Rock n’ roll was born in the 1950s, and has since left an unquestionable mark on the world. It didn’t just heavily influence the music scene; it also transformed many cultural norms, having an influence on fashion and even wider human behaviors. But which rock n’ roll bands were the most influential of them all? Which is the greatest? We have compiled a list, ranking the 25 greatest rock bands in history, just keep reading to find out which is the best of all time!
Later, in the 1990s, Rush re-introduced their guitar-based hard rock sound, a style they stuck to until the end of the band’s career. Drummer Neil Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and Geddy Lee the lead vocalist, definitely earned themselves a place of this list thanks to their musical diversity and experimentation with the genre.
Journey began their journey in the world of rock n’ roll in San Francisco, and in 1981 had their ultimate hit song “Don’t Stop Believing”; a song which was a hit in the year it came out, but even more impressive, it made history in 2009 when it became the top-selling track on iTunes for a song that was not even released in the same century!
But, other than that hit, there are many more reasons that this band is on our list. Journey is highly rated for their power ballads, and it is thought that Steve Perry, the band’s lead vocalist is one of the greatest in rock history, and Neal Schon’s supreme guitar licks are thought to be unparalleled! The fact that they sold over 75 million record worldwide is a testament to their greatness.
33. Talking Heads
Talking Heads became famous for their three or four chord songs and their experimentation, which gave punk music the punch-up it needed at the time; they are practically responsible for inventing art-punk. Listening to one of their tracks with take you on all sorts of journeys.
All the elements of their music mix together into some sort of collective consciousness. “Once in a Lifetime” is one of those tracks that speak to so many adults in transient phases of their lives. And a song like “This Must Be the Place” makes wherever you feel like home. That’s quite a power for a song to have.
32. The Allman Brothers Band
A lot of what rock is came from the blues, and the Allman Brothers Band gives those roots their due respect. The Allman Brothers Band, formed in 1969 in Florida, was definitely a rock band but who made music that was proudly rooted in blues, jazz, and country music.
Their comforting sound became associated with a quintessentially American one aspired to be. It is simple, yet artful, and completely unified into one harmonious song. They also became known for their live show jamming and improvisation and instrumentals. Listening to “Midnight Rider” or “Ramblin’ Man” just make you want to go cross-country cruising!
Another welcome group of rockin’ ladies on our list are the Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, and their band, Heart. These multi-talented sisters and their band really rocked it hard, making them one of the best bands to come out of the 1970s. Their first mainstream hit was “Crazy on You” released in 1976, with influences from hard rock, heavy metal, and folk music.
Their sound really developed and changed over the years, but their second unforgettable hit came out a year later, “Barracuda”. The song was apparently written by the sisters when they were angry at their old record label who seemed to present the sisters sexually rather than for their music. The song is kicked off by a kickass guitar riff, then the drums hit it, all building up to when Ann starts belting out this absolute banger.
30. Van Halen
Van Halen were revolutionary in their use of keyboards and synthesizers in their music. Back in the 1980s, it was practically unheard of to use keyboards and synthesizers in rock n’ roll music, when keys and synths were mostly associated with pop music, and definitely ‘not cool’ enough for hard rockers. But a band formed by two bothers made bold moves, and managed to change this image, paving a new way for hard rock in the wider music industry.
Van Halen began in Pasadena, California as a heavy metal band, and made a name for themselves with musical innovation and their unforgettable high-energy live performances. Eddie Van Halen, the lead guitarist, is accredited with some ingenious electric-guitar playing, and together with lead vocalist, David Lee Roth, the band gave the world some impressive headbangers.
29. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, originally hailing from Florida, with their longevity, consistency, and widespread popularity, have most certainly earned their rightful place on this list. This misfit band is popular amongst older and younger generations alike, and the late Tom Petty, the band’s frontman, is often named as one of the greatest US musicians ever.
The band had a unique rock n’ roll identity, where they combined elements of country music, blues, Southern rock, Bob Dylan vibes, and even soul music, to create their own sound; a kind of swampy Florida rock n’ roll vibe. With Mike Campbell on guitar, and Petty’s songwriting and frontman performances, this band certainly earned their place on this list with radio regular hits such as “Learning to Fly”, “American Girl,” and “Refugee”.
28. Def Leppard
Def Leppard has definitely earned their honorable mention for their place at the top of the 80s heavy metal pile. It was the British band’s third album which was really their breakthrough and saw their popularity soar, Pyromania had a bit more of a polished sound with some catchy choruses one could really rock to.
The band has two diamond-certified albums, Pyromania and the follow-up which was released in 1987, Hysteria. While they were putting Hysteria together, drummer Rick Allen actually lost an arm in a terrible car accident, but that didn’t stop him drumming. It’s a metal baby, metal.
27. Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival are held in high regard for their folk rock anthems from the Vietnam War era. This quartet produced music with a soft, light, and magical feel to it which is enough to take you out of your inner/outer chaos into a better ‘chill’ space. Part of their success is that their music appealed to a broad audience of all ages.
Lead vocalist and guitarist John Fogerty, guitarist Tom Fogerty, bassist Stu Cook, and drummer Doug Clifford, formed in San Francisco and are famous for their rock music which is noticeably Southern with lyrics about the Mississippi River, bayous, and catfish. The band was actually only active for four years but in that short time they managed to produce seven studio albums!
Cream was responsible for one of the most immediately recognizable guitar riffs of all time on “Sunshine of Your Love”, reason enough for them to be canonized. Cream is often referred to as a “supergroup” as they are thought to be the inspiration for countless other rock bands.
Eric Clapton is almost always at the top of every “Greatest Guitarists” list, Jack Bruce made bass playing seem completely effortless, and drummer Ginger Baker had a unique style that was all his own, all which gave this group their undeniable rock legacy.
We definitely think that the women of rock don’t get their due credit, so we would like to give Debbie Harry and Blondie their moment that they so deserve! Debby Harry came from the proto-punk genre and brought in a new age of music with hits like “Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another”, introducing new wave.
Parallel Lines, Blondie’s third studio album, had punk rock, with pop thrown in, mixed with a little bit of disco, and you have the epitome of new wave music. A full-on recipe for an experimental sound that was so catchy and New York-y that you couldn’t help but sing along.
24. Deep Purple
Deep Purple didn’t get branded the “globe’s loudest band” for nothing! These guys are pioneers of heavy metal, and set the way for so many of the successful hard rock bands we know and love. Queen, Metallica, and Aerosmith are just some of the bands that say they are indebted to Deep Purple because of the inspiration they got from songs like “Highway Star”.
Not to mention of course, and inspiration to many, was a song that begins with one of the most recognizable 50 seconds in music history; the guitar riff at the beginning of “Smoke on the Water”. Even so many decades after they made their unmistakable mark on rock and metal, the band still plays with their sound at live shows.
KISS is a rock band that is known worldwide for more than their music – they basically created a brand with their image and famous live shows. KISS created an impressive rock n’ roll legacy, as well as a successful business venture, with their theatrical and exaggerated makeup and outfits, not to mention all the crazy stuff they got up to on stage, ranging from shooting rockets to live fire-breathing and blood spewing, and even levitating drum sets.
The band went through quite a number of lineup changes, but their most well-known grouping included Gene Simmons on vocals and bass, Paul Stanley on vocals and rhythm guitar, Peter Criss on drums, and Ace Frehley on lead guitar. Rock n’ roll Hall of Fame entrées, KISS have released 20 studio albums and have sold over 100 million copies worldwide. They are undoubtedly one of the most influential groups in rock n’ roll.
22. The Eagles
The Eagles have had many chart-topping singles, consistently reaching #1s in the 1970s, making them one of the most successful musical acts of their time. With five #1 singles and six #1 albums, it should come as no surprise that they won five American Music Awards and six Grammys.
The band that produced “Hotel California” was made up of lead singer and guitarist, Glenn Frey, guitarist Bernie Leadon, bass player Randy Meisner, and drummer Don Henley. Unfortunately, it seems the band members’ relationship was less successful than their music, and the band broke up in 1980.
21. The Ramones
Native to Queens, New York, The Ramones were the antidotes to the era’s impending progressive and punk rock revolution. Lead singer Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone, and drummer Tommy Ramone, are not actually related, but adopted pseudonyms with ‘Ramone’ as their last name in 1974.
The band mixed simple chords that were played quickly with high-energy making relatively short songs (usually around two and a half minutes), which were highly memorable and easy to emulate, and gave listeners catchy, straightforward, and often shocking, tunes such as “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Blitzkrieg Bop”.
20. The Clash
The Clash are beasts at what they do best and that was an energy and commitment to rock n’ roll, to rocking n’ rolling. Plus they gave us a new way to say “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, that we can never say it in another way again.
The Clash were one of the voices of British Punk but they also experimented with their sound, mixing punk and rock with reggae, or rockabilly, and they wouldn’t give a damn what anyone else thought of them or the way they made their music. They didn’t just experiment and get away with it, they absolutely killed it.
19. The Velvet Underground
This New York City band had a huge Impact on the music industry at large. Despite their the first Velvet Underground album only selling 10,000 copies, they inspired millions into forming their own band.
The band started out in 1965 under the management of artist Andy Warhol. Lou Reed, John Cale, Moe Tucker, and Sterling Morrison, consistently pushed the limits of the musical convention of the 1960s and 70s, giving live performances which resembled art shows more than any standard musical performances, all earning them a definite place on this list of best rock n’ roll bands.
18. Fleetwood Mac
Not everyone knows that Fleetwood Mac actually formed in London in 1967 as a blues rock band, but it wasn’t until Americans Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the band in late 1974, that Fleetwood Mac became the famous rockers we know them to be today.
This mix of Americans and English turned out to be a highly successful move, taking their music in a dramatic new direction, and commercially appealing to a wider audience. Their album, “Rumours”, released in 1977, with hits like “Go Your Own Way”, “The Chain”, and “Dreams”, really helped establish their musical legacy.
17. The Kinks
The Kinks emerged at the height of British rhythm and blues, and the four working-class lads from North London produced a number of chart-topping records reflecting English culture and lifestyle making them idols in Britain during the mid to late 1960s. Ray and Dave Davies, Mick Avory, and Peter Quaife, fueled by the sharp songwriting of Ray Davies, presented a rebellious image which influenced bands such as Blur and Oasis.
Just like in Oasis, brotherly rivalry was rife in the Kinks between brothers Ray and Dave Davies, but it was recently announced that over two decades after their split, the band is recording new tracks! We will definitely be on the lookout for their new releases!
U2 cannot be mentioned here! The four Irish lads that are Bono, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton, and the Edge, have been in the music industry for over 40 years now, and have been filling stadiums during most of that time, with ease! This group has won a whopping 22 Grammy Awards! More than any other band!
Initially rooted in post-punk, their music has changed quite a lot over the years appealing to more and more people, often making songs with political or social meaning. There is always a perfect balance between the drums and bass and The Edge’s effects-based guitar layers they create on their tracks.
15. The Doors
Since their big break in the LA music scene in 1965, leading to their huge success, The Doors had left an unforgettable imprint on American rock in only six years, before Morrison’s untimely death in 1971. Their undeniable success was, in part, due to their charismatic and iconic frontman, Jim Morrison, whose excellent poetry and intuitive, unhinged stage presence really blew people away. The unique sounds composed and produced by keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore, complimented and enhanced Morrison’s powerful and erratic delivery even more.
Combined, The Doors had a really unique sound of rock n’ roll, mixed with avant-garde music and poetry, with a psychedelic groove, all ensuring their place as one of the most influential rock n’ roll bands of their time.
14. The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys had a feel-good Californian sound which took the world by storm during the early 1960s. The band, which consisted of brothers Carl, Dennis, and Brian Wilson, with cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine, released catchy songs like “I Get Around” and “Surfin’ U.S.A” that exploded onto the American music scene.
Often thought of as recording studio innovators, the quintet successful blended surf rock and pop with their wonderful harmonies and melodies. They become a huge commercial success worldwide, with over eighty songs topping the charts internationally since the 1960s and through to the 2010s!
13. Mötley Crüe
Mötley Crüe became well-known for the sense of exciting unpredictability and the danger they brought to their live shows every time! The Los Angeles band formed in 1981, and started out as hard rock and heavy metal music, influenced by musicians like David Bowie, and they later joined the new wave of glam metal.
Mötley Crüe took the feverish energy of punk and propelled by Nikki Sixx’s (the primary songwriter and bassist of the band) desire to inject a sense of raw energy into rock music, they turned it up a few notches. These guys rocked out on stages with actual fire surrounding them, roller coaster drum kits, and a ton of other crazy stuff. This band is the real essence of ’80s rock n’ roll.
12. Black Sabbath
The creation of the heavy metal genre has its influences in a number of bands, but Black Sabbath is undoubtedly the biggest contributor to the pioneering genre. The band was formed in Birmingham, England in 1968, and their signature sound was largely due to their guitarist’s misfortune. Tony Iommi lost the tips of two of his fingers in a factory accident, so to make it easier to strum he tuned his guitar down, which gave the sound a lower, heavier, and more sinister effect.
The band went through a number of changes over the years, but the original band members were drummer Bill Ward, bassist Geezer Butler, guitarist Tony Iommi, and lead vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. Iommi remained a constant in Black Sabbath, and Osbourne became a successful star in his own right thanks to the accomplishments of the band. Here’s a bit of trivia for you, he is actually pretty tight with a member of another band member on this list. Any ideas who that may be?
AC/DC’s music is often described as ‘power metal’, ‘heavy metal’, blues rock’, or ‘hard rock’, but the band simply describe their music as ‘rock n’ roll’. The band was formed in 1973 in Sydney, Australia, by two brothers of Scottish origin, Malcom and Angus Young. The band is actually one of the few bands to successfully survive the death of their lead singer and frontman, Bon Scott, who died in 1980. They considered disbanding at first, but luckily they decided against it, bringing on Brian Johnson as a replacement.
The band’s name actually stands for ‘alternating current/direct current’, a well-chosen name if you consider their energetic, electrifying performances. AC/DC rank 10th best-selling artist in the United States and 14th highest-selling artist worldwide. They are pretty impressive considering that their first international album, ‘High Voltage’, was released in 1976, yet an album released so many years later, in 2008, ‘Back in Black’, still managed to become the third highest-selling album by any artist worldwide and the highest-selling album by any band. That really is something!
Nirvana changed the world with just four chords. Lead vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic, and drummer Dave Grohl, created a sound together which is probably the bridge between rock and new-found grunge, putting the last nail in the coffin of what was becoming increasingly commercialized hair metal of the 1980s.
Nirvana, who only released three studio albums before Cobain’s untimely death in 1994, managed to give a voice to an angry generation and set the world on fire with their music. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is thought to be one of the most genre-breaking singles ever released. Pretty amazing how much of an influence this band had in such a short time.
Aerosmith’s lead singer, Steven Tyler, made a lasting impressing on the modern world of music like few before him. The Boston bad boy group became notorious as they emerged on the American music scene in 1970, and gave the world some unforgettable stadium anthems such as “Walk This Way”, and “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”.
Aerosmith’s music is a combination of up-tempo, bluesy hard rock, mixed with elements of heavy metal and pop rock, all of which helped contribute to their remarkable longevity and impressive record sales of over 150 million copies worldwide. They even helped make rap more mainstream, with their collaboration with Run DMC on tracks like “Walk This Way”.
8. Guns N’ Roses
Guns N’ Roses vocalist-guitarist duo of Axl Rose and Slash is probably the most impressive duo out there. The band allegedly earned themselves the title of being one of the most dangerous bands in the late 1980s, due to their infamous debauchery and fighting, but the band’s legacy goes well beyond their bad boy reputation. You probably remember their elaborate “November Rain” music video which was literally on repeat on MTV throughout the 1990s.
The band has changed its set-up a number of times over the years, but today Axl Rose and Slash are back touring together, which is a very good thing if you ask us! In their early years, their hedonistic activities got them compared to The Rolling Stones, and seeing their influence on rock and pop music until today, there is probably more to that comparison than just their so-called self-indulgent behavior.
Metallica formed in 1981, and their music helped create the sound of a new musical genre – thrash metal. Frontman James Hetfield’s fierceness on stage, combined with the dexterous drumming of Lars Ulrich and the masterful guitar playing of Kirk Hammett, really made for a powerful musical creation. The band had not a small number of problems to face as a group, and they even went to therapy at one point, but they managed to work through most of there issues, giving us some outstanding hard rock n’ roll over the years.
They also made a strangely artsy album with Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed, “Lulu”, which we wouldn’t say is either of theirs best creation, but we definitely tip our hats to both of them for putting themselves out there musically and trying something different.
6. Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd formed in 1965 in England, and are thought to be one of the first British psychedelia groups, using synthesizers in new ways, inspiring the development of new genres such as progressive rock, or progressive space rock, and ambient music, and have received international acclaim over the years. They are also known for their concept albums, each one taking you through time and space with its own story and sound.
The band is well known for their sensory experimentation, philosophical and unashamed lyrics, extended melodies, psychedelic sounds, and their detailed and artistic live shows. In 1996, the band was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2005 into the UK Music Hall of Fame, with their albums, “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall” ranking as two of the best-selling albums of all time. Obviously they are pretty high up on our list!
Queen is one of the most internationally world famous rock bands of all time. The British band consisted of some of the biggest talents in the industry, with lead singer Freddie Mercury thought of as one of the best vocalists in musical history. That unequivocal talent, combined with guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor, with hit singles like “We Will Rock You” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” arguably gave us some of the most popular and widely-known songs in the world.
In fact, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was almost not released as a single as it was originally thought to be too long for the radio by record producers, but when Mercury had a musical vision he couldn’t be made to ‘change his tune’, and it turned out that fans appreciated it. These rock n’ roll legends actually met during the 1960s, and all of them have university degrees, Brian May even has a PhD in astrophysics! And in answer to our earlier trivia question, May is besties with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi.
4. The Who
The English rock band, The Who, came out of London, England in 1964, and had an undeniable lasting legacy in the world of music. The original group was made up of charismatic singer Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, known for his full-blown animalistic drumming, bass guitarist John Entwistle who was known was his contrasting stillness while on stage, and the legendary guitarist and lead songwriter Pete Townshend, who is apparently the first who trademarked the whole full on rock n’ roll guitarist presence with the whole jumping into the air, pin-wheeling the arm, smashing the guitar thing.
Other than their performance at the 1969 Woodstock festival, which solidified their reputation in the rock n’ roll genre, they also created a rock opera in the same year, “Tommy”, which was also adapted to film in 1975. With over 100 million records sold worldwide The Who is definitely one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century.
3. Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were first signed to Atlantic Records in 1968. The London based band was originally made up of the impressive vocalist Robert Plant, the talented and intricate guitarist Jimmy Page, the original and talented bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and John Bonham famed for his epic power drumming. The band’s style drew influences from a wide variety of music such as blues, psychedelia, and folk music, all helping them create their own sound, with their heavy guitar-driven sound leading them to be named as some of the first pioneers of heavy metal.
The group is accredited with establishing album-oriented rock, as they made sure to sign an album deal that gave them autonomy over their release and tour dates which gave them the power to also refuse single-song releases, so “Stairway to Heaven” became the highest requested FM radio song in the 1970s despite never being released as a single! The band has also sold over 300 million records, giving them this undisputed third place on our list.
2. The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are the epitome of longevity in the music industry. The band apparently holds the title for the longest run in the industry as they have been rocking n’ rolling for over 60 years, and are still performing today! 76-year-old Mick Jagger has undergone heard surgery recently but is still performing like he is in his 20s, proving that he quite literally “Moves Like Jagger”.
The other band members have proved to be special and influential in their own ways. Keith Richards, for example, was apparently the inspiration for Johnny Depp’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Jack Sparrow, and even appeared in two of the films as Captain Sparrow’s father, Captain Teague. The Rolling Stones have undoubtedly made their mark on the world, having released a whopping 30 studio albums.
1. The Beatles
The Beatles come in at first place for their indisputable influence on the history of rock music, and in fact, music in general! In only ten year, this iconic group managed to release an incredible twelve albums! John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, formed the Beatles in Liverpool in 1960, and went on to become one of history’s best-selling bands.
The Beatles were awarded the title of best-selling musician in the United States due to their records selling over 178 million units, and they have sold more singles in the UK than any other musicians. They are also the winners of an Academy Award and seven Grammy Awards, and they hold the record for having the most number one hits on the Hot 100 chart, with 20 #1s. In just ten years they created a number of different sounds, having an influence on a variety of genres and musicians. In case you are still not convinced of their well-deserving spot as number one on our list, we will just tell you this; they have sold around 800 million albums internationally. Case closed.
We only had 35 spots on our list but we think there are a number of other bands whose influence on the genre cannot be overlooked, and we think they deserve an honorable mention, so keep scrolling if you feel your favorites weren’t given their due or if you just want to know who else influenced this scene unforgettably.
Keep On Reading To Find Out About The World’s Greatest Guitarists!!!
We have all experienced the legendary effect that the world’s greatest guitarists riffs have. Whether it’s the upbeat thrills of rock ‘n roll, or blues and its smooth rhythms, many of these names have built memories for us that will surely last a lifetime. Here are the top 43 iconic legends that have been made famous for their incredibly impressive guitar skills.
#43 Bo Diddley
Bo Diddy aka Ellas Otha Bates was born on 30 December 1928 in Chicago. While his position on this list could be debated, considering that he has had a monumental influence on several guitarists that have ranked higher, such as Elvis Presley. The impact that this legendary guitarist had on music is undeniably incredible, considering that he did play a vital role in translating blues into timeless rock ‘n roll.
While some insist that his most memorable tracks have a significant “West African groove” to them, such as “Bo Diddley,” “Who Do You Love?,” and “Road Runner,” his music could ultimately be described as groovy. Bo Diddley’s tunes exploited simplicity, allowing fans easy to follow tracks that would go on to inspire some of the greatest minds in music. Keith Richards and Buddy Holly are just a couple of iconic guitarists that were inspired to pick up the guitar by Bo Diddley.
#42 Johnny Ramone
John William Cummings goes by the name Johnny Ramone as an iconic entertainer. He was born on the 8th of October in 1948 in Queens. Even though Johnny Ramone may have played far fewer guitar solos during his career in comparison to most other famous names on this list, ultimately, Ramone was one of the great pioneers of the music industry that helped shape what it is today.
Johnny Ramone was one of the very first guitarists to have played using his emotions on stage, according to Henry Rollins, “Johnny was the first guitar player I ever saw play like he was really mad.” In addition to this, Johnny Ramone was also the first guitarist to create the heavy and upbeat music tempo with tracks like “Judy Is A Punk” and Rockaway Beach.” Needless to say, Johnny revolutionized the Ramones with his incredibly unique take on the guitar.
#41 Jerry Garcia
Jerome John Garcia is better known as “Jerry.” He was born on the 1st of August 1942 in San Francisco. Jerry is likely one of the most versatile guitarists to have ever lived, considering he is known for playing a wide variety of different sounds, including bluegrass, jazz, Spanish guitar, and rock ‘n roll.
Jerry was the praised figurehead leader of the band Grateful Dead. He not only had an impressive impact on the cultural scene early in the 1960s in San Francisco with timeless tracks like “Summer Of Love,” but he also played at Woodstock in August 1969 and was almost electrocuted due to the rain. In 1995, Jerry passed away, leaving behind legendary tracks for his fans to remember him by.
Keep On Reading To Find Out About The World’s Greatest Guitarists!!!
#40 Joni Mitchell
Rolling Stones magazine may have ranked this iconic guitarist no.75 in their top guitarist’s list, although, she earned a much higher spot on this list because she had an incredibly unique method of tuning her guitar to expose varying sounds from each chord. Joni Mitchell was born on November the 7th in 1943 in Canada and even though she is better known as Joni Mitchell, her full name is Roberta Joan Anderson.
Joni made a name for herself writing songs using the same chords, although, in a different tuning. She has written one song that consists of 50 different variation, which is undeniably impressive! “I Had A King,” “Night In The City,” and “Nathan La Franeer” are some of her most celebrated tracks.
#39 Buddy Guy
George Guy, famously known as Buddy Guy, was born on the 30th of July, 1936, in Louisiana. Buddy was apparently kicked out of the house by his family as a result of all the noise, which seemed to follow him around right through his career as his music style was reportedly viewed as “just a bunch of noise” by several record executives.
Luckily, Buddy Guy’s blues style eventually became quite popular. What’s more, he ultimately became an inspiration to a few of the greatest guitarists of all time. Some of his most influential songs include “First Time I Met The Blues” and “Stone Crazy.”
#38 Tony Iommi
Tony Iommi, Otherwise known as Anthony Iommi, was born in England on the 19th of February in 1948. At age 17, he lost the tips of two fingers in an industrial accident, which should have rendered him incapable of playing the guitar. However, that did not stop him from creating his very own unique style o playing the guitar.
Tony promoted the era of heavy metal during his time with Black Sabbath. Some of his best tracks are “Iron Man,” “Children Of The Grave,” and “Sabbra Cadabra.” This iconic guitarist may be missing the tops of his two fingers, although, his iconic skills prove he was more capable than most.
#37 Tom Morello
Born in 1964 on the 30th of May in Harlem, Tom Morello broke into the music industry as the lead guitarist for the legendary group Rage Against The Machine. Tom is a graduate from Harvard University and he has always had an inner desire to encourage social change.
Tom Morello made a name for himself creating unique sounds with his guitar and his incredible skills with the effect pedals. In addition to this, Tom’s contributions to the group brought Nu Metal to life by combining heavy metal and hip-hop. “Killing In The Name” and “Guerrilla Radio” are some of the groups most well-known tracks.
#36 Angus Young
Angus Young is the Scottish-born legendary musician that was born on the 31st of March in 1955 and went on to entertain the world with his blues-rock style. However, it is possible that his schoolboy outfits are as iconic as his music style.
With songs like “Back In Black” and “Highway To Hell,” Angus helped shape the rock ‘n roll scene with inspirational power chords. Angus has been the guitarist for AC/DC ever since he was just 18 years old, which means he has been leading them to greatness for a total of 46 years.
#35 Brian May
Brian May was born on the 19th of July in 1947 in London. Surprisingly, the musician has a degree in astrophysics behind his name. Despite his academic capabilities, Brian May found fame through leading his band Queen to greatness since 1970.
Brian May’s impressive talents are what brought us the timeless track “Bohemian Rhapsody.” What’s more, the track Red Special, or “The Old Lady,” was created using firewood and he brought “Stone Cold Crazy” to life with his father. Brian is also the incredible songwriter that wrote “Doing All Right.”
#34 Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson is the Texas-born legend, born on the 29th of April in 1933, that started life selling bibles and picking cotton. However, he used the very same guitar right throughout his 60-year career as a legendary guitarist. The guitar he named “Trigger” is photographed below.
Even though Trigger may not be the most appealing guitar, as it required several patch ups along the way, Willie Nelson found it to be his perfect companion that helped him create numerous hits. From blues and country to rock and gypsy jazz, Willie Nelson has created several timeless tracks with Trigger, such as “Whisky River” and “Night Life.” The legend may be 86 years old, although, he is still performing.
#33 Bobby Krieger
Bobby Krieger was born in California on the 8th of January in 1946. He may have been the last member that joined the Doors, his contributions of flamenco and jazz were fundamental to their on-stage performances.
Bobby Kriger gave the Doors a truly unique edge as they had no rhythm guitarist or a bass player, which proved quite trying from Bobby. However, this only encouraged Bobby to fill what was missing. Additionally, this guitarist legend is also the acclaimed songwriter that wrote “Light My Fire.” Some of Bobby’s best tracks include “Roadhouse Blues” and “Riders On The Storm.”
#32 The Edge
The Edge, aka David Evens, was born on the 8th of August, 1961 in England. His incredibly unique talents as a guitarist can be attributed to the impressive fact that he taught himself to play the guitar.
He was given the nickname “The Edge” when he was younger and possibly because he always tended to be on the edge of things rather than get involved. Otherwise, it could also be his angular head shape that earned him the nickname. In 1970, he joined U2 and made a name for himself with his ability to complement the vocals of frontman Bono with his incredible guitar skills. “I Will Follow” and “The Fly” are just a couple of songs that he is most well-known for.
#31 Elmore James
Elmore James was born on the 27th of January 1918 in Mississippi. As a young boy, he discovered music and learned to play stringed instruments. The first instrument that he learned was the diddley boy, although, his love for rock was found when he got his very first guitar.
His love for the guitar brought him to create his very own unique style and he found fame with his slide skills. One particular guitarist admitted to practicing James’ music until the point where his fingers bled before he had discovered that James was using a slide. The legend is most well-known for “The Sky Is Crying” and “Dust My Broom” among several others that merged blues with rock.
#30 Scotty Moore
Born on the 27th of December 1931 in Tennessee, Scotty Moore went on to collaborate with the young Elvis Presley in the 1950s. Bill Black joined in on Bass and the legendary trio worked together to ultimately shape the future of the music industry.
The band of three had no drummer, which left Scotty Moore with an important part to fill. In 1954, the group discovered the “slapback” echo effect, along with the hit song “That’s All Right.” Scotty Moore also encouraged Elvis to make a comeback in 1968. “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Mystery Train” are some of Scotty Moore’s best songs.
#29 Muddy Waters
Mckinley Morganfield, or Muddy Waters, was born on the 4th of April in 1913 in Mississippi. He moved to Chicago in his 20’s and went on to encourage the discovery of southern-blues styles that would eventually shape the sounds of Chess Records.
Muddy Waters’ 1950 song “Rollin’ Stone” inspired the name of the group The Rolling Stones. Waters has played alongside iconic guitarists, which includes Buddy Guy. Most impressively, it is believed that Waters is the legend that inspired Jimi Hendrix. Despite the drawback in popularity in the 60s, Waters made a comeback early in the 70s and performed right up until he passed away.
#28 Tom Petty
Tome Perry was born in Florida on the 20th of October in 1950. While Tom Petty is the frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, his position on this list cannot go without the mention of the group’s lead guitarist, Mike Campbell. Well-known for his ultimately simple guitar playing style, Mike Campbell would avoid using any more notes than what was absolutely necessary.
While Mike was known for simplicity, Tom Petty was remarkable when performing alongside a legendary guitarist. Mike Campbell was responsible for most of Tom Perry’s solos on his solo album Full Moon and they made a memorable impact with songs like “You Got Lucky” and “Breakdown.”
#27 Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa was born on the 21st of December, 1940 in Maryland. He became a multi-talented musician that developed a knack for playing several different genres, which includes jazz. Additionally, he also produced a total of 60 albums and performed outstanding solos throughout his career as a musician. However, he is probably most well-known for his incredible work collaborating with the Mothers of Invention.
“In-a-Gadda-Stravinsky” and “Willie the Pimp” are just some of his most famous hit songs that featured incredible and legendary Frank Zappa solos. There’s no denying that Frank Zappa pushed the boundaries with his renowned guitar talents.
#26 Billy Gibbons
Born in Houston, Texas on the 16th of December in 1949, Billy Gibbons rose to fame as the guitarist for ZZ Top. His parents were fully supportive of his musical ambitions. Billy Gibbons enjoyed an Elvis concert with his parents and he also forged a brief friendship with the legendary Jimi Hendrix before his death.
Billy Gibbons utilized what he learned and assisted with forming the group ZZ Top when he was just 20 years old. “Gimme Your Lovin” and “Tush” are some of his most memorable songs.
#25 David Gilmour
David Gilmour was born in 1946 on the 6th of March in Cambridge, England. Even though he was not the original guitarist for the group Pink Floyd, he eventually became their frontman and their lead guitarist. His love for the guitar started when he borrowed one from a neighbor and ended up not returning it.
After the release of the hit album “Dark Side Of The Moon”, it became clear that David Gilmour had a talent for adding effects to music. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Comfortably Numb” are some of his best songs. He was once admitted to hospital for malnutrition when he was just a young musician, although, he is currently worth an estimated $122 million.
#24 Joe Perry
Anthony Joe Perry prefers his middle name, Joe. He was born in 1950 on the 10th of September in Massachusetts. Joe is the iconic guitarist of Aerosmith and playing alongside Steve Tyler promoted his uncanny ability to stand out on stage for his incredible musical talents.
His incredible guitar riffs were referred to as “blues-on-steroids” by Rolling Stone magazine, which pretty much sums up his iconic style. It is believed that he was inspired by the solo artist Jeff Beck. “Walk This Way,” “Dream On,” and “Janie’s Got A Gun” are just some of the many songs that have shaped his fame as an iconic guitarist.
Saul Hudson goes by the nickname “Slash.” The musical legend was born on the 23rd of July, 1965 in London. Slash may be believed to fit the term “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll” as a famed rock musician. However, he is actually one of the most influential guitarists in history. Despite his incredible success with the Guns N’ Roses, Slash is also known for his renowned prolific career as a solo artist.
“Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and “November Rain” mention just a couple of his remarkable solo tracks that he performed with the group Guns N’ Roses. Even though he left the group for a short time and joined Velvet Revolver, he has returned to Guns N’ Roses to perform alongside Axl Rose. Impressively, the group is currently still performing.
#22 Buddy Holly
Charles Holly prefers the name, Buddy Holly. He was born on the 7th of September 1936 in Texas. Buddy Holly is the talented musician that we can thank for the melodic music of the Beatles and Eric Clapton. Essentially, Buddy Holly is behind the genius of the band as we know it, considering that his own band The crickets featured his vocals and extraordinary guitar rhythms.
“Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be The Day” are some of many songs that Holly is known for. Unfortunately, he passed away just one decade before bands started forming in his image. Holly created a unique blues and country fusion that held on to the distinctive rocking sound that fans simply loved.
#21 Neil Young
Neil Young was born in 1945 on November the 12th in Canada. He became a musical genius early in his career and despite being diagnosed with epilepsy, he refused to let his condition interfere with his love for music. Neil Young spent his career collaborating with bands and impressing fans with iconic solo performances. There is no denying that every note Neil Young has played throughout his career is anything other than truly genius.
During his time with Buffalo Springfield, he brought the songs “Mr.Soul” and “For What It’s Worth” to life. “Down By The River” is one of his incredible solo creations that has been described as just one note that is played with extreme melody. Trey Anastasio also explained that the song “just snarls with attitude and anger. It’s like he desperately wants to connect.”
#20 Dick Dale
Dick Dale is otherwise known as Richard Monsour and he was born in Massachusetts in 1937 on the 4th of May. Dick Dale is ultimately the pioneer of “surf rock,” which may be attributed to his passion for surfing that came about when he was 17 after his family moved to Southern California.
Dale’s musical style can be described as impressively fast strumming that was as loud as it was fast. Some of the best songs to come out of his six-stringed guitar are “The Peter Gunn Theme” and “Misirlou.”
#19 Freddie King
Known as “The Texas Cannonball,” Freddie King was born in 1934 on the 3rd of September in Gilmer, Texas. He earned his nickname from his “incendiary” performances and his incredibly large build. Freddie King played his guitar using metal picks that are intended for playing banjos, although, this fundamental aspect is what helped him produce such a unique sound.
In 1985 during an interview, Eric Clapton attributed his inspiration to Freddie King’s 1961 song “I Love The Woman.” Furthermore. Freddie was one of the very first blues performers to take on the creation of a multiracial band. Some of his most famous hit songs are “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” and “Hide Away” to mention only a couple.
#18 Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain was born in 1967 on the 20th of February in Aberdeen, Washington. When he was just 14 years old, his uncle offered him a choice between a bike and a used guitar for his birthday and Kurt Cobain opted for the instrument. Strangely enough, Elvis Presley was also handed a similar choice, although, between a rifle and a guitar. It can be said that the rest is history for Kurt Cobain and his used guitar that started his passion for music.
“All Apologies,” Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and “Heart Shaped Box” are just some of the songs that Kurt Cobain brought to life with his pioneer band Nirvana. Their music was what created the grunge genre, a combination of punk and rock that fans could not get enough of. Despite his early death, Kurt Cobain’s music lives on to be enjoyed by generations to come.
#17 John Lennon
John Lennon was born in 1940 on the 9th of October in Liverpool. He played the impressive part of the rhythm guitarist of the iconic band the Beatles. John Lennon had incredible talents with a guitar, having the ability to utilize just a few strings of notes and turn it into a chart-topping rhythm.
However, John Lennon is undeniably one of the most understated guitarists to have lived and he has even referred to himself as “The invisible guitar player.” Regardless, his renowned skills can be heard in some of the bands best songs, which includes “Help,” “Yer Blues,” and “Day Tripper.” The Beatles are ultimate, the best-selling band of all times as they have sold close onto 1 billion records.
#16 George Harrison
George Harrison was born in 1943 on the 25th of February in Liverpool, England. Harrison is the second member of the Beatles with a spot on this list and he has been considered the third-best icons of all time, right behind legends Paul McCartney and John Lennon. However, when he started his solo career, he outgrew that title for some time.
George Harrison wrote the songs “Here Comes The Sun” and “Taxman.” However, every album that was released after 1965 featured a minimum of two tracks that were written by George. Tom Petty made an encouraging comment on Goerge Harrison’s guitar playing in saying that, “He was very in tune when he played, the slide was very precise, and just had a beautiful vibrato on it.” Needless to say, George Harrison’s incredible talents as a guitarist are nothing other than iconic.
#15 Albert King
Albert Nelson, or Albert King, was born in 1923 on the 25th of April in Indianola, Mississippi. In 1968, Albert King reportedly said that he had no musical inspirations as “Everything I do is wrong.” The left-handed guitarist that oddly enough opted for a right-handed guitar is quite well-known as “The Velvet Bulldozer,” thanks to his incredibly large size and his charmingly smooth vocals.
He was able to use a right-handed guitar because he would play it upside down. If that’s not impressive enough, he bewildered Jimi Hendrix in 1967 during an opening performance for Hendrix. Both Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton were huge fans of The Velvet Bulldozer and some of his most incredible songs include “As The Years Go Passing By” and “Born Under a Bad Sign.”
#14 Joe Walsh
Joe Walsh was born in 1947 on the 20th of November in Kansas. As his middle name “Fiddler” would suggest, Joe turned out to be an incredibly iconic musician. The guitar playing legend found success with several bands, which includes the beloved and timeless group the Eagles. There’s hardly anyone that hasn’t enjoyed his unique rhythm-and-bass guitar playing styles at one point or another.
Despite joining the Eagles late, one of their greatest hits “Hotel California” was released in 1975, which just so happens to be the very same year that Walsh joined the iconic legends. The song also features an impressive guitar solo played by Joe Walsh. Otherwise, the guitarist is also renowned for songs like “Funk #49” and “Rocky Mountain Way.”
Prince Nelson was born in 1958 on the 7th of June in Minnesota. During the height of his career as a musician, he was seen as a prodigy for his undeniable talents. In addition to this, his on-stage presence was mesmerizing, not to mention his insanely impressive guitar skills. It is believed that he wrote his very first song titled “Funk Machine” when he was just seven years old.
While many believe that Prince was influenced by Jimi Hendrix, he reportedly corrects the belief in saying that “If they really listened to my stuff, they’d hear more of a Santana influence than Jimi Hendrix.” Some of the icons most celebrated songs include “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry.”
#12 Pete Townshend
Pete Townshend was born in 1945 on the 19th of May in England. It is said that Pete Townshend is a rather passionate individual, which could be true considering reports claim that he was one of the very first guitarists to have ever smashed his instrument while performing on stage. However, he is definitely not the last.
While he may be most well-known for his collaboration with the group The Who, later on, he focused on a solo career. The decision to focus on a solo career may have been because he never had a solo during his time with The Who. However, the groups unique sound was rather directed towards drums and bass. Regardless, he ultimately became a musical legend with songs like “Summertime Blues” and “I Can See For Miles.”
#11 Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan was born in 1954 on the 3rd of October in Dallas, Texas. While he may look somewhat ‘sour’ while bringing legendary guitar sounds to life, his music can only be described as iconic and genius.
The icons unique sound is an interesting fusion of jazz and rockabilly, although, he has said that Jimi Hendrix was a major influence on his career. Additionally, he has also praised B. B. King and Eric Clapton for their work. “Cold Shot” and “Love Struck Baby” are some of his best-known hits. The legendary guitarist was, unfortunately, a victim of a helicopter crash in 1990 that resulted in his tragic death.
#10 Duane Allman
Duane Allman, better known as “Skydog,” was born in 1946 on the 20th of November in Nashville, Tennessee. Even though he died long before his time, he left behind an impressive impact on the music industry that he will be remembered by for generations to come. Robert Randolph once commented on his death by saying that, “Duane died young, and it’s just one of those things. You could tell he was going to get 50 times better.”
Duane played guitar in a unique way that had never been seen, or heard, before. His tragic death in a motorbike accident deprived us all of what he truly had to offer as a musician. However, he left behind timeless hits, such as “Blue Sky,” “Statesboro Blues,” and “Whipping Post.”
#9 Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana was born in 1947 on the 20th of July in Mexico. He moved to San Francisco when he was young and when “Summer of Love” was released, he had already established quite a name for himself as a legendary guitarist in the area. However, he played at Woodstock as one of the less known artists, which earned him national recognition.
Santana became an inspiration to several iconic legends, including Prince, as previously mentioned. Some of his most incredible hits include “Black Magic Woman,” “Soul Sacrifice,” and “Oye Como Va.” Santana claims to be a product of his surroundings, believing that the hallucinogenic drug LSD is what helped him find his voice.
#8 B. B. King
Riley B. King, aka B. B. King, was born in 1925 on the 26th of September in Bena, Mississippi. He was born during the era of the purest form of the blues genre, which may be the reason he was so capable of expressing his deepest emotions through his vocals and his guitar.
B. B. King performed an impressive estimated total of 342 shows in 1956. He also performed another 200 shows in the year during the 1970s. “Sweet Little Angel,” “3 O’Clock Blues,” and “The Thrill Is Gone” are some of his most well-known hit songs. He is considered one of “The Three Kings Of Blues Guitar” alongside Albert and Freddie King.
#7 Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck was born in 1944 on the 24th of June in Surrey,England. He was a vital part of two extremely successful albums released by the Jeff Beck group and even though his time with the band was brief, he seemed to make a career as a musician by joining several different bands for brief periods of time.
Some of his greatest hits include “I Ain’t Superstitious” and A Day in the Life.” Jeff Beck can be described as a true solo artist and he is currently still performing as an iconic guitarist. At age 74, he seems to have no intention of retiring from his musical passion. The legend has proved an incredible pioneer for the music industry, with sound fusions of Indian and jazz among others.
#6 Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen was born in 1955 on the 26th of January in Amsterdam. The musical genius is known for his unique style and the remarkable way that he holds a guitar pick; gripping it with his thumb and his middle finger. A few artists have commented on his playing style in saying that it sounds as though he has somehow added another instrument.
“Eruption” and “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” are some of his most commendable songs. According to Mike McCready from the group Pearl Jam, “You can play the things he’s written, but there’s an x-factor’ that you can’t get.”
#5 Keith Richards
Rock ‘n roll legend Keith Richards, member of the Rolling Stones, was born in 1943 on the 18th of December in England. The iconic band’s lead guitarist is most deserving of a top 5 position on this list. Impressively, he is also the band’s rhythm guitarist. He performs both lead and rhythm quite often and more likely than not, in the same song.
Much like Van Halen, it has been said that even though his music can be played by others, it just won’t sound the same. He is most famous for tracks like “Paint it Black” and Gimme Shelter.”
#4 Chuck Berry
Charles Berry, known as Chuck, was born in 1926 on the 18th of October in St.Louis, Missouri. The incredible blues-style that he developed throughout his career has served as an inspiration to several of the greatest guitarists in history.
Some of his greatest hits include songs like “Maybellene” and Roll Over Beethoven.” However, “Johnny B. Goode” is considered to have one of the most incredible guitar solos throughout history. Together with several other iconic musicians, Berry can be thanked for the creation of rock ‘n roll as we know it.
#3 Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page was born in 1944 on the 9th of January in Middlesex, England. As shown in the photograph below, he is one of the iconic legends that made a name for himself playing two guitars with just one arm. Even though he was not missing an arm, he played the double-necked Gibson guitar and brought some of the most genius heavy solos and rhythms to life with ease. His dark and folkloric sound would stun several generations of impressed fans.
Page was the lead guitarist for the legendary band Led Zeppelin and he also wrote music. Some of his most timeless and iconic hit songs are “Kashmir” and “Heartbreaker.” He was known by the band to be consistent in finely tuning his guitars in the studio to create only the most perfect sounds.
#2 Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton was born in 1945 on the 30th of March in Surrey, England. his simple, yet smooth and melodic notes captivated the world at the height of his career as a musician and his music will continue to captivate generations to come. His unforgettable music has undeniably lead him to be one of the greatest guitarists in history. The fusion of blues and rock ‘n roll perfectly describes Eric Clapton’s abilities as a guitarist.
Early in his career, he was a member of the band Cream and he played alongside two jazz guitarists. Later he admitted that he was just trying to keep up. He went on to produce some of the most iconic hits in history, which include the songs “White Room” and “Crossroads.”
#1 Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix was born in 1942 on the 27th of November in Seattle, Washington. It may not be all that surprising that he is listed as the number 1 guitarist in history, considering that he is undoubtedly the god of the guitar. However, what is surprising is that his career was ultimately the shortest by far in comparison to every other icon on this list.
While his style and sound can only be described as out of this world, he produced notes and chords in combinations that appeared alien to other musicians during his career. What’s more, his on-stage performance was flawless, effortless, and ultimately, the most original of all time. He can be remembered for several greatest hit songs like “Foxy Lady,” “Purple Haze,” and his remarkable rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”