Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Guitarists

I know this list is a bit old, from back in 2011, but I ran across it while looking up something about the Yardbirds, and there is something on there that just drove me nuts (OK, nuttier). First off, let’s look at the Top 10

  1. Jimi Hendrix
  2. Eric Clapton
  3. Jimmy Page
  4. Keith Richards
  5. Jeff Beck
  6. B.B. King
  7. Chuck Berry
  8. Eddie Van Halen
  9. Duane Allman
  10. Pete Townshend

I suppose we could all quibble a bit. I would put either Beck, Clapton, or Page as #1. That’s not a knock at Hendrix, the other three have a much larger body of work. Keith Richards is awesome, but I’m not sure I’d put him in the top 10, he’s more a rhythm guitarist. Not sure about Allman, either. Certainly great, but not top 10 great.

Here’s where it gets nuts

#73 Curt Cobain

#98 Alex Lifeson (Rush)

The very fact that Cobain is on the list is idiotic. That Lifeson isn’t in the Top 30 is pure stupidity. Dude has been making awesome music with Rush since the early 70’s. This totally makes a mockery of any Top 100 list for guitarists.

There are also a bunch of others who shouldn’t be on the list. John Lennon? Great songwriter, but guitar? Nope. George Harrison at #11? No. If we have Pete Townshend at 10 because he is one of the greatest rhythm guitarists ever, where’s Malcolm Young of AC/DC? How about Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead? If you know guitar sheet music, you can understand how intense his chords are. While he sings.

Ritchie Blackmore at #50? Should be way, way higher. Massive influence on rock music. Tony Iomi should be higher than 25. Grandfather of the heavy sound.

Springsteen at #96? Shouldn’t be on the list. More of a singer/songwriter who plays a bit of rhythm.

Where the hell’s Dave Murray and Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden? Two of the most influential metal guitarists (who also happen to rock beyond belief) since the 1980’s.

Where’s Michael Schenker, of UFO and Scorpions fame? Or Mattias Jabs, who was the guitarists for the Scorpions during their biggest period of success (79-91)?

James Honeyman Scott, of the Pretenders? Awesome and unique rhythm guitar before his untimely death.

I’m sure everyone can quibble a bit, and note their favorites missing or too low. Obviously, I tend to lean towards a heavier, more metal sound. But, if we have John Lennon, where’s Arlo Guthrie, a much better player? Same with James Taylor. Really, though, it is that thing with Cobain/Lifeson.

More: Couple I forgot about. How about Neal Schon, mostly known for his Journey days (he’s done a lot more)? His riffs are way more than standard pop/rock. And Ted Nugent? How about Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon?

One thing I was impressed by was the inclusion of Robbie Robertson, best known for being with The Band. People sometimes forget just how good he was, and how influential The Band was, and still is.

A very late update, Nov. 28th: A couple more names occurred to me. How about Steve Howe, of Yes and Asia? Just listen to the riffs they guy creates, and the fact that he made a lot of fantastic music for decades. He won Guitar Player’s Best Guitarist 5 straight years from 77-81. People so often forget about him.

Curt Cobain.

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9 Responses to “Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Guitarists”

  1. gitarcarver says:


    No Roy Clark?

    No Phil Keaggy?


    Just wow.

  2. Larro says:

    Does Robert Johnson fit in?

    I collect live recordings of the great players, and I can feel the intensity and creativity that only a good ol cut em loose rock n roll live show can generate; raw mastery set free in all it’s glory. Right in your face whoop it out
    Page and Hendrix are well placed here… Wouldn’t it be sweet to have them jam in a set?


  3. No idea who they are, GC.

    What would have been awesome was Page, Beck, and Clapton jamming with the Yardbirds at the same time.

  4. gitarcarver says:


    I would really be surprised if you didn’t know Roy Clark. As the list included other non-rock players, I added him.

    You can see Clark here on an appearance on “The Odd Couple ” of all places.

    He was on “Hee Haw” with Buck Owens (who made the list) but Clark is the better guitarist.

    Keaggy is well known in the Christian music circles but not so much outside those circles. In the mid 1980’s, Guitar Magazine made a similar list to this one on the “World’s Greatest Guitarists.”

    The first was some guy in Russia. Second was Clark and third was Keaggy. I forget who was fourth, but Hendricks was 5th.

    In my opinion, Clark and Keaggy should have made the list from Rolling Stone as they are in the top 100, but that is just me. Keaggy and Clark are really good and more versitile in styles. (Keaggy is amazing to watch because he lost a finger in a lawn mower accident growing up.) I met Keaggy several times and worked with him. (running sound) He is a good guy and a great guitarist. I wish I had 1% of his talent.

  5. EriK says:

    No. 24 Buddy Guy is the man.

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  7. BikerDad says:

    Andres Segovia

  8. Segovia, now that’s a great catch. One of the best, if not the best, classical guitarists. Still have a CD of his.

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