Screw Rolling Stone: Joe Bonamassa picks his own Top Guitarists of All Time

I really enjoy talking to great guitarists about other great guitarists. I mean, they're the experts, right? But usually I find that the world's top players are quite reluctant to rank one another. They're normally of the mind that there is no "best" player, and that it's all in the ear of the beholder. Then again, I've chatted with quite a few who steadfastly believe that Jimi Hendrix is number one, and that no one can touch him.

Once in a while a scorecard of the socalled "greatest" guitarists will come out, and then the chatter will pick up again. Such was the case a few weeks back when Rolling Stone published its 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list. I for one took exception to it, as you can see here. And when I called acclaimed picker Joe Bonamassa in Bakersfield, California, the other day in advance of his upcoming Vancouver gig, the subject came up again.

As expected, Bonamassa didn't complain that he wasn't on the list--even though readers of the prestigious Guitar Player magazine voted him Best Overall Guitarist last year--but it was clear that he wasn't thrilled with how some of his own six-string heroes were ranked. For one thing, his childhood mentor Danny Gatton was nowhere to be seen.

And what about his own top picks? Although--unlike those diehard Hendrix fanatics--Bonamassa claimed that he "couldn't pick a number one", after some urging from me he started to name names.

"I could tell you who’d been my number one influence overall on guitar," he offered. "As an artist, singer-songwriter, overall, probably Eric Clapton, single-most. Second would be Paul Kossoff. Third would be Jeff Beck. Fourth would be probably Jimmy Page. Fifth would be Peter Green. And then Mick Taylor, and then Rory Gallagher, and then Danny Gatton. So those are my cats right there."

Yes! Rory Gallagher finally makes a Top 10! Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

For more from Bonamassa on Rolling Stone's "fucked up" list--and his fondness for the recently departed Hubert Sumlin--see the story in this week's issue of the Georgia Straight.

You can follow Steve Newton on Twitter at twitter.com/earofnewt.

Comments (106) Add New Comment
Mark Fornataro
How about the Straight doing a best of BC guitarists? a couple that come to mind are Bill Henderson and Don Alder. And have you ever heard of Barry Hall? I used to take lessons from him many years ago at Bill Lewis Music. He wrote some great, melodic finger picking pieces and recorded for Folkways as a teen.
http://www.cbc.ca/nxnw/featured-guests/2011/12/09/don-alder-guitar-idol/
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sleepswithangels
Check your notes, Steve. You obviously forgot to include Keef Richards as Joe's pick for being so far beyond his listed peers that positioning him on a list is beneath the dignity of his exalted supreme numero uno ranking as the Greatest Rock Guitarist in the Known Universe.
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GOT
Don't know where Peter Green figured in the RS list, but as long as he's near the top on somebody's list (who actually plays a guitar), I'm good with that. In the meantime, I've got a long grey mare, and she won't let me ride...
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Carl Spackler
Hey Steve, this Joe "Mama" Besser guy's list is really similar to the ol' Spacklmeisters' how 'bout them apples? I thought "Mama" only played drums, didn't know he could play guitar too.
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Steve Newton
Pretty good apples, indeed. Figured you'd appreciate seeing Kossoff at Number 2. And you sure know your Spinal Tap my fine Spackled friend.
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Keith Davidson
Rolling Stone "Rag"azine has become irrelevant and not worthy of the bottom of my bird's cage. What universe do they live in when their list does not include Ted Nugent, Peter Frampton or Sammy Hagar? Are you friggin' kidding me?? These gods of guitar rock are only 3 of the many icons I could name. Their joke of a list includes several faceless session guitarists whose best work embodies one or two tracks that most people have never heard. No disrespect to those artists, but come on! Doesn't being an "all time great" at ANYTHING require that people know your body of work and know who you are? And the way some artists placed higher than others activated my gag reflex. This is one more in a long and growing list of reasons why RS should not be considered a serious music/entertainment magazine.
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milo
Rory was always a musician's musician. Nice to see him in Joe's handful of guitarists that influenced him, especially since he just got to play Rory's strat a few weeks ago.

Milo
http://www.shadowplays.com/blog
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Claudia
@carl speckler Listen to you German farmer! If you have no idea of guitarists, then sell your apples! Joe Bonamassa is one of the best guitarists!! I do not know what you German hear then? Justin Bieber?? Hahaha!!
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Pat Crowe
1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Jeff Beck
3. Jimmy Page
4.Alex Lifeson
4.Johnny Ramone
5.Pete Townsend
6.David Gilmour
7.Steve Howe
8. Steve Hackett
9 Albert Lee
10. Hank Marvin
Honourable mention, Gary Moore, Phil Manzanera, Keef, Chris Spedding, Joe Walsh
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miguel
Guitars are a strange religion.
Miguel
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Steve Newton
Hey Pat Crowe: how about replacing Johnny Ramone with Rory Gallagher and Pete Townshend with Stevie Ray Vaughan. And since Albert Lee is more of a country picker, how about replacing him with your honourably mentioned Gary Moore. There. Now you've got a nice little Top 10.
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John Lucas
@Claudia Nice to see the team working on Google Translate has all the kinks ironed out.
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Martin Dunphy
Steve Hackett.
Amen.
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Bill
Where is Zal Yanovsky?
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Pat Crowe
I just can't out Johnny Ramone, I can't sniff, shiver, whimper, do it. No, no, don't make me, Steve.
How about Nigel Tufnel for Albert Lee then? K?
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Scathie
Any Greatest Guitarist list that doesn't rate Bob Mould at #1 is worthless.

Husker Du didn't need both a rhythm and lead guitar, they just had Bob to play both simultaneously, and faster than anyone else ever could. So go ahead, take your lists and throw 'em out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq_TowFGLU8

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miguel
Ten ain't enough, you've got to go to eleven.

Alvin Lee & Robin Trower have to be in.
Miguel
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djanko
These are all guitarists in the same type of music. It doesn't include any of the jazz greats (past or current), country artisits, or classical artists. Any list that doesn't include Wes Montgomery, Howard Roberts, Troncoso, or Chet Atkins is incomplete.
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JB11
Yes well Koss, Beck, Rory, Green,Buchanan of course!!!!! What about the late great unsung Peter "Ollie" Halsall!!!!!!!
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Steve Newton
sorry, no unsung artists allowed. They shoulda sung when they had a chance
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