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Monday, February 13, 2012

Bah Humbucker: The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time*

Posted by on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 8:45 AM

*As not recognized by Rolling Stone.

This is somewhat old news, but I just recently came across the Dec. 8, 2011 Rolling Stone in The Stranger’s editorial bathroom (the place where mainstream publications go to die inglorious deaths). This issue contains a list of what that venerable magazine thinks are the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. As a repository for conventional wisdom, the list is archetypal Jann Wennerite orthodoxy.

The top 10 might as well be carved into Mount Rushmore, so sure are the mag’s contributors to the list—dozens of guitarists, band managers, and RS writers, most of whom are older than you—that this is THEE TRUTH, a truth set in (Rolling) stone since, oh, 1979. Those 10? Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Eddie Van Halen, Duane Allman, Pete Townshend. Yes, yes, these guys all rule in some way, but this litany is about as surprising as finding out a strident homophobe is a closet case. Next thing Rolling Stone is going to tell us (again) is that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the greatest album of all time. Roll over, Ben Fong-Torres, and tell Greil Marcus the news.

The overall thrust of this top 100 is conservative, with blues and blues-based rock guitarists from the US and UK dominating things. (Tangential thought: Was Ted Nugent excluded because of his ultra-right-wing political views? I’m thinking yes.) Of course, most of these musicians are indisputably crucial, but the panel’s experts totally short-change prog, jazz, and fusion’s six-string stars. I appreciate appearances by Frank Zappa (#22), Robert Fripp (#62), and John McLaughlin (#68), but there are a plethora of guitarists in those realms who also deserve recognition.

While about 67 percent of the musicians included in this survey surely are important and worthy, some crucial innovators and distinctive masters were left out. Some of the omissions are downright shocking. Of course, all such lists are subjective, but an established musical source such as RS carries a lot of weight, flaws and all. I would like to take this opportunity to counter its received opinions with an alternate viewpoint.

In response to Rolling Stone’s canonization exercise, my sonic soul mate Explorateur and I brainstormed our own top 100 (and then some). The boldfaced names are those who we think really got shafted. Surely we forgot some key players, and surely you’ll tell us about your picks in comments, but this is our attempt to present a list that can stand headstock to headstock with ol’ Rolling Stone’s. (Note: The order’s kind of random after #30.] Deep breath…

01 Kevin Shields [My Bloody Valentine]
02 Sonny Sharrock
03 Helios Creed [Chrome]
04 Dennis Coffey
05 Pete Cosey [Miles Davis, Cadet Records session player]
06 Manuel Göttsching [Ash Ra Tempel]
07 Michael Rother [Neu!, Harmonia]
08 Phil Manzanera [Roxy Music, 801]
09 Jimmy Nolen [James Brown]
10 Andy Gill [Gang of Four]
11 Michael Karoli [Can]
12 Larry Coryell
13 Sigi Schwab [Et Cetera]
14 Terje Rypdal
15 Sir Richard Bishop [Sun City Girls, Rangda]
16 Phil Upchurch [Cadet Records session player]
17 Yamamoto Seiichi [Boredoms]
18 Campbell 2000 [aka Ryan Shinn, Hovercraft]
19 Brad Laner [Medicine]
20 Curt Kirkwood [Meat Puppets]

Pete Cosey with Miles Davis

21 Richard Pinhas [Heldon]
22 Omar Khourshid
23 Leo Kottke
24 Steve Howe [Yes]
25 Gabor Szabo
26 Harvey Mandel
27 Zoot Horn Rollo [aka Bill Harkleroad, Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band]
28 Bill Frisell
29 Fred Frith
30 Alain Markusfeld

31 Grasshopper [Mercury Rev, Harmony Rockets]
32 Pops Staples [Staples Singers]
33 Bert Jansch [Pentangle]
34 Daniel Fichelscher [Popol Vuh]
35 Sterling Morrison [Velvet Underground]
36 Gary Lucas [Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band]
37 Sérgio Dias [Os Mutantes]
38 Ike Turner
39 Achim Reichel
40 Freddie Stone [Sly & the Family Stone]
41 Syd Barrett [Pink Floyd]
42 Marc Bolan [T.Rex]
43 Will Sergeant [Echo and the Bunnymen]
44 Greg Ginn [Black Flag]
45 Robin Guthrie [Cocteau Twins]
46 Wes Montgomery
47 Bo Anders Persson [Pärson Sound, Träd Gräs Och Stenar, Harvester, International Harvester]
48 François Mativet [Lard Free]
49 Leo Nocentelli [The Meters]
50 Henry Kaiser
51 Adrian Belew [King Crimson, Talking Heads]
52 Ash Bowie [Polvo]
53 Jason Pierce [Spacemen 3, Spiritualized]
54 Pete Kember [aka Sonic Boom, Spacemen 3, Spectrum]
55 Pat Place [Contortions, Bush Tetras]
56 David Roback [Rain Parade, Opal, Mazzy Star]
57 Johnny Thunders [New York Dolls, The Heartbreakers]
58 Snakefinger [The Residents]
59 Tommy Bolin [Billy Cobham]
60 Kaki King
61 High Wolf
62 Robbie Basho
63 Kawabata Makoto [Acid Mothers Temple]
64 Dylan Carlson [Earth]
65 Keiji Haino [Fushitsusha]
66 Bola Sete
67 Ben Chasny [Six Organs of Admittance]
68 John Abercrombie
69 Marc Ribot
70 Gary Quackenbush [SRC]
71 Ernie Isley [Isley Brothers]
72 Doug Snyder
73 Keith Levene [PiL]
74 Roland S. Howard [Birthday Party, Crime and the City Solution, These Immortal Souls]
75 John McGeoch [Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine, PiL]
76 Trey Spruance [Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3]
77 Michael Flower [Vibracathedral Orchestra]
78 Matthew Bower [Skullflower, Total]
79 Neil Campbell [Vibracathedral Orchestra, Astral Social Club]
80 Doug Jerebine [aka Jesse Harper]
81 Bill Orcutt [Hairy Pussy]
82 Paul Leary [Butthole Surfers]
83 Jack Rose [Pelt]
84 John Martyn
85 Randy California [Spirit]
86 Randy Holden [The Other Half, Blue Cheer]
87 Stacy Sutherland [13th Floor Elevators]
88 Junior Kimbrough
89 Franco Falsini [Sensations’ Fix]
90 Mike Deasy [Wrecking Crew session player]
91 Mick Hutchinson [Clark-Hutchinson]
92 Dave Brock [Hawkwind]
93 Alan Holdsworth [New Tony Williams Lifetime, Soft Machine, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, Bill Bruford]
94 Carrie Brownstein
95 Erkin Koray
96 Wayne Kramer [MC5]
97 Bombino
98 Johnny “Guitar” Watson
99 Neil Michael Hagerty [Pussy Galore, Royal Trux, Howling Hex]
100 Pete Seeger

Anargyros "Silver" Koulouris [Aphrodite’s Child]
Chris Karrer [Amon Düül II]
Leigh Stephens [Blue Cheer]
Janne Schaffer
Tyondai Braxton [Battles]
Ian Williams [Don Caballero, Storm & Stress, Battles]
Davie Allan
Mark McGuire [Emeralds]
Charles Bullen [This Heat]
James Williamson [The Stooges]
William Reid [Jesus & Mary Chain]
Mick Jones [The Clash]
Peter Walker
Skip Spence [Moby Grape]
Roman Bunka [Embryo]
Ron Bryer [Brainticket]
Al Di Meola [Return to Forever]
John Dwyer [Thee Oh Sees]
Ken Camden
David Byrne [Talking Heads]
Grant Green
Pat Martino
D. Boon [Minutemen]
Kim Thayil [Soundgarden]
Nick Drake
Bob Mould [Hüsker Dü, Sugar]
Dick Taylor [Pretty Things]
Oren Ambarchi
Robert Quine [The Voidoids, Lou Reed]
Robert Hampson [Loop, Main]
Bilinda Butcher [My Bloody Valentine]
Anton Newcombe [Brian Jonestown Massacre]
Robert Poss [Band of Susans]
Steve Tibbetts
Andy Bell [Ride]
John Perry [The Only Ones]
Derek Bailey
King Sunny Ade
Ryo Kawasaki
R. Stevie Moore
Stephen Malkmus [Pavement]
Spencer Seim [Hella, sBACH]
Doug Martsch [Built to Spill]
Stephen O’Malley [Sunn O)))]
James Plotkin [Khanate, OLD, Phantomsmasher, etc.]
Wata [Boris]
Honey Owens [Jackie-O Motherfucker, Valet]
Bjorn Copeland [Black Dice]
J.J. Cale
Jim O’Rourke
Josh Homme [Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age]
Jeffery Taylor [Climax Golden Twins, Spider Trio]
Al Basim [Revival]
Jon Waddington [The Pop Group]
Edgar Breau [Simply Saucer]
Jon Spencer [Pussy Galore, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion]
Caetano Veloso
Mary Timony
Dave Pearce [Flying Saucer Attack]


Comments (26) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Roy Harper, Robbie Basho, Michael Hedges, Magical Power Mako....
Posted by Hosono on February 13, 2012 at 9:50 AM · Report this
Basho is in there. Harper and MPM are ace; don't know Hedges.
Posted by Dave Segal on February 13, 2012 at 10:57 AM · Report this
I'd also add Scott Kelly / Steve von Till from Neurosis.

Also, big +1 on Mary Timony & Ash Bowie, and John Dwyer.
Posted by merritt on February 13, 2012 at 11:08 AM · Report this
Duane Dennison
Steve Albini

Posted by merritt on February 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM · Report this
I'd repeat with underlines from your stellar list Jim O' Rourke, Robin Guthrie, Yamamoto Seiichi and many more, and (if I haven't overlooked them) add Duane Denison and Steve Albini as well as acknowledge the influence of Daniel Lanois and Michael Brook for many on the RS list.
Posted by wyndel hunt on February 13, 2012 at 11:42 AM · Report this
And Loren Mazzacane Connors should've been in there somewhere.
Posted by wyndel hunt on February 13, 2012 at 11:53 AM · Report this
Nice list. Geez, Ace Frehley can't make the RS's ham-fisted list, or the knowing crate-digger list. Life ain't fair.
Posted by Mark TDoLore on February 13, 2012 at 12:13 PM · Report this
This list could've been 1,000 names long and still there would be some key omissions. Can't believe I spaced on Steve Hillage!
Posted by Dave Segal on February 13, 2012 at 1:34 PM · Report this
geoff teardrop 9
michael angelo batio
Posted by geoff teardrop on February 13, 2012 at 1:39 PM · Report this
uh Christopher Willits
Posted by hoodai on February 13, 2012 at 2:06 PM · Report this
Christopher Willits definitely deserves to be on this list.
Posted by hoodai on February 13, 2012 at 2:33 PM · Report this
Posted by Hosono on February 13, 2012 at 2:55 PM · Report this
yos-wa 13
what about BUZZO?
Posted by yos-wa on February 13, 2012 at 3:03 PM · Report this
LEE. 14
Tonie Joy.
Posted by LEE. on February 13, 2012 at 5:45 PM · Report this
pig champion!
Posted by deepconcentration on February 13, 2012 at 8:16 PM · Report this
Vini Reilly of Durutti Column fame.
Posted by Tony Wilson's Ghost on February 14, 2012 at 6:35 PM · Report this
Rolling Stone? That's still around?
Posted by TheBadSeed131313 on February 15, 2012 at 12:39 AM · Report this
John Reis, aka Speedo
Posted by malamute on February 15, 2012 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Paul Pearson 19
Richard Thompson
Posted by Paul Pearson on February 15, 2012 at 9:06 PM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 20
@17: They do some great political reporting. Dunno why they pretend to have any connection to the music scene anymore.
Posted by Canadian Nurse on February 16, 2012 at 3:19 AM · Report this
I feel like Alan Sparhawk (Low) deserves some mention. Nice to see Will Sergeant (Echo and the Bunnymen) on the list. Christian Fennesz is up there for me, though I think much of what impresses me is an extension/processing of his guitar playing.. so not sure.
Posted by zimbo on February 17, 2012 at 4:34 PM · Report this
am currently involved in project with jon waddington and digging it.
Posted by ddddaniel on March 18, 2012 at 11:10 AM · Report this
Erkin Koray is a damned good choice, he's number one in my personal list:…
Posted by cappuccino on September 25, 2012 at 11:57 AM · Report this
fran├žois Mativet is my uncle and a genius ! He taught me all the best in all music ! Love Fran├žois Mativet ! Clem
Posted by ClaimClem on November 13, 2012 at 1:22 AM · Report this
Greg Sage [Wipers] has to be on that list
Posted by RockerBoy on November 13, 2012 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Found your list very refreshing to browse through.. Interesting and thought provoking.. I was particularly thrilled to find one of my all time guitar heroes had made the list .. Mick Hutchinson of Clarke Hutchinson.. An innovator , if ever there was one who has paid his dues over many years and still makes great music to this day..check out his new offering The Extemporisor .
Posted by Tim Alsop on November 6, 2013 at 1:38 PM · Report this

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