Nearly 40% Of People Think This Is The Greatest Guitar Player Of All Time

In this messed-up, topsy-turvy world where it seems no one can quite agree on what is going on at any one moment (everything went down the creek the moment David Bowie left the planet, an observation recently made in the New York Times), there's nothing like good old-fashioned numbers to offer a little clarity. That's why here at Grunge we've turned to math and asked you, the Grunge readership, to tell us exactly what you think in response to a series of survey questions about popular culture.

You've already definitively told us the classic band that most Americans would like to be a member of (spoiler: you can probably guess, to be honest), and you also told Grunge definitively who was the greatest rap act of the 1990s.  Now, we're once again tapping our readership to settle another question about music history: Who is the greatest guitar player of all time? And 518 of you answered the call.

We gave you a short list of some of the undeniable all time greats, the best of the best, and as always we gave you the option to give us your own suggestions (just in case we missed some).


Zeppelin and Stones fans fail to turn out; Vaughn remains timeless

Like sports teams, classic rock acts tend to attract the devoted adulation of their own fans, whose loyalty is unwavering even as the years pass and we get to an age where it all comes across as a little bit desperate. And for some bands, their multi-generational fans are legion.

Bands such as Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones achieved such devotion back in the 1960s and '70s that it now feels as though their music will always find its way into the hands of new listeners. Both have performed for 21st century audiences, with Led Zeppelin's final reunion occurring in 2007, per Ultimate Classic Rock, while The Stones continue to be a pull for stadium audiences around the world.

But despite their ardent followings, neither of the bands' lead guitarists made it far in Grunge's latest survey. Zeppelin's guitar maestro Jimmy Page gained just over 8.1 percent of the vote, while The Stones' indestructible hedonist-in-chief Keith 'Keef' Richards garnered a mere 5 percent. Tellingly, both were beaten by blues rock legend and David Bowie collaborator Stevie Ray Vaughn, despite Vaughn's untimely death more than 30 years ago, proving the timelessness of the music he left behind.

Clapton outshines the King himself

British bluesman Eric Clapton, one of the brains behind the classic band Cream and a performer with countless other bands, including The Yardbirds and The Beatles, has never been shy about who his influences are. Chief among these, undoubtedly, is B.B. King, the electric blues innovator who helped to ensure the genre's enduring popularity with mid-20th century audiences who were increasingly obsessed with rock & roll.

According to, Clapton first jammed with his hero King back in the 1960s, and the two eventually collaborated decades later on the Grammy Award-winning album Riding with the King in 2000. But though any musicologist would likely tell you that the elder figure is arguably the more important in helping to define the sound of popular music in the 20th century, it seems that Grunge readers instead believe that it's King's protege who is worthy of greater glory today. King takes a respectable 11 percent of the vote, while Clapton eclipses him with nearly 16 percent.

You are experienced: Hendrix takes the crown

There have been countless great guitarists, but none have quite captured the attention of fans like Jimi Hendrix, as the results of this survey prove. Hendrix, who tragically died in 1970 aged just 27, gained almost 40 percent of the total vote, more than double that achieved by any of the other guitarists on our shortlist (or any others suggested by our readers). 

Hendrix, as Grunge readers seemingly agree, had it all: virtuoso technical ability combined with an idiosyncratic playing style and experimental bent, which expressed itself in progressive, genre-bending studio recordings and show-stopping, headline-making live performances. That he achieved his iconic status in just four years, according to Britannica, only makes his achievements all the more impressive, and that he commands the respect of guitar-lovers 50 years after his death is a testament to his enduring artistry.

But though there can be few complaints about Hendrix being definitively crowned the greatest guitar player of all time, our readers suggest there was a glaring omission on our shortlist: the late, great Eddie Van Halen, who was chosen by over half of the 11 percent of survey responders who voted "Other." Isn't it heartwarming to see that Eddie, like all the other greats on this list, looks destined to "not fade away?"