Oh, we all know the likes of Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, and Pete Townshend. Many of us easily say that THESE guys are the best guitarists Rock has to offer. Well, you won’t find too much dispute from too many people, that’s for sure. These mentioned guitarists have done more for Rock than many can attest to. And for good reason. It’s not easy to be great.
But I have to inject some things in here because I feel that it is needed. While we continually mention the obvious as our best, there are many others that have gone unheralded. It even becomes argumentative when one of the forgotten is mentioned in the same breath as the obvious masters (and those oft-mentioned masters ARE masters).
And so, as a fun course of discussion, I thought that I would engage the readers of TAP to see if we can create a serious list of great guitarists that usually aren’t mentioned as being among the great, even though they seriously should be.
But before I throw my selections out there, let me state that this show of hands isn’t designed to downgrade any of the accepted top dogs. Personally, I might find one or two of them overrated – and you might too. But the reality is that there are many masters. I just want to shed some light on them because they do deserve it. And no, I won’t voice my selections of overrated guitarists, at least not now.
My selections are many. So I’ll pare it down a little with some explanation attached.
Andy Powell, Ted Turner (Wishbone Ash) – At one time, these guys were heralded by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Ten Best Guitarists. I don’t know what happened along the way but they didn’t get mentioned by RS in their Top 100 of all time (David Fricke, what doe HE know?!). Hmmm.
John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra) – Even after playing alongside Carlos Santana didn’t do John the honor of better notice. But his guitar playing is absolutely top-notch, perhaps even unmatched in his style.
Bill Nelson (Be-Bop Deluxe) – Yes, this guy can play that thing we call a guitar. Problem is many people don’t know who Be Bop Deluxe is. That sucks!
Rory Gallagher (Taste/Solo) – Even Jimi Hendrix famously bestowed the best guitarist label on Gallagher when asked how he (Hendrix) felt being the best in the world. Hendrix merely said, “I don’t know. Go and ask Rory Gallagher.” Now THAT’S praise.
Alvin Lee (Ten Years After) – His Woodstock display of his guitar prowess heard as he played “I’m Goin’ Home” should be required viewing. Simple as that!
Johnny Winter – Oh, c’mon, guys! I know he’s respected and all that but not enough, not nearly enough. This guy sets strings on fire…and still touches them.
David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) – This guy created a sound that no one can match to this day. There isn’t a one of you that can’t air guitar his guitar but he is all too often ignored as one of the greats.
Paul Kossoff (Free/Back Street Crawler) – Never a mention. Never a mention EVER. If he ain’t one of the greatest who ever pick up a guitar, then no one is.
And for Fun, Ralph Macchio (Ry Cooder) – See Crossroads. Need I say more?
This is just the beginning of my own list. I have more. But I have put up enough. Let’s see your list of under-rated guitarists. And remember, this isn’t a put down of the top dogs.