Famous American Guitarists

What is that one thing that strings together musical legends like Erick Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix, B.B. King, Stevie Ray, Billie Gibbons and Steve Vay together? That is right – guitar! America has been home to some of the most gifted, charismatic, spotlight-drawing six-string players in music history. They were the guitarists who exuded sheer energy, raw passion, and unfathomable musical rush with that one special ax. Be it well-aged acoustic or a banged-up electric, these guitar legends drove their audience in a frenzy with every strum, inspiring millions of fans to follow suit. It is because of extraordinarily endowed guitarists like Joe Satriani, Steve Morse, Frank Zappa, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, Scott Henderson, and Dimebag Darrell that rock and roll and all that pop culture phenomena scaled to profound levels. No wonder we had an entire generation chasing the guitar dream hoping to be as creative and cool as them. Let us delve into the life, deeds, feats, timeline, trivia, and interesting facts of some of America's greatest guitarists in the biographies presented below.

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

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 1 Prince

Prince.
6
Famous As: African-American Singer
Birthdate: June 7, 1958
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Died: April 21, 2016

Singer-songwriter, dancer, and musician, Prince is is widely regarded as one of the greatest musicians of his generation. He was considered a guitar virtuoso and could also play several other instruments. With worldwide sales of over 150 million records, he is ranked among the best-selling music artists of all time. He was also well known for his flamboyant persona.

 2 Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley.
5
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 8, 1935
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Tupelo, Mississippi, United States
Died: August 16, 1977
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, winner of 3 Grammys, and pioneer of the Pelvis move, Elvis Presley was a musical phenomenon of the 20th century. Known for his humbleness, love for God and devotion to his country, Presley had numerous gold, platinum and multi-platinum records to his credit, including 18 number 1 hits and 38 top ten hits.

 3 Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson.
4
Famous As: Musician, Activist
Birthdate: April 29, 1933
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Abbott, Texas, United States

An accomplished musician and one of the most popular names of the late 20th century American country music, Willie Nelson garnered fame with his albums Shotgun Willie, Red Headed Stranger, Stardust and Always on My Mind. The multiple Grammy award winning musician, who continues to record even today, has also appeared in numerous films and authored a number of books.

 4 Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen.
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: September 23, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Long Branch, New Jersey, United States

Considered one of the greatest rock stars, Bruce Springsteen’s catalogue of songs over many decades is unparalleled. His fame skyrocketed in 1975 after the release of his third album, Born to Run, and it reached dizzying heights with his seventh album, Born in the USA, in 1984. He was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

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 5 Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly.
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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

Frank Vincent Zappa.
4
Famous As: American musician
Birthdate: December 21, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, U.S
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 Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie Ray Vaughan.
4
Famous As: Musician, Singer, Songwriter, Record Producer
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.

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 8 Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry.
10
Famous As: Singer-songwriter & Guitarist
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.

 9 James Hetfield

James Hetfield.
4
Famous As: Musician, Songwriter
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.

 10 Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia.
4
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: August 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Francisco
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.

 11 Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey Buckingham.
4
Famous As: Singer, Musician
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.

 12 Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson.
4
Famous As: Singer
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. 

 13 Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix.
0
Famous As: Singer & Musician
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.

 14 John Mayer

John Mayer.
8
Famous As: Singer
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. 

 15 Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana.
6
Birthdate: July 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, México

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.

 16 Dimebag Darrell

Dimebag Darrell
4
Famous As: Guitarist, Composer, Musician
Birthdate: August 20, 1966
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dallas
Died: December 8, 2004

 17 B.B. King

B.B. King.
8
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
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.

 18 Lou Reed

Lou Reed.
4
Famous As: Musician, Singer
Birthdate: March 2, 1942
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Southampton, 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.

 19 Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi.
4
Birthdate: March 2, 1962
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Perth Amboy, New Jersey, United States

Known as the iconic founder of the popular rock band Bon Jovi, Jon Bon Jovi is a record producer and singer-songwriter. In 2012, he was named in Billboard magazine's The Most Powerful and Influential People In The Music Business list. Also a well-known philanthropist, he founded the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation in an attempt to eradicate poverty and homelessness.

 20 Ritchie Valens

Ritchie Valens.
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 13, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pacoima, 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.

 21 Paul Simon

Paul Simon.
4
Famous As: Musician
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.

 22 Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder.
4
Famous As: Musician & Singer
Birthdate: December 23, 1964
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Evanston, Illinois, United States
Pearl Jam lead singer and guitarist Eddie Vedder went from being a hotel security guard to being ranked 7 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Best Lead Singers of All Time. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has been a vocal supporter of environmental initiatives and abortion rights.

 23 Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell.
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: April 22, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Billstown, Arkansas
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.

 24 Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop.
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: April 21, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Muskegon

Iggy Pop is an American singer-songwriter, actor, musician, and record producer. Nicknamed the Godfather of Punk, Iggy Pop was an important member of the proto-punk band Iggy and the Stooges. One of the first singers to perform stage-dive, Pop is credited with popularizing the activity. A culture icon, Iggy Pop has had a major influence on musicians of various genres.

 25 Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh
4
Famous As: Guitarist
Birthdate: November 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wichita

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.

 26 Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow.
4
Famous As: Musician, Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: February 11, 1962
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kennett, Missouri, United States

Sheryl Crow is an American musician, actress, and singer-songwriter. Over the years, Crow has contributed to several film soundtracks, including the iconic theme song for the popular James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies. After being diagnosed with intraductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer, Sheryl Crow opened the Sheryl Crow Imaging Center by joining hands with her surgeon Kristi Funk.

 27 James Taylor

James Taylor.
4
Famous As: Singer
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.

 28 Billie Joe Armstrong

Billie Joe Armstrong.
7
Famous As: Singer, Musician, Guitarist
Birthdate: February 17, 1972
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Oakland, California, United States

Billie Joe Armstrong is an American musician and record producer. He is credited with co-founding and popularizing the rock band, Green Day. As a guitarist and vocalist, he has also contributed immensely to the success of the punk rock band Pinhead Gunpowder. In 1997, Armstrong founded Adeline Records to help support contemporary bands; the record company was closed in 2017.

 29 Tom Morello

Tom Morello
6
Famous As: Guitarist, Singer-songwriter, Musician, Actor, Composer, Trade unionist
Birthdate: May 30, 1964
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City

 30 Kirk Hammett

Kirk Hammett.
4
Famous As: American musician
Birthdate: November 18, 1962
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Francisco
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.

 31 Mick Mars

Mick Mars.
6
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: May 4, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States
Mick Mars gained fame as the guitarist for the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe and came to be known for his aggressive style of playing the instrument. He has also written songs for bands such as Crashdïet. He has suffered from ankylosing spondylitis since his teenage years. 

 32 John Frusciante

John Frusciante
4
Famous As: Prostitution, Singer-songwriter, Singer
Birthdate: March 5, 1970
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Queens, New York, United States

 33 Billy Gibbons

Billy Gibbons
4
Famous As: Guitarist, Singer
Birthdate: December 16, 1949
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Houston

 34 Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard.
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: April 6, 1937
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Oildale, California, United States
Died: April 6, 2016
Country singer Merle Haggard initially gained fame performing with The Strangers. He had several brushes with the law in his younger days, before he launched his music career. His songs reflected the angst of the working class. He won several accolades, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

 35 Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert.
6
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: November 10, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Longview, Texas, United States

Two-time Grammy-winning country singer Miranda Lambert is known for her hit album Platinum and the track Automatic. She was placed third in the singing contest Nashville Star. She has won more Academy of Country Music Awards than any artist. Her organization MuttNation Foundation works for rehabilitation of rescue animals.

 36 Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters.
4
Famous As: Musician
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.

 37 Randy Rhoads

Randy Rhoads
4
Famous As: Guitarist, Musician, Classical guitarist
Birthdate: December 6, 1956
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Santa Monica
Died: March 19, 1982

 38 Steve Vai

Steve Vai.
4
Famous As: Guitarist, Songwriter
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.

 39 Kevin Jonas

Kevin Jonas.
8
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: November 5, 1987
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Teaneck, New Jersey, United States

Musician, singer, and songwriter Kevin Jonas rose to fame as a member of the pop-rock band, the Jonas Brothers, with his younger brothers, Joe and Nick. Also an actor, he has appeared in many Disney Channel productions. He is involved in business ventures as well and is the founder of a construction company, JonasWerner.

 40 Trent Reznor

Trent Reznor
4
Famous As: Singer, Composer, Pianist, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, Record producer
Birthdate: May 17, 1965
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mercer

 41 Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin.
4
Famous As: Record Producer
Birthdate: March 10, 1963
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lido Beach

A record producer, Rick Rubin is the former co-president of Columbia Records and a co-founder of Def Jam Recordings. By promoting the musical groups  Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and Public Enemy, he helped popularize hip hop music. He has been named on Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World.

 42 Bob Seger

Bob Seger.
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Musician
Birthdate: May 6, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Singer, songwriter, and musician, Bob Seger, first gained fame in the 1960s as a heartland rock artist. Known for his classic raspy and powerful voice, he recorded many songs that dealt with themes like love and women. With worldwide sales of more than 75 million records, he is one of the world's best-selling artists of all time.

 43 Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley.
6
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter, Guitarist
Birthdate: November 17, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Orange, California
Died: May 29, 1997

Jeff Buckley was an American guitarist and singer-songwriter. His only studio album, Grace, was included in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. Since his untimely death at the age of 30, Jeff Buckley has been the subject of several documentaries. His death also inspired several artists to record songs in tribute to his life and career.

 44 Dave Navarro

Dave Navarro.
6
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: June 7, 1967
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, United States

Dave Navarro is an American singer-songwriter, actor, and guitarist. Over the years, Dave Navarro has contributed immensely to the success of the popular band Jane's Addiction. Best known for his guitaring skills, Dave Navarro is often cited as alternative rock's first guitar hero. In July 2010, Epiphone Guitars released its Dave Navarro Artist Acoustic.

 45 Skrillex

Skrillex.
6
Famous As: American music producer
Birthdate: January 15, 1988
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Highland Park, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
The side-mulleted American DJ Skrillex is best-known for bringing dubstep music to the mainstream. The illustrious musician, songwriter, and singer began his journey as a solo artist and has bagged in eight Grammy Awards. Distingusihed for giving electronic dance music a face, DJ Skrillex owns astonishing YouTube views and earns enviable touring revenue.

 46 Chris Pérez

Chris Pérez.
6
Famous As: Guitarist
Birthdate: August 14, 1969
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas, United States
Guitarist Chris Pérez was married to Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla and performed as part of her band, Selena y Los Dinos. Following Selena’s murder by her own manager, Chris sank into depression. He later won a Grammy with the Chris Pérez Band and also wrote a book about Selena. 

 47 David Cassidy

David Cassidy
8
Famous As: Actor, Singer
Birthdate: April 12, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

Actor-singer and teen idol David Cassidy soared to fame with his iconic role of Keith Partridge in the long-running musical sitcom The Partridge Family. Known for hits such as Cherish and Daydreamer, he was often mobbed by girls in his youth. He spent his later life struggling with alcoholism and dementia.

 48 Patti Smith

Patti Smith.
4
Famous As: Singer & Musician
Birthdate: December 30, 1946
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Patti Smith is an American singer-songwriter. Referred to as the punk poet laureate, Smith became an influential figure of the punk rock movement with the release of her album Horses. Many world-renowned musicians, such as Madonna and Michael Stipe, have cited Smith as their inspiration. Even actresses like Ellen Page and Maria Doyle Kennedy have called Smith a major influence.

 49 Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt.
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: November 8, 1949
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Burbank, California

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.

 50 Bill Withers

Bill Withers.
4
Famous As: American singer-songwriter
Birthdate: July 4, 1938
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Slab Fork

Soul and R&B legend Bill Withers is best remembered for hits such as Ain't No Sunshine and Lean on Me. The three-time Grammy Award-winner also inspired the documentary Still Bill. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Bill moved on to other jobs after his 15-year music career.