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Johnny Pardon's Top 100 Guitarists of All Time

By: Johnny Pardon
Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2003
I looked over "Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitarists of All Time" and thought to myself, "Eddie Van Halen at number 70? What the fuck are they smoking over at that magazine and where can I get some?"

Here it is:

1 Jimi Hendrix
2 Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band
3 B.B. King
4 Eric Clapton
5 Robert Johnson
6 Chuck Berry
7 Stevie Ray Vaughan
8 Ry Cooder
9 Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
10 Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones
11 Kirk Hammett of Metallica
12 Kurt Cobain of Nirvana
13 Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
14 Jeff Beck
15 Carlos Santana
16 Johnny Ramone of the Ramones
17 Jack White of the White Stripes
18 John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
19 Richard Thompson
20 James Burton
21 George Harrison
22 Mike Bloomfield
23 Warren Haynes
24 The Edge of U2
25 Freddy King
26 Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave
27 Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits
28 Stephen Stills
29 Ron Asheton of the Stooges
30 Buddy Guy
31 Dick Dale
32 John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service
33 & 34 Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth
35 John Fahey
36 Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MG's
37 Bo Diddley
38 Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac
39 Brian May of Queen
40 John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival
41 Clarence White of the Byrds
42 Robert Fripp of King Crimson
43 Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic
44 Scotty Moore
45 Frank Zappa
46 Les Paul
47 T-Bone Walker
48 Joe Perry of Aerosmith
49 John McLaughlin
50 Pete Townshend
51 Paul Kossoff of Free
52 Lou Reed
53 Mickey Baker
54 Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane
55 Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple
56 Tom Verlaine of Television
57 Roy Buchanan
58 Dickey Betts
59 & 60 Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien of Radiohead
61 Ike Turner
62 Zoot Horn Rollo of the Magic Band
63 Danny Gatton
64 Mick Ronson
65 Hubert Sumlin
66 Vernon Reid of Living Colour
67 Link Wray
68 Jerry Miller of Moby Grape
69 Steve Howe of Yes
70 Eddie Van Halen
71 Lightnin' Hopkins
72 Joni Mitchell
73 Trey Anastasio of Phish
74 Johnny Winter
75 Adam Jones of Tool
76 Ali Farka Toure
77 Henry Vestine of Canned Heat
78 Robbie Robertson of the Band
79 Cliff Gallup of the Blue Caps (1997)
80 Robert Quine of the Voidoids
81 Derek Trucks
82 David Gilmour of Pink Floyd
83 Neil Young
84 Eddie Cochran
85 Randy Rhoads
86 Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath
87 Joan Jett
88 Dave Davies of the Kinks
89 D. Boon of the Minutemen
90 Glen Buxton of Alice Cooper
91 Robby Krieger of the Doors
92 & 93 Fred "Sonic" Smith, Wayne Kramer of the MC5
94 Bert Jansch
95 Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine
96 Angus Young of AC/DC
97 Robert Randolph
98 Leigh Stephens of Blue Cheer
99 Greg Ginn of Black Flag
100 Kim Thayil of Soundgarden

I'm really puzzled at to why they included some guys that can't carry a tune in a bucket and excluded others who can blow people away with their skills. I'm guessing:

  • It's a joke engineered by Johnny Knoxville.

  • They put crazy choices on there to stir up controversy.

  • They're so observant and beyond the normal person that they see shit us pleebs can't.

  • They're clueless and have no credibility.


  • I'm going with #4, since they just had The Olsen Twins on the cover. Who the fuck was on the editorial board for this--Marliee Matlin, Lou Ferrigno and Beethoven's dead corpse? Did they conduct this from Gallaudet University?

    Kurt Cobain at #12. Shit, he should be at #2 with all the rest of the guitarists in the world #1. I'm they didn't put Eminem on there.

    The top guitarists in my list inspired people to look at the guitar in unknown ways and they cranked out material that impresses today and will continue to kick people in the ass decades from now. They started revolutions with the instrument. I'm certainly not an expert nor am I such a guitar-o-phile that I know about some obscure player from Muskogee that is so incredible he should be on my list. I'm just going by my own ear and my own rememberances. I don't know a bunch of classical and jazz guys, so my list will be metal heavy. Also, there's no bass guitar or banjo or mandolin or any of that shit on this list either.

    Johnny Pardon's Top 100 Guitarists of All Time

    1. Jimi Hendrix - He made the guitar a sexy instrument and was highly inventive no matter how wasted he was. Some say his playing was 'sloppy', but that style also makes him hard to duplicate and he is still admired by aspiring and established players. Jimi came out of the womb playing guitar.

    2. Jimmy Page - In addition to his skillful Blues playing, Jimmy could also play complex instrumentals in various scales and odd tunings. He created songs with layers and layers of guitars and could create famous riffs in his sleep.

    3. Eric Clapton - Never have I heard Eric hit a sour note, even live. Didn't get the phrase "Clapton is God" referred to him for nothing. Cleaner than Jimmy, but not as inventive with his riffing because he's always at the end of the neck.

    4. Eddie Van Halen - Eddie is the dividing line between 70's guitar and the modern guitar sound and he helped bring classical influences into hard rock. Everybody from the late 70's on wanted to play like EVH for at least a decade and they still couldn't topple him from the mountain.

    5. Chuck Berry - Jump started rock-n-roll in it's infancy when guitar players were a side note.

    6. Tony Iommi - Adapted his playing because of a handicap with his fingers and started the metal revolution with Black Sabbath. Could play way more than the two-note intervals he's known for.

    7. Jeff Beck - One third of the "70's Holy Trinity of Rock Guitarists" with Page and Clapton. I don't know what the fuck Jeff has done since "People Get Ready", but when other top guitarists watch him and say he blows them away, then I have faith he's damn good.

    8. David Gilmour - Crafty and smart, David knows when to play and when not to play notes beautifully.

    9. Brian May - A humble and intelligent player, Brian played with more feeling than almost any white guy and any black guy out there.

    10. Keith Richards - The Rolling Stones aren't one of the best bands in history just tbecause of Mick Jagger's sex appeal. Owes a lot to Berry, but is great in his own right.

    11. Ritchie Blackmore - May be the most underappreciated guitarist in metal.

    12. Randy Rhodes - Brought classical theory into metal playing and may have been more influential to 80's heavy metal than Eddie Van Halen.

    13. Yngwie J. Malmsteen - Yngwie plays metal at some of the most difficult levels you can get for a player. A technical master, it's too bad he just doesn't have any soul.

    14. Robert Johnson - Sold his soul and played blues when B.B. and Muddy Waters were still wetting their drawers.

    15. Les Paul - He invented the electric guitar...shit he deserves to be on here whether he could carry a tune in a bucket or not.

    16. Chet Atkins - Taught a lot of these guys how to play. Don't let his Country background fool you.

    17. Pete Townsend - Could do everything but play cool leads.

    18. B.B. King - B.B. played one thing well for 50 years--Blues scales. He's the most over-rated blues guitarist ever.

    19. Joe Perry - Joe plays blues guitar and has a good set of riffs in his bag, but not much more.

    20. Stevie Ray Vaughn - Stevie Ray played nothing great except when he played recycled Hendrix riffs. At least he played them cleanly.

    21. Joe Satriani - Technically adept mo-fo and Hammet's teacher. Do not try to cut heads with him.

    22. John Petrucci - Extremely skilled player with the degree to prove it.

    23. Alex Skolnick - Great thrash metal player from Testament.

    24. George Lynch - George put Dokken on the map.

    25. Angus Young - Angus plays blues rock while in a spastic, head-bobbing state for three hours. Try it at home and see how well you do.

    26. Zakk Wylde - Helped bring metal out of a weak state in the 80's and back to a Blue's base. Can trill like nobody's business.

    27. Criss Oliva - Criss had a unique sound when every metal player was similar. R.I.P.

    28. Dave Mustane - Highly under-rated metal guitarists who just edges out his replacement in Metallica.

    29. Steve Vai - Fast, skilled guitarist, but lacks feeling in his playing.

    30. Kirk Hammet - Why Kirk and not James who writes all of Metallica's riffs? Because Kirk can play all those riffs and does the solos. Of course he hasn't played a good solo other than Hendrix stuff since "Master of Puppets", so he ranks below his former teacher, Joe Satriani.

    31. Dimebag Darrell - Changed his name from "Diamond" and brought Pantera's groove the forefront.

    32. Slash - Slash is doing nothing that Joe Perry didn't do years before, but he is good.

    33. Buck Owens - Probably the best county guitarist ever.

    34.-37. Ry Cooder, Ted Nugent, Carlos Santana, Tom Morello - Insert your own comments here cause I don't have the f'n motivation.

    38. Paul Gilbert - Great guitarist even though he did time in Mr. Big.

    39. Jake E Lee - If you have to step into Randy Rhodes shoes then you have to be talented.

    40. Vivian Campbell - Had a set of balls when he was with Dio then dropped into obscurity after he joined Def Leppard, but hey, ya gotta pay the bills.

    41. Rocky George - Suicidal Tendencies axeman and very underrated.

    42. Jimmy Dofka - Little know guy from Wheeling, WV. Beat out all the competition cutting heads in Pittsburgh.

    43. Peter Frampton - Just for his cool talkbox stuff he makes it.

    44. The blind dude from "Roadhouse" - He's blind, c'mon!

    45. The guitarist for Earth, Wind and Fire - whoever the fuck he is.

    46. Ralph Macchio - Hey, didn't you see him play in the movie "Crossroads". If they can put Zoot Horn Rollo as higher than Eddie Van Halen, then I can put Ralph on here and my list is still more respectable.

    47. The alien dude in the Star Wars cantina.

    48-97. A bunch of blues players, some jazz players, some folk players, some classical masters, but no hippie jamfags. Fuck them.

    96. Jack Black

    97. Guitarist from Danger Kitty.

    98. Ty Pendington, the carpenter from Trading Spaces.

    99. Teddy...Maximum Metal staff member.

    100. Some trailer park air guitar player from Oklahoma City, OK.


    That's my list and hopefully you'll now think that I'm the true voice of sanity in a sea of incompetence or maybe just another idiot with a list.




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