KOSSOh, 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.

RGallagherBut 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.

AndyPowellAndTedTurner

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.

MacchioCrossroads

By MARowe

43 thoughts on “Unheralded Guitarists”
  1. With bands like Porcupine Tree and Sound of Contact becoming so well known, prog is no longer the dirty word it used to be. But it’s still rare that a member of a prog band will be mentioned in any list of musical who’s-whos. Here are two names that NEVER get mentioned in any rock list, and once you listen to them play, you’ll wonder why too.

    Steve Hackett (Genesis) — along with Tony Banks’ keyboards, Steve’s signature guitar style was the defining sound of classic Genesis. Although sometimes relegated to the background, his guitar offered shining moments that simply awed with its seeming-simplicity but unmistakable beauty and power, not to mention technical skill. Listen to “Firth of Fifth” for an example of his best, most graceful, most soaring, most incredible guitar solo to come from this virtuoso.

    Steve Rothery (Marillion) — there’s so much expression and emotion in his sustained-note type of playing, he can wring passion out of the simplest guitar lines. Check out “Neverland” for an example of this. “Sugar Mice” is also a favourite. But especially try “Easter” for one of the most beautiful solos I’ve ever heard in my life!

  2. Peter Green, Roy Buchanan, Mick Taylor, Michael Bloomfield amp; Curt Kirkwood, just to name a few. (The list could actually be huge, and probably will be when everyone posts their own comments.)

  3. Richard Thompson- Founding the seminal British folk rock band at a mere 17 in 1967, Richard has year after year shown and invented new ways to make the guitar sing. Acoustic, electric, big band, power trios, folk trios electric large band, duos and even concept “folktorio” with dozens of musicians and including a small orchestra (Cabaret of Souls). Constant touring all over the world, Richard bends, picks and strums with best of all-time. Always sounds like there are two guitarists playing one instrument. Ask any “real” guitarist and and they’ll rave even more. Solos are always different and stunning.

  4. Richard Thompson- Founding the seminal British folk rock band The Fairport Convention at a mere 17 in 1967, Richard has year after year shown and invented new ways to make the guitar sing. Acoustic, electric, big band, power trios, folk trios, electric large band, duos. even a concept “folktorio” with dozens of musicians and including a small orchestra (“Cabaret of Souls”) and let us not forget “1000 Years of Popular Music.” Constantly touring all over the world, Richard bends, picks and strums with best of all-time. Always sounds like there are two guitarists playing one instrument. Ask any “real” guitarist and they’ll rave even more. Solos are always different and stunning.

    1. If you’re bringing British folk amp; folk rock into this, how about John Renbourn, Davy Graham, John Martyn, Roy Harper and the recently-departed Bert Jansch?

  5. Richard Thompson- Founding the seminal British folk rock band The Fairport Convention at a mere 17 in 1967, Richard has year after year shown and invented new ways to make the guitar sing. Acoustic, electric, big band, power trios, folk trios, electric large band, duos. even a concept “folktorio” with dozens of musicians and including a small orchestra (“Cabaret of Souls”) and let us not forget “1000 Years of Popular Music.” Constantly touring all over the world, Richard bends, picks and strums with best of all-time. Always sounds like there are two guitarists playing one instrument. Ask any “real” guitarist and they’ll rave even more. Solos are always different and stunning.

  6. How about the little man of the E Street Band, Nils Lofgren. Just the fact that both Neil young and Bruce Springsteen wanted him in their band tells the whole story. A unique sound that really shows up in his great solo albums. No gymnastics anymore, but the guitar still bends like Gumby.

  7. I agree with everyone on your list, although you’re right, I don’t know the music of Be-Bop Deluxe. Time to check it out. In the meantime here are a few more for the list…

    Richie Blackmore
    Joe Satriani
    Adrian Belew
    Robin Trower
    Frank Marino

    I saw Frank about 2 years ago in a tiny theatre and he played for 3 hours straight and just blew me away from start to finish. But never, ever is there a mention of him.

  8. Matt- I concur that a number of great guitar players go unheralded, for reasons unknown to me. When I think about the “great ones”, I think along two lines: 1) Great ones in recorded work, and 2) Great ones I have seen live (and I’ve seen a bunch…).

    With that said, here is my list of “Great, But Sometimes Overlooked” guitar players (in no particular order…):

    1. Leslie West (Mountain, West, Bruce and Laing): Live, I have seen this guy get sounds out his instrument that seemed virtually impossible.

    2. Peter Frampton (Humble Pie, Frampton’s Camel, Solo): OK- we all know “Frampton Comes Alive” (and the great guitar work in “Do You Feel…”), but overlook the over-play and listen to this guy. He can turn it up to 11 and blow your hair back, play sweet and mellow, or jazz things up (didn’t he win a Grammy for “Fingerprints”…?).

    3. Joe Walsh (James Gang, Barnstorm, Eagles, Solo): Pete Townshend once called Joe one of the best. “Nuff said…

    4. Rick Neilsen (Cheap Trick)- Get past the PowerPop of things like “I Want You”… and listen to what this man has to offer. Double- neck? How about a Quintuple-neck…?

    I’m sure I will chime in as I cogitate on this topic…

  9. David Gilmore for sure. I could rip off a few other names but most of them are in groups that don’t make the charts like Dream Theater’s John Petrucci.
    I will also give an obvios nod to Alex Lifeson. Sure, Rush fans know he’s awesome but non-Rush fans barely know his name.

  10. Vinnie Vincent.

    His work at reviving a lethargic KISS is often overlooked. Writing songs like I Love It Loud and Lick It Up (both of which KISS still perform today) while bringing a exciting flash of playing (he was often compared to Randy Rhoads at the time) yet he is nowhere near as well known as he should be. By 1986 he was long gone from the KISS camp, but came roaring back with a monster of a solo band, Invasion, who’s first CD still just kills.

  11. Donald ‘Buck Dharma’ Roeser (Blue Oyster Cult)
    Rory Gallagher
    Robin Trower
    Terry Kath (Chicago)
    Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy)

  12. The first person I think of when I see a discussion of this type is Rick Derringer. First with the McCoys, then both Edgar and Johnny Winter’s bands, a decent solo career, guesting on lots of sessions from Steely Dan to Wierd Al, and a solid career as a producer. He had (still has, as far as I know) chops a plenty – just listen to him burn thru Chuck Berry’s “Living In the USA” on the Roadwork album by Edgar Winter’s White Trash. Amazing.

  13. Here are a few of my favourites:
    Tore Ostby – Ark
    John Lees – Barclay James Harvest
    Steve Katz – Blood Sweat and Tears
    Tommy Bolin
    Terry Smith – If
    Steve Stevens – Billy Idol
    Duncan Browne – Metro
    Andy Latimer – Camel
    Randy California – Spirit
    Charlie Whitney – Family
    Mike Slamer – City Boy
    Gary Moore
    Brett Kull – Echolyn
    Robert Fripp
    Roine Stolt – Flower Kings
    Gary Green – Gentle Giant
    Gordon Giltrap
    Stanley Whittaker – Happy the Man
    Steve Hillage – Gong
    Laurie Wisefield – Home/Wishbone Ash
    Paul Bremner – Izz
    Lindsay Buckingham – Fleetwood Mac
    Phil Keaggy

  14. The Heavenly Blues Rock Guitar Club; Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Duane Allman, Roy Buchanon, Rory Gallagher, Peter Green, and Jeff Healey. Imagine the Jam sessions these guys must be having in the afterlife…Someday Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Robin Trower, and Billy Gibbons will join them

    Some other greats in no particular order; Pat Travers, Frank Marino, Shawn Lane, George Lynch, Ronnie Montrose, John Petrucci, Doug Aldrich, Warren DeMartini, Vinnie Vincent, John Sykes, Michael Schenker, Dimebag Darrell Abbott, Alex Lifeson, and Rik Emmett

  15. So many options in this list where do I start??? Ok…here’s a few (in no particular order)……
    Jake E. Lee
    Larry Coryell
    Al Dimeola
    Steve Howe
    Brian Setzer
    Steve Stevens
    Billy Gibbons
    Randy Jackson (Of Zebra)
    and how can I forget Uli Jon Roth!!
    and lets throw in Jan Akkerman (Of Focus)

  16. Uli Roth – Early Scorpions
    Buckethead – Guns and Roses among other bands
    Richard Thompson
    Frank Zappa – Why is this guy never mentioned in any best of? For me he’s probably in the top 5 guitarists of all time
    KK Downing/Glenn Tipton – Judas Priest
    Andy Powell/Ted Turner – Wishbone Ash
    Frank Marino – Definitely one of the best of all time. This guy shreds.

  17. Here’s a few who haven’t been mentioned yet-Peter Green amp; Danny Kirwan (if I missed these two, it’s because my eyeballs aren’t what they used to be), John Cipollina (sp?), James Gurley amp; Sam Andrew. Let’s also not forget Clarence White. This is just off the top of my head.

  18. I tend to like the less flash players – some of my faves are:
    Richard Thompson (preferably actoustic)
    Lowell George
    Jerry Garcia
    Pete Towshend
    but perhaps it is better to think of great albums with sublime playing – think Bop Till You Drop with Cooder and Lindley, and then you have Marquee Moon with Tom Verlaine, and what about Jansch and Renbourn on the first 3 or 4 Pentangle albums and I love Nick Drake’s guitar plaing – gosh the list could go on and on

  19. David Gilmour
    Terry Kath (could handle whatever type of music the band threw at him and consistently gave excellent guitar riffs, solos, etc.).
    Joe Walsh (please check out his latest album)
    Lindsay Buckingham
    Dave Davies (one of my favorite for both lead riffs and solos, outstanding at both, and even better live)
    Mick Taylor (some of the very best live solo work I’ve ever hard from the 70’s)
    Pete Townshend
    Steve Howe

  20. Andy summers the police,rik emmit triumph rich Williams Kansas Barry goudreau Boston nuno bettencourt extreme Martin barre jethro tull

  21. One guy I haven’t seen listed here yet is Sonny Landreth. I went to see John Hiatt in 89 and spent the whole time watching Sonny play. The guy can rip off amazing slide run and has the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard.

  22. Guys, I think the blues guys are being greatly underrated here! Only 1 mention for Stevie Ray, and none at all for Kenny Wayne Shepard and Jonny Lang. And probably the greatest unknown guitarist on the planet, Eric Johnson doesn’t get a look in. No Joe Bonamassa or John Mayer either.
    When you think Jonny and Kenny were in their teens when some of their best records were made, the mind boggles.

    1. I thought about KWS and JL but for me they’re technically good guitarists but they lack a certain feeling while playing. As for Stevie Ray Vaughan – great guitarist but plays too much like Hendrix. I don’t know if that’s bad or good. Now, Joe Bonamassa – you’re right, should be included in the underrated guitarist list – definitely.

  23. Matt, I’m really surprised at you! You’re such a Steven Wilson fan, I would have thought Guthrie Govan would have been top of the list!

  24. Last post, I promise. Don’t forget the geniuses of acoustic guitar plucking, Kelly Joe Phelps and Doyle Dykes.

  25. For all his greatness Keith Richards is not half the guitarist Ronnie Wood is. I know those words may start a fight with some of you but Ronnie Wood is one of the most underrated players ever.

    I also think that Dwight “The Edge” Evans does not get enough credit. It’s him, not Bono, who is the driving force in U2 and gives them their distinctive sound.

    Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp are heads above almost any hard rock or metal guitarist but get have the credit.

    I also will give a shout out to Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. A lot of neat sound with very little effort is a admirable thing.

    1. Coleman, I agree with you on every single instance you pointed out. Listen to Wood pre-Stones, and listen after his joining…huge difference. Wood is the better guitarist. The difference is that Richards can come up with the riffs.

  26. Randy Hanson, no one plays Hendrix better. Check his videos out on youtube. Also Rock Candy is putting his 1980 album of original material out on CD finally.

  27. has since charted in 1972 and 1982 and now is not only considered one of Clapton’s most outstanding achievements, but also consistently appears in listings of the best rock albums ever recorded. The band’s producer, Tom Dowd, said of it that he “felt it was the best … album I’d been involved with since The Genius of Ray Charles ” and was disappointed at the lack of acclaim it garnered on its release.

  28. Warren Haynes amp; Derek Trucks with The Allman Brothers, check their live work togther on “Dreams” on Youtube. Awesome duo.
    Then check out their solo work, Warren with Gov’t Mule amp; Derek with Tedeski Trucks Band. Susan Tedeski is also a fine slide player in her own right. Derek also did a tour with Clapton and they did most of the Derek amp; Domino’s album. High Praise indeed. Finally, they both tour amp; guest on stage almost non stop. Warren could be the new “Hardest Working Man In Show Business” because he is on stage with somebody 270 to 300 nights a year. Just to show I’m not a complete fanboy, check out Jackie Greene who took Luther Dickenson’s spot in the Black Crowe’s and never missed a lick.

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