200 + 1 Guitarists – by Mike Overly

Guitar ImageGuitar is such an amazing instrument if for no other reason than it is found in virtually every genre and style of music. This list of 200 guitarists proves that!

Simply stated, genre is a category and style is a sub-category. For example, rock is a genre and heavy metal is a style. The following 200 acoustic and electric guitarists are included on this list because of their importance in the world of music and guitar. Importances which include: innovation, influence, impact on other players, respect from other players, as well as legendary status, notoriety and fame. They are included here because of their creativity, technical prowess, versatility, and depth of musical knowledge. All of these listed guitarists express tremendous performing skills and some also exhibit remarkable composing talent. They all share vitality, originality and energy, and most exhibit heightened improvisational skills. The overall effect these 200 guitarist have had on shaping the world of music and guitar is reason enough for you to give them a listen!
The order of this list is arbitrary and not hierarchical. In other words, there is no number one guitarist because no guitarist is better than another. They are just different. Said another way: just like snowflakes, no two guitarist are alike, each one is unique.

1. Andres Segovia (classical)
2. Django Reinhardt (jazz)
3. Chet Atkins, (country)
4. Jimi Hendrix (rock)
5. Paco de Lucia (flamenco)
6. Agustin Barrios Mangore (classical)
7. Ramon Montoya (flamenco)
8. Julian Bream (classical)
9. Charlie Christian (jazz)
10. B.B. King (blues)
11. T-Bone Walker (blues)
12. Merle Travis (country)
13. Wes Montgomery (jazz)
14. John Williams (classical)
15. Michael Hedges (contemporary finger-style)
16. Lonnie Johnson (blues)
17. Eddie Lang (jazz)
18. Lenny Breau (jazz)
19. John McLaughlin (fusion, jazz)
20. Joe Pass (jazz)
21. Sabicas (flamenco)
22. Blind Blake (ragtime, blues)
23. Robert Johnson (blues)
24. John Fahey (folk finger-style)
25. Davey Graham (folk finger-style)
26. Doc Watson (folk)
27. Danny Gatton (rockabilly)
28. Adrian Legg (contemporary finger-style)
29. Narciso Yepes (classical)
30. Laurindo Almeida (brazilian)
31. Les Paul (jazz)
32. Christopher Parkening (classical)
33. Pat Metheny (fusion, jazz)
34. Sol Ho’opi’i (hawaiian slide guitar)
35. Jeff Beck (rock)
36. Eddie Van Halen (rock)
37. Ritchie Blackmore (rock)
38. Alexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti (classical)
39. Phil Keaggy (christian rock, contemporary finger-style)
40. Allan Holdsworth (fusion)
41. Baden Powell (brazilian)
42. Nino Ricardo (flamenco)
43. George Van Eps (jazz)
44. Jim Hall (jazz)
45. Ed Bickert (jazz)
46. Kenny Burrell (jazz)
47. Franco (soukous, rumba)
48. Carlos Paredes (fado)
49. Freddie Green (jazz)
50. Eric Clapton (rock, blues)
51. Jimmy Page (rock)
52. Albert King (blues)
53. Hank Garland (country, jazz)
54. Chuck Berry (rock)
55. Tommy Emmanuel (contemporary finger-style)
56. Leo Kottke (contemporary finger-style)
57. Tony Iommi (rock)
58. King Bennie Nawahi (hawaiian)
59. Enver Izmailov (fusion)
60. Stanley Jordan (jazz, fusion)
61. Robert Fripp (avant-garde, rock)
62. Oscar Moore (jazz)
63. Ernest Ranglin (ska, jazz)
64. Gabby Pahinui (hawaiian slack key)
65. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (indian)
66. Johnny Smith (jazz)
67. Roy Buchanan (country blues/rock)
68. Bill Frisell (fusion, jazz)
69. Manuel Barrueco (classical)
70. Kazuhito Yamashita (classical)
71. Jimmy Bryant (country, jazz)
72. Duane Allman (rock, blues)
73. James Burton (rockabilly)
74. Freddie King (blues)
75. Elmore James (blues)
76. Earl Hooker (blues)
77. Juanjo Dominguez (tango)
78. Roberto Grela (tango)
79. Mother Maybelle Carter (country)
80. Stevie Ray Vaughan (blues)
81. Steve Vai (rock)
82. Yngwie Malmsteen (rock)
83. Steve Morse (rock)
84. Eric Johnson (rock)
85. Tony Rice (bluegrass)
86. Bola Sete (brazilian)
87. Richard Thompson ( folk)
88. John Renbourn ( folk)
89. Bert Jansch ( folk)
90. Buddy Guy (blues)
91. Steve Cropper (r&b, blues)
92. Robert White/Joe Messina/Eddie Willis (r&b)
93. Scotty Moore (rockabilly)
94. Barney Kessel (jazz)
95. Tal Farlow (jazz)
96. Jimmy Raney (jazz)
97. Howard Roberts (jazz)
98. George Benson (jazz, soul)
99. Debashish Bhattacharya (indian)
100. Ry Cooder (blues, slide)
101. Roy Nichols (country)
102. Brian May (rock)
103. Carlos Santana (rock)
104. David Gilmour (rock)
105. Jan Akkerman (rock)
106. Larry Carlton (fusion)
107. Larry Coryell (fusion, jazz)
108. Al DiMeola (fusion)
109. Steve Howe (rock)
110. Shawn Lane (fusion)
111. Joe Satriani (rock)
112. Rev. Gary Davis (ragtime, blues)
113. Derek Bailey (avant-garde)
114. Sonny Sharrock (jazz, avant-garde)
115. Sonny Greenwich (jazz, avant-garde)
116. James Blood Ulmer (jazz, avant-garde)
117. Pepe Romero (classical)
118. Angel Romero (classical)
119. Carlos Montoya (flamenco)
120. Martin Taylor (jazz)
121. Alirio Diaz (classical)
122. David Russell (classical)
123. Sandy Bull (folk)
124. Koo Nimo (highlife)
125. Paulinho Nogueira (brazilian)
126. Grant Green (jazz, soul)
127. Diblo Dibala (soukous)
128. Doctor Nico (soukous)
129. Paul Galbraith (classical)
130. Mario Escudero (flamenco)
131. Joe Maphis (country)
132. Luiz Bonfa (brazilian)
133. Pat Martino (jazz)
134. Steve Hackett (rock)
135. John Abercrombie (fusion)
136. Ralph Towner (fusion)
137. John Scofield (jazz, fusion)
138. Otis Rush (blues)
139. Melchor de Marchena (flamenco)
140. Brent Mason (country)
141. Oscar Aleman (jazz)
142. Goran Sollscher (classical)
143. Eliot Fisk (classical)
144. Marcel Dadi (contemporary finger-style)
145. Pierre Bensusan (contemporary finger-style)
146. Bob Brozman (blues, hawaiian, folk)
147. Ledward Ka’apana (hawaiian slack key)
148. Pete Townshend (rock)
149. Robbie Basho (folk finger-style)
150. Manolo Sanlucar (flamenco)
151. Serranito (flamenco)
152. Albert Lee (country)
153. Sharon Isbin (classical)
154. Randy Rhoads (rock)
155. Alex Lifeson (rock)
156. Gary Moore (rock, blues)
157. Mike Bloomfield (blues, rock)
158. Mark Knopfler (rock)
159. Johnny Guitar Watson (blues)
160. Carlos Barbosa-Lima (brazilian, classical)
161. Charlie Byrd (jazz, brazilian)
162. Lonnie Mack (rock, blues)
163. Dick Dale (rock)
164. Link Wray (rock)
165. EK Nyame (highlife)
166. Big Bill Broonzy (blues)
167. Roy Lanham (country)
168. Scotty Anderson (country)
169. Jimmy Nolen (funk)
170. Clarence White (country)
171. Jerry Reed (country)
172. Roy Clark (country)
173. Grady Martin (country)
174. Albert Collins (blues)
175. George Harrison (rock)
176. Keith Richards (rock)
177. Eldon Shamblin (western swing)
178. Johnny Winter (blues)
179. Jerry Garcia (rock)
180. Henry Kaiser (avant-garde)
181. Eugene Chadbourne (avant-garde)
182. Alex Konadu (highlife)
183. Marty Friedman (rock)
184. Uli Jon Roth (rock)
185. Michael Schenker (rock)
186. Preston Reed (contemporary finger-style)
187. Herb Ellis (jazz)
188. Mike Stern (jazz, fusion)
189. Junior Brown (country)
190. Terje Rypdal (fusion)
191. Blind Lemon Jefferson (blues)
192. Alvin Lee (rock)
193. Peter Green (blues, rock)
194. Eddie Hazel (rock)
195. Vinnie Moore (rock)
196. Fred Frith (avant-garde)
197. Vicente Amigo (flamenco)
198. Martin Simpson (celtic)
199. Tommy Tedesco (jazz, classical, rock)
200. Blind Willie Johnson (blues)
201. Frank Zappa (psychedelic rock)

This list just scratches the surface, so, consider it as a place to begin. Remember, there are many more excellent players for you to discover. And who knows, maybe next time your name will be on the list.’til then, play and have fun no matter what genre or style you play… I’ll be listening!

Image by Lindi Levison

11 Responses to 200 + 1 Guitarists – by Mike Overly

  1. jlfriedmann says:

    An interesting and thoughtful list. Do my eyes deceive me, or is Frank Zappa not included? He’s long been my go-to guitarist for the reasons you mention: “innovation, influence, impact on other players, respect from other players, as well as legendary status, notoriety and fame.” What is your opinion of his status vis a vis the pantheon of guitar greatness?


    • Mike Overly says:

      As I know you know, the list that satisfies everyone has yet to be invented, so if you didn’t find your favorite guitarist on this list, please don’t take offense. In hindsight, I guess the omission of Frank, other than oversight, has more to do with me thinking of him as a composer rather than as a guitarist. For I must honestly admit that he didn’t influence me as a player. However, with that being said, he will be Number 1 on the next 200 list. Here’s to hoping that you found a surprise or two to add to your 200 list. Thank you for reading my blog.


      • jlfriedmann says:

        Thanks. I wasn’t criticizing the list in any way. I hope I didn’t come off as such, as I get frustrated when I see others doing that sort of thing. The players you mention are, of course, luminaries, and I’ve been looking into some you mentioned who I hadn’t heard before. Not being a guitarist myself (I’m a cellist), I just wondered what you thought of Zappa. It is certainly difficult to put him in a box, and I tend to view him more as a composer myself. He has been a major influence on me in that regard.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. jlfriedmann says:

    …Also, I could have sworn the title was a nod to Zappa’s “200 Motels.”


  3. Mike Overly says:

    … let’s amend this list and pretend it was 201 motels… hehe

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gsharma368 says:

    Great list….i lloved where you put Jeff Beck… and the plus 1 is worth it. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Johnny says:

    I can clearly see that your list is graded and you know what? – I can accept your grading because it’s reasonable enough. You put Joe Pass on #20 position, well he could go to #10 just as easily but definitely not below #30. Luiz Bonfa #132 ? – well, not as much a guitarist as he is a great composer. Jan Akkerman on #105 probably wins as a great original over Joe Satriani on #111, indeed. While some shred fanatics would disagree and demand Joe S. to go to #1. And… so on.


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