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.