100 Best Guitarists of All Time – Get Ready to Rock On

Alright, all you music enthusiasts and budding guitar heroes, buckle up! We’re diving headfirst into the ultimate list of the 100 best guitarists of all time. Whether you’re an old-school rock fan or a new-age shred enthusiast, this list has got it all.

So, without further ado, let’s get those fingers flying and discover some of the most legendary guitarists who’ve ever lived.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Arguably the most iconic of all, Hendrix transformed the way the world perceived the electric guitar. With hits like “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Child,” his experimental sounds, coupled with his passionate performances, remain unparalleled.

2. Eric Clapton

“Slowhand” as he’s fondly called. Whether with Cream, The Yardbirds, or solo, Clapton’s bluesy licks and soulful solos have earned him a special place in guitar history. Songs like “Layla” and “Crossroads” showcase his undeniable prowess.

3. Jimmy Page

As the lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin, Page’s riffs in tracks like “Whole Lotta Love” and “Stairway to Heaven” is monumental in the rock world. His ability to blend rock with blues makes him a force to reckon with.

4. Keith Richards

The legendary Rolling Stones guitarist might not be a shred lord, but his innovative riffs and unmistakable sound on tracks like “Start Me Up” and “Paint It Black” are classic rock staples.

5. Eddie Van Halen

Eddie brought tapping into the mainstream and redefined what the electric guitar could do. His solo in “Eruption” is often hailed as one of the best ever.

6. B.B. King

The King of Blues, B.B. had an emotional connection with Lucille, his guitar. His soul-piercing solos in tracks like “The Thrill is Gone” are a testament to his prowess.

7. Jeff Beck

Another alumnus of The Yardbirds, Beck’s genre-spanning skills range from rock to jazz fusion. His album ‘Blow by Blow’ is a masterclass in expressive guitar playing.

8. Brian May

The Queen guitarist’s tone is one of the most recognizable, thanks to his homemade “Red Special” guitar. From “Bohemian Rhapsody” to “We Will Rock You,” May’s contributions are legendary.

9. Stevie Ray Vaughan

SRV brought blues back into the spotlight in the ’80s. With tracks like “Pride and Joy” and “Texas Flood,” his fiery playing is iconic.

10. David Gilmour

The Pink Floyd maestro is known for his soulful solos. “Comfortably Numb” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” are perfect examples of his melodic genius.

11. Chuck Berry

Often hailed as the father of rock ‘n’ roll guitar playing. Tracks like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven” laid down the foundation for rock guitar.

12. Prince

An underrated guitarist, Prince’s abilities on the fretboard are as impressive as his songwriting. Just check out his solo on “Purple Rain” for a taste.

13. Duane Allman

One half of the Allman Brothers Band, Duane’s slide guitar playing is legendary. His work on tracks like “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica” showcases his impeccable technique.

14. Carlos Santana

Santana’s Latin-infused rock and his unique tone make him stand out. Songs like “Black Magic Woman” and “Smooth” display his melodic sensibilities.

15. Tony Iommi

The godfather of heavy metal guitar riffs. As Black Sabbath’s lead guitarist, Iommi’s heavy and dark riffs on songs like “Paranoid” and “Iron Man” are iconic.

16. John Petrucci

The Dream Theater guitarist is known for his technical prowess and intricate compositions. His work on epics like “Metropolis Pt. 1” and “Pull Me Under” is mind-blowing.

17. Slash

The top-hatted lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses is famed for his catchy riffs and melodic solos. Tracks like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “November Rain” highlight his rock credentials.

18. Mark Knopfler

The Dire Straits frontman’s fingerpicking style is unmistakable. Songs like “Sultans of Swing” and “Money for Nothing” are timeless classics, thanks to his guitar work.

19. Buddy Guy

One of the pioneers of the Chicago blues sound. Guy’s influence on subsequent guitarists is immense. His playing on “Stone Crazy” and “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues” is electrifying.

20. Angus Young

AC/DC’s schoolboy-uniform-wearing lead guitarist is pure energy. His bluesy hard rock riffs on songs like “Back in Black” and “High Voltage” are headbangingly good.

21. George Harrison

The “quiet Beatle” had a knack for crafting perfect melodies. His contributions like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Something” are testament to his genius.

22. Joe Satriani

One of the leading figures in instrumental rock. “Surfing with the Alien” and “Always with Me, Always with You” display his out-of-this-world guitar skills.

23. Randy Rhoads

Ozzy Osbourne’s former guitarist left us too soon, but his neoclassical influence on heavy metal remains unparalleled. “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley” are shining examples.

24. Ry Cooder

Known for his slide guitar prowess, Cooder’s work is a blend of various styles, from blues to folk. His soundtrack for the movie “Paris, Texas” showcases his unique touch.

25. Johnny Marr

The Smiths’ guitarist has an unparalleled jangly sound. His work on “How Soon is Now?” and “This Charming Man” are indie anthems thanks to his innovative playing.

26. Dimebag Darrell

Pantera’s axe-wielder was a force of nature. With monstrous riffs and solos on tracks like “Cowboys from Hell” and “Cemetery Gates”, Darrell left an indelible mark on metal.

27. Tom Morello

Morello’s innovative use of effects and unique playing style is the backbone of Rage Against the Machine. Tracks like “Killing in the Name” and “Bulls on Parade” exemplify his groundbreaking approach.

28. Robert Johnson

The Delta Blues legend whose prowess was so good, rumors stated he sold his soul to the devil. His impact on modern blues and rock is enormous.

29. Steve Vai

Another guitar virtuoso, Vai’s technical skill and theatrical style are legendary. “For the Love of God” and “Tender Surrender” are masterclasses in guitar playing.

30. Kurt Cobain

Nirvana’s frontman may not be the most technical, but his raw emotion and grunge sound, on tracks like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come as You Are”, transformed the ’90s music scene.

31. Yngwie Malmsteen

The Swedish shredder brought neoclassical metal to the forefront. With his lightning-fast arpeggios and scalic runs, he’s a true guitar hero.

32. Peter Green

One of the original members of Fleetwood Mac, Green’s bluesy tones on tracks like “Albatross” and “Black Magic Woman” (yes, before Santana!) are divine.

33. Mick Taylor

The Rolling Stones’ “secret weapon.” His tenure with the band resulted in some of their most revered work, adding depth and blues sophistication.

34. Alex Lifeson

Rush’s guitarist has always been an integral part of their progressive rock sound. Tracks like “Limelight” and “Freewill” display his wide-ranging talents.

35. Gary Moore

The Irish rocker was equally at home with heavy rock and soulful blues. Songs like “Still Got the Blues” and “Parisienne Walkways” highlight his versatility.

36. Ritchie Blackmore

From Deep Purple to Rainbow, Blackmore’s riffs and solos are the stuff of rock legend. “Smoke on the Water” and “Since You’ve Been Gone” are just the tip of the iceberg.

37. Frank Zappa

A true musical maverick. Zappa’s avant-garde approach and satirical stylings make him one of the most unique guitarists ever.

38. John Frusciante

Red Hot Chili Peppers owe much of their melodic sense to Frusciante’s playing. “Under the Bridge” and “Scar Tissue” are sublime examples.

39. James Hetfield

Metallica’s frontman isn’t just a great singer; his rhythm guitar work forms the backbone of their sound. “Enter Sandman” and “Master of Puppets” show off his riffing prowess.

40. Chet Atkins

The country legend’s fingerpicking style has inspired countless guitarists. A maestro in every sense, Atkins’ style is timeless.

41. Buddy Holly

Though his time was short, Holly’s rock ‘n’ roll contributions in the ’50s laid the groundwork for generations to come.

42. Neil Young

From acoustic ballads to roaring rockers, Young’s raw and emotive playing style is iconic. “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Heart of Gold” showcase his range.

43. Thurston Moore

Sonic Youth’s experimental sound owes much to Moore’s alternative tunings and unique playing approach, bringing noise rock to the mainstream.

44. Billy Gibbons

ZZ Top’s main man has a gritty tone that’s instantly recognizable. “La Grange” and “Sharp Dressed Man” are classic rock staples, thanks to his riffs.

45. Muddy Waters

A giant in the blues world. Waters’ impact on rock ‘n’ roll is undeniable, with tracks like “Mannish Boy” and “Rollin’ Stone”.

46. Jonny Greenwood

Radiohead’s lead guitarist is known for his experimental approach. From “Paranoid Android” to “Street Spirit”, his creativity knows no bounds.

47. Joe Perry

Aerosmith’s rock-solid foundation is thanks in large part to Perry’s slick riffs and solos. “Walk This Way” and “Dream On” are just a couple of highlights.

48. The Edge

U2’s sonic landscapes are crafted by The Edge’s use of effects and his minimalist style. “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You” showcase his talents.

49. Albert King

Another blues legend, King’s aggressive and emotive playing on tracks like “Born Under a Bad Sign” has influenced countless rock guitarists.

50. Jack White

The White Stripes frontman’s raw garage rock sound on “Seven Nation Army” and his inventive approach with The Raconteurs and solo work makes him one of the modern greats.

51. Pete Townshend

The Who’s windmilling guitarist has given us anthems like “Baba O’Riley” and “Pinball Wizard”. Townshend’s stage antics and unique playing style make him one of rock’s memorable figures.

52. Jerry Garcia

As the leading light of the Grateful Dead, Garcia’s psychedelic and intricate guitar lines on songs like “Truckin'” and “Casey Jones” captivated generations.

53. Leslie West

Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” owes its thunderous sound to West’s powerful playing, making him a giant in the hard rock scene.

54. Paul Kossoff

Free’s “All Right Now” is an iconic rock track, thanks to Kossoff’s emotive and bluesy guitar lines.

55. Danny Gatton

A true “guitarist’s guitarist”, Gatton’s versatility in genres from rockabilly to jazz made him one of the most skilled players to ever pick up the instrument.

56. Adrian Belew

Whether with King Crimson or his solo efforts, Belew’s avant-garde approach to guitar playing has always been groundbreaking.

57. Derek Trucks

One of the modern greats, Trucks’ slide guitar work, as seen with The Allman Brothers Band and his own group, is a masterclass in soul and technique.

58. Johnny Ramone

The Ramones’ buzzsaw guitar sound, defining tracks like “Blitzkrieg Bop”, was driven by Johnny’s straightforward but influential playing.

59. Brian Setzer

From the Stray Cats to his big band, Setzer revived rockabilly and showcased his guitar prowess to a whole new generation.

60. J. Mascis

Dinosaur Jr.’s frontman, with his fuzzy solos and unique sound, carved a niche for himself in the alternative rock scene.

61. Mike Bloomfield

A pivotal figure in the American blues revival, Bloomfield’s work with Paul Butterfield and Bob Dylan was nothing short of iconic.

62. Steve Howe

Yes’s intricate compositions owe a lot to Howe’s virtuosic guitar work. Tracks like “Roundabout” showcase his unmatched skill.

63. Robin Trower

Often likened to Hendrix, Trower’s powerful blues-rock playing, especially on “Bridge of Sighs”, cemented his legacy.

64. Mick Ronson

David Bowie’s right-hand man during his Ziggy Stardust era, Ronson’s riffs and arrangements were crucial to the sound of many Bowie classics.

65. Nels Cline

Wilco’s guitarist has an experimental edge, constantly pushing boundaries and redefining what rock guitar can be.

66. Steve Cropper

As a part of Booker T. & the MG’s, Cropper’s R&B and soul chops can be heard on countless classics from the Stax Records era.

67. Ron Asheton

The Stooges’ raw power was amplified by Asheton’s primal guitar work, making him a pioneer of punk rock.

68. Pat Metheny

A jazz giant, Metheny’s innovative playing and compositions have made him one of the most influential guitarists in the genre.

69. Trey Anastasio

Phish’s extensive jams wouldn’t be the same without Anastasio’s intricate guitar work, blending rock, jazz, and a touch of the avant-garde.

70. John McLaughlin

From his work with Miles Davis to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, McLaughlin’s fusion of jazz and rock is legendary.

71. Andy Summers

The Police had a distinctive sound, much of which was due to Summers’ reggae-infused, chorus-laden guitar lines.

72. Ritchie Valens

Though his career was tragically short, Valens left an indelible mark with songs like “La Bamba”.

73. Robert Fripp

King Crimson’s ever-evolving sound was always anchored by Fripp’s innovative and challenging guitar work.

74. Duane Eddy

A pioneer of rock and roll, Eddy’s twangy guitar sound on hits like “Rebel Rouser” inspired countless guitarists.

75. Michael Schenker

Whether with UFO or the Scorpions, Schenker’s melodic solos and powerful riffs made him a heavy metal icon.

76. Elmore James

Elmore James was a highly influential American blues guitarist and singer, often referred to as the “King of Slide Guitar.” He was known for his passionate and electrifying slide guitar playing, which had a significant impact on the development of blues and rock music.

77. Clarence White

Clarence White was an American guitarist and a prominent figure in the world of country and bluegrass music. He is widely recognized for his exceptional flatpicking guitar technique and innovative contributions to the bluegrass and country genres.

78. Albert Collins

The “Master of the Telecaster”, Collins’ icy guitar tones and unique tunings made him a blues standout.

79. Lindsey Buckingham

Fleetwood Mac’s distinctive sound owes much to Buckingham’s fingerstyle and songwriting genius. His work on “Go Your Own Way” is legendary.

80. Otis Rush

Another blues titan, Rush’s emotive playing on songs like “I Can’t Quit You Baby” has influenced everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

81. Eddie Hazel

Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” features a ten-minute solo by Hazel that is an absolute emotional rollercoaster, solidifying his spot on this list.

Link Wray was an American rock and roll guitarist, songwriter, and musician. He is best known for his pioneering work on the electric guitar and is often credited with inventing the power chord, a crucial element of rock and punk music.

83. Zakk Wylde

From Ozzy Osbourne’s band to Black Label Society, Wylde’s pinch harmonics and heavy riffs are unmistakably his.

84. Vinnie Vincent

Though his stint with KISS was short-lived, Vincent’s shredding on “Creatures of the Night” and “Lick It Up” was game-changing.

85. Tom Verlaine

Television’s “Marquee Moon” album, driven by Verlaine’s avant-garde playing, is a cornerstone of the post-punk movement.

86. Robby Krieger

The Doors had a sound like no other, thanks in part to Krieger’s flamenco-inspired playing on tracks like “Light My Fire”.

87. John Squire

The Stone Roses’ neo-psychedelic sound was crafted by Squire’s melodic and jangly riffs. “I Wanna Be Adored” is a prime example.

88. Joe Pass

A titan in the jazz world, Pass’ complex chord melodies, and solo guitar works are studied by guitarists worldwide.

89. Dave Mustaine

Megadeth’s frontman is not just a thrash metal pioneer; his intricate riffs and solos on tracks like “Holy Wars” set a high bar for metal guitarists.

90. Scotty Moore

Elvis Presley’s early recordings were marked by Moore’s innovative rockabilly guitar playing, helping to shape the sound of rock ‘n’ roll.

91. T-Bone Walker

A pioneer of the electric blues, Walker’s smooth and jazzy style on tracks like “Stormy Monday” has left a lasting legacy.

92. Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley was a legendary American guitarist and musician known for his unique guitar style and iconic “Bo Diddley beat.” He had a profound influence on rock ‘n’ roll and blues music, leaving a lasting legacy in the music industry.

93. Johnny Winter

A firebrand on the guitar, Winter’s blues-rock approach on tracks like “Highway 61 Revisited” is blistering.

94. Ace Frehley

KISS’s “Spaceman” had a knack for memorable riffs and solos, making tracks like “Shock Me” hard rock classics.

95. Joan Jett

From the Runaways to her solo career, Jett’s raw rock ‘n’ roll spirit on tracks like “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” has made her an icon.

96. Rory Gallagher

An Irish blues-rock powerhouse, Gallagher’s live performances showcased his incendiary playing and passion.

97. Les Paul

The Rolling Stones’ “Human Riff” has penned countless classics. His rhythm work and simple, yet effective leads are the backbone of rock music.

98. Adam Jones

Tool’s soundscapes, often dark and atmospheric, owe much to Jones’ innovative guitar work, making tracks like “Schism” stand out.

99. Malcolm Young

AC/DC’s rhythm guitarist might not have had his brother Angus’s flash, but his rock-solid playing is the bedrock of their sound.

100. Carlos Alomar

David Bowie’s go-to guitarist for many years, Alomar’s funky rhythms and inventive lines are evident on tracks like “Fame” and “Golden Years”.

And there you have it! A comprehensive, whirlwind tour of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. It’s wild to think about the diversity of styles, eras and sounds that this instrument has witnessed. From blues to heavy metal, jazz to punk, these guitar legends have not only shaped their respective genres but have also inspired countless others to pick up the instrument and make their mark. So, here’s to the six-stringed wonder and the amazing individuals who’ve made it sing, scream, and everything in between. Rock on! 🎸🤘