Welcome to Round 2 of the best guitarists to ever pick up the instrument. Yesterday, we began revealing Gibson.com’s Top 50 Guitarists of All Time. For entries 50-41, click here. See which of your favorites are featured in this batch, and then join the debate in the comments section below.
Check back each day this week, as we count down 10 more of the greatest pickers, pluckers and shredders in music history, with the Top 10 arriving on Friday morning.
40. Steve Jones (Sex Pistols)
Steve Jones exploded on the scene in the mid-’70s – a one-man Les Paul blitzkrieg. His staggering work on Never Mind the Bollocks – the Sex Pistols’ only album – alone puts Jones in the elite class. His love of ’70s power pop and old-time rock and roll, combined with the in-your-face anger engendered by Johnny Rotten, resulted in furious chord runs, biting Chuck Berry steals and an overall sound that was as frightening as it was inspired. Post-punk, Jones turned into one of L.A.’s most in-demand guns for hire – playing with a slew of acts, notably Iggy Pop and Bob Dylan, and making two solo albums in the late ’80s. – Andrew Vaughan
39. Frank Zappa
You might not have expected the man who titled his songs “But Who Was Fulcanelli?” and “Theme from the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear” to take his job all that seriously. But with Zappa, the absurdity was just a front for his unflinching dedication to his craft. He didn’t swing wildly from nagging doo-wop melodies to improvisational freakouts to be funny, but because he could. Go back and listen to his willful solos or anything he did with Mothers of Invention and discover how bound and determined he was to make music matter. – Aidin Vaziri
38. Lou Reed (Velvet Underground)
Though it would be a stretch to call Lou Reed a six-string virtuoso, few guitarists have proven as adept at capturing the essence of rock and roll. With the Velvet Underground, Reed employed imaginative tunings, controlled feedback, and white-hot harmonics to put a wallop in the band’s most adventurous songs. His solo albums – especially The Blue Mask and New York – are marked by his dazzling rhythm work and careful attention to tone. – Russell Hall
36. (tie) Mike Campbell (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
I don’t think Tom Petty would argue with this: The band should be called Tom Petty and Mike Campbell and the Heartbreakers. As a co-writer, a co-producer and a phenomenally melodic guitarist, Campbell has as big a claim on that band as anyone. Never showy, every note he plays is in service of the song, whether Campbell is gassing up “Honeybee” in the garage or keeping “Free Fallin’” lighter than air. His versatility is further evidenced by his session work, in which he’s played with the Dixie Chicks, Bad Religion, D’Angelo and Bob Dylan. – Bryan Wawzenek
36. (tie) Charlie Christian
Modern electric lead guitar starts with this Texas native’s ’30s and ’40s recordings, which elevated the instrument from a jazz time-keeper to a formidable voice equal to that of horn players like Lester Young. Christian, who was only 25 when he died in 1942, used his Gibson ES-150 to develop a style of single-note soloing based on sax lines that cut through the dense layers of the era’s big bands to cast a spell on Les Paul, T-Bone Walker and other innovators. – Ted Drozdowski
35. Buddy Guy
It’s hard to find a Chicago blues player with more originality and expression in his playing. Guy is a true innovator with his double-stop style, and an all-time great bender. He’s got great rhythm chops, and has been a huge influence on many top players, most notably and directly, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Buddy was perhaps the main “second generation” Chicago blues artist who took the guitar to the forefront of the mid-tolate ’60s blues boom. – Arlen Roth
34. Slash (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver)
More than 20 years after Guns N’ Roses first b*tchslapped the sugary Sunset Strip metal scene of the mid-to-late ’80s, history now holds Slash as the single most influential guitarist to emerge from that highly competitive guitar-hero era. Slash not only played circles around the legion of pretty-boy wannabes wearing their mama’s makeup, but his virtuosity was raw, honest and dangerous – elements all but void from the rouge-tinted din flailing to hitch a ride on the Chapeaued Shredder’s immense coattails. And he’s only getting better! – Sean Dooley
33. Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley)
One of the most influential guitarists in history, Scotty Moore backed Elvis Presley through the ’50s and early ’60s, playing on such seminal rock and roll tunes as “That’s All Right,” “Hound Dog,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Jailhouse Rock.” Destiny undoubtedly tapped Sam Phillips on the shoulder when he matched Moore and double bassist Bill Black with a teenaged truck driver poised to conquer the world. The schoolboys who would grow up to become The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and a myriad of other acts were listening and taking notes. – Michael Wright
32. Ry Cooder
The slide guitar master, composer and producer is universally acclaimed in musical circles as one of the greats, not just for his playing but his eclectic musical knowledge. A prodigious young slide player, he almost joined The Rolling Stones after Brian Jones’ death, taught Keef all he could learn about open tunings and brought guitar finesse to the Stones’ Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed. As a composer, he’s responsible for some of the finest soundtrack work in American cinema with his Paris, Texas score for Wim Wenders. – Andrew Vaughan
31. Bo Diddley
Psychedelia begins with big, bad Bo. His one-chord hypno-jams “Who Do You Love?” and “Hey Bo Diddley” for Chess Records made the Afro-Caribbean “Bo Diddley beat” a household term. Using his guitar like a drum, Mississippian Elias McDaniel wedded the clave rhythm and the street corner hambone to invent a fundamental element of rock and roll. Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis made rock’s persona dangerous, but, thanks to his dirty tone and raw energy, Bo did that for the music’s sound. – Ted Drozdowski
Votes for the Top 50 Guitarists of All Time were included from Michael Wright, Bryan Wawzenek, Andrew Vaughan, Sean Dooley, Arlen Roth, Aidin Vaziri, Russell Hall, Ted Drozdowski, Paolo Bassotti, Dave Hunter, Jeff Cease (Black Crowes), James Williamson (Iggy & The Stooges), Steve Mazur (Our Lady Peace), Martin Belmont (Graham Parker & The Rumour) and the Gibson.com Readers Poll.