Best Guitarists of All Time: Chronological

I collected over 13 lists of the best guitarists of all time and combined them into a single meta-list.  The results are below: every guitarist found on three or more of the original source lists, organized chronologically by date of birth.  Because most of the “best guitarists” lists I found focused primarily on rock music, I also included lists of best blues, jazz, classical and fingerstyle guitarists.

NOTE: Just because someone is higher on the meta-list than someone else, it doesn’t mean he or she is necessarily better – it just means that one is on more “best of” lists than the other.  Also, these are not my personal opinions and I have not even heard some of these guitarists.

For the same list organized by rank (that is, with the guitarists on the most lists at the top), go here.


Andrés Segovia (Andrés Segovia Torres, 1st Marquis of Salobreña) (Spain, 1893-1987) (on 7 lists)
Style: Classical


Django Reinhardt (Jean Reinhardt) (Belgium/France, 1910-1953) (on 8 lists)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Stéphane Grappelli, Quintette du Hot Club de France


T-Bone Walker
 (Aaron Thibeaux Walker) (US, 1910-1975) (on 8 lists)
Style: Blues


Robert Johnson (US, 1911-1938) (on 10 lists)
Style: Blues


Lightnin’ Hopkins (Samuel Hopkins) (US, 1912-1982) (on 4 lists)
Style: Blues


John Lee Hooker
(US, 1912/1917-2001) (on 4 lists)
Style: Blues


Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) (US, 1913-1983) (on 5 lists)
Style: Blues


Les Paul (Lester Polsfuss) (US, 1915-2009) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Jazz, country, blues
Associated with: Mary Ford


Charlie Christian
 (US, 1916-1942) (on 7 lists)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Benny Goodman


Merle Travis
 (US, 1917-1983) (on 4 lists)
Style: Country, blues, folk, gospel


Elmore James
 (US, 1918-1963) (on 5 lists)
Style: Blues


Tal Farlow (US, 1921-1998) (on 3 lists)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Red Norvo, Artie Shaw, Great Guitars


Herb Ellis
 (Mitchell Herbert Ellis) (US, 1921-2010) (on 3 lists)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Oscar Peterson


Johnny Smith
(US, 1922-2013) (on 3 lists)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Stan Getz


Wes Montgomery 
(John Leslie Montgomery) (US, 1923-1968) (on 7 lists)
Style: Jazz


Albert King
(Albert Nelson) (US, 1923-1992) (on 7 lists)
Style: Blues


Barney Kessel
 (US, 1923-2004) (on 3 lists)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Billie Holiday


Chet Atkins
(US, 1924-2001) (on 8 lists)
Styles: Country, folk, rockabilly


B.B. King
 (US, 1925-2015) (on 10 lists)
Styles: Blues, R&B


Chuck Berry
 (US, 1926-2017) (on 10 lists)
Styles: Rock, R&B


Bo Diddley
(Ellas Bates, Ellas McDaniel) (US, 1928-2008) (on 4 lists)
Styles: Rock, R&B


Joe Pass 
(Joseph Passalaqua) (US, 1929-1994) (on 6 lists)
Style: Jazz


Link Wray
 (Fred Lincoln Wray, Jr.) (US, 1929-2005) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Rock, rockabilly
Associated with: Robert Gordon


Howard Roberts
(US, 1929-1992) (on 3 lists)
Style: Jazz, rock, country, pop, R&B
Associated with: The Wrecking Crew

 


Jim Hall 
(US, 1930-2013) (on 5 lists)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Chico Hamilton, Jimmy Giuffre, Art Farmer


Scotty Moore
 (Winfield Scott Moore III) (US, 1931-2016) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Rock, rockabilly
Associated with: Elvis Presley


Hubert Sumlin
(US, 1931-2011) (on 5 lists)
Style: Blues
Associated with: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters


Kenny Burrell 
(US, 1931- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Jazz


Albert Collins 
(Albert Gene Drewery) (US, 1932-1993) (on 4 lists)
Style: Blues


Julian Bream
(UK, 1933- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Classical


Freddie King
 (US, 1934-1976) (on 6 lists)
Style: Blues


Grant Green
(US, 1935-1979) (on 4 lists)
Style: Jazz


Buddy Guy
 (US, 1936- ) (on 7 lists)
Style: Blues
Associated with: Junior Wells
(Photo by Art Shay)


Dick Dale
 (Richard Mansour) (US, 1937- ) (on 6 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Dick Dale & the Del-Tones


John Fahey
 (US, 1939-2001) (on 7 lists)
Styles: Folk, Americana, roots music


Roy Buchanan
 (US, 1939-1988) (on 5 lists)
Styles: Blues, rock, rockabilly, country


James Burton
 (US, 1939- ) (on 5 lists)
Styles; Rock, rockabilly, country
Associated with: Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley/TCB Band


Frank Zappa
(US, 1940-1993) (on 5 lists)
Styles: Rock, pop, jazz, classical
Associated with: The Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart


Sonny Sharrock
 (Warren Harding Sharrock) (US, 1940-1994) (on 3 lists)
Style: Jazz, experimental
Associated with: Machine Gun


James “Blood” Ulmer 
(US, 1940- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Jazz, funk, blues
Associated with: Ornette Coleman, Arthur Blythe, Odyssey the Band, Music Revelation Ensemble, Phalanx, Third Rail, New Jazz Art Quartet


Jorma Kaukonen
(US, 1940- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Rock, blues, folk
Associated with: Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna


John Williams
 (Australia, 1941- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Classical


Steve Cropper
(US, 1941- ) (on 4 lists)
Styles: R&B, blues, soul, funk
Associated with: Booker T. & the M.G.’s


Lenny Breau 
(US/Canada, 1941-1984) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Jazz, country, classical, flamenco
Associated with: CKY Caravan, Three 


Jimi Hendrix (US, 1942-1970) (on 12 lists)
Styles: Rock, blues
Associated with: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Band of Gypsies 


John McLaughlin 
(UK, 1942- ) (on 7 lists)
Style: Jazz fusion
Associated with: Miles Davis, Tony Williams Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti


Jerry Garcia
 (US, 1942-1995) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Rock, bluegrass
Associated with: Grateful Dead, Old and In the Way
Photo by Ron Draper


Lou Reed
(US, 1942-2013) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Velvet Underground


Keith Richards (UK, 1943- ) (on 9 lists)
Styles: Rock, blues, R&B
Associated with: The Rolling Stones


George Harrison
 (UK, 1943-2001) (on 7 lists)
Styles: Rock, pop, Indian classical
Associated with: The Beatles, Traveling Wilburys


Mike Bloomfield
 (US, 1943-1981) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Blues, rock
Associated with: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan, Electric Flag
Photo by Ron Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


George Benson
 (US, 1943- ) (on 4 lists)
Styles: Jazz, R&B, soul, funk


Bert Jansch
 (UK, 1943-2011) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Folk, rock
Associated with: Pentangle


Larry Coryell 
(Lorenz Albert Van DeLinder III) (US, 1943-2017) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Jazz, jazz fusion, pop, rock, classical
Associated with: The Free Spirits, Fourplay, The Eleventh House, The Guitar Trio


Dickey Betts
(Forrest Richard Betts) (US, 1943- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Rock, country, jazz fusion
Associated with: The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts Band, Dickey Betts & Great Southern


Joni Mitchell
(Roberta Joan Anderson) (Canada/US, 1943- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Folk, rock, jazz, pop


Robbie Robertson
(Jaime Royal Robertson) (Canada, 1943- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock, roots
Associated with: The Band


Jimmy Page (UK, 1944- ) (on 13 lists)
Styles: Rock, blues, folk
Associated with: The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin


Jeff Beck
 (UK, 1944- ) (on 7 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck Group, Beck, Bogert & Appice


Johnny Winter
(US, 1944-2014) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Blues, rock


Pat Martino
 (US, 1944- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Jazz


Pepe Romero 
(Spain, 1944- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Flamenco, classical
Associated with: The Romero Guitar Quartet


Clarence White
 (Clarence Joseph LeBlanc) (US, 1944-1973) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Bluegrass, country, rock
Associated with: The Kentucky Colonels, The Byrds, Muleskinner


Eric Clapton (UK, 1945- ) (on 11 lists)
Styles: Rock, blues
Associated with: The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & the Dominos 


Pete Townshend
 (UK, 1945- ) (on 7 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Who


Ritchie Blackmore
(UK, 1945- ) (on 6 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Rainbow, Deep Purple 


Neil Young
(Canada/US, 1945- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Crazy Horse


Danny Gatton
(US, 1945-1994) (on 4 lists)
Styles: Blues, rockabilly, jazz


Duane Allman
 (US, 1946-1971) (on 8 lists)
Styles: Rock, blues
Associated with: The Allman Brothers Band, Derek & the Dominos


Robert Fripp 
(UK, 1946- ) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Rock, jazz fusion
Associated with: King Crimson


Peter Green 
(Peter Greenbaum) (UK, 1946- ) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Blues, rock
Associated with: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac


Mick Ronson
(Michael Ronson) (UK, 1946-1993) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: David Bowie 


David Gilmour
 (US, 1946- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Pink Floyd


Allan Holdsworth 
(UK, 1946-2017) (on 4 lists)
Styles: Jazz fusion, rock
Associated with: Nucleus, Tempest, Soft Machine, New Tony Williams Lifetime, Gong


Robby Krieger
(US, 1946- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Rock, blues, jazz fusion
Associated with: The Doors


Carlos Santana
 (Mexico/US, 1947- ) (on 8 lists)
Styles: Rock, Latin, jazz fusion


Brian May
(UK, 1947- ) (on 7 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Smile, Queen


Ry Cooder
 (US, 1947- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Folk, blues, country, roots, world
Associated with: Captain Beefheart


Steve Howe 
(US, 1947- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Yes, Asia, GTR, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe


Joe Walsh
(US, 1947- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: The James Gang, The Eagles


Dave Davies
 (UK, 1947- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock, pop
Associated with: The Kinks


Paco de Lucia
 (Francisco Gustavo Sánchez Gómez) (Spain, 1947-2014) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Flamenco, classical


Tony Iommi
 (UK, 1948- ) (on 6 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Black Sabbath


Rory Gallagher
(William Gallagher) (Ireland, 1948-1995) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Blues, rock, folk, jazz
Associated with: Taste


Johnny Ramone
(John Cummings) (US, 1948-2004) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Ramones


Ron Asheton
(US, 1948-2009) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Stooges, The New Order, Destroy All Monsters, Dark Carnival, New Race, The Empty Set, The Wylde Ratttz


Fred “Sonic” Smith
(US, 1948-1994) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: MC5, Patti Smith


Larry Carlton 
(US, 1948- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Jazz fusion, rock, pop
Associated with: The Crusaders, Fourplay


Wayne Kramer
(US, 1948- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: MC5


Adrian Legg
 (UK, 1948- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Ambient, jazz
Associated with: G3


Mark Knopfler 
(UK, 1949- ) (on 7 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Dire Straits, The Notting Hillbillies 


Richard Thompson
 (UK, 1949- ) (on 5 lists)
Styles: Folk, rock
Associated: Fairport Convention, Linda Thompson


Billy Gibbons
(US, 1949- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock, blues
Associated with: ZZ Top


Tom Verlaine
(Thomas Miller) (US, 1949- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Television


Mick Taylor
(Michael Kevin Taylor) (UK, 1949- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Rock, blues, jazz
Associated with: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Rolling Stones


Lindsey Buckingham
(US, 1949- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Rock, pop
Associated with: Fleetwood Mac


Joe Perry
(Joseph Pereira) (US, 1950- ) (on 6 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Aerosmith, The Joe Perry Project 


Eddie Hazel
 (US, 1950-1992) (on 5 lists)
Styles: Funk, soul, rock
Associated with: Funkadelic, Parliament, P-Funk All-Stars


John Scofield
 (US, 1951- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Jazz, jazz fusion
Associated with: Medeski, Martin & Wood, Trio Beyond


Bill Frisell
 (US, 1951- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Jazz, jazz fusion, classical, Americana
Associated with: Naked City


Phil Keaggy 
(US, 1951- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Folk, Christian, new age, jazz-funk
Associated with: Glass Harp, Compassion All-Star Band


Gary Moore
 (Robert Moore) (UK/Ireland, 1952-2011) (on 4 lists)
Styles: Rock, blues
Associated with: Skid Row, Thin Lizzy, Colosseum II


Alex Lifeson
 (Alexandar Zivojinovich) (Canada, 1953- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Rush


Michael Hedges
 (US, 1953-1997) (on 3 lists)
Styles: new age, world


Stevie Ray Vaughan
 (US, 1954-1990) (on 9 lists)
Style: Blues
Associated with: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble


Pat Metheny
 (US, 1954- ) (on 5 lists)
Styles: Jazz, jazz fusion
Associated with: Pat Metheny Group


Eric Johnson
 (US, 1954- ) (on 4 lists)
Styles: Rock, jazz fusion, blues


Steve Morse
 (US, 1954- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock, jazz fusion
Associated with: Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple, Kansas, Flying Colors
Photo by Bob Mussell


Al Di Meola 
(US, 1954- ) (on 3 lists)
Styles: Jazz fusion, jazz, world, flamenco
Associated with: Return to Forever


Eddie Van Halen (Netherlands/US, 1955- ) (on 9 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Van Halen


Angus Young
 (UK, 1955- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: AC/DC


Tommy Emmanuel
(Australia, 1955- ) (on 4 lists)
Styles: Jazz, pop, rock, country


Michael Schenker
 (Germany, 1955- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Scorpions, UFO, Michael Schenker Group (M.S.G.)


Randy Rhoads 
(US, 1956-1982) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot 


Joe Satriani
 (US, 1956- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: G3, Chickenfoot


Martin Taylor
 (UK, 1956- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Stéphane Grappelli, Spirit of Django 


Prince
(Prince Rogers Nelson) (US, 1958-2016) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Rock, pop, funk, soul, R&B
Associated with: Prince & the Revolution


Thurston Moore
(US, 1958- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Sonic Youth, Chelsea Light Moving


Vernon Reid
(UK/US, 1958- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Living Colour


Warren Haynes
(US, 1960- ) (on 4 lists)
Styles: Rock, soul, blues
Associated with: The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule


Steve Vai 
(US, 1960- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Frank Zappa
Photo by David Atlas/Retna Ltd.


The Edge
(David Evans) (UK/Ireland, 1961- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: U2


Marty Friedman
 (US, 1962- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Cacophony, Megadeath, Tourniquet, Enzo & the Glory Ensemble


Kirk Hammett
(US, 1962- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Exodus, Metallica


Yngwie Malmsteen
 (Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck) (Sweden, 1963- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Alcatrazz


Johnny Marr
(John Maher) (UK, 1963- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Smiths, Electronic, The The, The Cribs, Johnny Marr & the Healers, 7 Worlds Collide


James Hetfield
(US, 1963- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Metallica


Tom Morello
(US, 1964- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Prophets of Rage


Slash
(Saul Hudson) (UK/US, 1965- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver


Dimebag Darrell
(Darrell Abbott) (US, 1966-2004) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Pantera, Damageplan


Kurt Cobain
(US, 1967-1994) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Nirvana


John Frusciante
 (US, 1970- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Red Hot Chili Peppers


Jonny Greenwood
(UK, 1971- ) (on 6 lists)
Styles: Rock, electronica, classical
Associated with: Radiohead


Jack White
(John Gillis) (US, 1975- ) (on 5 lists)
Style: Rock
Associated with: The White Stripes, The Racounteurs


Xuefei Yang
(China, 1977- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Classical


Derek Trucks
(US, 1979- ) (on 4 lists)
Style: Rock, blues
Associated with: Allman Brothers Band, Derek Trucks Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band


Andy McKee
 (US, 1979- ) (on 3 lists)
Style: Folk