011 at 2:49 pm


    Not a finesse player but for his ability to make his instrument do EXACTLY what he wanted it to do: Ted

    For ability to get tone and performance without a lot of electronic gadgets: Roy Buchanan & Danny Gatton

    And not really a rock guitarist, but without him, there wouldn’t be very many ‘guitar gods’: Les Paul

    And for the exuberance of youth and bringing along the next generation: Joe Bonamassa

    And just for the hell of it: Sonny Landreth

    March 20, 2011 at 8:17 pm

  6. Dave Evans

    Well, I dunno about a top ten. I’d have to give it some more thought, but for my money, EVH is one of the top 3 in my opinion, and it has absolutely nothing to do with his tapping/acrobatics during solos.
    From roughly 1978 till round the mid 90s Mr Van Halen was a HOOK machine along the lines of Billy Gibbons. His signature hooky riffs changed not only rock music, but music stores, the entire guitar industry. Nobody had ever heard of a Floyd Rose tremolo until EVH.

    March 20, 2011 at 11:14 pm

  7. Leigh Stiles

    Wow…so many to choose from! This will be my personal faves: David Gilmour, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and one I’m surprised doesn’t get mentioned is Damon Johnson.
    I couldn’t possibly put them in an order but here’s more: Neal Schon, Reb Beach, Chris DeGarmo, Michael Wilton, Billy Gibbons, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Richie Sambora.

    March 21, 2011 at 1:14 am

  8. Catfish

    1. Joe Bonamassa
    2. Stevie Ray Vaughn
    3. Duane Allman
    4. Eric Clapton
    5. Buckethead
    6. Sonny Landreth
    7. Derek Trucks
    8. Carlos Santana
    9. Joe Santriani
    10. Warren Haynes

    There’s NO WAY to pick a Top-10, but these
    are some of my favorites…..

    March 21, 2011 at 2:57 am

  9. Lorraine

    Tommy Emmanuel.

    March 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm

  10. if only limited to rock, then:
    1. eric clapton
    2. jimi hendrix
    3. lindsay buckingham
    4. carlos santana
    5. terry kath

    April 8, 2011 at 12:37 am

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