Jimi Hendrix

This next issue of Rolling Stone magazine will include sheets of dead trees stacked and creased at a spine-like center with many words printed on them. (It’s a whole thing, ask your parents.) Sometimes those pages include words about musicians, and often those musicians are Jimi Hendrix, or Led Zeppelin, or the Rolling Stones, or the Who. (Again.) This pre-list-season list, then — timed to take advantage of your inner guitar-wonk while you are home for the holidays and in your childhood basement surrounded by boxes of old Guitar Worlds and dusty amplifiers — is possibly the most Rolling Stone thing ever to be assembled. Lo:

01. Jimi Hendrix
02. Eric Clapton
03. Jimmy Page
04. Keith Richards
05. Jeff Beck
06. B.B. King
07. Chuck Berry
08. Eddie Van Halen
09. Duane Allman
10. Pete Townshend

It’s annoying that I always forget that time stopped after Van Halen. To create the list, the mag polled esteemed guitarists and music insiders along with RS’s editors, if you are looking for someone to praise/blame for their choices. You can check out those voters — and the full list of 100 guitarists — at rollingstone.com.

In fairness, it’s sort of difficult to imagine an unqualified discussion of history’s greatest guitarists without a bunch of those names. And that is why a much more interesting list idea is The Top 10 Guitarists Who Aren’t Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Eddie Van Halen, Duane Allman, or Pete Townshend. So let’s make that one? I’ll get us going with some candidates: Kevin Shields, Johnny Marr, Thurston Moore, J Mascis, Mick Barr, Mark McGuire, Ira Kaplan…

Let’s do this together, like a family. The floor is yours.

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Comments (222)
  1. brian may. very distinct guitar player.

  2. I wonder what a 10 Greatest Rolling Stone Lists on the Greatest Guitarists of All Time list would look like.

    • I think they had the same list from 5 years ago, except Eric Clapton was 3 and Chuck Berry was 2 (this is from memory so I could be wrong). Also, the fact that 3 of those guitarists were all in the Yardbirds (2 at the same time), only proves that “star players” does not equal a great band.

    • This should be called the 10 Greatest “Rock n’ Roll” Guitarist of All Time because they do not mention any jazz guitarist. Django Reinhadt, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow?

  3. Mike McCready from Pearl Jam and Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead

  4. Ronald Jones.

  5. How about Doug Martsch?

  6. Mike McCready, Jack White, Dan Auerbach

  7. ddogdunit  |   Posted on Nov 23rd, 2011 +2

    title should read rolling stone’s 10 (OUT OF 100, BUT WE WONT ACKNOWLEDGE THE OTHER 90 TO GET YOU TO COMMENT COMMENT COMMENT)

    so there are 90 guitarists on here not listed and “suggested” by amrit. johnny marr is on there. so is jack white, et al

    • True. I was really surprised he wasn’t on the Rolling Stones list. Feeling a bit cheated.

    • i pray thou jests, and if we were going hip-hoppers who can actually play an instrument i’d go with a lil known dude named Andre 3000, but THATS JUST MOI, bitches;)

      • yes i was joking. and i agree that andre 3000/big boi/organized noize created the most musical hip hop ever.

        all rappers suck at real instruments compared to people who play rock music, a genre that depends on real instruments rather than samples. not to say that rappers aren’t musical people or can’t play instruments well. they’re just probably not as good as musicians in rock bands who do it day in and day out

        haha, glad to have pontificated on another pointless subject noone cares about.

        • :) …ya never know these days, all these dolts roaming the earth thinking Kanye is a ‘genius’ etc…

          • lol, i don’t know though i may be a dolt acc to you.. i think kanye was/is a genius producer, and hes had some aight songs but he sucks pretty bad at being a human but you gotta love him at the same time but wait no fuck him… sometimes no but overall fuck him nah he aight… that pretty much sums up my thoughts on “yeezy” (fuckin hate that nickname btw).

          • yeah i got a friend who’s an old dj who LOVES kanye, we argue all the time and rip on all his FB Yeezy posts, i swear he posted that one fancypants video with the dancer girls like 20x, fucking annoying:)

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  9. joey santiago from the pixies !!!

  10. john frusciante

  11. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Beck nothing and not influential? I agree that Knopfler is a great guitarist but Jeff Beck is a fantastically distinct player who pushed instrumental rock forward since the 70s. Remember this list is the top 10 guitar players, i.e. people who play guitar the best; not guitar players that people like.

  12. Umm…David Gilmore from Pink Floyd? How he didn’t even make the Top 10 is beyond me…

  13. Greg Ginn, Robert Fripp, John Mclaughlin, Kevin Shields, Thurston Moore, and Carrie Brownstein would all beat Jeff Beck in my mind.

  14. Uh it’s kind of unbelievable that Stevie Ray Vaughan isn’t on this list. Also, I definitely think for a Rolling Stone list Jeff Beck and David Gilmour should be seriously considered.

    But I think Nels Cline, Mike McCready, Matt Bellamy, Johnny Greenwood, and Mark Knopfler are all constantly underrated.

    • wait, why did you get downvoted?

      • probably for suggesting that Matt Bellamy is underrated

        • matt bellamy is a damn good guitarist but if you took the korg kaoss pad out of his guitar, you’d realize he’s not doing anything that special. most people that think he’s some iconic player don’t actually know much about playing guitar.

          • But I think the Kaoss pad is innovative, which is definitely something to his credit. Much like Tom Morello doesn’t have any specific traditional guitar playing which is innovative, he has the record scratch thing along with his use of the Whammy pedal, etc which elevate him to the status he deserves (because that is truly innovative).

            I can definitely agree that Muse’s music has gone way downhill and their lyrics are terrible, etc etc, but you can’t deny that Matt Bellamy is a great (and somewhat innovative) guitar player who for that skill, often doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

          • he’s solid, but he’s an idiot. IF he had a brain he’d have a second guitarist so he could concentrate on his precious crowd-wowing leads hehe, and also if he had a brain he’d get back to old Muse basics vs trying to make every fricking single a giant ANTHEM. Remember ‘Unintended’ Matty? Simple songs are still ok mr egomaniac, but kudos for your american trophy wife:)

          • Muse is unapologetically awful, seriously, fuck that band.

  15. Top ten things to complain about this list

    5) It’s not a list of the “greatest” guitarists (what does that even mean?) it’s a list of Rolling Stone’s favourite guitarists. Because if it was actually “Greatest” guitarists, none of these guys would be close, and Jimi Hendrix is – I’m pretty sure you could find objective evidence everywhere – not the most accurate, nuanced, or talented guitar player in history.

    4) Meanwhile, Keith Richards?! The guy was a genius writer and arranger, but he’s not a better guitar player than Richard Thompson, I mean that doesn’t even make sense.

    3) Pete Townshend?

    2) Look I get what you’re doing, Rolling Stone. This is clearly a list of what you think are the most influential rock guitarists of all time, and also who happen to play music you like, right? But then…why would BB King make the top 10? Guys, be consistent.

    1) And when you say “All-Time,” I mean right there…like, are you referring only to electric guitarists? Because this list seems to only account for 1950 forward…you really think BB king had more influence on modern music than Charlie Christian or Django? You’re wrong, you know that right?

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

      • “Jimi Hendrix is – I’m pretty sure you could find objective evidence everywhere – not the most accurate, nuanced, or talented guitar player in history”

        ok, i agree with that…but he’s still one of the biggest innovators. it doesn’t necessarily take nuance or accuracy to develop a groundbreaking style of playing and he certainly did that. you’re right that he could be a slop show but you’re way off base saying he wasn’t one of the best.

        keith richards is a shit guitarist.

        this list is a joke. “slow hand” may be iconic in his ways but he’s severely overrated. RS blows at lists like this.

        • I absolutely agree he is an innovator, but again…Charlie Christian invented one-note soloing on the guitar. Lenny Breau played the guitar in a style that very few if any guitarists have ever been able to replicate even remotely. And it’s not like everyone today plays like Jimi played. I mean, I don’t buy the hype as far as “groundbreaking playing” is concerned. What he does technically I don’t think is particularly different than what Robert Johnson predated him doing by about 50 years. Jimi had a fuzzbox. Meh. He was good! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he is shit. But he’s not the greatest guitarist of all time. That’s BS.

    • Jimi Hendrix isn’t even close to being one of the greatest guitarists ever? That’s silly. Your criteria are just as arbitrary as theirs.

      • I don’t, and wouldn’t make a list like this, so my criteria is non-existent. But if I did, I would at least aim to have some. This list is just a bunch of guitarists voting on their favourite guitarists. Tell me though, anyone…what makes Jimi Hendrix the best guitar player? Don’t get me wrong, I love his music. But what skills does he possess and how is his influence greater than the other guitarists in, let’s say (as rolling stone puts it) the history of music?

        • Well, you listed a few criteria (accuracy, nuance, and talent), but whatever. I think he was a great (possibly the greatest) guitarist because I think he made better music with his guitars than the other guys made with their guitars. That’s my opinion and I think a lot of people, including those of us who play guitar, would think it’s a reasonable opinion.

    • Rolling Stone actually had the “Greatest” guitarist list a few years back (maybe 2006) which was a bit more accurate. You have to remember, when discussing pop music, Rolling Stone’s greatest lists deal more with influence than with actual talent (although all 5 of the above are extremely talented). To put things in perspective, on their 2003 list of the “Greatest” 500 albums of all time, the Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks…. was listed around 15. Anyone who has listened to that album knows that it is extremely influential and definitely good, but 15th greatest rock album of all time good? Far from it.

      • I know, I read that list too…thing is is they would save us (read: me) a lot of anger if they just saved the hyperbole from the title. If they just called it “a bunch of popular guitarists vote on the most influential albums” that would be totally fine. When you call it “BEST OF ALL TIME” then I’m going to be immediately dubious. There’s no such thing as “best guitarist” so mybe can we all just stop wasting time pretending and start talking about actual things? And I LOVE lists. But these lists are stupid.

  16. Tom Verlaine. Wilco Johnson.

  17. The problem with RS is they’ve always been so solo-centric, never taking into account the concept of creating atmosphere or mood, which is mostly created by rhythm guitar, while the lead ends up layering on more of what was already there. Don’t get me wrong, soloing has its merits– I’m not advocating for its removal from rock–but maybe we should be more impressed by emotional impact rather than technical prowess. That being said, here’s some folks that land on my list:

    Nels Cline(a soloist!), Dave Longstreth, Johnny Greenwood, Elliott Smith, Laura Marling, Aaron Dressner

  18. Eddie Van Halen is overrated. He’s technically good but has about as much soul in his playing as Steve Vai and all those other wankers – he only gets more credit because he plays pop songs. Give me J Mascis or Dave Navarro’s early Jane’s stuff any day.

  19. Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Johnny Marr, Jonny Greenwood, David Gilmour, John Frusciante (peep the solo work), Joey Santiago (pixies), Jeff Mangum (simple, but more Seoul than Korea)

  20. Well I agree with 4… BUT I do think they are missing, Roy Buchannan, Peter Green, Jeff Buckley (yes for guitar), Brian Setzer, *COUGH* Stevie Ray Vaughn and Johnny Marr to name a few.

  21. I don’t know how or why Billy Corgan always gets looked over as one of the best guitarists of his generation, but he deserves to be on any “greatest guitarist” list that also includes Mike McCready, Tom Morello (though as inventive as he is, he kinda sucks at soloing), Jerry Cantrell, J. Mascis and other greats from the alt. rock era. And of course, this RS list ain’t such a list. It could’ve been compiled 25 years ago it’s so predictable. It’s basically your rock and roll dad’s fav guitarist list.

    • Tom Morello is great at the dj-type sound effects he developed on guitar…but they’re pretty easy to do with the gear he uses. he relies on a digitech whammy pedal…without it, he’s not much. i’ve seen several terrible live attempts from him at “soloing”. I will give him credit for the guitar tones on the first Rage record…they sound awesome.

      Mascis kicks ass. “Where you been” was a huge deal.

    • thats true, Billy’s work from 90 through 96 was amazing, especially all the Mellon Collie stuff, can’t be denied. too bad he got a little ‘lost’ afterward, but that seems to happen a lot after big albums.

      • He peaked before MCIS. Siamese Dream era is one of the ultimate guitar achievements of the 1990s, hands down. And he still had some serious moments after MCIS – for all it’s rep as having been kinda lame, Zwan was a serious guitar album at certain points – the title track on it was one of his great achievements IMO.

        And then after that…yeah he fucking lost it hard. But still, dude was the #1 mainstream rock guitarist of the 90s IMO. I get why people’d say Greenwood, but the grunge guys, as much as I like a lot of those bands, are not his matches.

  22. Don’t they do this list every 6 months?

  23. John Frusciante. Period.

  24. Wait, none of these guys (except Keith Richards) were even in the Rolling Stones.

    • Rolling Stones’s 10 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time

      1. Keith Richards
      2. Keith Richards
      3. Brian Jones
      T4. Dick Taylor
      T4. Brian Jones
      6. Dick Taylor
      7. Ron Wood
      8. Bill Wyman
      9. Mick Taylor
      10. Tracy Chapman

  25. If RS wasn’t run by white male ex-hippies who think time stopped in 1983, this list would contain Rodrigo. Or Gabriela. Take your pick. No, seriously, Rodrigo is much better.

  26. I am tired of RS blowing all these old white dudes who gentrified a bunch of Robert Johnson licks. Screwing around for six minutes on a blues jam does not make you a great guitarist, it makes you a passable one.

    How about some non-dude guitar players? Kaki King work for anybody?

    But instead we get the same tired players from the 60s and 70s. Too bad there is tons of original guitar work coming out of Mali, or all the innovators in noise and post-punk of the 80s and 90s. I would even take that butthole from the Mars Volta over fucking Duane Allman.

    • You had me until Duane Allman. Dude could slide very well.

      • I’ve played guitar for years, and I’m mostly with you on the blues guitar thing. Tons of people I talk to think that Clapton is incredibly overrated. However, Jimmy Page, while really derivative in a lot of respect, was incredibly creative in his use of the instrument for the most part. Pete Townshend deserves to be on a best songwriters list, maybe not in the top ten on this one.

  27. Other options: East Bay Ray

  28. This is an accurate list; however, Rolling Stone magazine should have created a more current list. Everyone on their list, though very talented, is an obvious choice, a list seen over and over, time after time. I wanna see bad asses like Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney), Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead,! Albert Hammon Jr. (The Strokes), and Tom Morello (RATM) – just to name a few.

  29. Once again, RS goes out of its way to prove it is irrelevant.

  30. They’re all the same and you know it.

  31. CORRECTION: Eddie Hazel should be the entire list.

  32. Eddie Van Halen, of course. Brian May. Carlos Santana has a very distinctive sound, though he’s not one of my favs as guitar player… The Edge.

    And Steve Lukather, of Toto. When I was a kid in the early 1980′s I bought The Tubes’ album “The Completion Backward Principle” just for his guitar on just a few songs, most notable “Talk To You Later” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-rEVVAw3-0)

    • Carlos Santana is only a good guitarist to people that don’t play guitar. he’s a fucking hack.

      • yes he’s extremely boring, but it could be forgivable if he could just stop his clueless EGO from mixing his guitar leads so LOUD in the mixes of his stupid poppy (modern) songs. and the sound of his leads even sucks, vomit-inducing.

  33. Brandt Hardin  |   Posted on Nov 23rd, 2011 -1

    Jimi invented Metal and everything Rock knows about the guitar after 1970 came from his psychedelic twisting of what the instrument could do. I paid homage to Hendrix with a portrait called Purple Haze on the anniversary of his passing recently. You can see it at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/purple-haze-jimi-hendrix.html and tell me how the voodoo child’s music has influenced you!

  34. Craig Extine of The Old Haunts. Arpeggio genius!

  35. No Prince?

    Dude may be freaky but…well, that might move him UP the list.

  36. Amen to that, brother.

  37. I had thought the GUITAR GOD was dead and buried as a concept……..

    Jack White proved me wrong. Rolling Stone continues it’s alienation of anybody under 40 years of age.

    Nice work.

  38. RORY GALLAGHER. Johnny Winter. Rick Derringer. Roy Buchanan. Curtis Mayfield. Danny Gatton. Muddy Waters. Prince. Hubert Sumlin. Joe Bonamassa. Gary Moore. Bonnie Raitt. Springsteen (yes, ridiculously underrated as a guitar player but also suffers from RS overhype for everything else). And hundreds more worth consideration.

  39. RANDY RHOADS SHOULD BE IN THE TOP 10!

  40. Let’s be specific now: Greatest ROCK guitarist of all time.Also, greatest guitarist based on what? Technique? Originality? Diversity? Popularity? Originality, yes Hendrix. Technique Clapton or Page.

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  42. Keith Rowe
    Fred Frith
    Bill Orcutt
    Fennesz

    Also, not trying to be rude, but everyone saying that Hendrix is an incomprehensible choice are trying too hard.

  43. In no particular order:
    J. Mascis has to be mentioned in here, so I second/third whoever said J. Mascis
    Doug Martsch
    Stephen Malkmus
    Graham Coxon
    John Reis circa Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes
    Bob Mould
    Kevin Shields was already mentioned
    Steve Albini!!!
    John Schmersal when he was in Brainiac
    Andy Gill
    Ted Leo (Just listen to “St. John the Divine”)
    Tyondai Braxton
    Whoever plays lead in the Fresh & Onlys
    The bass player from Lightning Bolt (yeah, I went there)
    Steven Drozd because he’s a goddamn prodigy

    Caveat: I don’t consider a “great” guitarist one that can break out a 10-minute solo, but one who writes songs I like.

  44. Lindsay Buckingham.

  45. There is a very simple reasons why lists like these always seem like exercises in futility, and it’s because comparing an alternative guitarist to a metal guitarist, a punk guitarist to a hard rock guitarist, a folk guitarist to a blues guitarist are like comparing apples to oranges. They may all be of the same genus but they are not of the same species. How do you compare Jimi Hendrix to Joey Ramone? Jonny Greenwood to Eddie Van Halen? Chuck Berry to Neil Young?

    The answer is that, unless you’re a jerk trying to sell magazines to baby boomers who don’t know who any of the musicians recording after 1980 are, you don’t. You should know better.

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