Top 10: Greatest Blues Guitarists

From the cotton crops in Mississippi to the most sophisticated stages, from work songs to celebration of broken hearts, many and magical blues guitarists have been fascinating the public with the most melancholic of musical styles: the Blues.

Among this wide range of brilliant musicians, there are 10 guitar players who stand out not only by the brilliance of its execution, but also for the genius of its composition.

The order is not consensual, and the criterion varies between professional critics and fans, but the top rated ten according to studies are as follows:

10. Gary Moore

The North Irish guitarist was eight years old when started to play guitar. Admittedly influenced by Albert King, Elvis Presley, The Beatles and later Jimi Hendrix, which led to his preference for the blues-rock genre, Moore began playing during his teens with big names Phil Lynott and Brian Downey.

All his musical composition and performance were also an expression of religious conflict, probably experienced during the Irish postwar.

Moore began to gain visibility when he joined the band Skid Row, from where he moved to Thin Lizzy in a short time.

Worked with Mr. Phil Lynott, Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne Albert King, Albert Collins and George Harrison.

Throughout his career, ranged from blues, rock and jazz, and returned in the last phase of his life
to the blues. His latest album, created in 2008, was ” Bad for You Baby”.

He died in 2011 whilst on holidays in Spain.

Electrifying player, Gary Moore will be remembered as one of the greatest guitarists ever.

9. Muddy Waters

From Rolling Fork, Mississippi, McKinley Morganfield, or Muddy Waters was born April 1913. He is one of the major figures in the world of blues. His music reflects the suffering of its deprived people.

Precursor of the traditional blues from the Mississippi Delta, Muddy began by playing harmonica, and ended up as one of the most respected and honored masters of guitar, earning the title of the father of the Chicago Blues.

To him is attributed the invention of the electric guitar.

His best recordings were made in 1950 and early 60. Many of the songs have become successful: Walkin ‘Blues, Hoochie Coochie Man, She’s Nineteen Years Old and Rolling and Tumbling, great classics that gain versions of several bands of various styles.

In 2008, Muddy Waters and Chess Records was portrayed in the film Caddilac Records.

8. Buddy Guy

George Guy, was born on July 30, 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana.

Considered as an important exponent of Chicago blues, Guy was an inspiration to Jimi Hendrix and other 60s legends.

Guy began his artistic career playing in bars in Chicago, and his style was very well accepted. He liked to play like BB King on stage and act like Magic Slim.

Decided then to send a tape to the label Chess Records, traditional blues label that featured such artists as Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Howlin ‘Wolf, Little Walter and Koko Taylor. In 1960 began making guitars recordings of these great masters of Chess. It was the first guitarist ever to be named by the label.

7. Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton, nicknamed “Slowhand”, was born on March 30, 1945 and come from Ripley, England.

Eric Clapton, was considered the second best guitarist in history by the American magazine Rolling Stone.

In 2004 he was awarded with the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Established its name as a blues musician when he joined the band John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, inspiring fanaticism youth who painted the walls of London with the inscription “Clapton is God” everywhere.

In late 1966, Clapton’s status as the best guitarist of Britain was shaken by the arrival of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix showed up in one of the first performances of Cream at London Polytechnic. Eric immediately realized that he had gained an unbeatable opponent, whose charisma was matched only by his incredible technique on the guitar.

Also famous by his habit of using a variety of guitars, early in his career, Clapton used a Gibson Les Paul in the late 1970s, partially responsible for the reintroduction of the original style of the Gibson Les Paul.

Later, Clapton began using Fender Stratocasters. The most famous of all his guitars Blackie was assembled with pieces of several Strats and he used until the 1990s.

On November 3, 2004, Clapton is awarded the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and in October 2007 publish his autobiography “Clapton: The Autobiography”, which was released in 12 languages.

6. Peter Green

Peter Allen Greenbaum, was born in England on October 29, 1946.

Guitarist, songwriter and a founding member of the band Fleetwood Mac, he was considered the 58th best guitarist of all time by the American magazine Rolling Stone, and the third best of all time by Mojo magazine in 1996.

He stood out from the London underground music scene in the mid 60s.

The legend says that the young Peter used to go to concerts of John Mayall and his “Bluesbreakers” provoking the band guitarist bragging that he could play a lot better than them.

Green is the author of the Latin original compositions as “Black Magic Woman”, the ballad “Man of the World”, the rocker “Green Manalishi” heavy “Oh Well” and the brilliant instrumental “Albatross” which must still be considered as one of the best works of electric guitars without distortion!

Victim of psychiatric illness, Peter Green was decades away from the lights of the guitar, believing he had lost his gift.

However, influential guitarists like Gary Moore (who recorded the tribute “Blues for Greeny”) or Joe Perry recording his versions speak of him as one of the best “bluesman” ever.

Until one day, already recovering, Green got tired of retirement, took the old Les Paul out for a spin and since 1997 returned to recording and playing live with his new band: “Peter Green’s Splinter Group”. The monstrous guitar hero proved that he still knew how to make magic.

5. Rory Gallagher

Born March 2, 1948, Gallagher, was an Irish multi-instrumentalist and composer. He was considered the 57th best guitarist of all time by the American magazine Rolling Stone. Lived for 47 years and died in surgery for a liver transplant in 1995. It was one of the most skilled guitarists of his time.

Rory Gallagher used a single guitar throughout his life and rarely worked with pedals. He always preferred to connect the guitar directly to the amp. For this, he was considered one of the most original British technical guitarists of all time.

His solos were spontaneous, never assayed, which shows even more his talent. Rory and his secondhand Fender Stratocaster went through the songs with an incredible brilliance. All solos came out in the same patch. It was just the artist and his instrument. Always well received by the audience and critics, Roy played with blinding speed his and other artists blues with great gallantry.

He left his mark everywhere he played. At the end of the 60s, the Taste rivaled the Cream of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce as the best English power trio. His partner was the great solo bassist Gerry McAvoy, who worked with him for long years.

After leaving the Taste, Rory had already accumulated great work, in the 60s, and in his solo career in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

Rory Gallagher put Ireland on the map of the blues and rock music world!

4. Jimi Hendrix

Johnny Allen Hendrix was born in Seattle, November 27, 1942, almost needs no introduction.

Hendrix has completely changed the concept of how to play a guitar, through which he tried to reproduce the sound of air whistling in the parachute. This sound was his source of inspiration for his “space” sound.

Jimi pioneered the use of effects such as distortion, that he could reproduce from old saturated amplifiers. For this, he inspired manufacturers to create effects pedals in the form we know today.
Never read or wrote music. His technique was to listen and learn from masters like Buddy Holly, and Robert Johnson among other monsters.

In 1958 he formed his first band, “The Velvetones”, lasting a few months.

After some time accompanying Little Richard, forms “The Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.” It is fair to say that Jimi Hendrix began to be discovered to the world in 1966, in New York, during a presentation in Greenwich Village.

Hendrix, however, had a differential, a kind of magic, enchantment and a high ability to improvise that no teacher is able to teach.

On stage, Hendrix was a wizard flowing in colorful clothes, a hybrid fused with his Fender, alternating in moments of fury and calm music with total control over the audience.

3. Robert Johnson

Robert Leroy Johnson, was born on May 8, 1911 in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Johnson is one of the most influential musicians of the Mississippi Delta Blues and is an important reference for the twelve-bar blues standardizing.

Influenced great artists over the years such as Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck, Muddy Waters, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton.

Despite its very peculiar Delta Blues style, Robert Johnson is still often cited as “the greatest blues singer of all time”, and even as the most important musician of the twentieth century.

Myth says that Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads of highways 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi with his guitar and a bottle of whiskey adulterated. The devil took his guitar and tuned one step down, returned it to Johnson.

In the south of the United States superstitious turn of the century, were common demonic myths, and the theme was part of the tradition of the blues. His songs “Me and the Devil Blues,” “Hellhound On My Trail” and “Crossroad Blues” increased beliefs in history, because those songs had some allusion to the devil. This story was mostly spread by Son House, an influential singer and guitarist of North American Blues.

Robert Johnson recorded only 29 songs in a total of 40 tracks. His songs are still interpreted and adapted by various artists and bands such as Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, The Blues Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The White Stripes.

2. BB King

Riley Ben King, better known as BB King (Blues Boy) was born in 16 September 1925 in Itta Bena, Mississippi.

It is one of the most celebrated composers of Blues guitarists alive. Was considered the 6th best guitarist in the world by the American magazine Rolling Stone.

In the early ’50s, King worked as a disc jockey at the radio station WDIA black music, where he was called “Beale Street Blues Boy” station.This is where his epithet come from.

King was very poor. Grew up working on a cotton plantation in Mississippi and moved to Memphis to try life in music. Today, he’s the owner of a brilliant career and an irrefutable place in history.

Playing his unfailing Gibson, which he affectionately refers to as Lucille, the King’s left hand vibrato influenced many rock guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Fifteen times Grammy winner, King has received virtually every music awards that exist, including a Grammy special throughout his work in 1987.

Live at the Regal, 1965, is considered one of the definitive albums of blues. The blues revival in the mid-60 introduced King to white audiences, and in 1966 he was regularly at rock concerts and radio circuits.

He joined the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984, and the Hall of Fame Rock and Roll in 1987.

In 1990 he won the award for all his work in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In May 1991, the Master opened BB King’s Blues Club in Memphis (one second was opened in New York in 2000).

In 1995 he received the Kennedy Center Honors. The following year marked the publication of his autobiography, Blues’ All Around Me (co-written with David Ritz).

In 2000 the double platinum Riding with the King, Eric Clapton, topped the Billboard blues. King continued recording, touring and receiving awards.

Received the President Medal of Freedom in 2000. Two years later, he released one of his most critically acclaimed studio albums, One Kind Favor, produced by T Bone Burnett, making clean versions of blues classics like See That My Grave Is Kept Clean by Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Nobody has ever played Blues guitar like BB King!
Impeccable in the successes and the mistakes better yet, King is still today a reference among guitarists. His vibrato, and its delicacy elevated the genre to a level that would never be achieved again.

1. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stephen Ray, or “Stevie Ray” Vaughan is from Dallas, born on October 3, 1954.

It was certainly an important figure in Texas blues, a musical style characterized by the fusion of swing and blues with rock.

He began by playing guitar to imitate the older brother, Jimmie, and eventually became one of the main drivers of the blues revival during the 80s.

Already at that time he showed the potential of reconciling the blues played by masters like Albert King, Otis Rush and Muddy Waters with the promising new generation rock very well represented by talents like Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Mack.

His first band was the Cobras, but in 1975, Vaughan formed new band, this time called Triple Threat, which was renamed later Double Trouble.

The band became one of the most popular in Texas due to the number of concerts given and, in 1982, during a stop at the Montreux Festival, caught the attention of Mr. David Bowie and Jackson Browne.

Bowie did not hesitate to ask Stevie to record the legendary theme “Let’s Dance”.

Browne provided the band a studio in Los Angeles where the album “Texas Flood” was recorded in less than a week, hitting stores in 1983.

After years of retirement due to health issues, the guitarist returned to the charge in 1988, giving concerts and recording studio album “Step In”, which turned out to become the most successful recording released by the band so far, winning including the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

In the early 90s the musician recorded an album with his brother Jimmie, entitled “Family Style”, and still in 1990, the Double Trouble counted with the presence on stage of Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray. After the concert, the guitarist took a helicopter to Chicago that crashed minutes after taking off. Stevie Ray died at age of 35.

Stevie Ray Vaughan became famous as one of the most influential musicians in history. He is often referred to by his initials SRV.

The blues were born not only as an artistic expression, but as a cruel and hopeless routine brought by the heavy work in the field, a new look to the oral tradition of the historical record and daily life of a trail race. Pain, pleasure, joy, sadness, hunger, faith, poverty, affluence, anger and hope: the blues channeled all the basic and primal human feelings. The blues have spread quickly to the rapidly worldwide, wherever there was a black community.

Apart from impossible, it is completely unreasonable to imagine modern music without the Blues.