Before you say it, we know, there have been so many awesome guitarists in the past 100 years or so that it seems wrong to whittle them down to just a few of the “best.” If we could, we’d include tons of honorable mentions and have some more obscure musicians given credit where credit’s due. Sadly, this is just a small selection of some of our all-time favorite guitar gods.
The Who’s Pete Townshend may not be the showiest guitarist around- he rarely plays extended solos, but his style and technique have been an innovating force in rock music. The rhythmic, powerful flow of The Who’s guitar is often more complex than listeners might realize at first, and it spawned a generation of great rock and roll and smashed guitars.
There are probably plenty of young music fans out there who’ve never heard of Chuck Berry, and it’s a shame. Berry was one of the godfathers of blues and rock, and his sound was hugely influential on almost every great guitarist that would come after him. As John Lennon once said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’”
Jeff Beck was a master at combining complex melody with pure tone and technique, making him at true rock legend. With a career that’s spanned from the sixties to today, Beck is an iconic guitarist with staying power, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
With a style firmly rooted in the blues, Richards has a knack for creating atmosphere with a signature sound. His guitar work with the Rolling Stones has led to what Rolling Stone magazine calls “rock’s greatest single body of riffs”, and his partnership with Jagger formed some of the most famous songs in 20th century rock music.
Eric Clapton has a melodic, lyrical guitar style that’s unmistakable. His blues-based, smooth sound has been an inspiration to young guitarists all over the world, and he is currently the only musician to be inducted on three separate occasions to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.