Rolling Stone’s ‘100 Greatest Guitarists Ever’ is Worth Debating

Rolling Stone magazine listed its 100 greatest guitarists of all time in November 2011, a list that was compiled by music’s top guitarists and experts in the field. Like all lists, Rolling Stone‘s compilation is arguable.

Rolling Stone’s Top Five:

The top five were respectable save for number four, Keith Richards. However, Richards was listed by E Street Band great, Nils Lofgren, so coming from this legend, choosing Richards has some validity – some. Five was given to Jeff Beck, with three, two and one being crowned to Jimmy Page (listed by Aerosmith’s Joe Perry), Eric Clapton (listed by Eddie Van Halen) and Jimi Hendrix (listed by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) respectively.

Dissecting the Top Three:

Although the top three all share rock music in common, fans can debate whether or not each three fits into a specific genre. Eric Clapton’s versatility in both blues and rock can easily propel him to the number one spot of all time in the Greatest Guitarist Ever category.

Hendrix’s blazing the path of modern day playing that utilized the whammy bar, distortion and feedback, and the fact that his life was cut short, plants him in the top spot of the Most Accomplished Guitarist in the Shortest Amount of Time category.

And Jimmy Page’s legacy with one of the greatest rock bands in history lands him in the same company. Should he be number three on the list? Again, that is arguable. Personally, coming from a guitar player, I would place him higher down the list. However, Page could see number one in the Greatest Sloppy Guitar Player Ever category.

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What comes down to the greatest guitarist ever should reflect his (or her) influence on music, culture and longevity. When images of Hendrix wailing on guitar while it is behind his neck or playing the strings with his teeth still surface today, it’s no wonder that the “Purple Haze” singer made the top spot.

Clapton was the first musician to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three different times – with the Yardbirds in 1992, Cream in 1993 and solo in 2000. In the article, Eddie Van Halen said this about Clapton: “He took a Gibson guitar and plugged it into a Marshall, and that was it. The basics. The blues. His solos were melodic and memorable – and that’s what guitar solos should be, part of the song.”

My Top Three:

As I mentioned earlier, I am also a guitar player; been playing for nearly 25 years (see me wail here). Three guitarists that have influenced me are Eric Clapton, Nuno Bettencourt (from Extreme) and Paul Gilbert from (Mr. Big). Clapton is the greatest guitarist ever; I’ve been preaching that for years. However, when it comes to influencing me as a guitar player and fan of music, Bettencourt and Gilbert make my list because they both combine rhythm and lead into one task, implementing riffs and power chords with soloing in between.


I can respect Rolling Stone’s undertaking of listing the top 100 guitarists ever, but c’mon, Willy Nelson and U2’s The Edge making the list and Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt or even Joe Satriani not?

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Nothing against Keith Richards but he’s not even the best guitarist in the Rolling Stones. One thing I can agree with the magazine is Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix are definitely in the top five greatest ever.