A few glaring omissions (Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen?), but a pretty solid list I suppose. The top two specifically I could not agree with more. Pete Townshend gets a lot of praise at Gibson but is a criminally underrated guitarist- it seems very few people really understand his role in the creation of rock music.
10. Curtis Mayfield
Along with James Brown guitarist Jimmy Nolan, Curtis Mayfield pioneered the funk-guitar sound that continues to be adopted by such torch-bearers as Prince and Nile Rodgers. Utilizing a self-devised tuning based on the black keys of the piano, Mayfield played with a choppy, muted style that revolutionized R&B rhythm playing. His masterpiece, the Superfly soundtrack, sounds as fresh today as it did upon its initial release nearly 40 years ago.
9. Jonny Greenwood
Few contemporary guitarists have forged a style as eclectic as that of Jonny Greenwood. Citing such far-flung influences as Miles Davis, Can and (especially) new wave guitarist John McGeoch, Greenwood often uses his instrument to achieve near-symphonic effects that range from lush soundscapes to aggressive maelstroms. A supremely gifted composer, Greenwood has said his playing is so closely aligned with Radiohead’s distinctive songcraft, he’s not sure he could play with another band.
8. The Edge
Lots of guitarists have forged a style based on the judicious use of effects, but few players have done that with as much finesse as The Edge. As its most recognizable, The Edge’s sound chimes and shimmers with a clarion beauty, as the U2 veteran employs delay and reverb to add specific colors to the notes emanating from his fingertips. Many contemporary players have cited The Edge’s influence, among them Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and Coldplay’s Jonny Buckland, but no one else sounds quite like him.
7. Tony Iommi
Heavy metal would be far less heavy were it not for the dark, minor key riffs of Tony Iommi. With his ever-present SG, Iommi continues to craft melodically menacing leads and foreboding blues-based solos that sound like the aural equivalent of the Frankenstein monster. As evidenced by such Black Sabbath classics as “Iron Man” and “Paranoid,” no one has managed to combine brooding tempos and memorable riffs in the way Iommi has.
6. Les Paul
Simply put, the great Les Paul was the man who made the sound of rock and roll possible. Paul’s technical innovations were so pioneering, people sometimes forget that he was a premier guitar stylist. Singing six-string trills, newfangled fretting techniques and dizzying manipulations of time signatures were all part of his stylistic repertoire. No less an icon than Jeff Beck once said, “When I heard Les Paul [playing] things like ‘How High the Moon’ and ‘The World is Waiting for the Sunrise,’ I wanted to be that. It goes way before the influence from ’60s rock and roll.”
5. Duane Eddy
No guitarist is more closely associated with “twang” than Duane Eddy. Along with his close friend and producer Lee Hazlewood, Eddy forged his unique style by playing lead on his bass strings, employing a technique that produced a low, reverberant sound. Hazlewood suggested the distinctive approach after hearing a pianist who’s own style incorporated playing melodies on the low keys of the piano.
4. Robert Fripp
Sometimes fitted with a serrated edge, other times delivered with celestial beauty, Robert Fripp’s ferociously original playing has always pushed at the boundaries of what rock music could be. In an era when his peers were immersing themselves in the blues, the King Crimson mastermind embraced avant-garde influences, and in the process created painterly experiments with ambiance and tone. King Crimson songs such as “20th Century Schizoid Man” and “Larks’ Tongue in Aspic, Pt. 2” pit melody against maelstrom in ways that thrill to this day.
3. Bo Diddley
The late Bo Diddley will forever be best-known for developing the “Bo Diddley beat,” a percolating, rumba-like chug based on the “hambone music” popularized by street performers. Fact is, however, Diddley’s hard-edged guitar style was just as distinctive. First with a Gibson L-5, and later with custom-made instruments, Diddley became a master at dialing in just the right tone and attack to achieve his driving rhythms.
2. Pete Townshend
Windmilled power chords, controlled feedback and calypso-on-steroids strumming continue to be the hallmarks of Pete Townshend’s pioneering style. Live, Townshend’s playing often takes on an orchestral power, as it approximates the majestic sweep of such masterworks as Tommy, Who’s Next and Live at Leeds. Asked about the origins of feedback as musical texture, Jimmy Page once observed, “Pete Townshend obviously was the one … who made the use of feedback more his style.”
1. Chuck Berry
By melding the swing rhythms and horn-like solos of Charlie Christian to the electric blues of T-Bone Walker, Chuck Berry essentially created guitar-based rock and roll. Utilizing the simplest of ingredients – double-stop riffs, memorable intros and well-place slurs and bends – Berry came up with boundless six-string permutations. With the possible exception of Robert Johnson, no guitarist forged a style that had a greater impact on rock and roll’s seminal players.
And of course, Chuck Berry started it all. As Ted Nugent puts it, "If you don't know every Chuck Berry lick, you can't play rock guitar."