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MGK's Top 20: Greatest Guitarists Of All Time Countdown

MGK's Top 20:  Greatest Guitarists Of All Time Countdown 

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This February we present The MGK Top 20: Classic Rock’s Greatest Guitarists.  Listen each day for the countdown of the guitarists you have come to love.  Enjoy extended blocks at 9am, 2pm, and 7pm.


Alex Lifeson (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

20. Alex Lifeson (Rush)

Alex Lifeson's. guitar work on "2112" and "Xanadu" are absolutely inspiring. His effortless mix of artful technique & rock punch make Rush sound like a 4 piece with 2 guitar players rather than a power trio. While his riffs rule, his solos are jaw dropping.  It's no wonder he made WMGK listener's Top 20. 




Steve Howe (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

19. Steve Howe (Yes, Asia)

Steve Howe brought a variety of playing styles to Yes to contribute to their eclectic prog rock sound.  He brought it all - psychedelic, to jazzy, to country to make Yes one of the most popular bands in the prog rock movement.  Howe could get intricate with the acoustic guitar and bring high energy rock riffs to one of rock's most respected bands.  



Slash (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

18. Slash (Guns N Roses)

When Guns' N Roses Appetite For Destruction came out Slash's smooth but hard rocking guitar sound actually sounded stripped down compared to what all of the hair metal/heavy metal bands were doing.  His sound drew inspiration from The Stones and Aerosmith but attacked his riffs and solos from a different angle than Keith Richards and Joe Perry.  His soaring solo in "November Rain" and the iconic opening to "Sweet Child Mine" defintely played a part in him making the cut in the minds of MGK listeners.    



Keith Richards

17. Keith Richards (Rolling Stones)

Where do you begin when it comes to a man that created the blue print for some of the greatest rock songs of all time? Keith Richards is the master of writing melodies that are more powerful than any earth shattering guitar solo. His songs inately emit emotion and vibe. On a technical level, the way Keith tunes his guitar ensures that everything he creates sounds distincly 'Keith'. It's hard to replicate a Stones song and make it sound exactly like Keith...unless your Keith.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)



Pete Townshend (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

16. Pete Townshend (The Who)

Pete Townshend was ahead of his time. He was one of the forefathers of using feedback on this guitar, he practically created the power chord, he was among the first to usher in an era of anthemic rock songs and…he’s the first rocker we can think of that ever smashed anything on stage. He’s style mixes aggression with fluidity to create music that has and always will rock you.



Lindsey Buckingham (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

15. Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac)

Lindsey Buckingham's harmonic leads and crisp chords have rocked radio and stadiums around the world for decades.  Time and time again, he's created a new musical formula for fans, that has them singing and swaying along with the band.  



Brian May  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

14. Brian May (Queen)

Brian May is extremely talented.  He's a whiz of a guitarist making beautiful, layered walls of guitar sound for Queen's majestic tunes.  He also has a degree in astrophyics AND he came up with the design for his Red Special axe.  He built it with his father out of fireplce wood.  His guitar playing is legendary - his solo on"Bohemian Rhapsody", his riffing on "Stone Cold Crazy" and "Killre Queen".  From the moment Queen burst onto the scene, Brian May was always taking his playing and his sound to a higher level.   



Joe Walsh Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

13. Joe Walsh (Eagles, James Gang)

Joe Walsh combined an agressive Townshend-esque style with a more technical Jeff Beck sensibility to create some truly great guitar parts.  James Gang's "Funk 49" may have been some of his finest work.  Walsh also liked to have fun and experiment as is evidenced via his use of a talk box on "Rocky Mountain Way." When Walsh joined The Eagles, he brought an edginess to the band's sound with nasty riffs like the one on "Life In The Fast Lane".  He paired with Don Felder on "Hotel California" to create one of the most blistering dueling guitar solos of all time.  



Mark Knopfler (Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images)

12. Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits)

Mark Knopfler's rootsy licks are true crowd pleasers but it's his understated fingerpicking style that sets him apart from the rest.  Guitar greats marvel at the intricacy of his movements.  Knopfler is also a master at getting the perfect tone on his guitar.  He's so good, he's hard to replicate. 



George Harrison (Photo by Jim Gray/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

11. George Harrison (Beatles)

To dismiss George Harrison or any of The Beatles as 'pop peddlers' would be complete folly.  While their early hits were simple and easy to digest, both Harrison and the band grew musically throughout their career, experimenting with new sounds, creating new styles and techniques when it came to songwriting and recording.  Harrison was heavily influenced by Carl Perkins rockabilly sound but he brought so much more to the musical table.  He played preciscly, he played beautifully and he had so much respect for the pitch and tone of his instrument.  His guitar would sing much more than it would wail.  He expanded his own sound, The Beatles sound and thus the future of rock music with his work on Revolver and Abbey Road as well as his own solo material. 



Peter Frampton

10. Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton's 'Frampton Comes Alive' was at one time the biggest selling album of all time. The man has some excellent guitar solos on that landmark live album and he may be the artist most frequently thought of when use of the talk box effect is brought up.   (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for CMT)



Duane Allman  

9. Duane Allman (Allman Brothers)

Despite passing away in '71, Duane Allman was extremely influential as a member of the Allman Brothers Band and as a studio musician.  He added slamming leads to Wilson Pickett recordings and took guitar playing to new heights with Eric Clapton's "Layla".  Allman made the guitar sing, especially when jamming alongside his younger brother Gregg.  His psychedelic jams on Allman Brothers tunes like 'Whipping Post' are astounding.  He grew so much as a guitarist from the 60's to his work on 'At Fillmore East'.  Who knows, he may have made it to #1 on this list had he lived longer.  (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)


Jeff Beck (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

8. Jeff Beck (Yardbirds, Jeff Beck Group)

Jeff Beck brought a megadose of soulful psychedelia to The Yardbirds sound.  He's a master of sustain and feedback sounds on the guitar.  His jazzy melodies, whammy bar trickery and the intense use of distortion are hallmarks of his ferocious guitar style.   We're thrilled to have him on MGK's Big Gig this year. 



Stevie Ray Vaughan (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

7. Stevie Ray Vaughan 

From the moment he released his debut album in 1983, Stevie Ray Vaughan had the rock world's attention.  His smooth blues-rock sound and incredible dexterity had him packing venues around the nation.  Besides dropping jaws with the material on his own albums, he impressed rock royality as well. He jammed with the likes of Buddy Guy and Clapton and even played on Bowie's 'Let's Dance'.  If he hadn't died at 35, he might very well have made it to the top of this MGK listener list. 



Eddie Van Halen  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

6. Eddie VanHalen (Van Halen)

His. solos. are. insane. His fret tapping style is other worldly. Eddie Van Halen was built for arena rock and largely defined the pinnacle of arena rock success in the 1980s and into the 1990s.



David Gilmour Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

4. David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)

David Gilmour's soulful, futuristic riffs and solos brought color to Pink Floyd's often dark and disparate lyrical subject matter. His fantastical guitar sound textures defined Floyd's albums as much as Roger Water's thought provoking lyrics.  Gilmour's melodic solos took Floyd fans to new places in mind and spirit.  When he wasn't rockin' he pioneering the use of delay, paving the way for guitarists like U2's The Edge.



Jimmy Page  (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

3. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)

Jimmy Page was a towering force throughout the 1970's when Led Zeppelin dominated the rock world. Page's songwriting, solo playing and sound manipulation on record and at live shows is unmatched.   Before becoming the Lord of Licks as a member of Zeppelin, he played in The Yardbirds and also found success as a studio musician. Jimmy Page is a master of everything - technique, song writing, production and rock n roll swagger.  His talent and impact is undeniable on songs like 'Song Remains The Same' , 'Stairway To Heaven' , 'Heartbreaker'. 



Jimi Hendrix (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

2. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was a walking phenomenon. He brought the world of blues guitar and new, innovative guitar sounds together in one package. Jimi wasn't just one of the greats, hwas on a level higher than some of the greats.  He was a master of guitar manipulation whether it be using guitar feedback, his whammy bar or the recording studio, he created sounds that no other guitarist could imagine, let alone replicate.  He shined on tunes like "Machine Gun,"  "Voodoo Chile," "Little Wing" and even  his version of "Star-Spangled Banner."




Eric Clapton (Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images)

1. Eric Clapton (Yardbirds, Derek & The Dominos, Cream, Blind Faith) 

You know you're good when fans write 'Clapton Is God' on subway station walls.  It's easy to see why WMGK listeners put him at the top of the list. His solos were full of emotion and distinctly melodic. He took the blues guitar style that he loved and updated it in a completely original way. Clapton's style may not sound very original today but that's because he created a style and everyone else emulated it. He created the standard for what rock guitar playing become.  He was innovative in his guitar tuning style and in the way he executed his guitar solos. His solos were like stories. They built and grew from beginning to end.  Although he was nicknamed 'Slowhand', he could play extremely fast or play soulful and slow.  He could do it all.  Clapton was a true guitar god.