Which 5 rock guitar players could be considered the best?

The answers thus far, rightfully, land on a discussion of the word “best.”

“Best” is highly subjective so any list could be both right and highly dubious.

I like what Jeff “Skunk” Baxter articulated about all guitarists in the History of Rock and Roll documentary. He said all guitarists today must go through three “portals” to be a modern player.

  • Chuck Berry
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Eddie Van Halen

I think this is because all three were innovators, highly influential, and always Rock and Roll. No jazzers here.

Berry brought bends, double stops, and most importantly, the pinky alternating the 5th and 6hts on a barre chord nearly indispensable to rock and blues. Almost anyone who came around in the 60s cites him as a significant influence.

Hendrix brought tone, sustain, improvisation and technology to the game unlike any other. The whole Clapton, Page, or Beck debate comes to a screeching halt with the inclusion of Hendrix. Just ask Clapton, Page, or Beck themselves. Everyone was blown away by Jimi.

Van Halen might not have been the first to use harmonics, fingertips, and super fast lyrical legato runs, but he, more than any before or since, put it all together in a way that influenced everyone else. And yet no matter how much of a shredder he was, Van Halen was always rock and roll. “Panama” makes my case.

I think there are excellent players out there—100’s. I always liked Allan Holdsworth, Robben Ford, and Larry Carlton (three virtuosos). But are they Rock and Roll? I don’t think so.

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