Welcome to Round 4 of the best guitarists to ever pick up the instrument. So far this week, we’ve climbed the ranks from #50-41, then #40-31 and #30-21. 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.
20. Django Reinhardt
Pioneer of the gypsy jazz genre, Reinhardt mesmerized 1930s Parisian audiences – and later distracted them from World War II – with his percussive, swinging approach to the guitar. His intricate playing style was born out of adversity; at age 18, a house fire left him badly burned and his third and fourth fingers partially paralyzed. Consequently, Reinhardt played all his solos with only two fingers. An inspiration to many contemporary guitarists, Reinhardt continues to prove to modern listeners that jazz guitar is anything but stuffy. – Ellen Barnes
19. Mick Ronson (David Bowie, Ian Hunter)
One of rock’s most versatile sidemen, Mick Ronson was the six-string engine behind seminal albums by Lou Reed, Ian Hunter, and, of course, David Bowie. Whether a song called for stately elegance (Bowie’s “Life on Mars?”) or searing three-chord bluster (Reed’s “Vicious”), Ronson always had the goods. His celestial outro on Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” remains one of rock’s most breathtaking moments. Fittingly, Hunter called Ronson a musical Picasso. – Russell Hall
18. Wes Montgomery
This thumb-picking master of the Gibson L-5CES from Indianapolis changed the sound of jazz guitar melody from bebop’s single-note lines to elegant gliding octave and block chords that rang like gentle, breathy sighs even during his most ferocious playing. His influence continues to resonate in inheritors like George Benson and Pat Martino, but extended well beyond straight jazz to fusion explorers like John McLaughlin and Montgomery’s trumpet-playing contemporary Miles Davis. – Ted Drozdowski
17. B.B. King
He’s become an institution and beacon for every guitarist who was raised on the blues – including Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and his sometime-collaborator Eric Clapton. Even as an octogenarian, King is still out there doing it, bending his strings, driving hard on those electric solos that inspired an entire generation of rockers and dragging his beloved Lucille from theater to theater filled with awestruck audiences. He could have cashed in on his rich legacy a long time ago, but King is doing it for a very simple reason. “I love to play,” he says. – Aidin Vaziri
16. Mike Bloomfield (Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan)
Bloomfield was a very powerful and influential player who possessed incredible fire and intelligence in his playing. His work with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and then with Bob Dylan really helped shape the lead blues guitar movement of the ’60s. He continued with The Electric Flag and Super Session, and his move from the Telecaster to the vintage Les Paul sunburst literally made everyone “have to have” one back then. One of the all-time greats, Michael possessed some of the greatest bending, vibrato and phrasing ever. – Arlen Roth
15. Steve Cropper (Booker T. & The MGs)
As the six-string voice of Memphis’ Stax Records, Cropper is a man of a thousand riffs. His spanking, sliding, rhythm-based style put the sting in Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,” Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man,” all of Otis Redding’s hits and a host of other tunes that defined rhythm & blues for the ’60s and ’70s. Today Cropper’s sinuous and sinewy licks remain deeply embedded in the American soul and subconscious. – Ted Drozdowski
Often overlooked as one of the all-time great guitarists, Prince is a tremendous player with a chameleon-like ability to color any song with dazzling fretwork and a prodigious fusion of funk, blues, R&B, jazz and rock. Prince can shred like a metal god in one moment, then stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jimmy Nolens and Steve Croppers of the world in his ability to lay down a tasty R&B groove. The Artist’s true genius on guitar is his ability to coax real emotion out of the instrument, thereby elevating good songs into masterpieces. – Sean Dooley
13. Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs)
White is a junk collector, taking shiny bits of things nobody wants anymore and making them into something everyone has to have. Blending technical prowess with old-timey aesthetics, bleeding together influences such as Charlie Patton and The Stooges, White unleashes scorching runs that should melt his plastic guitar. He’s equally outstanding as a songwriter, providing an unbeatable framework for his tortured solos. Whether he’s playing alongside the clompety-clomp of “big sister” Meg in The White Stripes or jamming with his buddies in The Raconteurs, this junk collector is the guitar hero for the 21st century. – Bryan Wawzenek
12. Stevie Ray Vaughan
If you ever had the chance to witness Stevie Ray Vaughan perform, you, too, understand that he didn’t just “play” the guitar – he channeled music from the depths of his soul and through his body and guitar, which were connected as one. Mesmerizing to the point of hypnotic, watching the music burst out of him with such beautiful yet brutal violence and magnitude was to behold some form of musical and spiritual possession. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s legacy permanently resides in the rarified pantheon reserved for bona fide guitar gods. – Sean Dooley
11. George Harrison (The Beatles)
If judged solely by the number of people who picked up a guitar for the first time because of his music, George Harrison is the most influential guitarist of all time. Deftly mixing rockabilly, blues and country, Harrison was the perfect guitarist for the omnivorous songcrafting of The Beatles. His incorporation of sitar into the band’s sound practically changed the way people thought about the sonic possibilities of pop music. In addition to all this, he played the sweetest sounding slide anywhere. – Michael Wright
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.