Famous 20th Century Guitarists

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Guitarists, including David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Keith Richards and Ringo Starr.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century Guitarists

 1 
Jimi Hendrix
(One of the Most Influential Electric Guitarists & the Greatest Instrumentalist in the History of Rock Music)

Jimi Hendrix
7
Birthdate: November 27, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States
Died: September 18, 1970

One of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix began playing guitar at the age of 15. As his career progressed, he became the first musician to use stereophonic phasing effects in recordings. Rolling Stone ranked him as the greatest guitarist and the sixth greatest artist of all time. He died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 27.

 2 
Brian May
(Lead Guitarist of the Rock Band 'Queen')

Brian May
8
Birthdate: July 19, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hampton, London, England

Queen guitarist and singer-songwriter Brian May is also a PhD in astrophysics. One of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time and Guitar World’s second-greatest guitarist, he received a CBE. He was a Chancellor of Liverpool at John Moores University, has worked with NASA, and fights for animal rights.

 3 
Eddie Van Halen
(Guitarist and Keyboardist of the Rock Band Van Halen)

Eddie Van Halen
8
Birthdate: January 26, 1955
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died: October 6, 2020

Eddie Van Halen was an American songwriter and guitarist. The co-founder of the popular rock band Van Halen, Eddie is widely considered one of the greatest guitar players in the history of rock music. He is credited with popularizing the tapping technique, which is now used extensively by guitarists all over the world.

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 4 
Eric Clapton
(One of the Greatest Guitarists of All Time)

Eric Clapton
13
Birthdate: March 30, 1945
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ripley, England

Eric Clapton, the rock and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, is considered one of the most influential guitarists of all time. In the 1970s, he recorded a number of successful solo albums and continued to do so over the next several decades and is one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He has had issues with alcohol and drugs.

 5 
Buddy Holly
(Singer-Songwriter & Pioneer in Mid 1950's Rock and Roll)

Buddy Holly
5
Birthdate: September 7, 1936
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lubbock, Texas, United States
Died: February 3, 1959

Musician and singer-songwriter Buddy Holly was a central figure of mid-1950s rock and roll. Born to a musical family, he learned to sing and play the guitar as a child. He began his career as a teenager and found much success within a short period. Sadly, he died in an aircraft crash when he was just 22 years old.

 6 

Frank Vincent Zappa
7
Birthdate: December 21, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died: December 4, 1993

Frank Zappa was an American composer, multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and bandleader. Widely regarded as one of the most stylistically diverse and innovative rock musicians of his generation, Zappa was named in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list in 2004. Zappa's works have influenced other musicians like Alice Cooper, Jimi Hendrix, Simon Phillips, Steve Vai, and Warren DeMartini.

 7 
Jimmy Page
(Guitarist and Founder of the Rock Band 'Led Zeppelin')

Jimmy Page
5
Birthdate: January 9, 1944
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Heston, Middlesex, England

An English musician, songwriter, and record producer, Jimmy Page gained international recognition as the founder of the popular rock band Led Zeppelin. Widely regarded as one of the most influential and greatest guitarists of all time, Jimmy Page was ranked third in Rolling Stone magazine's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Jimmy Page has influenced several popular guitarists.

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 8 
Stevie Ray Vaughan
(Musician, Singer, Songwriter, Record Producer)

Stevie Ray Vaughan
6
Birthdate: October 3, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dallas
Died: August 27, 1990

Stevie Ray Vaughan was an American musician. Stevie achieved so much in his mainstream career, that spanned only seven years, that he is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists ever and one of the most influential and iconic musicians in the blues music history. He is credited with reviving blues-rock and his work continues to influence several artists.

 9 
Joni Mitchell
(Famous for Her Studio Album 'Blue')

Joni Mitchell
8
Birthdate: November 7, 1943
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Fort Macleod, Canada

Joni Mitchell is one of the most popular Canadian singer-songwriters. Widely regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, her songs reflect her feelings about joy, romance, disillusionment, and confusion. Apart from being a musician, Joni is also a visual artist who designs most of her album covers. In fact, she calls herself a painter derailed by circumstance.  

 10 
Chuck Berry
(One of the Most Influential “Rock 'n' Roll” Performers in Music History)

Chuck Berry
13
Birthdate: October 18, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry was an American singer-songwriter. Referred to as the Father of Rock and Roll, Berry is credited with pioneering rock and roll music. He is also credited with influencing the attitude with which the rock music lifestyle is usually associated. Also revered for his guitaring skills, Berry is often included in lists like the Greatest Artists of All Time.

 11 
James Hetfield
(Guitarist, Co-Founder and Main Songwriter of Heavy Metal Band 'Metallica')

James Hetfield
7
Birthdate: August 3, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Downey, California, United States

James Hetfield is an American songwriter and musician. He is credited with co-founding one of the most popular heavy metal bands of all time, Metallica. James Hetfield is often regarded as one of the greatest guitarists and vocalists ever. Since the 1980s, Hetfield has played a key role in the success of ESP Guitars, as one of its major endorsers.

 12 
Joe Walsh
(Singer and Guitarist Who Was Member of Three Successful Rock Bands: 'The Eagles', 'James Gang' & 'Ringo Starr’)

Joe Walsh
7
Birthdate: November 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas, United States

Joe Walsh is an American guitarist, songwriter, and singer. Over the years Walsh has contributed to the success of popular rock bands such as Eagles and James Gang. In 1998, he was made an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, he was ranked 54th on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list.

 13 
Angus Young
(Co-Founder and Lead Guitarist for the Hard Rock Band 'AC/DC')

Angus Young
6
Birthdate: March 31, 1955
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Angus Young, AC/DC co-founder, lead guitarist, and songwriter, migrated to Australia at 13. After dropping out of school at 15, he started playing instruments. Named the Best Australian Guitarist of All Time by Australian Guitar magazine, he is known for his uniform outfits and for reviving Chuck Berry's "duck walk."

 14 

Robert Johnson
5
Birthdate: May 8, 1911
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hazlehurst, Mississippi, United States
Died: August 16, 1938

Singer and guitarist Robert Johnson is remembered as a Delta blues legend. Lack of proper documentation of his early life led to various legends surrounding him, such as one that claimed he had made a deal with the Devil to excel in music. He also inspired an award-winning biography. 

 15 
Neil Young
(Rock Singer-Songwriter Famous As The 'Godfather of Grunge')

Neil Young
8
Birthdate: November 12, 1945
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Toronto, Canada

One of rock and roll’s greatest songwriters and performers of all time, Neil Young has worked both solo as well with bands like Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Grammy award winning musician’s notable albums include After the Gold Rush, Harvest, Harvest Moon and Ragged Glory. He strongly backs environmental and disability issues too.

 16 
Lindsey Buckingham
(Singer, Musician)

Lindsey Buckingham
6
Birthdate: October 3, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Palo Alto

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Lindsey Buckingham ruled the American rock scene with the band Fleetwood Mac, performing with his then-girlfriend, Stevie Nicks. Rolling Stone named him one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. After a brief hiatus, he rejoined the band but was fired eventually.

 17 
Lou Reed
(Lead Guitarist, Vocalist & Principal Songwriter of the Rock Band “The Velvet Underground”)

Lou Reed
7
Birthdate: March 2, 1942
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: October 27, 2013
Lou Reed redefined the glam rock genre with his album Transformer. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee initially wrote sings for Pickwick Records and performed with the Velvet Underground. He then released 20 solo albums. His parents had made him go through electro-shock therapy to “cure” his bisexuality.

 18 
B.B. King
(Singer-songwriter)

B.B. King
9
Birthdate: September 16, 1925
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Berclair, Mississippi
Died: May 14, 2015
Known as “The King of the Blues,” legendary musician B. B. King introduced a signature style of soloing using string bending and vibrato. His song The Thrill is Gone won him a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. He was featured on Rolling Stone’s “100 greatest guitarists of all time” list.

 19 
Paul Simon
(American Singer-Songwriter)

Paul Simon
8
Birthdate: October 13, 1941
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States

One half of the popular musical duo Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Simon is a singer-songwriter, musician, and actor. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters of all time. His career, which has spanned more than 60 years, has been so influential that Time named him among the 100 People Who Shaped the World in 2006.

 20 
Jerry Garcia
(The Lead Guitarist and a Vocalist with the Rock Band the "Grateful Dead")

Jerry Garcia
7
Birthdate: August 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: August 9, 1995

Jerry Garcia had an illustrious 30-year career as the lead guitarist and vocalist of the rock band the Grateful Dead. Rolling Stone ranked him 13th on their 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list. He was known for his improvisations, participated in many side projects, and released several solo albums.

 21 
Carlos Santana
(Guitarist)

Carlos Santana
9
Birthdate: July 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Autlán, Mexico

Guitarist Carlos Santana rose to fame in the late 1960s and 1970s with his rock band Santana. He introduced elements of Latin American jazz in his rock music to create unique songs. He is the recipient of ten Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards. Rolling Stone magazine listed him on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists in 2015.

 22 
Slash
(Musician)

Slash
12
Birthdate: July 23, 1965
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hampstead

Slash is an English-American songwriter, musician, and record producer. After achieving popularity as the lead guitarist of Guns N' Roses, Slash left the band to form Velvet Revolver, a hard rock supergroup. Widely regarded as one of the greatest guitar players in the history of rock, Slash is often named in lists, such as the Top Guitarists of All Time.

 23 
Mark Knopfler
(Former lead guitarist, singer and songwriter of the rock band Dire Straits)

Mark Knopfler
8
Birthdate: August 12, 1949
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland

Best known as the lead guitarist and singer of the popular rock band Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler is one of Britain’s most celebrated guitar icons. Known for hits such as Sultans of Swing, he and his band also released Brothers in Arms, one of the best-selling albums of all time.

 24 
Pete Townshend
(Co-Founder and Lead Vocalist of the Rock Band 'The Who')

Pete Townshend
5
Birthdate: May 19, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England

Pete Townshend is an English guitarist, composer, and singer. He is credited with co-founding and leading one of the most influential and important rock bands of the 20th century, The Who. Also an influential guitarist, Pete Townshend was ranked 10th in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 greatest guitarists of all time list published in 2011.

 25 
Dimebag Darrell
(Guitarist, Composer, Musician)

Dimebag Darrell
7
Birthdate: August 20, 1966
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dallas
Died: December 8, 2004

 26 
David Gilmour
(Guitarist, Singer-songwriter, Songwriter, Multi-instrumentalist, Record producer)

David Gilmour
4
Birthdate: March 6, 1946
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cambridge ,England

Pink Floyd guitarist/singer David Gilmour helped the band become one of the best-selling acts ever. One of Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest guitarists of all time, he has also been an advocate of animal rights and other causes. He once auctioned off 120 guitars, including his iconic Black Strat, for charity.

 27 
Billy Gibbons
(Guitarist, Singer)

Billy Gibbons
4
Birthdate: December 16, 1949
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Houston

 28 
Randy Rhoads
(Guitarist, Musician, Classical guitarist)

Randy Rhoads
5
Birthdate: December 6, 1956
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Santa Monica
Died: March 19, 1982

 29 
Kurt Cobain
(Guitarist, Lead Vocalist and Primary Songwriter of the Rock Band 'Nirvana')

Kurt Cobain
7
Birthdate: February 20, 1967
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Aberdeen, Washington, United States
Died: April 5, 1994

Gaining fame as a member of the rock band Nirvana, singer-songwriter and musician Kurt Cobain was often heralded as a spokesman of Generation X. He is considered to be one of the most influential musicians in the history of alternative rock. He enjoyed tremendous professional success, but his personal life was troubled. He died of suicide at just 27.

 30 
Muddy Waters
(Musician)

Muddy Waters
4
Birthdate: April 4, 1913
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Issaquena County, Mississippi
Died: April 30, 1983
Grammy-winning blues singer McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, is considered the father of modern Chicago blues. He is remembered for his tracks Hoochie Coochie Man and Rollin' Stone, with the latter inspiring the name of the band The Rolling Stones. He shaped the rock and roll genre.

 31 
Kirk Hammett
(Lead Guitarist for Heavy Metal Band 'Metallica')

Kirk Hammett
6
Birthdate: November 18, 1962
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Kirk Hammett, lead guitarist of the heavy metal band Metallica, was ranked 11th on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list. He was previously part of the group Exodus. His collection of horror memorabilia was released as a book, and he also started an annual horror convention.

 32 
George Harrison
(Achieved Fame As the Lead Guitarist of the Beatles)

George Harrison
10
Birthdate: February 25, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Liverpool, England
Died: November 29, 2001

Gaining fame as the lead guitarist of the rock band, the Beatles, English musician, George Harrison, helped broaden the scope of popular music in the Western world. He was also successful as a solo performer and released many best-selling albums. He was named in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time

 33 
John Mayer
(Pop-Rock Singer Known for His Albums 'Room for Squares' and 'Heavier Things')

John Mayer
11
Birthdate: October 16, 1977
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States
John Mayer went from working at a gas station to producing the multi-platinum albums Room for Squares and Heavier Things and winning multiple Grammys. He has worked with bands such as the John Mayer Trio and Dead & Company. He has written for Esquire, donates to charities, and collects watches. 

 34 
Steve Vai
(Guitarist, Songwriter)

Steve Vai
4
Birthdate: June 6, 1960
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Carle Place, New York, United States
Three-time Grammy-winning guitarist and singer Steve Vai began his career as a transcriptionist for Frank Zappa and played for his band till he launched his solo career. Guitar World named him the “10th Greatest Guitarist. His music was featured in music videos such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

 35 
Barry Gibb
(Member of the Music Group "Bee Gees," One of the Best-Selling Groups of All Time)

Barry Gibb
4
Birthdate: September 1, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Douglas, Isle of Man

A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees is known for his versatility. Barry ranks second on the Guinness World Records list of successful songwriters and has gifted his fans cult classics of pop/disco music of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Stayin’ Alive.

 36 
John Denver
(Best Know for His Songs 'Rocky Mountain High', 'Take Me Home, Country Roads', and 'Annie's Song')

John Denver
4
Birthdate: December 31, 1943
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Roswell, New Mexico, United States
Died: October 12, 1997

John Denver was one of the highest-selling and most popular singers during the 1970s. He was known for folk, pop and country music. Some of his greatest songs are Take Me Home Country Roads, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Rocky Mountain High, Sunshine on My Shoulders and Annie's Song. He died when a plane he was piloting crashed in California.

 37 
Tom Morello
(Musician)

Tom Morello
8
Birthdate: May 30, 1964
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City, United States

Tom Morello is an American musician, rapper, singer, actor, songwriter, and political activist. Morello is best known for his association with Rage Against the Machine, which he co-founded with Zack de la Rocha. Renowned for his creative and unique guitar playing style, Tom Morello was ranked among the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.

 38 
Ritchie Valens
(A 'Rock and Roll' Pioneer and a Forefather of the 'Chicano Rock' Movement)

Ritchie Valens
4
Birthdate: May 13, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: February 3, 1959

Widely regarded as the pioneer of Latin rock and Chicano rock, Ritchie Valens was an American guitarist and singer-songwriter. Since his untimely death at the age of 17, Ritchie Valens has inspired several musicians and bands like Carlos Santana, Los Lonely Boys, and Los Lobos. Valens also inspired Robert Quine, Jimi Hendrix, Keith O'Conner Murphy, and Chris Montez among others.

 39 
Peter Green
(Musician & Songwriter)

Peter Green
5
Birthdate: October 29, 1946
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bethnal Green, London, England
Died: July 25, 2020

Peter Green was an English guitarist and singer-songwriter. Green is credited with founding the popular British-American rock band, Fleetwood Mac. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Named in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list, Green has influenced many other guitarists like Joe Perry and Gary Moore.

 40 
Glen Campbell
(Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter, Actor and TV Host)

Glen Campbell
4
Birthdate: April 22, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Billstown, Arkansas, United States
Died: August 8, 2017

Glen Campbell was an American TV host, actor, singer-songwriter, and guitarist. Regarded as one of the most successful musicians ever, Campbell sold more than 45 million records, which included a double-platinum album, four platinum albums, and 12 gold albums, in a career spanning 50 years. In 2014, he became the subject of a documentary titled Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me.

 41 
Ritchie Blackmore
(Guitarist, Songwriter)

Ritchie Blackmore
4
Birthdate: April 14, 1945
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Weston-super-Mare

 42 
Bonnie Raitt
(Singer)

Bonnie Raitt
4
Birthdate: November 8, 1949
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Burbank, California, United States

Bonnie Raitt is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and activist. Despite little commercial success at the beginning of her career, Raitt remained persistent until she had her first major hit in 1989. She has been named in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time lists. She also supports organizations like Little Kids Rock.

 43 
James Taylor
(Singer-Songwriter & Musician - One of the Best-Selling Artists of All Time)

James Taylor
4
Birthdate: March 12, 1948
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Five-time Grammy Award-winning folk singer James Taylor is best known for his hits You've Got a Friend and Fire and Rain. One of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, he has sold over 100 million records worldwide and has also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 44 
Bryan Adams
(Best Selling Pop, Pop-Rock Singer-Songwriter Of All Time)

Bryan Adams
4
Birthdate: November 5, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kingston, Canada
Canadian rock guitarist and singer Bryan Adams, known for his cult classics Everything I Do and Summer of '69, has won 20 Juno Awards and a Grammy. The Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee is also an avid animal rights activist and a professional photographer who has held several exhibitions.

 45 
Waylon Jennings
(Country Singer Known for First no.1 Single 'Dreaming My Dreams')

Waylon Jennings
4
Birthdate: June 15, 1937
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Littlefield, Texas, United States
Died: February 13, 2002
Waylon Jennings was one of the pioneers of outlaw country music. He began performing on KVOW radio, at age 12, and then performed with several bands, such as The Texas Longhorns, The Waylors, and The Highwaymen. He also contributed to Wanted! The Outlaws, the first platinum country album. 

 46 
Tony Iommi
(Guitarist, Composer, Musician, Songwriter)

Tony Iommi
4
Birthdate: February 19, 1948
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Birmingham

Black Sabbath lead guitarist Tony Iommi was named one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Known for his signature black leather jacket and silver cross neckpiece, he is fond of playing dark guitar tones. While he successfully beat lymphoma, the cancer was in remission later.

 47 
Duane Allman
(Guitarist, Singer, Musician, Songwriter)

Duane Allman
3
Birthdate: November 20, 1946
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Nashville
Died: October 29, 1971

 48 
Jack White
(Lead Singer and Guitarist of the Duo 'The White Stripes')

Jack White
13
Birthdate: July 9, 1975
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

The White Stripes guitarist and vocalist Jack White had begun playing drums at 6. He made it to Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list. With 12 Grammys, he is now considered one of the main forces in the revival of the garage rock genre in the 2000s.

 49 
Robbie Robertson
(Guitarist, Producer)

Robbie Robertson
4
Birthdate: July 5, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Toronto, Canada

Canadian musician, songwriter, and film composer Robbie Robertson became popular following his association as lead guitarist and songwriter with the rock group, The Band. He is credited for playing a key role in popularizing the Americana music genre. He also had a successful career as a solo artist. As a film composer, he has often collaborated with director Martin Scorsese.

 50 
IU
(Singer)

IU
6
Birthdate: May 16, 1993
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, South Korea