Rock lists are fun but they inevitably tick off some music fans. Rolling Stone’s recently published the 100 greatest guitarists of all-time. There are always a number of notable exclusions. Where are Al DiMeola and Steve Howe? Well, prog-rockers get no respect.
It’s difficult to argue with perennial top dog, Jimi Hendrix, who re-defined the guitar and laid down the template for axe-wielders. The late iconic guitar hero was toasted over the weekend courtesy of XM satellite radio. The show was kicked off with his mind-bending version of ‘The National Anthem.’ The turbulence of the time was conveyed perfectly in a manner in which Francis Scott Key, who wrote the number, could have never imagined. The brilliance of his recordings is still hard to comprehend. The word was that no one was on his level as a live performer, Pete Townshend waxed about his brilliance. Hendrix was one of a kind.
The rest of the top ten is comprised of the usual players. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Eddie Van Halen, Duane Allman and the aforementioned Townshend.
Clapton, Page, Richards, Beck and Townshend each came out of the British invasion during the ‘60s. Each has his own inimitable style. King is the king of the blues. He’s still remarkable at 85. Berry wrote the book during the ‘50s.
Any time a player changes the lexicon of his instrument, that’s remarkable. That’s exactly what Van Halen did during the late ‘70s. His band burst onto the scene thinks to his inventive and adventurous style of play.
After catching Van Halen at the Spectrum in 1981, I was inspired to form a band. His play and enthusiasm was that infectious.
During the inaugural 2003 RS poll, Allman was listed at number two and for good reason. Despite passing away courtesy of a motorcycle accident at just 24, Allman was an incredible slide player and may have been the greatest ever at improv.
“When we retire, I’m going to sit down and write a book about Duane Allman,” Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks said before playing a two-night stand at the Tower Theater last weekend. “He was the greatest guitarist. I can’t imagine what he would have done if he lived longer. He was not just an incredible guitarist, he was a wonderful person. If it weren’t for Duane Allman, I would have become a math professor. He inspired me to become the drummer of the band. I don’t regret a moment of it. He was one of a kind.”
Each of the top ten guitarists on the RS list are one of a kind. That’s what makes them so special.