Best Kick-Ass Guitarists of All Time

Whether you grew up with the classic guitarists or just appreciate them as legends, there’s no denying the greatest guitar players of all time. Many controversial discussion has taken place as to who people feel is the best. We’ve been graced with so much talent that it’s really difficult to pick just a few. Here’s my top 20, but let us know if you agree and who you would put at the top of the list.

20. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones

Born in 1943 in Dartford, Kent, England, Keith Richards attended Wentworth Primary School as a young boy. Surprisingly enough, so did one of his future fellow band members from the Rolling Stones – lead singer Mick Jagger. In fact, they knew each other and lived in the same neighborhood until Richards and his family moved away in 1954.

In 1959, he was expelled from school, which was the start of events that would change his life and music forever. When Dartford Technical School expelled him for truancy issues, they suggested that he may be more suited for an art school. So, Richards then enrolled and attended Sidcup Art College in a neighboring town. Two years later while on the train to Sidcup, Richards discovered that Mick Jagger had boarded the same train. The two recognized each other from grammar school and the rest is history…

Among his talents as a guitarist, Richards also sings, writes songs, and plays bass and piano. Though he’s still affiliated with the Rolling Stones (and has been for well over 40 years), he’s also played with two other groups: The New Barbarians and The Expensive Winos.

19. Joe Satriani

Though best known as an instrumental rock guitarist, Joe Satriani has also shown talents in the areas of jazz fusion, hard rock, heavy metal, and neo-classical metal. In addition to the guitar, Satriani sings, plays bass, keyboard, the banjo, and even the harmonica. In his earlier years, he was a guitar instructor and taught famous artists such as Steve Vai and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett.

In 1988 when Mick Jagger did his solo tour, Joe Satriani was the lead guitarist. In 1993, he joined the band Deep Purple to replace lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. In 1996, he founded the band G3, famous for their instrumental rock music. Now in his early fifties, Satriani is still actively writing and playing music today.

18. Ry Cooder

Ryland “Ry” Cooder is best known for his slide guitar technique. He’s definitely not one on this list that is your traditional rock guitarist. Cooder has played some rock, but also performs in different genres such as blues, soul, gospel, and Tex-Mex. Though you won’t hear a lot of his stuff on the pop charts, you can’t deny that his technique and talent are superb. An active musician since the 1960’s, Ry Cooder has been associated with other musicians and groups such as Taj Mahal, Captain Beefheart, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Nicky Hopkins, Gabby Pahinui, and the Buena Vista Social Club.

17. Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath

The founder of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath would have never existed has Tony Iommi gone on his first instinct as a teenager. When he was 17, Tony was a victim of an accident at his job in a sheet metal factory. As a result, the tips of his middle and ring fingers on his right hand were cut off. Though he loved the guitar, he initially decided to give up the guitar. He was convinced otherwise and started to overcome his injury by getting creative to adapt his instrument to his needs.

In 1966, Iommi played with a band called The Rest with Bill Ward, Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne. Two year later, they renamed their band Earth. However, there was some confusion with another band in England called Earth, so the following year the band changed their name again to Black Sabbath. Through all of the staff changes of the band, Tony Iommi remained the only consistent member of the group.

Iommi still plays the guitar. In fact, in 2007 he toured with Bill Ward, Geezer Butler, and Ronnie James Dio under the group name Heaven and Hell.

16. Chuck Berry

Though he’s only number 16 on the list, Chuck Berry is one of the most influential people in rock and roll. Among his legal troubles throughout the decades, Berry still managed to stay on top in the music business. He’s had countless hits to hit the charts such as Johnny B. Goode and Maybellene. No win his early 80’s, he’s still in the music business.

15. Joe Perry of Aerosmith

Joe Perry was with the band who made him famous, Aerosmith throughout the 1970s. early on this band was dismissed as a Rolling Stones copy-cat band, but later came into their own with smash hits like Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion. In 1979, he started on his solo career and called it The Joe Perry Project.

14. Slash of Guns N’ Roses

Born Saul Hudson, he’s better known to us all as Slash. He, Axl Rose, and the others joined together in 1985 to form the famous hard rock band Guns ‘N Roses. After he left guns and Roses in the 1990s, he formed Slash’s Snake Pit and worked with other artists in the music business. In 2002, he got together with former Guns N’ Roses band members Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum alogn with Dave Kushner from punk band Wasted Youth to form Velvet Revolver. Though some of the band members have changed, this group is still together today.

13. Carlos Santana

Born in 1947 as Carlos Augusta Santana Alves, this guitarist is one of the most diverse musicians of all time. He has performed in genres such as hard rock, rock, blues-rock, psychedelic rock, and Post-Grunge; but currently we just hear him in Latin music and jazz. What this shows us is his extreme talent in many areas and types of music. Continuing to amaze us with his outstanding abilities on guitar, Santana is one of the most recognizable guitarists (by sound alone) of all time.

12. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd

David Gilmour was the guitarist and lead singer for the band Pink Floyd, which was perhaps the most popular psychedelic rock band ever. With albums as mid-blowing as Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, it’s easy to see Gilmour’s and the group’s success. Gilmour actually wasn’t one of the original members of the group, but rather joined in 1968 when he replaced Syd Barrett.

Currently on his own, Gilmour has a wide range of musical talent. He not only sings and plays a wicked guitar, but he also plays the saxophone, bass, keyboard, and the drums.

11. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana

Former member of the alternative rock band Nirvana, Kirk Cobain’s death is as fascinating to the public as his life. He was active in music from the mid 1980s until his death in 1994. In 1987 was when his fame really started since Nirvana had gotten together.

There are many discussions and stories surrounding his death. However, his death is believed to be a suicide. Sadly, Cobain suffered from a severe drug addiction. He was only 27 years old when he died.

10. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top

Born in Houston Texas in 1949, Billy Gibbons is the lead guitarist for the ever popular band ZZ Top. Gibbons first founded a psychedelic blues rock band called The Moving Sidewalks in the 1960s. In 1969, he formed the band ZZ Top with singer and bass player Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard. The band is known for their long beards and sunglasses along with their rock, blues rock, and hard rock music. Billy’s band ZZ Top has been entertaining us for 40 years.

9. Kirk Hammett of Metallica

In 1980, Kirk Hammett formed a band called Exodus, a thrash metal group, with singer Paul Baloff, guitarist Gary Holt, bass player Geoff Andrews, and drummer Tom Hunting. In 1983, he was invited to join the band Metallica upon Dave Mustaine’s departure. Hammett has been with Metallica ever since.

8. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Though he finally made his way to fame in the mid 1980s, Stevie Ray Vaughn had only been locally known before then as he tried to get his big break since the early 1970s. In 1971, he dropped out of school to pursue his dream with a band called The Blackbirds. Two years after that, he joined a promising band called Krackerjack. In 1974 he joined Marc Benno and the Nightcrawlers and the year after that he was with Paul Ray and the Cobras. Finally, he got fed up and formed his own band called Triple Threat. He later changed the name to Double Trouble in 1978. Unfortunately, at the age of 35 (in 1990), Vaughn died in a helicopter crash.

7. Robert Johnson

If you’re talking about classic musicians then you can’t get any more classic than Robert Johnson; a blues singer and guitar player from the 1930s. Some say that he’s the “grandfather of rock and roll” ad that he influenced many artists and groups such as Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton.

As interesting as his playing style was that of rumors, legends and controversy surrounding his life, death, and burial. Legend says that he sold his soul to the devil to play the guitar as well as he did. As far as his death at the age of 27, nothing has really been confirmed on exactly what happened, but heavy rumors insist that he was poisoned by a jealous husband.

6. Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Duane Allman was the co-founder of The Allman Brothers. Though he only lived to be 24 years old, he was well known for his amazing slide guitar. He started playing publicly at the age of 14 (in 1961), but just in the local area. In 1965 he branched out with his band the Allman Joys to playing throughout the southeast. Later he moved out to Los Angeles and eventually started another band called the Allman Brothers. His life was tragically cut short from a motorcycle accident.

5. B.B. King

Entertaining us for over 60 years is none other than the legendary B.B. King. He started playing his blues guitar way back in 1947 and still plays today. He gained profound popularity in the 1950s and was the top name in R&B at the time. He continued his popularity through the 1960s and still created so great hits in the 1970s. Though he slowed down on recording new material in the 1980s, he and Lucille (his guitar) still performed hundreds of times per year.

4. Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen

Most famous in the late 1970s and through the 1980s, Eddie Van Halen is best known for his fast finger work on the guitar. He’s co-founder of the hard rock group Van Halen. The band actually started up in 1972, but under the name Mammoth. Eddie was the guitarist and lead singer, his brother Alex was on the drums and Mark Stone played bass. Shortly after they started, Eddie got frustrated with being the lead singer and guitarist so they hired David Lee Roth as their guitarist. Shortly after that Mark Stone left and was replaced by Michael Anthony. Later, they changed their name to Van Halen because there was another band by the name Mammoth. Later on after Roth left the band (in 1985), Eddie started playing keyboard, but the band was most popular during his extraordinary guitar playing years.

3. Eric Clapton

Clapton is the only artist to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three different times. He was inducted as a member of the Yardbirds, as a member of Cream, and as a solo artist. Clapton is also one very versatile guitarists that can change with the times and thus remain contemporary and popular in music.

From 1963 to 1965 he was with the group call The Yardbirds. In 1965, he went to the Bluesbreakers for just a short period of time and in 1966 he formed his own band – Cream. In the 1970s, Clapton formed another band call Eric Clapton and Friends. When attempting to change the name to Eric and the Dynamos, the name was misread somehow and they became Derek and the Dynamos. How embarrassing! Since then, Clapton continues to be an outstanding performer as a soloist.

2. Jimmy Page of Led Zepplin

As co-founder of Led Zepplin, Jimmy Page is undoubtedly one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Shortly after Eric Clapton (#3 on this list) left the Yardbirds, Pimmy Page became a member and played with them from 1966 to 1968 when he, along with John Bonham, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones formed Led Zepplin, one of the first heavy metal bands ever.

The band broke up after John Bonham’s death in 1980 and at first it looked as if Page wouldn’t play anymore out of sadness for his friend. However, the following year, Page picked up his guitar and is still actively playing music.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Not many people disagree with this top choice. It’s sad that someone with such given talent died so early. Most of you reading this article aren’t old enough to see Jimi Hendrix live and neither am I, but what an honor that must’ve been. It’s an amazing experience just listening to the unbelievable sounds that come out of his guitar. Though he was only performing from 1966 until his death in 1970, he rocked the world.

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