Best Guitarists of All Time: Ranked

I collected 13 lists of the best guitarists of all time and combined them into a single meta-list.  The results are below: every guitarist found on three or more of the original source lists, in rank order (that is, with the guitarists on the most lists at the top).  Because most of the “best guitarists” lists I found focused primarily on rock music, I also included lists of best blues, jazz, classical and fingerstyle guitarists.  Guitarists on the same number of lists are organized chronologically by date of birth.

NOTE: Just because someone is higher on the meta-list than someone else, it doesn’t mean he or she is necessarily better – it just means that one is on more “best of” lists than the other.  Also, these are not my personal opinions and I have not even heard some of these guitarists.

For the same list organized chronologically by date of birth, go here.

On 13 lists

Jimmy Page (UK, 1944- )
Styles: Rock, blues, folk
Associated with: The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin

On 12 lists

Jimi Hendrix (US, 1942-1970)
Styles: Rock, blues
Associated with: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Band of Gypsies 

On 11 lists

Eric Clapton (UK, 1945- )
Styles: Rock, blues
Associated with: The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & the Dominos 

On 10 lists

Robert Johnson (US, 1911-1938)
Style: Blues

B.B. King
 (US, 1925-2015)
Styles: Blues, R&B

Chuck Berry
 (US, 1926-2017)
Styles: Rock, R&B

On 9 lists

Keith Richards (UK, 1943- )
Styles: Rock, blues, R&B
Associated with: The Rolling Stones

Eddie Van Halen (Netherlands/US, 1955- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Van Halen

Stevie Ray Vaughan
 (US, 1954-1990)
Style: Blues
Associated with: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

On 8 lists

Django Reinhardt (Jean Reinhardt) (Belgium/France, 1910-1953)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Stéphane Grappelli, Quintette du Hot Club de France

T-Bone Walker
 (Aaron Thibeaux Walker) (US, 1910-1975)
Style: Blues

Chet Atkins
(US, 1924-2001)
Styles: Country, folk, rockabilly

Duane Allman
 (US, 1946-1971)
Styles: Rock, blues
Associated with: The Allman Brothers Band, Derek & the Dominos

Carlos Santana
 (Mexico/US, 1947- )
Styles: Rock, Latin, jazz fusion

On 7 lists

Andrés Segovia (Andrés Segovia Torres, 1st Marquis of Salobreña) (Spain, 1893-1987)
Style: Classical

Charlie Christian
 (US, 1916-1942)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Benny Goodman

Wes Montgomery 
(John Leslie Montgomery) (US, 1923-1968)
Style: Jazz

Albert King
(Albert Nelson) (US, 1923-1992)
Style: Blues

Buddy Guy
 (US, 1936- )
Style: Blues
Associated with: Junior Wells
(Photo by Art Shay)

John Fahey
 (US, 1939-2001)
Styles: Folk, Americana, roots music

John McLaughlin 
(UK, 1942- )
Style: Jazz fusion
Associated with: Miles Davis, Tony Williams Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti

George Harrison
 (UK, 1943-2001)
Styles: Rock, pop, Indian classical
Associated with: The Beatles, Traveling Wilburys

Jeff Beck
 (UK, 1944- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck Group, Beck, Bogert & Appice

Pete Townshend
 (UK, 1945- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Who

Brian May
(UK, 1947- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Smile, Queen

Mark Knopfler 
(UK, 1949- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Dire Straits, The Notting Hillbillies 

On 6 lists

Les Paul (Lester Polsfuss) (US, 1915-2009)
Styles: Jazz, country, blues
Associated with: Mary Ford

Joe Pass 
(Joseph Passalaqua) (US, 1929-1994)
Style: Jazz

Link Wray
 (Fred Lincoln Wray, Jr.) (US, 1929-2005)
Styles: Rock, rockabilly
Associated with: Robert Gordon

Scotty Moore
 (Winfield Scott Moore III) (US, 1931-2016)
Styles: Rock, rockabilly
Associated with: Elvis Presley

Freddie King
 (US, 1934-1976)
Style: Blues

Dick Dale
 (Richard Mansour) (US, 1937- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Dick Dale & the Del-Tones

Jerry Garcia
 (US, 1942-1995)
Styles: Rock, bluegrass
Associated with: Grateful Dead, Old and In the Way
Photo by Ron Draper

Mike Bloomfield
 (US, 1943-1981)
Styles: Blues, rock
Associated with: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan, Electric Flag
Photo by Ron Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Johnny Winter
(US, 1944-2014)
Styles: Blues, rock

Ritchie Blackmore
(UK, 1945- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Rainbow, Deep Purple 

Robert Fripp 
(UK, 1946- )
Styles: Rock, jazz fusion
Associated with: King Crimson

Peter Green 
(Peter Greenbaum) (UK, 1946- )
Styles: Blues, rock
Associated with: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac

Tony Iommi
 (UK, 1948- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Black Sabbath

Rory Gallagher
(William Gallagher) (Ireland, 1948-1995)
Styles: Blues, rock, folk, jazz
Associated with: Taste

Joe Perry
(Joseph Pereira) (US, 1950- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Aerosmith, The Joe Perry Project 

(Prince Rogers Nelson) (US, 1958-2016)
Styles: Rock, pop, funk, soul, R&B
Associated with: Prince & the Revolution

Jonny Greenwood
(UK, 1971- )
Styles: Rock, electronica, classical
Associated with: Radiohead

On 5 lists

Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) (US, 1913-1983)
Style: Blues

Elmore James
 (US, 1918-1963)
Style: Blues

Jim Hall 
(US, 1930-2013)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Chico Hamilton, Jimmy Giuffre, Art Farmer

Hubert Sumlin
(US, 1931-2011)
Style: Blues
Associated with: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters

Julian Bream
(UK, 1933- )
Style: Classical

Roy Buchanan
 (US, 1939-1988)
Styles: Blues, rock, rockabilly, country

James Burton
 (US, 1939- )
Styles; Rock, rockabilly, country
Associated with: Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley/TCB Band

Frank Zappa
(US, 1940-1993)
Styles: Rock, pop, jazz, classical
Associated with: The Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart

John Williams
 (Australia, 1941- )
Style: Classical

Neil Young
(Canada/US, 1945- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Crazy Horse

Mick Ronson
(Michael Ronson) (UK, 1946-1993)
Style: Rock
Associated with: David Bowie 

David Gilmour
 (US, 1946- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Pink Floyd

Ry Cooder
 (US, 1947- )
Style: Folk, blues, country, roots, world
Associated with: Captain Beefheart

Steve Howe 
(US, 1947- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Yes, Asia, GTR, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe

Johnny Ramone
(John Cummings) (US, 1948-2004)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Ramones

Richard Thompson
 (UK, 1949- )
Styles: Folk, rock
Associated: Fairport Convention, Linda Thompson

Billy Gibbons
(US, 1949- )
Style: Rock, blues
Associated with: ZZ Top

Eddie Hazel
 (US, 1950-1992)
Styles: Funk, soul, rock
Associated with: Funkadelic, Parliament, P-Funk All-Stars

Alex Lifeson
 (Alexandar Zivojinovich) (Canada, 1953- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Rush

Pat Metheny
 (US, 1954- )
Styles: Jazz, jazz fusion
Associated with: Pat Metheny Group

Randy Rhoads 
(US, 1956-1982)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot 

The Edge
(David Evans) (UK/Ireland, 1961- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: U2

Tom Morello
(US, 1964- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Prophets of Rage

(Saul Hudson) (UK/US, 1965- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver

Kurt Cobain
(US, 1967-1994)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Nirvana

Jack White
(John Gillis) (US, 1975- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: The White Stripes, The Racounteurs

On 4 Lists

Lightnin’ Hopkins (Samuel Hopkins) (US, 1912-1982)
Style: Blues

John Lee Hooker
(US, 1912/1917-2001)
Style: Blues

Merle Travis
 (US, 1917-1983)
Style: Country, blues, folk, gospel

Bo Diddley
(Ellas Bates, Ellas McDaniel) (US, 1928-2008)
Styles: Rock, R&B

Kenny Burrell 
(US, 1931- )
Style: Jazz

Albert Collins 
(Albert Gene Drewery) (US, 1932-1993)
Style: Blues

Grant Green
(US, 1935-1979)
Style: Jazz

Steve Cropper
(US, 1941- )
Styles: R&B, blues, soul, funk
Associated with: Booker T. & the M.G.’s

Lou Reed
(US, 1942-2013)
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Velvet Underground

George Benson
 (US, 1943- )
Styles: Jazz, R&B, soul, funk

Pat Martino
 (US, 1944- )
Style: Jazz

Danny Gatton
(US, 1945-1994)
Styles: Blues, rockabilly, jazz

Allan Holdsworth 
(UK, 1946-2017)
Styles: Jazz fusion, rock
Associated with: Nucleus, Tempest, Soft Machine, New Tony Williams Lifetime, Gong

Joe Walsh
(US, 1947- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: The James Gang, The Eagles

Dave Davies
 (UK, 1947- )
Style: Rock, pop
Associated with: The Kinks

Ron Asheton
(US, 1948-2009)
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Stooges, The New Order, Destroy All Monsters, Dark Carnival, New Race, The Empty Set, The Wylde Ratttz

Tom Verlaine
(Thomas Miller) (US, 1949- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Television

Gary Moore
 (Robert Moore) (UK/Ireland, 1952-2011)
Styles: Rock, blues
Associated with: Skid Row, Thin Lizzy, Colosseum II

Eric Johnson
 (US, 1954- )
Styles: Rock, jazz fusion, blues

Angus Young
 (UK, 1955- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: AC/DC

Tommy Emmanuel
(Australia, 1955- )
Styles: Jazz, pop, rock, country

Thurston Moore
(US, 1958- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Sonic Youth, Chelsea Light Moving

Warren Haynes
(US, 1960- )
Styles: Rock, soul, blues
Associated with: The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule

Yngwie Malmsteen
 (Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck) (Sweden, 1963- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Alcatrazz

Johnny Marr
(John Maher) (UK, 1963- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: The Smiths, Electronic, The The, The Cribs, Johnny Marr & the Healers, 7 Worlds Collide

Dimebag Darrell
(Darrell Abbott) (US, 1966-2004)
Style: Rock
Associated with: Pantera, Damageplan

John Frusciante
 (US, 1970- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Derek Trucks
(US, 1979- )
Style: Rock, blues
Associated with: Allman Brothers Band, Derek Trucks Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band

On 3 Lists

Tal Farlow (US, 1921-1998)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Red Norvo, Artie Shaw, Great Guitars

Herb Ellis
 (Mitchell Herbert Ellis) (US, 1921-2010)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Oscar Peterson

Johnny Smith
(US, 1922-2013)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Stan Getz

Barney Kessel
 (US, 1923-2004)
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Billie Holiday

Howard Roberts
(US, 1929-1992)
Style: Jazz, rock, country, pop, R&B
Associated with: The Wrecking Crew

Sonny Sharrock
 (Warren Harding Sharrock) (US, 1940-1994)
Style: Jazz, experimental
Associated with: Machine Gun

James “Blood” Ulmer 
(US, 1940- )
Styles: Jazz, funk, blues
Associated with: Ornette Coleman, Arthur Blythe, Odyssey the Band, Music Revelation Ensemble, Phalanx, Third Rail, New Jazz Art Quartet

Jorma Kaukonen
(US, 1940- )
Styles: Rock, blues, folk
Associated with: Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna

Lenny Breau 
(US/Canada, 1941-1984)
Styles: Jazz, country, classical, flamenco
Associated with: CKY Caravan, Three 

Bert Jansch
 (UK, 1943-2011)
Styles: Folk, rock
Associated with: Pentangle

Larry Coryell 
(Lorenz Albert Van DeLinder III) (US, 1943-2017)
Styles: Jazz, jazz fusion, pop, rock, classical
Associated with: The Free Spirits, Fourplay, The Eleventh House, The Guitar Trio

Dickey Betts
(Forrest Richard Betts) (US, 1943- )
Styles: Rock, country, jazz fusion
Associated with: The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts Band, Dickey Betts & Great Southern

Joni Mitchell
(Roberta Joan Anderson) (Canada/US, 1943- )
Styles: Folk, rock, jazz, pop

Robbie Robertson
(Jaime Royal Robertson) (Canada, 1943- )
Style: Rock, roots
Associated with: The Band

Pepe Romero 
(Spain, 1944- )
Styles: Flamenco, classical
Associated with: The Romero Guitar Quartet

Clarence White
 (Clarence Joseph LeBlanc) (US, 1944-1973)
Styles: Bluegrass, country, rock
Associated with: The Kentucky Colonels, The Byrds, Muleskinner

Robby Krieger
(US, 1946- )
Styles: Rock, blues, jazz fusion
Associated with: The Doors

Paco de Lucia
 (Francisco Gustavo Sánchez Gómez) (Spain, 1947-2014)
Styles: Flamenco, classical

Fred “Sonic” Smith
(US, 1948-1994)
Style: Rock
Associated with: MC5, Patti Smith

Larry Carlton 
(US, 1948- )
Styles: Jazz fusion, rock, pop
Associated with: The Crusaders, Fourplay

Wayne Kramer
(US, 1948- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: MC5

Adrian Legg
 (UK, 1948- )
Styles: Ambient, jazz
Associated with: G3

Mick Taylor
(Michael Kevin Taylor) (UK, 1949- )
Styles: Rock, blues, jazz
Associated with: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Rolling Stones

Lindsey Buckingham
(US, 1949- )
Styles: Rock, pop
Associated with: Fleetwood Mac

John Scofield
 (US, 1951- )
Styles: Jazz, jazz fusion
Associated with: Medeski, Martin & Wood, Trio Beyond

Bill Frisell
 (US, 1951- )
Styles: Jazz, jazz fusion, classical, Americana
Associated with: Naked City

Phil Keaggy 
(US, 1951- )
Styles: Folk, Christian, new age, jazz-funk
Associated with: Glass Harp, Compassion All-Star Band

Michael Hedges
 (US, 1953-1997)
Styles: new age, world

Steve Morse
 (US, 1954- )
Style: Rock, jazz fusion
Associated with: Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple, Kansas, Flying Colors
Photo by Bob Mussell

Al Di Meola 
(US, 1954- )
Styles: Jazz fusion, jazz, world, flamenco
Associated with: Return to Forever

Michael Schenker
 (Germany, 1955- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Scorpions, UFO, Michael Schenker Group (M.S.G.)

Joe Satriani
 (US, 1956- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: G3, Chickenfoot

Martin Taylor
 ((UK, 1956- )
Style: Jazz
Associated with: Stéphane Grappelli, Spirit of Django 

Vernon Reid
(UK/US, 1958- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Living Colour

Steve Vai 
(US, 1960- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Frank Zappa
Photo by David Atlas / Retna Ltd.

Marty Friedman
 (US, 1962- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Cacophony, Megadeath, Tourniquet, Enzo & the Glory Ensemble

Kirk Hammett
(US, 1962- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Exodus, Metallica

James Hetfield
(US, 1963- )
Style: Rock
Associated with: Metallica

Xuefei Yang
(China, 1977- )
Style: Classical

Andy McKee
 (US, 1979- )
Style: Folk