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The 10 Most Influential Guitarists Of All Time Pt.1

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There have been hundreds upon hundreds of entries lately about everyone’s favorite guitarists. This is great. But, taste IS relative and arguing on ad nauseum about whether one player is better than another or whether some one should or shouldn’t have been listed in some inane magazines Top 100 list gets really old fast.

There are guitarists who have exercised an enormous amount of influence on “Modern” music. This is undeniable. While not all of these men are technically the “best” players of the 20th century (none are slouches, by any means), it is only through their creation and innovation that we’ve arrived where we are today.

I consider all of the following to be musical catalysts. I’ve listed them in a loosely chronological order. I’m hoping to show how their influence and cross-influence helped to shape modern music as we know it. Keep in mind that trying to cover approximately 70 years of music with 10 guitarists is no easy task. Bear with me.

Self admittedly, I know there are some omissions here. I hope to cover this idea with somewhat more aplomb and perhaps, a bit less subjectively, at a later date.

Without further ado, here goes nothin’ chumlies:

1. Robert Johnson – Influenced by Willie Brown, Son House, Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Blake, Kokomo Arnold, Lonnie Johnson, et al. Masterly musician that he was, R.J. was able to soak up influences like a sponge and blend them into something undeniably his own. Johnson was a powerful player often sounding like 2 or 3 guitarists at once. His songwriting was exemplary as well. Johnson had the ability to weave his lyrics with strong thematic unity. Most blues lyrics of the day (esp. Delta Blues) were often nothing more than just random verses strung together in a rather surreal fashion having little or nothing to do with the song or title. He was a huge influence on Post WW2 Bluesmen such as BB King, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson # 2, Robert Jr. Lockwood & more.

The above mentioned artists in turn served as inspiration and mentors to the Stones, Hendrix, Cream, Johnny Winter, Butterfield Blues Band, CCR and more. Robert’s sound lives on in the contemporary blues of artists: Alvin Youngblood Hart, Corey Harris, Keb Mo and R.L. Burnside. to name only a few.

2. Charlie Christian – Picking up inspiration from jazz pioneers like Eddie Lang, Lonnie Johnson and Western Swing pioneers like Leon McAuliffe, Charlie was just as influential to bluesmen in his own right as Robert Johnson was in his. Charlie helped not only to define the modern electric Jazz guitar with his groundbreaking work with the Benny Goodman Sextet, but also helped to inspire a whole school of Jump Blues cats out of the Southwest. T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, Pee Wee Crayton & Goree Carter are all indebted to him. Les Paul, BB King, LC McKinley, and many others also claim his influence.

3. T Bone Walker – Aaron Thibodeaux Walker. His oft imitated, but never quite duplicated style is mix of Texas country blues (he worked as a sideman and a guide for Blind Lemon Jefferson in his youth) and the high flying swing sounds of Charlie Christian, Freddie Green (of Count Basie’s Band), Les Paul and others.

In the late 40’s / early 50’s on instrumentals such as his “Strollin’ W/ Bones” and ” T-Bone Shuffle” he was laying down those chunka, chunka proto Chuck Berry licks that would be called Rock ‘N’ Roll just a few years later.

This seminal guitarist served as major influence to many. Chuck Berry, BB King, Johnny Guitar Watson and Albert Collins numbering amongst his disciples. His importance in the transformation of Big Band Swing to Rhythm & Blues to it’s bastard stepchild Rock “N” Roll has often been sadly overlooked.

4.Les Paul – Influenced by Charlie Christian, Django Rheinhardt, Freddie Green, Leon McAuliffe & Roy Smeck amongst others. I’ve included Lester here as much for his innovative contributions to the recording process, guitar design and his E-lectronic wizardry as much as I have for his cleaner than clean, fast as lightning, ethereal riffing on tunes such as “How High The Moon” and “Lover”. To digress but for a moment, check out Chuck Berry’s take on “How High The Moon” sometime for an excellent example of the Les Paul influence.

From gentlemanly jazzbos to hellbound hillbillies, from zit faced garage punkers
to over the top P-Funkers and all points in between, the Les Paul influence has been there. Just try to imagine Rock N Roll music without his input.

5. B.B King – Influenced by T Bone Walker, Django Reinhardt and Les Paul just as much as he was influenced by the funky sounds of the Mississippi Delta and post WW2 Memphis. B.B.’s inimitable single string leads and unmistakable vibrato has lovingly incorporated into the styles of guitarists from Nigeria to New Orleans. The “West Side” sound of Chi-Town bluesmen Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Dawkins, etc. was built largely on BB’s incorporation of burning guitar riffs and swinging horns. His style has changed little since his first big hit “3 O Clock Blues” back in the early 1950’s. Like good liquor, he only gets better with age.

From Rock n Roll to Hip Hop his influence has been felt. Keith Richards, Clapton, Chuck Berry, Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield, John Fogerty, Steve Cropper, The Edge & others number amongst his devotees.

6.Muddy Waters – While influenced substantially by Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters always claimed Son House as his main inspiration. Upon his arrival in Chicago in mid 40’s his guitar playing was helped along by the enigmatic & hugely talented Claude “Blue Smitty” Smith. Smith taught Muddy the rudiments of playing guitar in standard tuning as opposed to the open tunings of A, E & G favored by the Delta heavy hitters. Muddys early 1950’s band featuring 2nd guitarist Jimmy Rogers & Little Walter helped to define the twin guitar sound that has become the standard for R n R bands the world over. Not only did he help define the twin axe standard but also established the concept of a band as a cohesive unit, as opposed to the usual star / back-up group. Muddy and his crew played agressively & very, very, very loudly finding 11 on their amps long before Nigel and his droogies did.

“Look like everythaaang gon’ be alright this moaning,” Da dum dum da dum…

7. Bo Diddley – Inspired in part by Muddy Waters as well as the bad assed boogie of John Lee Hooker, Big Bo forged a sound wholly his own. As it’s been said, he is often imitated but never duplicated. While there have been a few cats who’ve come to terms with the Diddley sound, you just can’t improve upon perfection.

I’m migh-tee hard pressed to come up with anyone with such a unique sound and original style. His brand of raw assed, hi-octane, jungle funk has reverberated to the core of music as we know it today.

Next time you’re digging the Velvets doing “Sister Ray” listen closely as there are Bo Diddley riffs percolating just below the surface driving it all along. If I had to name one other cat whose influence has been just as huge, it would be:

8.Chuck Berry – Oh jeez, where to start ??? This mofo is godhead. Chuck Berry is an amalgamation of most everyone on this list up to this point. Like it or don’t, even the staunchest Chuck Berry haters have most likely played one of his riffs (knowingly or not) that was somehow interpolated into something he or she does like to play. Besides bringing electric guitar to the forefront of the burgeoning R’N’R movement, Chuck also gave teens a voice of their own, by addressing the problems, frustrations and anxieties of growing up in 1950’s America. Endearing himself along the way, by doing so in a way that wasn’t condescending. The fact that Chuck was pushing 30, black and an ex-convict made not a bit of difference to his credibility as THE spokesman for teenagers all over the world.

His guitar playing was a solid mix of Western Swing, Boogie Woogie & equal parts of Jazz, Blues and Pop. Not a day goes by that his influence cannot be heard or felt. Whether it’s him or one of the many artists he helped to inspire such as: (you fill in the blanks) his influence is all encompassing.

9. Link Wray – The man who added the “power chord” to the Rock vocabulary. Influenced by blues cats such as Muddy and The Wolf, Chuck Berry and a good sized helpin’ of hillbilly music, just how he came up with demoniacal rockers such as: “Jack The Ripper, Rumble, Ace Of Spades, Slinky and Rawhide” is beyond me but thank god for them all the same. He looked as cool (black leather, boots and and shades) as he sounded. Links music was drenched with feedback, distortion, tremolo and played really f***ing loud. No one would come close to this all-out sonic attack until the Stooges made the scene some 10 years later. His ouevre has become staples of many punk and garage bands and he enjoyed a major revival in the 1990’s (thanks to Billy Miller and Miriam Linna at Norton Records).

Even as he pushes towards octogenerian status, Link can still kick the ass of kids a quarter of his age.

As we approach the end of the trail little buckaroos I can already hear the moans and groans in the distance. Oh fuck me, here it comes he’s going to name Jimi next. Yep, you’re right pardners. If ya don’t dig it write your own post. That said:

10. Jimi Hendrix – Jimi was influenced by almost everyone on the list up to this point. Starting out playing at a young age in assorted garage bands, by the time he was in his early 20’s Jimi had learned just about everything he possibly could on the guitar. He then tossed all this knowledge out the window, let it land where it may and began to mold all these fragments of Soul, R&B, Blues, Folk, Jazz, Surf, Rock and Funk riffs into something undeniably his own. Guitar slingers such as Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Mike Bloomfield had already been using feedback, fuzz, sheer volume & eastern drones to great effect but Hendrix took it all to new and otherworldly levels. By his combination of all these sounds with his natural showmanship, pure charisma and raw talent the influence that he exerted upon on music from Funk to Punk and well beyond is unarguable.

Wielding his Fender Strat as a houngan would his Asson, Jimi became a man possessed when he was onstage. Not so much calling up riffs as he was channeling them, Jimi H. created something at once both primordial and futuristic. His influence on guitarists since the release of “Are You Experienced ?” in 1967 is beyond question. The fact that he made his mark in a 3 year time period is even all that much more amazing.

I truly hope that I’ve shown with some degree of clarity and conviction, just how the common threads of influence weave together all of these men. This list is not meant to be any sort of a definitive statement. Nor will it cure pattern baldness, increase the size of your penis, get rid of unsightly blemishes or teach you how to profit from financial recession.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are many obvious omissions. Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Lang, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Paul Burlison and John Lee Hooker all come readily to mind. Hopefully in the near future, I will be able to present an addendum to this list, expanding & expounding upon all these folks & many others. Until then, I’d like to thank you all for reading this. I’d really like to but….

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About CoolH

  • Taloran

    Nicely done. Had I the time to compose a counterpoint, it would likely include several artists you’ve left off (Django Reinhardt and Albert King, to name two) but I thoroughly enjoyed reading your well composed and written explanation. Thanks!

  • duane

    “… and arguing on ad nauseum about whether one player is better than another or whether some one should or shouldn’t have been listed in some inane magazines Top 100 list gets really old fast.”

    Not at all. That’s some of the best and most entertaining stuff here at Blogcritics. And it fits right in with the stated purposes of the site. Look at the number of posts under the topics related to Best Guitarists.

    By the way, where’s Slash?

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    Taloran, Thanks for the kind words,much
    appreciated.I’m glad it made some sense.
    Hard to limit to only 10 players but I
    was trying to be economic with my words
    for fear of boring everybody to death.

    You know, I honestly was going to list
    Django but it was kind of a coin toss
    between he & Christian.I think they are
    both incredible,nods to Django for being
    the more technically adept of the two.
    Ever hear his version of Ravel’s Bolero?
    Incredible!!! I’d like to do a Pt.2 soon
    time permitting,however I’d rather see a
    another persons take on the same idea.
    Albert King,DOH!So many great cats that
    deserve the mention. Again thanks for
    reading man.

  • Eric Olsen

    Excellent and informative, HW. Nobody knows what you know better than you know it, if you know what I mean.

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    Mucho Gracias Eric.I try. Growing up in
    So.Cal as you did,I thought you might’ve
    recognized the last line I wrote.It was
    ripped it off from “Sinister Seymour”
    (He was on KHJ-CH.9 then later on KTLA
    CH.5)Seymour was HUGE influence on my
    smart assed sense of humor.

  • godoggo

    Just thought it was worth mentioning how many of these influential guitarists, especially (but not exclusively) the jazz ones, were influenced by non-guitarists. Throughout most of the last century most innovative and advanced improvisors have overwhelmingly been pianists, saxophonists, and trumpeters, whereas the guitar was really a secondary instrument whose best practitioners copped licks from the aforementioned instrumentalists. Maybe not true anymore – it’s debatable.

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    Godoggo,These are excellent points. The
    guitar did not really come to the fore as a “lead” instrument ’til the mid 50’s
    or thereabouts.Before that,usually the
    piano or sax dominated.

    Many of the early Jazz guitar players
    riffs were direct emulations of what the
    horn players were doing.Some of the best
    examples of this are contained in the
    solos of Western Swing players such as
    Bob Dunn of Milton Brown & His Brownies.

  • Christina

    Verry nice. Very well done.

    Must have ben tricky nailing down to the top 10 influential guitarists.

    Thank god J. Hendrix was included cuz his work is truely magnificent & purely genious. Even though I am more into Randy Rhoads and Van Halen Hendrix is still my fave and best influence.

    In your pt. 2 you should include modern influences because the names mentioned were mainly influencing artists around that particular time.

  • Steve Laughton

    I am into the Blues, but I also have respect for guitarists of other music genres. Here are my choices, a couple which coincide with yours.

    1.Duane Allman
    2.B.B. King
    3.Eric Clapton
    4.Robert Johnson
    5.Chuck Berry
    6.Stevie Ray Vaughn
    7.Jimmy Page
    8.Keith Richards
    9.Les paul
    10.John Fogerty
    11.Robert Fripp
    12.Lou Reed
    13.Dickey Betts
    14.Link Wray
    15.John Lee Hooker
    16. Lightnin’ Hopkins
    17. Robbie Robertson
    18. Neil Young
    19. Jimmie Hendrix
    20. Eddie Cochran

  • parsifal

    Albert king is a must in any list of top guitarrists.

  • Antfreeze

    Great post. I believe it may indeed have enlarged my penis. Checking……….nope. Still good though. Those old blues cats man, a cigar box, broom stick, and a couple rubber bands and they outplay all our asses.

  • valante

    where is jimmy page being the fastest is not the best

  • Mr. Guitar

    How’s it going? I like the list but I believe it is missing a couple of very critical figures in the guitar world, and those two are Andres Segovia and Chet Atkins. I don’t think I need to explain their accomplishments, innovations, and influence, but if I do, I gladly will. I can make a case that Segovia belongs at number 1.

  • mimi

    I’m sorry but jimi hendrix should of been on the top of ur list!!

  • HW Saxton

    Dearest Mimi,
    I listed these artists chronologically. I’d hoped to convey the ongoing cross influences that these artists(and many others not listed here)have had on the evolution of modern guitar playing in the 20th century.

    Jimi H. is just aces in my book and this list is only meant to link his respective style with the aforementioned musicians here who have served to varying degrees as influences,mentors,friends and more.

    I have only really just begun to scratch at the surface here. Each and every one of these gents listed is more than worthy of his own write up.

    In trying to narrow down about 75 years worth of music into a couple of paragraphs meant that many omissions and a degree of ambiguity on my behalf was not an unlikely possibility.

    I’d like to offer you a belated “Thank You!” for your perusal of this piece and do sincerely hope you have enjoyed it. Even more so than all that,I hope that you have increased your knowledge and appreciation of what helped to inspire Mr Hendrix onto the pure Voodoo Funk that we all know,love & remember him for.

  • Jon

    It’s been three years since this was posted when I run across it, but I have to comment, because I believe my favorite musician again is denied the recognition he deserves, and I want it known in a year when another person runs across this blog. But before going there, I ask, influential to who? How many guitarists in the last 30 years have actually been influenced by those guys? They each had a time when they were the most influential, but while their pioneering accomplishments were stepping stones to where we are now, once the new guy came along, they were no longer influential as guitarists. I doubt anyone tried to emulate Chuck Berry after Hendrix came along. And that brings me to my guy. It seems that nowadays people try to forget that the years 1978 through 1991 didn’t exist. Those were the years that every single rock guitarist tried his best (with varying degrees of success) to emulate the great Edward Van Halen. For 14 years, he was the main one, and that reign of influence is really longer than almost everyone on there. No one tried to copy Hendrix once Van Halen came along (about 9 years later). Plus, half the guys on your lists are purely blues guitarists, and for years have only influenced blues players, which isn’t exactly the most popular style, even if it does have a hand in everything. But in the world of rock guitar, no other guitarist had a reign of influence as long, as Van Halen, or had a style that was as difficult to truely emulate (even though some guys came close). Yes, sometimes he’s more style that substance, but his influence can’t be denied. Even now, after the era that was a gas chamber to great guitar playing which we called “grunge,” rock players are still influenced by him. Look, you don’t have to have Van Halen #1, but his influence can’t be denied, even when everyone is trying to.

    Other than that, your list is pretty accurate.

  • SFC SKI

    “I doubt anyone tried to emulate Chuck Berry after Hendrix came along. ” Oh, come on now, every garage band in the world tries “Johnny B. Goode” on for size. It’s easy to figure out who the most influential guitarist were; simply trace EVH’s or Slash’s or any living guitarists influences back, and they will generally trace back to the guys listed in the article. No slam on Eddie, he could be credited with reviving rock guitar in the late ’70’s and paving the way for the metal ’80’s. Still, where would he be without those who went before?

    Personally, I think Ace Frehley is underappreciated.

  • DrummerPete

    Has anyone ever heard of a great guitar player named Billy Muir, when I was a kid (the 60’s) my ol’man had an “LP” by this guy that was way ahead of it’s time, it was titled “Supersonics in flight”…anyone?!

    Thanks

  • Steven Brennan

    Too many blues artists in here unless this IS just a blues poll and I know blues was the beginning of rock n roll n what not but wheres Tony Iommi, he was one of the first to completely remove the blues aspect and created a little genre known as Heavy Metal!

  • keith

    When I read comments coming from most of your viewers, it puzzles me that no one really “listens” to the way contemporary players play today. I mean really “listen”… because if you really “listen” to rock, blues, and some jazz guitarist today, the greatest influences you hear are coming from Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, and Jimi Hendrix. Worldwide ! Every guitarist has a Christian, Hendrix, or Montgomery riff that he or she has stolen. Even Eddie Van Halen would never reject the influence of Hendrix. Slash… and anyone of these contemporary players you can name… I don’t understand why these guys get so much notoriety… no, I take that back… I do. If by chance you do not listen, then you’re in denial.

    Everyone plays Texas Blues to emulate Charlie Christian. Everyone plays octaves to emulate Wes Montgomery, and everyone bends the hell of the notes and uses sound effects to emulate Jimi Hendrix. Maybe all the critics are listening to the sound of their own interpretation.

  • jake hheath

    yo put jimmie hendrix at the top of the list not number 19

  • taojones

    when you talk about influential i think you need to give your Kudos to arlen Roth . His Hotlicks tapes and lessons in Guitar player magazine shared more of the nuts and bolts of how to approach the axe as a whole instrument ad get more out of it in a pure way. plug directly into the amp control tone and volume with the knobs n the ax above the nut stretches , harmonic squeaks and impeccable phrasing . his example led literally hundreds of guitarists ti sit down and tape lessons a who,s who of ax men (buddy guy, robin trower, duke robilard, mick taylor,to name a few)
    there’s a reason that there a picture of him and les paul playing on stage on les’s birthday there on his site.I argue that this man although he did not become publicly famous influenced more people than anybody .he is the consummate musicians musician
    listen to “laughing at the blues” for some really great slack string tuning or go watch “crossroads” and listen to arlen who was actually playing against Steve vie in the duel with the devil the whole story is on his site
    http:arlenroth.com

  • Phil J

    I love most everyone on the list. My only argument is that I think Frank Zappa totally revolutionized the “shred” and should at least get an honorable mention. Great job though

  • http://www.citycanyons.com Trebor Lloyd

    It’s very popular today to diss Eric Clapton (yeah, yeah, i’ve heard it all and don’t buy a lot of it). But we’re talking about influential here and I didn’t see any limits on the influence being only from American guitarists. When I was growing up, Clapton was “god” and every kid wanted to play like him. Dance around it all you want, but I call that influential.

  • Peter Shenkin

    Drummer Pete: Billy Muir played lead on Don Rondo’s “White Silver Sands”. I had never heard of him, but I chanced across a Don Rondo home page and since the guitar work made me sit up and listen, I made an inquiry and got Muir’s name back. At the time, I thought it might have been George Barnes, but listening again, I’m not sure why I thought that. It’s good, anyway.

  • Kevin

    How are Django Rinehart, Doc Watson, or Chet Atkins not on this list?

    If you want to have a list of your favorite of all time, fine, don’t include any of these gentlemen, but if you are going to have “most influential” you have to include at least one if not all of these guys on the list.

  • BandWife

    Drummer Pete, My Dad is in FL and is going to meet Billy Muir this weekend. The man is 94 and still playing!
    SquidLips Restaurant in Sebastian, FL.
    My Dad is 86 and was a teen when he listened to Billy’s music. His friends that know Billy gave dad a CD and I had to listen to it over the phone! Billy was known for “Maria Lana” and many other favorites of that time

  • BandWife

    Hi DrummerPete:
    BILLY MUER: Session musician akin to Les Paul. Still out there at 94 years old.
    There is a limited website. IF U CAN FIND anythng with him on i, entitled “Supersonic” hang on to it!
    It seems the LP’s were all themed music and there’s cantina/south of the border sounds as well as hawaiian.
    Let you know what I find oout in the future.
    GOT THAT DRUMMER

  • Joe

    Look, these lists are always subjective personal opinions, so those people taking offence and anger at this list just need to chill out. The fact is when you say the most influential guitarists, you generically remove the style and therefore its impossible to compare. Alan Holdsworth (incredibly not making this list) is a totally different player to Eric Clapton, and while influential in their ways, they don’t really crossover as such.

    The fact is without trying to sound provocative you’ve totally overlooked rock to hard rock guitar in general. While Link Wray (who I think is a great player) was important, he never influenced anywhere near as many people as Eddie Van Halen who literally changed rock guitar as a whole. The fact is though, and people don’t really see this (all because of personal feelings) that when it comes to hard rock in general the four most influential guitarists are:
    Jimi Hendrix,
    Tony Iommi,
    Eddie Van Halen,
    Yngwie Malmsteen.

    You could possibly throw in Blackmore and Page, but the fact is both those two were great players at already mastered techniques. Jimi influenced a whole generation of guitarists by bringing the instrument to the forefront of a band. Iommi invented what is basically now heavy metal. Don’t bullshit me and tell me bands like Steppenwolf and Led Zeppelin did. Yes, they were fairly rocky, but Black Sabbath as a band literally turned heads. People couldn’t believe what they were hearing. They went slightly further than slashing their speaker to distort the sound a little bit. Eddie Van Halen took technical proficiency to a new level. He influenced the majority of guitarists around that era. Instrumental guitar solos, clever use of harmonics to add dynamics to a guitar solo and more than just standard 5th riffs all day. Yngwie (This one always gets a bad reaction from turkeys who don’t know what they’re talking about) changed rock guitar again. In fact, out of all three, apart from maybe Hendrix, nobody changed rock guitar more than Yngwie. Every man and his dog tries to copy Yngwies style. Yes other players were ‘sort of’ doing it before Yngwie, but not to the same technical proficiency. Yngwie blew people away just through sheer virtuosity and now everyone is trying to techniques that Yngwie basically built upon and improved. Yes, sweep picking was around before Yngwie, but it was never used in the way Yngwie used it. How many guitarists do you see in shops chucking in a quick A minor sweep here and there? Ask them who influenced them… They’ll either say Yngwie directly, or someone who was influenced by Yngwie, so thats an indirect influence. They might slag off Yngwie (Enough muppets do) but the fact is, all the fantastic shredders:
    Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Michael Angelo Batio (yuck, I feel dirty), Chris Impellitteri, George Lynch, Jake E. Lee, all took certain techniques from Yngwie and built upon them. Mechanical sounding guitarists like Batio have just perfected them beyond what Yngwie first invented. The reason no new guitarists (Herman Ree, Gus G etc) are on their is because punch in recording techniques and the ability to digitally ‘enhance’ guitar playing has taken the importance out actually being able to play the instrument. Notice the players I named can all play their solos at full speed (And often faster) because in the studio their was no copy and pasting bullshit like you have now. Players like Herman Ree who can whack out an incredibly technical guitar solo on record but have no chance of playing it live have actually proven that you can polish a turd. Guitarists now know so long as they can just about sweep, they can record each segment of a guitar solo and then glue it all together. Thats what Herman does. Thats what Gus G does (Although not as much as Herman, at least Gus G can play his shit).

    The fact is, you can argue that my list is biased, but I said at the start, I’m talking about rock music. When it comes to jazz, I’m not going to try and say the four players above were more influential. Different style, different culture and a different importance to how guitar is seen.

    The high and low of this is that the list in this blog is utter rubbish because comparing like you have is the equivalent of saying a Ford Transit is better than a Ford Fiesta. Different car. Different point.

  • rachit bhetwal

    wat about steve vai he’s my best

  • Lemar

    As the main factor here is influential I think George Harrison deserves a spot in the top ten. Dick Dale really cranked up the electric with Marshall stacks which many people copied. Memphis Minnie is a guitarist that many people took from, maybe because she was a woman in a man’s blues world she has been overlooked by history but her licks were not.

  • Peter Crowley

    Billy Muir played guitar on both of Johnny Ray’s big hits: CRY and THE LITTLE WHITE CLOUD THAT CRIED. With his band, The Top Hats, he currently has a residency every Sunday afternoon/evening at Squid Lips, on The River in Sebastian Florida.

  • Denny Ilett

    It’s impossible to credit Robert Johnson with having had any influence whatsoever over the music of his time due to the simple fact that nobody had heard of him until the end of the 1950’s when his few recordings were discovered in the Columbia vaults. He therefore could not possibly have changed the course of anything musically prior to the discovery of his recordings. This criminally overlooked fact is explored in the excellent book Escaping the Delta by Elijah Wald. Anyone who really wants to know what happened on the early Blues/Pop scene should read this book. This comment is not to deny Johnson greatness as a musician, he most certainly was. It’s merely to point out that he was, in his lifetime, obscure to say the least. The really influential guitarists at the time were those such as Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Lang & Big Bill Broonzy among others. Not Robert Johnson. Cheers

  • Got the Clap?

    Awesome list,I can’t disagree with anyone on the list. If you happen to expand the list to 20 I would vote for Clapton at 11.

  • Got the Clap?

    Actually, I’m not sure if I’d put Clapton at 11. Because this is a chronlogical list, and if it was expanded to 20 then would Clapton come in at 10 and Hendrix at 11? Interesting? Was Hendrix influenced by Clapton before Clapton was influenced by Hendrix? (Methinks)
    Of course since it’s chronological there could be others ahead of the original 10 too, so blah, blah, blah.

  • Got the Clap?

    Sorry to keep blathering, but I have to respond to Denny.
    Although you are right that recordings (and radio and TV) are a huge influence on the general public, such that someone like Big Bill Broonzy was seen by many more people than Johnson was, there were bluesmen who were definitely influenced by Johnson who didn’t own his record or had one of the few originals. (Terraplane Blues originally sold 5,000 copies) There were people who actually heard Johnston or heard those emulating him in his lifetime. These people include bluesmen Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and Elmore James. So yes, he was significantly influential without being on an MTV rotation and I would argue that because he had no benefit from mass media that his influence should be augmented and not diminished, as you suggest.
    “He therefore could not possibly have changed the course of anything musically prior to the discovery of his recordings.”
    Come on. Did field songs not have any influence on bluesmen? Where are their recordings?
    Yes, you just got spanked!

  • Rock Maniac

    He may not be the most influential guitarist of all time. I only bring him up because he’s probably the guitarist most often overlooked in these discussions, but what about Angus Young? He has skills that are equivalent to any guitarist that can be spoken of, and he really changed the face of Rock N Roll forever. Not only in playing the actual instrument, but also in his amazing skill to write the catchiest riffs of any. He is a king when it comes to rock, and I wish he would receive recognition where it is due. Rock On AC/DC!

  • Charles

    Ok. I’ve realized these kinds of lists are really of little worth, in that they’re RARELY about who has had the most [overall] influence on the guitar-playing world, but more about the pollster’s tastes! I mean, GIVE ME A BREAK: T-Bone Walker and B.B. King REALLY had more influence on guitar-playing than, say, Edward Van Halen??? How many people have ripped off B.B. Kings minimal style, versus the millions of kids who hungered to play guitar like EVH? Frank Zappa put it correctly when he said, “Edward Van Halen reinvented the electric guitar. He’s made kids want to learn to play guitar again.” It’s true. I can’t believe how many 50+ something old dudes put guys like Keith Richards above Edward Van Halen? HAR-DEE-HAR! HAR!

  • Jay Espy

    “Ace Frehley is the reason I first picked up a guitar.” – Just about every famous heavy metal guitarist of the 1980’s