1. Andres Segovia (classical, 1893-1987) - Marques de Salobrena.
Segovia is the Father of modern classical guitar, and the single biggest reason for the rise and firm establishment of guitar's reputation and popularity during the 20th century.
To paraphrase the maestro himself, he took the guitar from "the gypsy haunts and almost alone elevated it to its honored place on the concert stage". Such statement, not devoid of elitism, is the kind that could often be heard from Segovia; it is the same quality of supreme confidence and faith in his calling that gave him the strength to accomplish the enormous work he has done. Segovia either came up with or crystallized all of the modern classical guitarist's essential techniques (nail use, tone control, use of specific fingerings, scale exercises, practice routines), transcribed countless works for guitar that have become essentials in every classical player's standard repertoire, and commissioned composers (Torroba, de Falla, Ponce, Castelnuovo-Tedesco) to write for guitar. He was a pioneer in using nylon strings (replacing the more expensive and less reliable gut strings) in the 1940s, popularized the worldwide use of the Spanish acoustic guitar (with its particular fan-bracing), and worked with luthiers (particuarly Hauser) in improving the instrument's volume and tonal qualities.
Known for his very romantic style of playing (using rubato and glissandi in his phrasing, a wide tonal palette, employing different parts of finger nail and flesh), Segovia was among pioneers of classical guitar recording. He toured constantly all his life (until well into his 90s), established classical guitar schools all over the world, promoted guitar competitions, and his enthusiasm and dedication inspired countless others to pick up the instrument, and, in the end, ensured that the guitar occupies a central place on the world music stage.
2. Django Reinhardt (jazz, 1910-1953)
As a memer of the string ensemble Le Quintette du Hot Club de France, Django set the music world on fire in the mid-1930s with never-before-seen virtuosity and style, which still inspire awe even to this day. Inspired by the jazz music of Louis Armstrong and Eddie Lang, Django mixed in his manouche (French Gypsy) heritage to create a flamboyant, expressive, heavily ornamental arpeggio-based lead playing style, along with propulsive rhythmic variations of "le pompe" (a rhythmic figure that is the foundation and essence of Gypsy Swing). His technique was a marvel - in his speed, precision, clarity, tone, vibrato, pioneering use of sweep picking, harmonics, simple fingerings for odd and exciting harmonies, among other ideas.
Django was armed with brilliant and focused improvising ability, in addition to being a very prolific composer (including "Nuages", an unofficial anthem of Occupied France in the 1940s).
He has greatly inspired every jazz guitarist of his generation and onward, but his influence is extremely wide-reaching and spans many composers and performers of various genres, and it is possible to trace the birth of genres such as rock 'n' roll and bluegrass, as well as the evolution of jazz itself from swing to bebop, directly to Django. (One merely need recall Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie" and Coleman Hawkins's "Body and Soul")
A significant part of his legend is his use of only two fingers on his fretting hand, a necessity after a tragic accident in his teens left his other fingers crippled. The adjustments he made to his playing not only gave rise to his brilliant arpeggio-heavy soloing style, but his perseverance in overcoming that obstacle went on to inspire many future instrumentalists. With his picking hand, Django used plectrum; he also made standard the use of Selmer-Macaferri guitars for playing Gypsy Swing.
In both his personality and musical style, he found a foil in an equally brilliant instrumentalist - violinist Stephane Grapelli, and they helped each other reach incredible new heights in their artistry.
3. Chet Atkins, CGP (country, 1924-2001) - Mister Guitar.
Often associated with 'cosmopolitan country' ('countrypolitan'), Atkins was the most prolific, respected and influential session player of the 1950s and '60s, helping create 'the Nashville sound'. Based in country Travis-picking but expanding on and perfecting that technique, and drawing on a very wide variety of musical sources from swing and blues and classical to honky-tonk and rock 'n roll, Atkins possessed one of the most complete, masterful, fluid and tasteful playing styles ever seen. In addition to his session work, he contributed many innovations to guitar equipment and technology (the first to use wah-wah pedal on a record, for example), and, his numerous excellent solo records have also helped turn entire generations on to fingerstyle guitar.
4. Jimi Hendrix (rock, 1942-1970) - expanded the possibilities of the electric guitar like nobody else before or since. Associated mostly with psychedelia, his heavily destorted, fiery, blues-based rock playing style (with controlled feedback) opened the door to a whole new sonic realm that has directly or indirectly influenced virtually every electric rock (and many a non-rock) guitarist since him. His live performances are among the most memorable and legendary in the annals of recorded music; his stage presence and antics, and his aura, have pretty much created the concept and the mystique of "guitar god" in rock. Signature songs include "Purple Haze", "Little Wing", and his cover of "All Along the Watchtower".
(guitar influences: Buddy Guy, Johnny Guitar Watson, Johnny Jenkins, T-Bone Walker, Dick Dale)
5. Paco de Lucia (flamenco, 1947-) - the living legend of flamenco guitar. Seemingly destined to become the world's greatest guitarist since birth, his jaw-dropping virtuosity, style, and artistic vision are something the entire flamenco (and non-flamenco) world has looked up at in wonder and admiration ever since his teenage years. His association with Camaron de la Isla in the late 1960s gave birth to Nuevo Flamenco; throughout his career, de Lucia has continued to push both his own limits as well as those of the genre, masterfully fusing it with other styles in an adventurous fashion but without ever losing respect for tradition and the flamenco spirit.
6. Agustin Barrios (classical, 1885-1944) - Paganini of the Guitar. Barrios was one of the greatest all-around artists and cultural figures in the history of Paraguay. A talented man in many areas, he is best remembered, after being rediscovered by John Williams in the 1990s, as composer of salon pieces (miniatures) as well as virtuoso vehicles for guitar, the best-known of which is "La Catedral".
His composition is mostly grounded in the Romantic style, but he also drew heavily from South American folk music, and was also influenced by Bach. He was a prolific writer, having left behind over 300 works for guitar (many of which have yet to be published). While he wasn't the first recorded guitarist, he was the first virtuoso to be extensively recorded (between 1913 and 1929), and he was the first South American guitarist to become widely recognized in Europe.
Through extensive touring in he developed a reputation as a brilliant live performer, armed with impressive technical and expressive ability on the instrument (which can be glimpsed from his gramophone recordings), and dressed in traditional Guarani garb, assuming his on-stage alter-ego Nitsuga Mangore (born out of his deep personal mythology).
7. Ramon Montoya (flamenco, 1880-1949) - the first recorded flamenco great, the first solo flamenco guitarist of note, and officially considered the first great flamenco "concert player" (paving the way for Sabicas and Carlos Montoya), Montoya was the most famous and trend-setting guitarist in the history of flamenco (until the coming of Paco de Lucia). Incorporating many classical guitar techniques into flamenco, Montoya came to develop a technique that was head-and-shoulders ahead of everyone else at the time (and, that wouldn't be surpassed until the coming of Sabicas), and, in retrospect, has infamously become regarded by many as the first to propagate the "virtuosity for virtuosity's sake" approach to playing as a solo performer. It should not be forgotten, however, that he was an excellent, respected, and in-demand accompanist, as well.
8. Julian Bream (classical, 1933-) - a supremely inspired and passionate performer of a wide range of classical styles from renaissance and baroque to impressionist and moden composition. Probably the most popular and beloved classical guitarist of the century, Bream is a great ambassador of his art, an enthusiastic promoter of appreciation of many types of music, all of which he performs with excellent skill and conviction. The British guitarist also led the Julian Bream Consort, which sparked a revival of interest in Elizabethan era music. Selected recording: "Nocturnal" (by Benjamin Britten/John Dowland)
9. Charlie Christian (jazz, 1916-1942) - the first important electric guitarist, and the first one to star in a jazz big band. Possessing an excellent rhythmic feel and a clarity of tone and in phrasing that sounded a lot like tenor saxophone, his inspired solos (particularly "Solo Flight") with the Benny Goodman Orchestra not only helped create bebop but were also the biggest source of inspiration and influence on an entire generation of jazz guitarists of the 1940s and beyond.
10. BB King (blues, 1925-) - the King of the Blues. Universally hailed as the ruling bluesman of his time, BB King has been the most influential blues guitarist since T-Bone Walker, updating and perfecting what T-Bone started. His jazz-inflected single-line note phrasing, his tone, and his vibrato are something all electric blues guitarists regard as the ultimate perfection and aspire to achieve. He has had many hits over the span of his long career, but achieved the most crossover success with "The Thrill Is Gone", which has become his signature song.
11. T-Bone Walker (blues, 1910-1975) - the father of modern blues guitar. The first electric blues guitarist, who came up with a vocabulary of licks and riffs and an elegant style that influenced the generations of players that followed. His usage of volume control, finger vibrato and bending .... a unique way of holding the guitar (at an angle against his body) that probably helped him achieve clarity and power of attack. T-Bone essentially defined the role of electric guitar in blues (and thus eventually rock, as well). In addition, his highly entertaining performance style (playing between his legs and over his head) inspired many others like Buddy Guy and Jimi Hendrix. His most famous song, "Stormy Monday" has become a standard and exerted a big influence over the evolution of modern blues.
12. Merle Travis (country, 1917-1983) - an immensely important figure in the history of Country, and popular music in general, Travis is nowadays mostly associated with "Travis picking", a guitar picking pattern he developed (from country blues, with inspiration from Arnold Shultz and Mose Rager) and popularized so much that it provided the foundation for much of country guitar playing since. Despite being one of the pioneers of tapping and multi-part disc recording, among other things, he was and is, however, most revered for his excellent and influential playing (always marked by that powerful pulsating bottom), in addition to writing a dozen or so standards (such as the guitar instrumental "Cannonball Rag") that have become an inseparable part of the country music tradition.
13. Wes Montgomery (jazz, 1923-1968) - regarded as the pinnacle of mainstream jazz guitar, Montgomery was initially inspired by Charlie Christian, but grew to become an institution onto himself, influencing his own generation of jazz guitarists with his perfectly-realized style of playing, characterized by his thumb-driven warm tone, attractive use of octaves (called the "Naptown sound") and block chords, excellent phrasing, superb groove-oriented feel, and seemingly endless ideas for his ever-tasteful, earthy improvisation.
14. John Williams (classical, 1941-) - the ruling deity of the contemporary classical guitar world. Possessing technique that is universally hailed as 'flawless' and 'perfect', Williams has performed the works of an extremely wide variety of classical (and even some non-classical) guitar styles, periods, and composers (among his great achievements was helping rediscover the music of Agustin Barrios). Previously often criticized for being a "cold" performer, he's made a conscious effort to emote more in his later years. Also Williams has infamously been involved with classical/rock fusion group Sky (occasionally playing electric guitar), and has collaborated with numerous other musicians, most notably Julian Bream and Paco Pena.
15. Lonnie Johnson (blues, 1899-1970) - the first great studio guitarist in the history of recorded music (playing with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Frank Trambauer, among many other major artists of the day). As the first important exponent of the "guitar solo", the clarity and excellence of his melodic single-line playing has helped ensure an important and lasting role for the guitar in popular music ever since the late 1920s and 30s, in addition to influencing future other greats such as Robert Johnson, Charlie Christian, and Django. Johnson's duets with Eddie Lang set an amazingly high standard of excellence, arguably remaining unsurpassed to this day; also, he proved to be a great ballad artist, scoring many solo hits in the "race market" in the 1930s and 40s.
16. Eddie Lang (jazz, 1902-1933) - Father of Jazz Guitar. One of the greatest rhythm guitarists ever recorded, and, along with Lonnie Johnson, the leading and most in-demand session guitarist of his day (Bing Crosby insisted that Lang be the player on all his recordings). Considered the first great jazz guitarist, Lang was a pioneer - there was simply no one before him (Lang's longtime musical partner, violinist Joe Venuti, claimed the only guitar influence Lang had ever mentioned was Andres Segovia). Previously a top-notch banjoist, as a guitarist Lang was the first to use a jazz guitar with F-holes (as opposed to the previously used Spanish guitar): Gibson L-4 and L-5, and played it plectrum-style. Rooted in blues, Lang's playing style was characterized most of all by outlining the harmony in various ways; he was also a fine single-string soloist with horn-like phrasing, quite original for his time. Among many highlights of his career include duets with Carl Kress, Lonnie Johnson and violinist Joe Venuti.
17. Ida Presti (classical, 1924-1967) and Alexandre Lagoya (1929-1999) - did for the classical guitar what Segovia did for solo classical guitar: greatly popularized the idiom, and established the golden standard for all future performers. A husband-wife guitar team, both were highly technically proficient, but also had a unique musical rapport, creating emotionally expressive pieces, with much nuance and intricacy. Presti, in particular, is regarded by some (such as Jack Duarte) to have been the most brilliant guitarist who ever lived.
18. Narciso Yepes (classical, 1927-1997) - one of the greatest classical guitarists of the century, and, along with Segovia, the most outstanding to come out of Spain. Yepes specialized in Baroque material and the works of 20th century Spanish composers, most notably Joaquin Rodrigo (Yepes's successful debut performance of "Concierto de Aranjuez" in 1947 was a crucial point in his career and in the history of classical guitar). In the 1960s, he developed the 10-string guitar, promoted it as a superior instrument, and performed on it almost exclusively since.
19. Lenny Breau (jazz, 1941-1984) - Chopin of Guitar (according to Chet Atkins). An underground legend, particularly among enthusiasts of solo jazz guitar. A singular virtuosic talent who never made the big time, Lenny created a unique style of expression on guitar by combining his background in country and rockabilly, his acquired expertise in flamenco and classical guitar and other styles, with his love for the harmonic possibilities, spontaneity and improvisatory nature of jazz. Initially inspired by Chet Atkins, he was most greatly influenced by Bill Evans's harmonically sophisticated approach. Excelling both in solo and ensemble contexts, Lenny Breau's playing trademarks included the amazing ability to creatively carry lead, bass, and self-comping parts simultaneously, chordal harp-harmonics, and the seamless fusion of seemingly disparate styles (such as his "spanjazz").
20. John McLaughlin (fusion, 1942-) - Mahavishnu. Legendary for his trailblazing fusion ventures, McLaughlin has enjoyed a lengthy and fruitful career that saw him contribute to the birth of jazz-rock fusion with Miles Davis, form his own incredible ensemble, the incendiary Mahavishnu Orchestra, dive head-first into Hindustani and Carnatic music, forming the revolutionary group Shakti, and enjoy collaborations with many other, mostly fusion and jazz, musicians. His approach to soloing can be described as "sheets-of-sound", inspired by John Coltrane, churning out mostly single-line improvisations over exotic scales at mind-boggling speeds. As a player he's also known for mastering microtonal bends, and for his hard and precise plectrum picking on both electric and acoustic guitars.
21. Joe Pass (jazz, 1929-1993) - the President of Bebop Guitar. Emerging as a force in the 1960s (after his early career had been derailed by drug abuse), Pass was a superb and very in-demand session player (credits include Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, among many others). His aptly-titled Virtuoso album series in the 1970s catapulted him into the status of a jazz guitar hero and greatly helped popularize the art of "solo jazz guitar" in the mainstream. Pass had an extremely deep understanding of jazz guitar, impeccably solid technique, and was a very creative and tasteful improviser.
22. Sabicas (flamenco, 1912-1990) - possessor of a stunning mastery of the flamenco guitar, combining the lyricism, technical precision and finesse of a classical guitarist with the passion and rhythmic drive of the flamenco gitano, Sabicas became known to many as the King of Flamenco, helping his music gain a wider popularity outside of Spain (fleeing due to the civil war to South America in 1936, and eventually emigrating to the US, spending the rest of his life in New York). An excellent accompanist for flamenco dancers (his partnership with Carmen Amaya is legendary), during the 1950s and 60s Sabicas became the greatest concert guitarist (solo performer) of his time. He also ended up being a rather controversial figure in his homeland (accused of selling-out and leaving his roots, but criticized mostly out of envy and conservatism). Recommended listening: Flamenco Puro (1961).http://herso.freeservers.com/other/sabi ... rview.html
23. Blind Blake (ragtime, 1893-1933) - the King of Ragtime Guitar. Blind Arthur Blake was a virtuosic fingerstyle instrumentalist, easily the finest of his day, but his playing remains impressive even to this day. He was one of the most recorded and popular artists at the Paramount studios in the 1920s and early 30s before dropping out into obscurity. His playing, which featured unique right-hand thumb rolls that evoked the Charleston dance-step, was quite influential on the development of Piedmont blues and on the playing of future generations of country blues and other acoustic guitarists.
24. Robert Johnson (blues, 1911-1938) - a legendary figure whose instrumental prowess still inspires awe after so many years. Rediscovered in the early 1960s, the few available recordings that he had made inspired a generation of blues and rock musicians, and many of his songs (such as "Crossroad Blues") have become standard repertoire for blues/rock performers. While most performers before his time could be classified regionally, Johnson was arguably the first recorded artists to draw from a wide range of influences: rooted in Delta blues (Charley Patton and Son House were his central influences) but also heavily absorbing the music of artists such as jazzy bluesmen Lonnie Johnson and Scrapper Blackwell, combining it all into his own style, with advanced song structures that marked the beginning of modern blues.
25. John Fahey (contemp fingerstyle, blues, folk, 1939-2001) - Blind Joe Death. The Father of the American Primitive Guitar school, an agglomeration of a wide variety of indigenous music forms (especially country blues with its alternating bass, but also including native american, indian and european classical, country, ragtime, and other musical traditions, an extremely wide variety that preceded the rise of "world music"). Fahey was an excellent and versatile acoustic guitarist with a wicked sense of harmony and amazingly fertile imagination, which, coupled with his wide range of interests and influences, produced an extensive and fascinating body of work. Idiosyncratic almost to a fault, Fahey has never transcended the status of a cult artist, but remains one of the most unique, brilliant, and important figures in the history and progression of steel-string guitar.
-helped rediscover Bukka White
-did thesis on Charley Patton
26. Davey Graham (british folk, contemp fingerstyle, 1940-2008) - the central figure in the British folk revival of the early 1960s, Graham is considered the most excellent and influential guitarist of that particular movement. Like his American counterparts John Fahey and Sandy Bull, Graham was one of the founders of "world music" fusion, combining many elements from various musical cultures - from the Arabic oud music to the Indian sarod to American blues. Besides being influential for his genre bending, and reviving a lot of British folklore, he is also credited with introducing the DADGAD tuning to the rest of western musicians. Graham's signature pieces are "Anji" and the Indian/Irish-folk fusion "She Moved Through the Fair".
27. Doc Watson (folk, 1923-) - celebrated as one of the great and most influencial folk musicians since being belatedly discovered by the mainstream in the early 1960s (after spending the previous decade as a session player), Doc is recognized as a masterful fingerstyle and especially flat-picking guitarist. His style is based in Appalachian folk ("virtually inventing the art of playing mountain fiddle tunes on flattop guitar") but Watson derives just as much from country, bluegrass, blues, and gospel, spanning the range of traditional Americana, yet retaining a very musically pure and ever-tuneful repertoire of songs; he's admired as an authentic and charismatic performer.
-distinctive picking pattern from his experience with mandolin
28. Les Paul (jazz, 1915-) - The Wizard of Waukesha. Without a doubt one of the most important and influential guitarists in the history of modern pop and jazz music. Les Paul was arguably the most important figure in the development of the electric guitar in the 20th century: as a pioneer of solid-body electric guitars (including the model famously named after him) and studio experimentation, such as multitrack recordings ("Lover" being the first example of this), echo and reverb (for which his own sound is always instantly recognizable). Rooted in Western Swing and jazz, his catchy licks and speedy playing style (aided by innovative recording techniques, such as recording at half speed to make the end result "double-fast"), showcased on Les Paul and Mary Ford's pop hits in the 1950s, influenced and inspired countless guitarists of his generation and beyond.
29. Pat Metheny (fusion, jazz, 1954-) - an ever-dynamic and original creative force in jazz and fusion guitar since the mid-1970s, Pat Metheny was a trailblazer in emphasizing the more lyrical aspects of fusion (which, at the time, was heading towards the raw, the fast and the technically indulgent). He has mastered, introduced and popularized several kinds of guitar (including the synthaxe and the 12-string jazz guitar). His tonal palette is extremely wide-ranging but always used masterfully and with taste, and his original tone on the 6-string jazz guitar has been extremely influential and widely-copied. Metheny's influences are all-encompassing (including many folk traditions, rock, etc.) Besides being the artistic leader and main composer for the very successful Pat Metheny Group for over 30 years, he has enjoyed many side solo projects and collaborations with various musicians, like Ornette Coleman and Jim Hall.
30. Sol Ho'opi'i *(hawaiian, 1902-1953) - an exciting and influential Hawaiian steel guitarist. A popular fixture at Los Angeles clubs in the 1920s and 1930s (before he abandoned secular music), Hoopii's recordings directly preceded the rise of jazz guitar as a lead instrument, especially inspiring the hot jazz improvisations of Django and Oscar Aleman. In addition to displaying his Hawaiian roots, Hoopii's playing style was blues-influenced, highly rhythmic, and always featured amazing melodic improvisations. He later took up and mastered the lap steel guitar, influencing a generation of lap and pedal steel as well as slide guitarists.
31. Michael Hedges (contemp fingerstyle, 1953-1997) - The Guitarist from Another Planet. An iconoclastic innovator, who in the 1980s changed the way an entire generation played the acoustic steel-string guitar, focusing more on tapping and slurs, playing harmonics, and using the guitar's dynamic properties to create a very percussive playing style. His own composition-based approach stands out for the use of space in his pieces, the influential use of alternate tunings, his "inside-a-Cathedral" atmospheric sound, and, a sense of passion and vitality always present in his live performances.
32. Baden Powell (bossa nova, 1937-2000) - the premier Brazilian guitarist during the late 1950s and 60s, Baden Powell was arguably the ruling instrumentalist during the period of the rise of Bossa Nova (while the bossa nova craze spread in Brazil and America, he helped popularize the music in Europe). A classically-trained guitarist who combined the harmony and improvisation of jazz with Afro-Brazilian rhythms, Baden Powell created the Afrosamba, which has become one of the major subgenres of MPB. Though his career was curtailed by health problems, his recorded legacy remains one of the deepest and most interesting.
33. Laurindo Almeida (bossa nova, 1917-1995) - one of the grand musical fugures of the century who, luckily for us, also happened to be a brilliant guitarist, Almeida emigrated to the United States in the 1940s to become one of the premier session guitarists there (based in Los Angeles). His appearance on various session dates, including movie soundtracks, solo albums, and collaboration with other musicians, Almeida became the premier representative of the art of brazilian guitar in America. He was equally as excellent classical and jazz player, and a great arranger, publishing numerous arrangements and compositions and etudes of his own.
34. Christopher Parkening (classical, 1947-) - though he remains somewhat underrated, Parkening is beloved as the ultimate "listener's guitarist", one of the warmest and most emotive of all the performers ever to play the instrument. His technique is silky smooth and impeccable, and his style is a most natural extension of Andres Segovia, perfecting and emphasizing the the maestro's strengths and "romantic" approach, but growing into his own as an interpretive artist, and remains standing as one of the greatest classical players of his generation.
35. Jeff Beck (rock, 1944-) - developed one of the most unique and outstanding styles of electric guitar playing ever heard, concentrating on creating a variety of sonic textures, bends and wammy-bar stunts, and other ways to alter the tone of the instrument, using his unique virtuosic skill set. While he cannot boast the mainstream popularity or name-recognition of fellow rock guitar giants, Beck is one of the most influential, important, and original pioneers of modern electric rock guitar (and continues to push the envelope even to the present day, while most of his contemporaries have fallen off the map long ago), and over the course of his adventurous career he has earned the respect and admiration of fans and fellow musicians alike, both as one of the top session guitarists, as well as for his daring explorations of psychedelia, blues, hard rock and heavy metal, rock fusion, and even rockabilly, all bearing his own unique stamp.
36. Eddie Van Halen (rock, 1955-) - the most trend-setting rock guitarist of his generation (and since Jimi Hendrix), Van Halen made huge waves with his eponymous band in the late 1970s and early 80s. Inspired by the great blues-rock guitarists of the 1960s, Van Halen however created his own style, which included the use of various special effects, pinched notes and queasy sounds, and his trademark, the two-handed tapping, a technique he greatly popularized among guitarists of the 1980s, and etched into the public's subconscious regarding modern rock guitar. Eddie Van Halen can also boast his famous tone, the "brown sound", and for popularizing the Superstrats, customized guitars perfect for playing hard rock and heavy metal. Van Halen is a terrific rhythm guitarist, and a very unique and unorthodox soloist. His signature piece is "Eruption", which includes an arpeggio study employing the tapping technique.
37. Eric Clapton (rock, blues, 1944-) - Slowhand. Arguably the most popular electric guitarist in the world since Hendrix, Clapton started out with the British blues-rock outfit Yardbirds. Possessing superb skill and excellent feel rooted deeply in blues, Clapton quickly became the most famous and influential blues-rock guitarist of the mid 1960s. He continued to build his reputation with stints in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek & the Dominos, arguably the high point of his career, and, eventually in the 1970s went solo, with less emphasis on guitar. But, he remains one of the most respected and admired guitarists in the world, beloved both for his passion-filled and lyrical lead solos as well as for the inspiration his works provided to a generation of musicians. His main influences were Chicago bluesmen of the 50s and 60s (Freddie King in particular), as well as pre-War bluesmen, especially Robert Johnson; EC himself is one of the most complete blues guitarists, well-versed in most of its major traditions. As a rock player, he was the first to use the wah-wah pedal (and, along with Hendrix, remains its most outstanding and influential user), and was key in popularizing the Les Paul guitar/Marshall amps combination.
38. Danny Gatton (rockabilly, jazz, 1945-1994) - the Humbler. A brilliantly eclectic and inspired "master of the Telecaster", Gatton was based in rockabilly, but mastered everything from jazz and rock to blues and cajun music. Seemingly doomed to stay nothing more than a local legend in his original D.C. area, Gatton's already frustrating career was ended tragically early. Gatton's possessed otherworldly virtuosity and musicality, and his playing spanned from may-devil-catch-you speed romps to groove numbers to moments of great lyricism but usually combining all three in all his performances.
39. Phil Keaggy (rock, fusion, contemp fingerstyle, 1951-) - one of the most complete players ever to pick up the instrument, Keaggy started out as a blues-rock electric guitar prodigy (rumors of Hendrix calling a then-19-year-old Keaggy the greatest guitarist on the planet certainly helped create his legend) with the group Glass Harp. In the 1970s, Keaggy became one of the pioneering artists on the CCM scene (prompting him to fall out of the mainstream, which explains his status as a relative unknown in the mainstream but a major underground figure). Over the time he has released numerous solo albums and collaboration that showcase unsurpassed virtuosity, taste, versatility and musicianship. In the past two decades, Keaggy has focused on exploring contemporary fingerstyle acoustic guitar and has earned wide praise and admiration for it (and remains one of the very few guitarists who could be considered truly masterful on both electric and acoustic guitar).
40. Allan Holdsworth (fusion, 1946-) - the King of Legato. Coming through the prog rock ranks in the early 1970s, Holdsworth emerged as a leading fusion guitarist and, though widespread recognition avoided him, has proven to be highly influential on a generation of high-end rock and fusion guitarists from the 1980s. Holdsworth's own style is quite influenced by violin techniques and ideas, and even more so by the saxophone, the sound of which Holdsworth often chases. His soloing/improvising style is characterized by long legato phrases influenced by Jimmy Raney and John Coltrane, played often at extraordinary speeds and employing his unique logical understanding of the fretboard. An equally interesting facet of his playing is his unique comping style, creating intriguing tonal and harmonic palettes. His work with the synthaxe has also earned him much notoriety. A signature solo is contained on "Devil Take the Hindmost".
41. Nino Ricardo (flamenco, 1904-1972) - the dominant and most influential flamenco guitarist and teacher of his generation (along with his friend Sabicas who emigrated in '36 and was forgotten in Spain). An endlessly inventive and creative player within his idiom, he expanded the playing style for each flamenco cante.
As a guitarist, Nino Ricardo brought together the best qualities of his great predecessors: the sweet, harmonious playing of Ramon Montoya, the rhythm and grace of Manolo de Huelva, and the speed and ability to accompany singers from Javier Molina; he was The link between the pioneers of the past, assimilating their influence into one whole, but inventing an entirely original style of playing that was so perfectly balanced and attractive, the "Ricardo school" of playing was the single most inspirational force for every guitarist of the generations that grew up in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
He was most valued for his ability in accompanying flamenco dancers and especially singers (many consider him to be the best singer accompanist they've ever heard).
42. Jim Hall (jazz, 1930-) - called by many 'the poet of jazz guitar', Jim Hall introduced a more lyrical, mellow, and melodic approach to bebop (referred to as 'cool jazz'), and as such was one of the great trend-setting and important jazz guitarists of the 1960s. His collaborations with Bill Evans and Paul Desmond are considered classics of the jazz canon, as are his own numerous recordings as a leader. (Hall also stands out as a considerable composer and arranger)
43. Ed Bickert (jazz, 1932-) - though he remains largely unknown outside of Canadian jazz scene, Bickert is one of the great unsung legends of jazz guitar. Based out of Toronto, he has quietly excelled as the busiest session guitarist in Canada since the 1960s. His harmonic sensibility is simply unequalled, and his ever-sensitive comping is regarded as the ultimate standard of excellence, in addition to a no-nonsense but lyrical approach to soloing. Bickert possesses an unwavering sense of taste and musicality as well as a complete mastery of jazz guitar (using a unique hybrid picking technique, and getting a beautiful tone out of his trusty Telecaster guitar).
44. Kenny Burrell (jazz, 1931-) - one of the most popular and consistently excellent jazz guitarists of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Duke Ellington’s favorite guitarist
45. George Van Eps (jazz, 1913-1998) - the Father of the Seven String Guitar. Known most all for developing the seven-string guitar for use in jazz, Van Eps created a new approach to playing jazz guitar (a style often referred to as "lap piano"), characterized by very sophisticated and advanced pianistic voicings. Though his career lasted for over 60 years, he had remained underrated all that time, both because of the esoteric nature of his craft and because he made only a handful of recordings as a leader, spending most of the time as an accompanist in jazz big bands. He is regarded by many as perhaps the greatest solo jazz guitar player of all time, and his music always features impeccable taste and tunefulness.
Mellow Guitar, regarded as one of the most perfect guitar albums of all time.
46. Franco Luambo (soukous, rumba, 1932-1989) - Sorcerer of the Guitar. He led the OK Jazz ensemble, the most influential and standard-setting band in modern Congolese music, and African pop music in general, since the mid-50s producing over 150 albums. Awarded the title of Grand Master of Zairean music. Later career was marred by questionable political affiliations.
Played the electric guitar exclusively fingerstyle. Dance-oriented, riffs, licks. Heavily influenced by Henri Bowane, he played sebene - long instrumental bridges.
47. Adrian Legg (contemp fingerstyle, 1948-) - Uncle Adrian. A virtuosic player of both the acoustic and the electric guitar, Legg has concocted a most peculiar style featuring many influences. Though his love for waltzes and Cajun music stands out, Legg draws heavily from bluegrass, rock, jazz, classical, blues and other musical traditions. Some of the most interesting features of his playing include changing the strings' tunings in the middle of pieces (creating steel-guitar-like bends and slur effects) and often using alternate tunings for better facility. Emerging as a force in the guitar world in the 1990s, he was appropriately awarded by Guitarist Magazine the title "Guitarist of the Decade".
48. Leo Kottke (contemp fingerstyle, 1945-) - the most popular and beloved American fingerpicking guitarist (excluding country and classical players), Kottke's style draws on a lot of influences but is quite original in its own right. He provided the link between his influences - especially Leadbelly and John Fahey among other folk-based guitarists - and the contemporary generations of acoustic pickers (often somewhat incorrectly labeled as "New Age"). Kottke's known for his intense syncopated rhythmic feel, for extensively employing various open tunings in his playing, for popularizing the 12-string guitar, and for his tireless touring (he is a much beloved live performer, singer, and quite a legendary storyteller to boot). His signature album is "6- and 12-String Guitar".
49. Ritchie Blackmore (rock, 1945-) - Inexplicably underrated by the mainstream, usually left out when discussing the first echelon of 60s rock guitar greats (Hendrix + the three Yardbirds). Blackmore is the founder of the Neo-Classical school of rock guitar playing, as he was the first to introduce classical chord progressions and scales into rock guitar (he even had a scale named after him: Blackmore's Snake-charmer scale). As a session musician in the 1960s, young Blackmore was also one of the fathers of heavy metal and shred guitar. However he became truly a star with the group Deep Purple, later leaving them to form his own band, Rainbow. He is famous for creating countless classic riffs and solos, and beloved as one of the most entertaining and adventurous live performers of all time. Since the 1990s, he has been involved with Blackmore's Night, which allowed him to explore his interest in and renaissance-era (acoustic) music.
50. Jimmy Page (rock, 1944-)
51. Hank Garland (country, jazz, rock, 1930-2004) - Sugarfoot. The premier studio guitarist of the mid- and late-1950s, playing on a mind-boggling number of pop and rock hits, essentially helping forever establish the role of guitar as a central part of pop and rock music. Garland is considered the standard all the great Nashville studio guitarists have been measured against since the 1950s. Despite making his name as a country and rockabilly guitarist, Garland was also very well versed in western swing and heavily incorporated bebop ideas into his playing; he was one of the first to combine jazz and country guitar in a fiery virtuosic style (a movement further continued by such players as Danny Gatton, Scotty Anderson, and Brent Mason). Garland's seemingly sudden switch to jazz around 1960 resulted in a once-extremely-controversial but now well-celebrated album "Jazz Winds From a New Direction". His signature tune is "Sugarfoot Rag". Garland's career was cut short early under very questionable circumstances. He remains a forgotten giant.
52. Chuck Berry (rock, 1926-) - the first popular rock 'n roll guitar hero, Berry's licks and riffs essentially provided the basic template for rock guitar upon which further generations would build on. Originally a blues blues guitarist, among Berry's inspirations were T-Bone Walker, Charlie Christian, and Elmore James, but his most direct/immediate influences were Carl Hogan (the guitarist from Louis Jordan's Tympani Five) and pianist Johnnie Johnson, from whom Berry got most of his famous licks. Berry's style popularized the use of descending pentatonic double-stops in rock, and inspired everyone from garage rock bands of the early 60s to stars like Keith Richards and Angus Young.
53. Brij Bhushan Kabra (indian) - in the 1960s, with inspiration from sarod legend Ali Akbar Khan, became the first guitarist to interpret Indian classical music on guitar. His most famous students include Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Debashish Bhattarachya
54. Freddie Green (jazz, 1911-1987) - Pep. As a rhythm guitarist, an integral part of Count Basie's All-American rhythm section for many years, Green took the art of rhythm playing to incredible an incredible level of efficiency and sophistication at the same time.
55. Albert King (blues, 1923-1992) - one of the most important and original blues musicians in the era of modern electric guitar. With an aggressive style that is very close to rock sensibilities, this southpaw with huge hands was known for his incredible wide bends, his biting tone, the Flying V guitar, and the ability squeeze every last drop from each note. Signature tune is "Crosscut Saw".
56. King Bennie Nawahi (hawaiian, 1899-1985) - King of the Hawaiian Guitar... also a ukulele virtuoso... in the 1930s settled in Los Angeles, forming his own band, King Nawahi and the International Cowboys, enjoying successful crossover between many genres... played a single cone Triolian guitar
57. Robert Fripp (avant-garde, rock, 1946-) - a true scholar, Fripp built up impressive technique and musicianship in the 1960s before joining his first major band, Giles, Giles & Fripp. His versatility as a guitarist is showcased on their only album perhaps better than on any of Fripp' eventual recordings, where he instead focused on developing his own unique voice on the instrument. After forming the pioneering progressive rock group King Crimson, he recorded his most famous solo on the track "21st Century Schizoid Man" on their debut album, "In the Court of the Crimson King". During the course of the 1970s, Fripp led other incarnations of King Crimson, during which time his most legendary solo was "Fracture", known for its complicated structure and technical demands. Fripp also collaborated with other musicians, both as a producer and instrumentalist. Perhaps his most famous collaboration is with Brian Eno, during which period he came up with a unique style of playing employing tape delay, which came to be known as Frippertronics.
New Standard Tuning
58. Oscar Moore (jazz, 1916-1981) - revolutionized the role of electric guitar in small jazz combos, as part of the King Cole Trio from 1937 til 1947. Inspired by Charlie Christian, Moore was especially known for his original full chord comping, as well as his consistently excellent solos, Moore left the Trio to pursue a solo career (releasing some excellent recordings) but without success, eventually dropping into obscurity.
59. Enver Izmailov (fusion, 1955-) - a truly original and unique force within the contemporary guitar world. Came up with a complete playing style based on two-handed tapping in the 1970s at the same time, but independently of Stanley Jordan and Eddie Van Halen. Izmailov draws on jazz and classical music as well as the various folk traditions - Turkish, Uzbek, Balkan and his native Tatar music. His compositions often feature odd time signatures.
60. Juanjo Dominguez (tango, va., 1951-) - the preeminent Argentinian guitar virtuoso of his time. A classically-trained guitarist, Dominguez made his name accompanying tango singers. As a young guitarist he was involved in a trio called Antonios, which interpreted everything from boleros to Peruvian waltzes. Over his career his repertoire has spanned a wide range of music, particularly various Argentine music forms like Creole tango, milonga, zamba, and various waltzes. He has refined and pioneered techniques such as playing double-stop scales, three-string tremolos (inspired by expanding Tarrega's "Recuerdos de la Alhambra"), he also has fine ability of an improvising player. He claims his biggest inspiration to be Agustin Barrios Mangore.
61. Roberto Grela (tango, 1913-1992) - regarded by most as the greatest tango guitarist of all time, greatly influenced by Django Reinhardt (and like Django, Grela played the acoustic guitar with a pick), self-taught
62. Gabby Pahinui (hawaiian slack key, 1921-1980) - Pops. Though he started as a steel guitar player, it is as the pioneer and master of the hawaiian slack-key guitar that Gabby Pahinui is so revered for. His teacher and inspiration was Herman Keawe, whom Pops himself regarded as the greatest slack-key guitarist ever. In 1947, he made the first recordings of slack key guitar (the song was "Hula Medley"). A very busy session guitarist in the 1950s and 60s.
63. Tal Farlow (jazz, 1921-1998) - Octopus. One of the greatest and most influential jazz virtuosos, inspired by Charlie Christian... Farlow picked up the guitar only at 21 - unheard of otherwise for a virtuoso of his caliber - he was a true prodigy and was playing professional in a year... his lightning speed, sophisticated chord voicings, and huge hands gathered him wide attention when playing with the Red Norvo Trio (which at first included Charles Mingus on bass) from 1949 to 1952... effectively retired in 1958 to become a sign painter (though made more recordings in the 70s and 80s)... the first electric guitarist to make artificial harmonics an integral part of his playing
64. Tony Iommi (rock, 1948-) - though the seeds for it had been planted before, Iommi is universally regarded as the first and the also single most influential heavy metal guitarist, first releasing albums Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971) with the group Black Sabbath, behind which he has always been the driving force and main songwriter, as well as the only member to remain through the band's history. His gargantuan riffs (the most famous example being "Iron Man") helped establish the foundation of heavy metal guitar and his pioneering thrash riffing "Symptom of the Universe" (1975) inspired the same genre a decade later. A guitarist whose skill and versatility are somewhat underrated, he was also one of the first to use de-tuned guitars (3 half-steps down from regular tuning), in Iommi's case this invention was indeed a necessity, as he wanted to easy the string tension for his fingers (in addition to using extra-light strings).
65. Roy Buchanan (rock, 1939-1988) - The Messiah On Guitar. Known to many as "the greatest unknown guitarist" (though that moniker alone doesn't do much to correct the situation), this Telecaster-wielding "half wolf" is one of the truly seminal entities to be appreciated for anyone with even remote interest in modern electric guitar. Roy came through the ranks in the late 50s and early 60s as an blues-based R&B and rockabilly player (his first important gig was backing Dale Hawkins), Roy can be considered the first to really break away from blues and rockabilly and can be called the first of what we now call "rock guitarists". he also studied and was influenced by jazz (there is wonderful footage of Roy playing "Misty" as Mundell Lowe watches with admiration) and fingerstyle guitar, though neither show up much in his later playing. Roy's importance as a stylist was his soloing style: fiery, lyrical, heart-wrenching. Along with Jimi Hendrix, it was Roy Buchanan who expanded the sonic possibilities of the electric guitar in the 1960s more than anyone else, and he did so by employing new techniques and without using any special effect equipment. He was a pioneer of both pinch harmonics and volume swells (both of which were among his playing trademarks), a unique circular strum, and was known for his staccato tremolo picking and wide bends. Though virtually unknown to the mainstream and commercially unsuccessful, Buchanan was, in reality, a very influential stylist, directly inspiring the development of the soloing styles of Jeff Beck and David Gilmour, among others. Essential listening includes "Sweet Dreams" and "The Messiah Will Come Again".
66. Bill Frisell (fusion, jazz, 1951-) - one of the most original and creative electric guitarists of the 1980s and onward. Frisell started out as ECM's session man, gradually gaining a reputation in the business through collaborations with artists like John Zorn and John Scofield, emerging as a force of his own with solo albums. His interests spread all across the board, ranging from bluegrass and country to rock and, of course, jazz and fusion ; in addition, Frisell has contributed to soundtrack scores, and has continued to be an important session contributor to many projects. His own playing style is chameleon-like and yet retains unique qualities regardless of context; among guitarists he's especially known for expanding the electric guitar's sonic palette further than anyone before (along with a few other notables like fellow ECM players Terje Rypdal and Pat Metheny) - ranging from haunting atmospheric backdrops to Hendrixesque explosions of sonic aurora borealis.
67. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (indian, 1952-) - inventor of the Mohan Vina, an Indian slide guitar. One of the most renowned students (sishya) of Ravi Shankar
68. Manuel Barrueco (classical, 1952-)
69. David Russell (classical, 1953-)
70. Jan Akkerman (rock, va., 1946-)
71. Dino Sete Cordas (brazilian, 1918-2006)
72. Rev. Gary Davis (ragtime, blues, gospel, 1896-1972)
73. Mother Maybelle Carter (country, 1909-1973) - "influenced the guitar's shift from rhythm to lead instrument" in country music and inspired the birth of bluegrass, known for the Carter Scratch - playing melodies on the bottom three strings while strumming the top three.
74. Tommy Emmanuel, CGP (contemp fingerstyle, 1955-) - a true guitar hero in his homeland Australia and all over the world through the 1990s and 2000s. Inspired by Chet Atkins, Emmanuel mastered and updated country picking (and has the distinction of being the only non-American in the Thumbpickers' Hall of Fame), paid his dues with years of session work, before eventually gaining popularity as a world-class virtuoso beloved for his energetic and hugely entertaining live performances. Very proficient on the electric guitar but recently concentrating on acoustic playing, Tommy's arsenal includes unbelievably fast licks, cascades of artificial harmonics, playing two melodies simultaneously, and using the guitar as a percussion box (which, coupled with reverb effects, produces very interesting results, such as on one of his signature pieces, "Initiation").
75. Kazuhito Yamashita (classical, 1961-) - exploding onto the world's musical scene in 1984's Toronto guitar festival with his landmark arrangement of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at the Exhibition", Yamashita changed the classical guitar forever. He is legendary for developing new techniques to enable him to play very complex and demanding arrangements of orchestral pieces. (and paved the way for the likes of Jorge Caballero and Remi Boucher)
76. Stanley Jordan (jazz, fusion, 1959-) Jordan is the creator and most famous exponent of touch style guitar... sometimes called lap piano, this technique was indeed influenced by his background as a classically trained pianist
77. Freddie King (blues, rock, 1934-1976)- The Texas Cannonball. He can be argued to have been the biggest inspiration for the birth of "blues-rock" in 1960s England. Beginning as a country blues guitarist, he switches to electric under the influence of the electric Chicago blues boom. At 16 he moves from Texas to Chicago, soon befriends Muddy Waters and becomes a regular on the club scene. From Muddy's guitarist Jimmy Rogers he acquires his picking technique - thumbpick and index-fingerpick. He was one of the first black musicians to lead a multi-racial band, including the presence of Lonnie Mack on rhythm and second lead guitar in the early 1960s. In the 1970s he incorporated an element of funk into his songs. Most famous songs are "Hide Away" and "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" (and "The Stumble")
78. Elmore James (blues, 1918-1963) - The King of the Slide Guitar. The most exciting and influential blues bottleneck player of his generation, one of the central figures of Chicago Blues. He learned a lot, both about blues guitar technique and performance style, from Robert Johnson after getting to know him in about 1937. After returning home from service in WWII, he formed the first electric blues band in Mississippi. He began to record in the early 1950s, first as a backup to the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, then as a solo artist - his first single "Dust My Broom" (a Johnson cover) was a big success and established his name in 1952. After hopping between number labels through the 1950s, in 1959 he settles with Fire Records and makes his most famous recordings, with "The Sky Is Crying" becoming his most well-known and widely-covered standard. (most famous version by Albert King; the song was associated with premature deaths of other blues greats: it was played on Duane Allman's funeral, and bearing the name of SRV's posthumous album. Elmore James himself died young, aged 45 of a heart-attack, from heavy alcoholism.
79. Earl Hooker (blues, 1929-1970) - almost universally regarded as the "best" blues guitarist of all time, certainly as a live player. Proficient also as a jazz and country player, it was as a top blues session guitarist in the 50s and 60s that he made his name. Also recorded by many as the best slide player ever, and (according to Jimi Hendrix) a master of the wah-wah pedal.
80. Ernest Ranglin (ska, jazz, 1932-) - a major driving force behind the rise of Carribbean music, Ranglin's biggest claim to fame is as the ruling session guitarist (as well as arranger) at the legendary Studio One label in the 1950s and 60s. Ranglin was an excellent Charlie Christian-inspired jazz guitarist (he's featured on Sonny Stitt's), his most lasting contribution was giving the foundation to Jamaican ska music (and eventually reggae and rock steady) with his "scratching" style of rhythm playing. A brilliant performance is featured on the Wailers' "It Hurts to Be Alone".
81. Pierre Bensusan (contemp fingerstyle, va., 1957-)
82. Tony Rice (bluegrass, 1951-)
83. Jimmy Bryant (country, jazz, 1925-1980) - pioneering Fender Telecaster player, one of the most virtuosic electric guitarists, certainly one of the fastest and cleanest (but also musical) guitarists of his, or any, time. His biggest influences were Django Reinhardt and Merle Travis, as well as fiddler Stuff Smith (Bryant was an outstanding fiddler too). His most famous, and probably best, recordings are with steel-string guitarist Speedy West.
107. Robbie Basho (folk fusion, contemp fingerstyle, 1940-1986) - a highly ambitious artist who intended to ascend the status of the steel-string acoustic guitar to the level of a serious concert instrument (like classical guitar). Basho was the most esoteric (perhaps even more so than Fahey) of the folk guitar innovators of the 1960s, both in his musical philosophy/ideology, as well as his curious fusion of the various folk traditions of the world. He differed from all other folk guitar innovators in that his biggest influence was the Indian Raag/Raga system (and unlike the others he wasn't much influenced by blues). In fact, he intended to develop a unique north american raga system (something he didn't accomplish within his lifetime). Very influential on Leo Kottke and Will Ackerman. Recommended listening for beginners: "The Grail and the Lotus".
113. Grant Green (jazz, r&b, 1935-1979) - just as he is one of the most underrated guitarists in jazz, Green is beloved by his fans as the guitarist most associated with the BlueNote label of the early 60s. Heavily rooted in the blues feel, Green was primarily a single-note player, with a very warm tone, and imaginative improvisation ability. Many from the jazz side who so greatly admired Green's brilliant jazz playing heavily criticized him (and still do) for going in the pop direction and diluting his music (the same accusation made of Wes Montgomery and George Benson), which partly accounts for him being somewhat forgotten and underappreciated.
116. Derek Bailey (avant-garde, 1930-2005) – starting out as a fine and busy, if not especially outstanding, studio guitarist in England in the 1950s, Bailey started his radical change in musical direction in the following decade, becoming a leading force in the field of free improvisation, extensively performing both solo and collaborating with various musicians, mostly within jazz and free improv, and has been the most adamant and tireless promoter of improvised music in guitar world.
more coming up in the future!