Jump to content

Gibson.com's top 50 Acoustic Guitarists of All Time


Recommended Posts

I have posted this in the 'Other Bands/Music' forum because so many non-Zep artists are featured in the list. It will be interesting to see how far up the list Jimmy features when Gibson publish the remaining musicians this week.

Gibson.com's Top 50 Acoustic Guitarists of All Time


Electric guitarists get all the glory - stacks of amplifiers, arenas full of fans, that big, big sound sending shockwaves through adoring crowds. Meanwhile, the acoustic players of the world are the sensitive souls, playing delicately and carefully in their unamplified corners of music history. The best acoustic guitarists have quietly made innovative sounds and amazing tunes that have altered how people think about the guitar.

Well, Gibson.com thought it was high time that the most legendary of acoustic players finally got their due. In tribute to these masters of the guitar, Gibson.com is counting down the Top 50 Acoustic Guitarists of All Time - as voted on by Gibson's editorial team, writing staff and, most importantly, you, the readers. Today, we reveal #50-#41 on the list. Check back each day this week, as we unveil 10 more acoustic guitarists, with the Top 10 arriving on Friday morning.

50. Mississippi Fred McDowell

An acoustic blues genius, McDowell is perhaps the foremost example of the North Mississippi sound (although he's often associated with the Delta players). Whether picking or sliding (he first used a pocket knife and a beef rib bone), the bluesman crafted droning, hypnotic wonders that would influence the likes of R.L. Burnside and The Rolling Stones (who covered "You Gotta Move"). Although he declared on the title of his 1969 album, I Do Not Play No Rock 'N' Roll, he was friendly with the rockers he inspired, and even taught Bonnie Raitt his slide technique. – Bryan Wawzenek

49. David Lindley

It would seem to be an immutable law of nature that if an object in our universe has strings on it, David Lindley can make some amazing music with it – either on his own or in somebody else's band. While often recognized for his distinctive slide work, a true measure of Lindley's musical genius is in the way his expressive, flawlessly understated acoustic playing has elevated the music of such varied folks as Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Rod Stewart, Dolly Parton and Bob Dylan. – Chuck Crisafulli

48. Arlen Roth

Roth may just be the whole world's guitar teacher. In between working as a solo artist and with such legends as John Prine, Art Garfunkel and Phoebe Snow, he founded Hot Licks where his video lessons taught millions how to play. Meanwhile, his Complete Acoustic Guitar book remains an invaluable resource. Roth was also instrumental in performing and directing most of the guitar scenes in the blues-inspired film Crossroads. Check out Drive It Home, his 1998 all-acoustic album. Plus, Roth continues to share his expertise on Gibson.com. – Peter Hodgson

47. John Hammond

It's hardly surprising that John Hammond has been called "the white Robert Johnson." For four-plus decades, Hammond has, like many itinerant country-blues artists before him, played acoustic guitar with a fast-fingered finesse that leaves audiences marveling at his technique. Like Johnson, Hammond sometimes gives the impression he's playing two guitars simultaneously – one holding down the bass line, and the other delivering fiery rhythm work and solos. No artist has devoted himself more fully to keeping country-blues alive in its purest form. – Russell Hall

46. Duane Allman

Although primarily known as an electric slide master, Duane Allman began by learning the acoustic blues on his brother Gregg's acoustic guitar, and he never forgot his roots. Check out the instrumental "Little Martha" from the Allman Brothers Band's Eat a Peach, a beautiful duet with Dickey Betts, for an example of Allman's acoustic prowess. His resonator-driven rendition of "Come on in My Kitchen" with Delaney and Bonnie is also well worth seeking out. – Peter Hodgson

45. Brownie McGhee

Brownie McGhee was always one of the most influential country blues players of the "true" blues era, and along with his long-time partner Sonny Terry, created some of the most iconic tunes and guitar parts ever. He always displayed great sophistication, playfulness and humor with his playing, and was unquestionably an important innovator in acoustic blues guitar. His wonderful playing, smiling face and incredible voice left an indelible mark for all of us to love forever! – Arlen Roth

44. Rik Emmett

To the casual fan, Triumph was known for their hard-driving rock and visually stunning concerts, complete with lasers, explosions and about a gazillion lights. But for Rik Emmett, the driving force behind Triumph, the music always reigned supreme, and despite their reputation as a hard rockin' band, a jaw-dropping classical acoustic piece from Emmett was always right around the corner. When he eventually, thankfully, left the constraints of Triumph, Emmett was finally able to really stretch his acoustic/classical guitar legs, and it's been nothing but an absolute joy to behold. – Sean Patrick Dooley

43. Bryan Sutton

Bryan Sutton first gained notice as a member of Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder country/bluegrass band and quickly earned his reputation as a flatpicking virtuoso in his mid-20s. He's since gone solo, releasing his own records and becoming a top-flight session guitarist in Nashville. He's collaborated with an amazing array of bluegrass (and other) musicians from Dolly Parton and Doc Watson to the Dixie Chicks and Béla Fleck. Sutton has been named the guitar player of the year five times by the International Bluegrass Music Association. – Bryan Wawzenek

42. Martin Carthy

Martin Carthy's intricate but percussive fingerpicking style, use of unusual tunings and fascinating interpretations of traditional material made him a folk legend in London in the early '60s. Paul Simon was heavily inspired by Carthy's arrangement of "Scarborough Fair" and musicians acknowledge Cathy as a master. Now a master craftsman, he continues to ply his trade with consummate ease, picking perfection and not a little inspiration. – Andrew Vaughan

41. Eric Clapton

Old Slowhand earned his bones playing electric blues-rock in the '60s, but a whole generation of fans mostly knows Eric Clapton as an acoustic player. That's due to his 1992 Unplugged album (which earned him an armload of Grammys) and the subsequent blues release From the Cradle. The man formerly known as God proved his divine talents translated brilliantly when stripped down – his tasteful solos and clever licks shining through on Robert Johnson covers or a reworked version of "Layla." – Bryan Wawzenek

40. Albert Lee

When Albert Lee is reeling off impossibly speedy country licks on an electric guitar, it's quite obvious the guy deserves to be considered among the most heroic of guitar heroes. But when Lee turns his talents to an acoustic, it becomes strikingly clear that, beyond heroics, he is quite simply a virtuoso of the instrument. There aren't many who can play faster, but the brilliance of Lee's acoustic playing is in its tastefulness and melodicism – every Lee solo seems to tell a beautiful story. When Emmylou Harris, the Everly Brothers, Dolly Parton and Eric Clapton have needed some killer acoustic support, they've called in Albert. – Chuck Crisafulli

39. Tony Rice

In terms of stylistic innovation and influence, Tony Rice is to bluegrass music what Jimi Hendrix was to rock and roll. In addition to furthering the idea of the flatpicked acoustic as a lead instrument in bluegrass, the 59-year-old Rice almost single-handedly introduced an improvisational jazz-guitar component into the music. Manzanita, The Tony Rice Unit's 1979 debut album, remains a prime touchstone for bluegrass flatpickers to this day. – Russell Hall

38. Al Di Meola

Di Meola combines the technique and precision of a progressive rock or shred guitarist, with the passion and rhythm of a flamenco musician. An already intimidating presence on electric guitar, when he switches to acoustic he leaves no one standing. He reached particularly lofty heights with Paco Di Lucia and John McLaughlin on the live Guitar Trio album Friday Night in San Francisco. His work features many world music influences filtered through jazz and Latin styles, and his technique ranges from elegant and restrained to the almost impossible. – Peter Hodgson

37. Scotty Anderson

Scotty just might be the finest technical guitar player in the world. He can do things with his picking hand that are not done by anyone else! I first discovered Scotty in the mid-'80, and quickly documented this magnificent musician for a Hot Licks video, and the sheer breadth of his abilities began to unfold. He seems to never run out of creative ideas, and does it so effortlessly it just leaves you speechless. His work on acoustic and electric guitar is equally impressive, showing no signs of "slowing up" on an acoustic. If you haven't yet, you must be sure to check out the "King of the double- and triple-stop." – Arlen Roth

36. Steve Howe

With the possible exception of Jimmy Page, it's likely no rock guitarist inspired more young players to try their hands at classical-style guitar in the early '70s than Steve Howe did. "Clap," the sprite acoustic instrumental Howe penned for the 1971 disc, The Yes Album, split the difference between ragtime and country blues, and was unlike anything a "rock" guitarist had previously recorded. "Mood for a Day," the flamenco-tinged instrumental Howe wrote and played on Yes's Fragile album, is today considered a classic, and rightly so. – Russell Hall

35. James Taylor

It was readily apparent from just the intro to James Taylor's song, "Something's Wrong," on his self-titled debut album, that Taylor was a wonderful acoustic guitar player. The song's intro is a bluesy-classical take on the holiday hymn "What Child is This" – Taylor's finger-picking reveals an educated musician so comfortable with his craft that he makes the difficult sound breezy and subtle. Because of Taylor's warm and inviting vocals, it's sometimes easy to overlook his prowess as an acoustic player. – Sean Patrick Dooley

34. Jerry Reed

One doesn't acquire the nickname "Guitar Man" without having some serious chops on the fretboard. A big fan of both Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed was a dazzling guitarist with a unique fingerstyle of playing. Amazingly, Reed fancied himself more of a songwriter than a picker, and it was Atkins who actually convinced Reed to include instrumental numbers on his albums. Chet was not too proud to say that Reed was a better fingerstyle player than himself, and that, alone, speaks volumes. – Sean Patrick Dooley

33. Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell has been called the Miles Davis of acoustic guitar in the sense that, in his hands, the instrument can take on many guises. Though long considered one of jazz guitar's preeminent stylists, Frisell defies categorization, as his work ranges from Americana to progressive folk to country music and beyond. Artists as diverse as Marianne Faithfull, Elvis Costello and Ginger Baker have enlisted him for their own albums, while Frisell's solo discs contain some of the most eclectically brilliant acoustic work of our times. – Russell Hall

32. Clarence White

Clarence, who was a great influence on yours truly on electric guitar with his innovative Parsons/White B-bender invention, helping to define my string-bending, was actually just as important as an acoustic picker. His work with the Kentucky Colonels, and with his brother Roland White, exhibits some of the most sensitive and delicately phrased bluegrass picking ever recorded. His influence it still felt in many of today's finest acoustic pickers. There's no question that Clarence White, along with Doc Watson, certainly led the way for the acoustic guitar to finally "step out" in Bluegrass music! – Arlen Roth

31. Neil Young

It seems like there have always been two sides to Neil Young – sonically speaking. There are the brash, squealing electric workouts and there are the intricate, emotive acoustic tunes. With an acoustic guitar in hand, Young's delivered some of his most beautiful and soulful recordings, from the legendary folk-rock of Harvest to the country-infused Prairie Wind. Young might forgo the frenzied distortion when he unplugs, but he never comes up short on passion. – Bryan Wawzenek

Votes for the Top 50 Acoustic Guitarists of All Time were included from Michael Wright, Bryan Wawzenek, Andrew Vaughan, Sean Dooley, Arlen Roth, Russell Hall, Ted Drozdowski, Paolo Bassotti, Dave Hunter, Peter Hodgson, Chuck Crisafulli and the Gibson.com Readers Poll.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Saw David when he toured with Ry Cooder and both blew me away.

Great stuff.

I've seen him with Wally Ingram twice, once opening for (and playing with) Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Hornsby and Shawn Colvin; the other time they were headlining their own show (with Kaki King opening) at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro. The last time I saw him was at the Austin City Limits Music Festival when he sat in with the Blind Boys from Alabama. I had an opportunity to see him early on with his band El Rayo-X when I won tickets to see them at the Rialto Theatre in Raleigh but I couldn't find anyone to go with me. These days that would not stop me.

I'd love to get my hands on this live album he cut with Ry Cooder years ago but Lindley's asking $40 for it through his website which is far too rich for my blood.


Disc 1

Promised Land

Jesus on the Mainline

Mercury Blues


Si Bheag Si Mhor

Paris Texas / Vigilante Man

Girls from Texas

All Shook Up

How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times...

Leave Home Blues

Disc 2


Me & My Chauffeur

Ain't No Way Baby

Breaking Up Your Happy Home

Little Sister

Hold That Snake

Play It All Night Long

Medley : If Walls Could Talk / Tell By Your Smell / 5-10-15

Talk To The Lawyer

Good Night Irene

The very thing that makes you rich

Do You Want My Job?

Oh, and if you haven't heard it, the new Jackson Browne and David Lindley live album (Love Is Strange) is most excellent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well seeing as they started the list with an old delta blues guy my hope is they list another eventually, Mississippi John Hurt.

I never realized Neil Young was a better acoustic player than Al DiMeola.......really? Really?????????

I so love lists............. :slapface:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another way to look at it is a higher ranking due to being able to use his instrument to express his amazing musical ideas via acoustic guitar. For example, personally I don't think Jimmy Page is an highly technical player but because he was able to use the guitar to express the music in his head, and it was great, I feel he's a "better" guitarist than someone far more technical, like Satriani. That said as one dimensional as he was Clarence White was an amazing player that should be in the top 5.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What I am loving about Gibson's list is that it is getting our members involved in a discussion, and I am discovering some guitarists I wasn't aware of.

30. John McLaughlin

As part of the Guitar Trio with Paco de Lucia and Larry Coryell (who was replaced by Al Di Meola), McLaughlin performed dazzling feats of speed and precision, laced with firey passion carried over from his innovative jazz fusion work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. In Shakti in the ’70s, he played a unique Gibson acoustic with two tiers of strings and a scalloped fretboard. McLaughlin’s music is constantly evolving, with recent works including the guitar/synth-driven Floating Point, and Five Peace Band with Chick Corea, Vinnie Colaiuta, Kenny Garrett and Christian McBride. – Peter Hodgson

29. Jorma Kaukonen

Even as Jorma was first making the psychedelic San Francisco scene as a member of Jefferson Airplane, his fingerstyle approach to the electric hinted at his musical secret: the guy’s a stone-cold Piedmont blues-style, fingerpicking wizard with an abiding passion for gospel tunes, old-time music and pure, country blues. Through the years, Jorma’s masterful takes on “Hesitation Blues” and the songs of Reverend Gary Davis have inspired countless players to dig deeper into their roots music. On last year’s solo album, River of Time, he proved that his fingerwork is as deft and daunting as ever. – Chuck Crisafulli

28. Nick Drake

Drake’s orchestral approach to acoustic guitar involved a wide variety of unorthodox open tunings and various capo placements, but the key to unlocking his innovative works is to listen to his picking patterns. He was a master of striking each string at a different volume, sometimes as part of a cascading arpeggio and sometimes within a single strike. Listen to Fruit Tree for a beautiful example of the expressiveness and complexity he could coax from his guitar. – Peter Hodgson

27. Paco de Lucia

No guitarist has done more to popularize modern flamenco guitar than Paco de Lucia has. A child prodigy, the gifted Spaniard mastered traditional flamenco techniques by his mid-teens, and went on to incorporate elements of jazz, salsa and bossa nova into flamenco’s deep roots. His work with jazz greats John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Larry Coryell at the turn of the ’80s – especially on the legendary album, Friday Night in San Francisco – remains essential for any student of acoustic guitar. – Russell Hall

26. Son House

Eddie “Son” House changed my life the first time I heard him play. I had never heard Mississippi Delta blues played with such stark intensity and poetic grace at the same time. His intense slide playing, rhythmic power and searing vocals display what the blues is really all about, and he represents the very beginning of that unique legacy left by artists such as Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Skip James and many more, who followed in his revolutionary blues footsteps. His “Death Letter Blues” alone is enough to convince you of his sheer power! – Arlen Roth

25. Buddy Miller

A soulful artist and versatile musician, Buddy Miller has worked with everyone from country great Emmylou Harris and R&B legend Solomon Burke to alt-country hero Lucinda Williams and rock god Robert Plant (not to mention his brilliant solo records and work with his wife Julie). Counting earthy production and clever songwriting among his many talents, Buddy might be at his best when he’s coaxing soothing tones from an acoustic guitar. Every single detail is there for the benefit of the song – never to show off. In doing so, he proves that he’s one of the best. – Bryan Wawzenek

24. Stephen Stills

Perhaps because Stills has created some of his finest work in collaboration with other gigantic talents, it’s sometimes too easy to forget what a phenomenally talented guitar player he is. The beauty and grace of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” alone is enough to rank him with the finest, but there’s also been tremendous range in his acoustic work, which can touch on country, blues, folk, Latin, and rock and roll influences while always sounding like no one but Stills. – Chuck Crisafulli

23. Martin Simpson

Martin Simpson sailed through the ’70s as the most prodigiously talented folk guitarist in Britain. He turned professional at just 15 and went on to work with everyone form Richard Thompson to Martin Carthy and the Albion Band. His jazz-influenced work with June Tabor is legendary. Equally at home with country blues, American styles as well as traditional English folk numbers, and he remains one of the most exquisitely tasteful masters of the non-electric axe in the business. – Andrew Vaughan

22. Phil Keaggy

Phil Keaggy is capable of both incredible speed and beautiful grace on either acoustic or electric guitar. Blending classical and Celtic influences, he is able to create an almost harpsichord-like sound with his bare hands while simultaneously coloring his chords and melodies with slides and harmonics, all while appearing almost completely effortless. Keaggy makes it look easy, whether he’s picking out a simple chord melody or unleashing two-handed tapping flourishes and ringing harp-like open string licks. – Peter Hodgson

21. Bob Dylan

Had anyone better epitomized the image of the troubadour musician, voice and guitar at hand to lament, protest or woo at will? Back before Dylan strapped on an electric he was the archetypal new breed of acoustic musician – attacking the instrument with a rock and roll fire – less concerned with technique than sound. In those days he played a vintage Gibson Nick Lucas acoustic, his instrument of choice on those legendary folk masterpieces on Another Side of Bob Dylan and Bringing it All Back Home. – Andrew Vaughan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jimmy is only no. 17 in the list. I would have put him in the top ten, but then again, I am ever so biased. At least, two female acoustic players have made it on to the list today.

20. Ry Cooder

It was quite an experience working with Ry on the film Crossroads, but I was a deep fan of his long before that. He is a multi-faceted musician, who has introduced our culture to many sides of world music we may have otherwise not been witness to. He is a master fingerpicker, slide guitarist and innovator who always stays true to his roots, no matter where they may be coming from. Moving smoothly from rural blues, jazz, country, Tex-Mex, Cuban and Hawaiian music, his mastery of many styles and techniques has made him a true guitar legend and icon! – Arlen Roth

19. John Martyn

British singer-songwriter Martyn was blessed with a propulsive sense of rhythm and the ability to sound at once laid-back and optimistic. His track “Solid Air” was written to give emotional support to his friend Nick Drake, who was going through a breakdown at the time, while “You May Never” was covered by Eric Clapton on Slowhand in 1977. Martyn was also a pioneer of looping, and a proponent of cheekily entertaining and occasionally bawdy stage banter. Sadly, Martyn passed away in January 2009 at age 60. – Peter Hodgson

18. Paul Simon

He gets a lot of praise for his genre experimentations and songcraft, but Paul Simon’s guitar playing often goes under-praised – perhaps because it is so perfectly suited to his songs that people think about the song as a whole and not the components. But Simon’s cascading, fingerstyle guitar (owing a debt to British picker Davey Graham) certainly is a key to his musical success, especially on those spare, early Simon & Garfunkel folk songs. – Bryan Wawzenek

17. Jimmy Page

Page’s acoustic playing is characterized by an adherence to traditional British folk styles more than the firey blues licks that dot his electric work. Led Zeppelin tracks “The Rain Song” (DGCGCD) and “That’s The Way” (C#F#C#F#A#C#) are virtual textbooks on how to creatively use alternate tunings, as is “Wonderful One” from Page and Plant’s No Quarter (also in C#F#C#F#A#C#). Page explored wide stretches in standard tuning on “Take Me for a Little While” on the self-titled Coverdale and Page album of 1993. – Peter Hodgson

16. Merle Travis

The list of Hall of Fame-caliber guitarists who point straight to Merle Travis as a major influence on their playing styles is quite long and includes such legendary pickers as Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore and Earl Hooker, just to name a few. With a style that fused elements of jazz, ragtime, swing, blues and boogie, Travis was a master at harmonics, chord progressions, key changes, slides and bends. His ability to deftly switch back and forth between fingerpicking and flatpicking was unmatched. Easily one of the most influential and emulated guitarists. – Sean Patrick Dooley

15. Pete Townshend

Obviously Mr. Townshend has done pretty well for himself wielding an electric guitar, but among the arsenal of The Who’s secret weapons, Pete’s distinctively muscular acoustic work has the power to both seduce and kick ass. Just think of the wrist-rattling strum to “Pinball Wizard.” The Who-Diddley beat of “Magic Bus.” The aching intro to “Behind Blue Eyes.” And the beautiful acoustic chords at the heart of much of The Who By Numbers. The smashed electrics get all the attention, but Pete’s inventive approach to the acoustic earns him high honors. “I’ve got a Gibson without a case” indeed. – Chuck Crisafulli

14. Kaki King

At the ripe age of 31, Kaki King has already been hailed as a fingerstyle virtuoso on par with such giants as Michael Hedges, Alex De Grassi and Leo Kottke. Employing a percussive technique partially rooted in her background as a drummer, King elicits sounds from her guitar in ways that bring to mind a master painter working with an array of colors. Recent albums have seen her crafting beautifully melodic soundscapes using her strikingly original acoustic gifts. – Russell Hall

13. Joni Mitchell

One of the best of the Laurel Canyon, Troubadour singer-songwriter scene of the early ’70s, Mitchell is not only a gifted writer but also an accomplished acoustic guitarist who overcame a physical defect to develop a style all of her own. Childhood polio left her with a weakened left hand and she was unable to play regular chord shapes. Musically gifted, she dealt with that setback by working in alternative tunings that gave her the sound she was looking for. – Andrew Vaughan

12. Doc Watson

A major force on the mountain music scene in the ’50s, Doc Watson eventually shifted away from electric guitar to playing almost exclusively acoustic in 1960 just as the American folk music revival was really taking off. Watson’s major breakthrough happened thanks to his captivating and critically acclaimed performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. A master flatpicker with speed to burn on the fretboard, Watson helped pioneer the lightning quick lead runs so prevalent in modern bluegrass guitar. – Sean Patrick Dooley

11. Leo Kottke

Leo Kottke, the king of the 12-string, burst on the pop scene in ’69 with the trailblazing album 6- and 12-String Guitar. Whether working in jazz, pop or blues he became an in-demand picker for a slew of artists like Los Lobos, Emmylou Harris and Rickie Lee Jones. Kottke is a natural virtuoso and his ability to use that famous syncopated picking style to such beautiful effect in any style makes him one of his generation’s most important players. – Andrew Vaughan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another way to look at it is a higher ranking due to being able to use his instrument to express his amazing musical ideas via acoustic guitar. For example, personally I don't think Jimmy Page is an highly technical player but because he was able to use the guitar to express the music in his head, and it was great, I feel he's a "better" guitarist than someone far more technical, like Satriani. That said as one dimensional as he was Clarence White was an amazing player that should be in the top 5.

Yes that's very true. Speaking of Page I see where he ended up on this list. By your definition, which I do agree with, Page ought to be a LOT higher than where he ended up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No surprise about Django being at number 1. I was glad to see one of Jimmy's influences, Bert Jansch, in the top ten.

10. Richard Thompson

Folk-rock legend Richard Thompson has such a wide musical vocabulary, his fingers might be the only ones capable of being able to work their way through 1000 Years of Popular Music. Most often relying on a hybrid picking technique – in which he plays bass and rhythm with a pick and plucks out melodies with his fingers – Thompson conjures what sounds like a full orchestra from a solitary acoustic guitar. Starting out in English folk group Fairport Convention, then forming a duo with his then-wife Linda Thompson, and going solo in the early ’80s, Richard has worked through a remarkable depth of styles – from middle age musical relics and traditional folk tunes to bluesy workouts and Britney Spears covers. His acoustic masterpiece, however, might be the haunting fingerstyle ballad “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” a tingling epic that so perfectly exhibits Thompson’s many talents when showcased in one of his outstanding live performances. – Bryan Wawzenek

9. Andrés Segovia

Long considered a foundational pillar of 20th century classical guitar, Andrés Segovia was universally celebrated for his modern-romantic repertoire, his immense catalog of classical transcriptions for the guitar, and his extremely emotive and expressive performances. Segovia was unmatched in his ability to coax an endless phalanx of tones from his guitar, and his mastery of intricate chord phrasings was unparalleled. Born Andrés Torres Segovia on February 21, 1893 in Andalucia, Spain, Segovia studied with various flamenco players in his youth, as well as at the Paris Conservatory in 1915. His musical preference and style, however, would evolve away from flamenco and more toward expressive art-music. Segovia’s fingerstyle incorporated a combination of fingernails and fingertips, which produced a sharper sound; this technique is preferred by a majority of modern classical players. Segovia was also an early devotee of nylon strings over gut strings because of nylon’s superiority in maintaining stable intonation. – Sean Patrick Dooley

8. Bert Jansch

Scottish folk guitarist and singer songwriter Bert Jansch achieved international prominence with folk group Pentangle in the late ’60s and quickly became revered by critics and musicians. None other than Jimmy Page said of Jansch’s solo debut album: “I was absolutely obsessed with Bert Jansch. When I first heard that LP I couldn’t believe it. It was so far ahead of what everyone else was doing.” His distinctive clawhammer technique, liberal use of unusual chords and love for bending strings slightly sharp and flat give his style a sound all of its own. But he remains a massive influence; just ask Johnny Marr: “He completely re-invented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequalled today... without Bert Jansch, rock music as it developed in the ’60s and ’70s would have been very different.” Neil Young recently brought Jansch out on tour and but for health issues Jansch would be a worldwide household name. Miss out on Jansch at your peril. – Andrew Vaughan

7. John Fahey

There wouldn’t seem to be any straight musical line connecting Mississippi Fred McDowell, Appalachian murder ballads, Bela Bartok and Balinese gamelan music, but in his brilliantly iconoclastic career, steel string great John Fahey found those kind of connections and made them sound stunningly natural. With masterful fingerpicking technique, a bold, swooping approach to slide work, some uncanny string-bending ability, and his own inimitable way of having a solo line jump forward, Fahey was a consummate player and a unique stylist. Fahey is sometimes heralded as a guitar “primitivist” because when he began recording in the ’50s and early ’60s, he focused his talents on reviving and celebrating the folk, blues and old-time sounds of traditional American music. But he was never merely a revivalist or a traditionalist, and while “primitive” might aptly describe his proudly un-hip artistic sensibility, it doesn’t begin to describe the fearsome dexterity he brought to the instrument. – Chuck Crisafulli

6. Adrian Legg

Steve Vai calls him “Uncle Adrian” and Joe Satriani just says, “He’s simply the best acoustic guitar player I’ve ever heard.” Londoner Adrian Legg has more technique in one finger than most of his peers have in all 10 and spent a large part of his career writing about acoustic playing for various guitar publications. His website is a wealth of information for anyone seeking expert advice and tips. Legg plays alternating bass fingerstyle and uses every technique under the sun from multiple hammer-ons to exquisite use of harmonics, banjo-peg retuning and single or double-string bending. But that’s just part of the picture; he’s also a terrific and off- the-wall entertainer, a witty raconteur and compelling performer and writer. – Andrew Vaughan

5. Tommy Emmanuel

Emmanuel is one of those rare guitarists who possesses so many incredible qualities, he’s almost impossible to define. All you can do is stand in awe of his massive talent. He seemingly can move from one extreme to another, stylistically as well as technically, with amazing ease. His talents seem best displayed with his solo acoustic work, where his thumbpick and three-finger approach is simply without peer, but he is also a fantastic electric player, and a wonderful entertainer as well! What I love also is how Tommy can be pure “flash” and excitement, but he can also turn on a dime, and play with warm and sensitive emotion. He can handle some of the most complex guitar arrangements with pure ease and passion, and few can ever duplicate what he can do in terms of playing several parts at once on the guitar. Truly a master guitar player of epic proportions! – Arlen Roth

4. Robert Johnson

One of the all-time guitar greats, the bluesman to top all bluesmen might be the most influential guitarist in music history. Seemingly all players praise this king of the six-string, whose amazingly complex technique and soulful delivery continue to amaze more than 70 years after his death. When Rolling Stones axeman Keith Richards was first introduced to the long-gone musician’s recordings, he reportedly asked, “Who is the other guy playing with him?” Of course, it was just Johnson on the recording. “I was hearing two guitars, and it took a long time to actually realize he was doing it all by himself,” Richards said. But Johnson was just as admired by his contemporaries, who marveled at not just his skill, but his versatility to play country, jazz and slide guitar. Johnson was so good, a rumor developed that he sold his soul to Satan in exchange for his musical prowess. How many guitarists can claim a legend like that? – Bryan Wawzenek

3. Michael Hedges

It’s one thing to be a remarkably accomplished instrumentalist – it’s another thing to almost completely reinvent the way in which your instrument is played. The classically trained Hedges was pioneering in his approach to the acoustic guitar, using hammer-ons, pull-offs, harmonic slaps, alternate tunings and more to create a whole new vocabulary of sound for the instrument. In fact, there are still plenty of Hedges admirers valiantly trying to figure out how in the world he could pull bass lines, lead lines, moving chords and percussion parts all at once out of a single guitar. Hedges would loom as a guitar giant on technique alone, but the music he created was also extremely beautiful and deceptively playful (he wasn’t above slipping the lick from “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” into an otherwise delicate melody). Hedges died in a car accident in 1997 at age 43. He remains a deeply missed talent whose exceptional music stands as an artistic challenge and a soulful inspiration to anyone who picks up a guitar. – Chuck Crisafulli

2. Chet Atkins

Inspired by Merle Travis, Chet Atkins took fingerstyle guitar to new heights. As a live and session player in Nashville, he had no equal. Atkins would pick a bass line with his thumb on the lower strings and fingerpick melodies and harmonies with his other four fingers. The intricate way he did this, seemingly so effortless, influenced thousands – from Scotty Moore, Eric Johnson and Lonnie Mack to Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Albert Lee – but none could ever duplicate Atkins’ dexterity or musicality. He also understood the changing music industry and moved into production early on, working on Elvis, among others for RCA. His adoption of strings in country music refined the Nashville sound and country music’s ’60s crossover success. But it was as a picker that Atkins really defined himself and felt happiest. Knopfler called him the best guitarist in the world. – Andrew Vaughan

1. Django Reinhardt

Belgium-born Jean “Django” Reinhardt was one of the earliest prominent jazz musicians in Europe, and he will forever reside on the very top-tier of the pantheon of great jazz axemen. Born to a musical family on January 23, 1910 in Liberchies, Pont-a-Celles, Belgium, Reinhardt’s youth was spent in various Gypsy encampments near Paris. He started playing violin, guitar and banjo at an early age – the earliest recordings of Reinhardt are from 1918, and he’s playing banjo – and by his teens he was supporting himself entirely through his music. Reinhardt’s lifelong wizardry on the acoustic guitar was all the more amazing considering the horrific burns he received over much of his body, including his left “fret” hand, when his home went up in flames. The third and fourth fingers of his left hand were partially paralyzed, yet after rehabilitation he was able to adjust his playing style to use his two good fingers predominately and his damaged fingers to make chords. A number of Reinhardt compositions remain jazz standards, including “Djangology,” “Swing 42,” “Minor Swing” and “Nuages.” – Sean Patrick Dooley

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shame for not mentioning Lenny Breau. I realize these things are compiled for entertaining reading but....

Yes, I don't see a mention either for Australian born, Grammy winning John Williams.

From Wikipedia:-

"... John Christopher Williams (born 24 April 1941) is a Grammy Award-winning Australian classical guitarist, widely regarded as one of the finest guitarists of his generation. He is a long-term resident of the United Kingdom."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I don't see a mention either for Australian born, Grammy winning John Williams.

From Wikipedia:-

"... John Christopher Williams (born 24 April 1941) is a Grammy Award-winning Australian classical guitarist, widely regarded as one of the finest guitarists of his generation. He is a long-term resident of the United Kingdom."

Yeah really! :0 Though I was being a tad facetious considering each and every one of the "best" lists I've ever seen is aimed at readers whose music collections are firmly rooted in the "best sellers" section. I mean I like players Bob Dylan's caliber well enough but I personally know 50 guitarists that could play circles around half the players mentioned on any best list. These things are about mentioning names that connect with people and personally I don't place much value on fame, either you have it or you don't and many that do aren't lucky enough to get a break and many that don't are safe enough for the easy to please people in the middle.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah really! :0 Though I was being a tad facetious considering each and every one of the "best" lists I've ever seen is aimed at readers whose music collections are firmly rooted in the "best sellers" section. I mean I like players Bob Dylan's caliber well enough but I personally know 50 guitarists that could play circles around half the players mentioned on any best list. These things are about mentioning names that connect with people and personally I don't place much value on fame, either you have it or you don't and many that do aren't lucky enough to get a break and many that don't are safe enough for the easy to please people in the middle.

Yes Danelectro, I agree with the above entirely. An awful lot in life is whether your face fits, or you are in the right place at the right time! I remember going to see The Firm in 1985, and Jimmy's performance was so mediocre, I thought at the time, there must be people in the audience who could put in a better performance (and it hurts me to say that, believe me).

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...