Blues guitar is one of the most influential guitar genres, therefore the best blues guitarists had a significant impact and influence on our music today.
Ever since the end of the 19th century when the African-American communities of the Southern US started playing and singing the blues, it has affected and shaped other musical genres as well, including Jazz and Rock and Roll. Blues can be split into several subgenres as well, the best known perhaps are the Delta, Piedmont, Jump, and Chicago blues styles.
As such, the best blues guitarists were shaping the music of tomorrow, without them knowing it.
Music affects our mood, mindset, and everything about us, therefore these influential blues guitarists shaped society as well. Have you ever heard anybody saying, "I've got the blues"? 🙂
Here is a thorough, but by no means a complete list of the best blues guitarists who helped shape and influence music.
This is my own list, so if you have any additions, feel free to comment at the bottom of the post. While you read, play this to get you into the mood:
My List of Best Blues Guitarists
Huddie William Ledbetter (January 1888 – December 6, 1949) was an iconic American folk and blues musician, notable for his strong vocals, his virtuosity on the 12-string guitar, and the songbook of folk standards he introduced.
Although he most commonly played the twelve-string, he could also play the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, concertina, and accordion.
Listen to Leadbelly songs on Amazon >>
Mississippi John Hurt
John Hurt (July 3, 1893 — November 2, 1966) was an influential country blues singer and guitarist.
He sang in a loud whisper, to a melodious finger-picked guitar accompaniment. Hurt's influence spanned several music genres including blues, country, bluegrass, folk, and contemporary rock and roll. A soft-spoken man, his nature was reflected in the work, which remained a mellow mix of country, blues, and old-time music to the end.
Listen to Mississippi John Hurt songs on Amazon >>
Rev. Gary Davis
Reverend Gary Davis, also Blind Gary Davis, (April 30, 1896 – May 5, 1972) was a blues and gospel singer and guitarist who was also proficient on the banjo and harmonica.
His finger-picking guitar style influenced many other artists and his students. He assumed a unique multi-voice style produced solely with his thumb and index finger, playing not only ragtime and blues tunes, but also traditional and original tunes in four-part harmony
Listen to Gary Davis songs on Amazon >>
Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. (March 21, 1902 – October 19, 1988) was an American blues singer and guitarist.
House pioneered an innovative style featuring strong, repetitive rhythms, often played with the aid of slide guitar, and his singing often incorporated elements of southern gospel and spiritual music. A seminal Delta blues figure, he remains influential today.
Listen to Son House songs on Amazon >>
Nehemiah Curtis "Skip" James (June 9, 1902 – October 3, 1969) was an American delta blues singer, guitarist, pianist and songwriter.
James often played his guitar with an open D-minor tuning (DADFAD). James's 1931 work is considered idiosyncratic among pre-war blues recordings and formed the basis of his reputation as a musician.
Listen to Skip James songs on Amazon >>
Aaron Thibeaux Walker (May 28, 1910 — March 16, 1975) was an American blues guitarist, singer, pianist, and songwriter who was one of the most important pioneers of the electric guitar.
He was actually the first blues musician to use an electric guitar. He was ranked #47 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Chuck Berry, B.B. King, and Jimi Hendrix were mainly influenced by the life and style of T-Bone Walker.
Listen to T-Bone Walker songs on Amazon >>
Chester Arthur Burnett (June 10, 1910 – January 10, 1976) was an influential American blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player.
With a booming voice and looming physical presence, Burnett is commonly ranked among the leading performers in electric blues. At 6 feet, 6 inches (198 cm), and close to 300 pounds (136 kg), he must have been an imposing presence with one of the loudest and most memorable voices of all the "classic" 1950s Chicago blues singers. His rough-edged, slightly fearsome musical style is often contrasted with the less crude but still powerful presentation of his contemporary rival, Muddy Waters.
Credit for the success of Howlin' Wolf should also be given to his guitarist and Blues Foundation Hall of Fame inductee, Hubert Sumlin.
Listen to Howlin' Wolf songs on Amazon >>
Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues singer and musician. His landmark recordings from 1936–1937 display a remarkable combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that have influenced generations of musicians.
Johnson's shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to many legends. Johnson's songs, vocal phrasing, and guitar style have influenced a broad range of musicians; Eric Clapton has called Johnson "the most important blues singer that ever lived". He was ranked fifth in Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Listen to Robert Johnson songs on Amazon >>
Sam "Lightnin’" Hopkins (March 15, 1912 — January 30, 1982) was a country blues guitarist, from Houston, Texas.
Hopkins' style was born from spending many hours playing without a backing band. His distinctive fingerstyle playing often included playing bass, rhythm, lead, percussion, and vocals, all at the same time. He played both alternating and monotonic bass styles incorporating imaginative, often chromatic turnarounds and single-note lead lines. He added rhythmic accompaniment by tapping or slapping the body of his guitar. Much of Hopkins' music follows the standard 12-bar blues template but his phrasing was very free and loose.
Listen to Lightnin' Hopkins songs on Amazon >>
McKinley Morganfield (April 4, 1913 – April 30, 1983) was an American blues musician, generally considered "the Father of Chicago blues". Muddy headed to England in 1958 and shocked audiences with his loud, amplified electric guitar and thunderous beat.
He was a major inspiration for the British blues explosion in the 1960s. Muddy was ranked #17 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Listen to Muddy Waters songs on Amazon >>
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker (August 22, 1917 – June 21, 2001) was an American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist, born near Clarksdale, Mississippi.
He became famous for performing his own unique style of blues, which was originally closest to Delta blues. He developed a 'talking blues' style that was similar to the early Delta blues, his music was metrically free. His own unique genre of blues often incorporated the boogie-woogie piano style and a driving rhythm.
Listen to John Lee Hooker songs on Amazon >>
Elmore Brooks (January 27, 1918 – May 24, 1963) was an American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter, and bandleader.
He was known as The King of the Slide Guitar and had a unique guitar style, noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice. James played a wide variety of blues often crossing into other styles of music, similar to that of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and some of B. B. King's work. Nonetheless, he was distinguished by his guitar's more powerful sound, which was interestingly a modified, hollow body traditional acoustic guitar, which sounded like the more modern solid-body guitars.
Listen to Elmore James songs on Amazon >>
Albert Nelson (April 25, 1923 – December 21, 1992) was an American blues guitarist and singer.
He was left-handed, but usually played right-handed guitars flipped over upside-down so the low E string was on the bottom. In later years he played a custom-made guitar (a Gibson Flying V, which he named "Lucy") that was basically left-handed but had the strings reversed (as he was used to playing). He also used very unorthodox tunings (i.e., tuning as low as C to allow him to make sweeping string bends). A "less is more" type blues player, he was known for his expressive "bending" of notes, a technique characteristic of blues guitarists.
Listen to Albert King songs on Amazon >>
Mathis James "Jimmy" Reed (September 6, 1925 - August 29, 1976) was an American blues musician and songwriter notable for bringing his distinctive style of blues into the mainstream.
Reed was an electric blues guitarist, as opposed to the more acoustic-based sound of many of his contemporaries. His lazy, slack-jawed singing, piercing harmonica and hypnotic guitar patterns are one of the blues' most easily identifiable sounds even today.
Listen to Jimmy Reed songs on Amazon >>
Riley B. King (September 16, 1925 - May 15, 2015) was an American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter acclaimed for his expressive singing and guitar playing.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at #3 on its list of the "100 greatest guitarists of all time." He introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and vibrato that would influence virtually every electric blues guitarist.
Listen to BB King songs on Amazon >>
Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry (born October 18, 1926 - March 18, 2017) was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music.
He refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics focusing on teen life and concerns and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.
Listen to Chuck Berry songs on Amazon >>
George "Buddy" Guy (born July 30, 1936) is an American blues guitarist and singer.
Guy is known for his showmanship, playing his guitar with drumsticks, or strolling into the audience while playing solos. He was ranked thirtieth in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". While Buddy Guy's music is often labeled Chicago blues, his style is unique. His style of blues can vary from the most traditional, deepest blues to a creative, unpredictable gumbo of the blues, avant rock, soul, and free jazz that changes at every gig.
Listen to Buddy Guy songs on Amazon >>
James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (born November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter.
He is often considered to be the greatest electric guitarist in the history of rock music by other musicians and commentators in the industry, and one of the most important and influential musicians of his era across a range of genres. He was influenced by blues artists such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Albert King, and Elmore James.
Listen to Jimi Hendrix songs on Amazon >>
Eric Patrick Clapton (born 30 March 1945) is an English blues-rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, and composer.
Clapton is the only person who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times. He was ranked fourth in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and #53 on their list of the "Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time". Although Clapton has varied his musical style throughout his career, it has always remained grounded in the blues; despite this focus, he is credited as an innovator in a wide variety of genres.
Listen to Eric Clapton songs on Amazon >>
Peter Allen Greenbaum (October 29, 1946 - ) is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from London, UK.
He played in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and co-founded Fleetwood Mac. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and Rolling Stone ranked him at #58 on its "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list. During the mid-'70s, Green was diagnosed with psychiatric problems, which broke his career in half. Despite this, many have called him the greatest British blues player of all time.
Listen to Peter Green songs on Amazon >>
William Rory Gallagher (2 March 1948 – 14 June 1995) was an Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter.
Initially playing acoustic and electric guitar, he started singing and later using a brace for his harmonica, Gallagher learned to play slide guitar, using a plectrum and metal slide on his smallest finger. He also became proficient on the alto saxophone, bass, mandolin, banjo, and the coral sitar, utilizing a glass slide made from an American Coricidin bottle on his electric guitars, instead of the metal slide.
Listen to Rory Gallagher songs on Amazon >>
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Stephen Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was a Grammy Award-winning American guitarist, singer, and songwriter.
He was ranked #7 in Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. His blues style was influenced by many blues guitarists. Foremost among them were Albert King, Otis Rush, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Jimi Hendrix. Vaughan's sound and playing style often incorporated simultaneous lead and rhythm parts.
Listen to SRV songs on Amazon >>
As I said, this is my own little list of best blues guitarists, but please add your picks below! And afterward, go ahead and start learning blues guitar!
A GREAT blues singer as well!!!!!
Here is an interesting article:
Here is LONNIE MACK playing and singing SATISFY SUZIE!!:
MISSISSIPPI MORRIS, BLIND JOE REYNOLDS, PETER PARCEK?
I could name another 30 influential blues guitarists, which is what makes these lists cool. I didn’t really expect to see them because they aren’t popular but Memphis Minnie and Blind Blake could beat the socks off their contemporaries and influenced the pioneering generations of bluesmen.
Blind Boy Fuller and Blind Willie McKellen should definitely be listed.
Great inclusion of Rory Gallagher who is among the most underappreciated guitarists in history but leaving Duane Allman and the American answer to Clapton who was Mike Bloomfield is blasphemous in my honest opinion. Bloomfield started playing with Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and several other Chicago and midwest blues musicians. Bloomfield is the most underappreciated blues guitarist that I know of, he and Jeff Beck have the greatest control over their tone with their natural vibrato being unmatched to this very day.
Hi ..so many great guitarists.. all good choices and ;lets face it.. everyone has a unique ear for music. I play and could only wish i wish one tenth as good as these guys. Lets face it.. most if not all of the greats and the general playing public have borrowed or copied either licks styles or whatever from someone else. it would be very difficult to be unique in the giutar world without treading on someone else bones.. lets just enjoy and dream of playing like these legends.
I’m certainly no expert, but a great one and an influential stylist was Lonnie Johnson. His history is interesting.
One of the great things about a list like this is it widens your horizon. I always come across a new name and learn a little more about the blues.
Just listen to his recording of Hot Fingers.
Any legitimate list of the greatest and most influential blues guitar players would include Freddie King. This omission must be an oversight.
Blind Blake and Magic Slim?!
ROBERT NIGHTHAWK and EARL HOOKER!!!???
Ah, Earl Hooker… Two Bugs and Roach… one of my favorites.
I think Keith Urban should be added to the list
So many good players,favs,Hendrix,Clapton,Winter,Bloomfield,the 3 king’s,Gallagher,Bonamassa,Trout,Zappa,Guy,Moore,Trucks,so many others,how lucky are we!
r u kidding ? Pretty good list an even some info. I can’t believe that u know ALL that, an dint mention Dwayne Allman ???????. ☹
Tami, I agree. It’s my opinion that Duane Allman and his blues slide playing is unmatched.
No Johnny Winter. Come on!
Well, it’s spelled Vaughan. What about Samantha Fish, Alvin Lee, Mike Zito?
Kenny Wayne Shepherd!
Give me a break! Kenny Wayne shepherd plays well, but he’s a Stevie ray wannabe clone
Pretty good list… I like that you include some of the early great like Mississippi John and Reverend Gary…. I do think Albert King would be a good addition….
We can have another ten or twenty best list
Keep the blues alive all the names mention above are the best every single one
Michael Burks And Tab Benoit
There has to be a mistake. No Duane Allman or Warren Haynes or Derek Trucks
What? No Magic Sam? Guitar Slim? Slim Harpo? Earl King? Gatemouth Brown? Otis Rush? Albert Collins?
Gatemouth Brown, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter… should have made the list
Totally agree with you and others that Duane Allman is missing. I love Derek Trucks but I think these are like old school guitarists. If he add Trucks he should add John Mayer as well
John Mayall was who influenced Clapton and others
Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks
MISSISSIPPI FRED MCDOWELL, CHARLEY PATTON, LONNIE JOHNSON, BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON, BLIND WILLIE MCTELL
and BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON?!! SONNY LANDRETH.
I like R.L. Burnside, Peter Green, Rory Gallagher Elmore James, Gary Clark Jr. And yes, Joe Bonamassa is incredibly over rated; seriously, he wouldn’t know blues if it bit him on the arse. 😉
While I respect an opinion, and like the guitarists you list, voicing such arguments against Bonamassa means you clearly don’t know him.
“Wouldn’t know blues if it bit him on the arse” 😂😂😂
Keeping the blues very much alive in this day and age, child prodigy who played with the great B.B King at age 12, long list of albums to date, sold out concerts, and voted nr.1 on the list of 30 best active guitarists, above Clapton, by guitarworld.
Oh, and did I mention sought out and played with one of the greatest of all time, B.B King, as a child !!
Mr. Bonamassa is a tremendous talent. J/R management is a music business bona fide. No pun intended. His fans respect and love him. His guitar slinging is choice.🎸👍
Joe B is a magnificent person and musician. A rare man
Bonamassa is an excellent guitarist, but he’s made his bones imitating every guitar legend out there. Good marketing strategy but he really hasn’t added anything original to the Blues lexicon.
I agree with his own peers:
Who knows better than ur own peers?
Ever heard SRV interview when asked who he thought was greatest & why?
Ever heard Jeff B. talk bout this guy?
Ever heard the story of this man joining Clapton&Cream on stage forcing clapton to throw his guitar down n admit he is nolonger God n considered giving up playing the guitar?
Who is the guitarist his peers was speaking of? If I gotta tell u then u dont know guitars!
RIP Jimi, we will never let u die!
Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, up and coming hard…Sturgil Simpson
Jimi Hendrix, while a great guitarist was a psychedelic rock and roller. While he played some blues songs his claim to fame was rock and roll man.
I may have missed it but I didn’t see Duane Allman of the Allman Bros band listed. Certainly, one of the great blues guitarist of our time.
Billy F Gibbons is my favorite for blending them all together!!!
Anybody ever heard of Guthrie Trapp? Check it!!
He smokes all the genres, and if he is not now, he will be one of the most influential guitar players.
What about Roy Buchanan people!??
Totally agree on the Roy Buchanan and if anybody’s listen to the last 10 years of Trower he’s blues as can be
Kenny Wayne Shepherd may not qualify for your list, but for me, his blues inspired music is what opened the door to the blues to me. Being a SRV fan, I’m glad he made the cut! 🤙
Yeah, he can’t make this list, but it’s awesome that he is influencing and motivating you, and probably many other people as well, to play the blues. Keep it up Anne, and good job Kenny!
Big Bill Bronzy and No Freddie King?
Pee Wee Crayton is often overlooked. Look at when he was achieving his raw sounds and creating riffs that were copied later by Chuck Berry. His catalogue can be repetitive, but jump blues wouldn’t be the same without him.
I don’t know much about him, but you might be right. Listening to some of this material and reading up on him now, he probably should be on this list.
Duane Allman obviously is the greatest influence of the greatest living blues guitarist.
Agreed, although Dickey Betts was standing right next to him. Allman actually said Betts was better. I know there are lots who’d say Betts only rates honorable mention. But he and his songs are the reason ABB continued to live and thrive, and his bluesy/country guitar floats my boat.
I wish a lot of times best would be left off of these articles. To me influential and pioneers are more important. Because anything since Elvis would not be here without a lot of the names on here. You have to remember to these old blues artist flat out lived the blues. Not taking anything away from the talents. but blues is a way of life and deep feeling, to me you don’t listen to the blues, you feel it deep in your being;. It cannot be explained. It must be lived and felt! All of these blues artists in this list are the best. And there is a lot if great blues being played in our day and age no thanks to pop or American Idol. But because of the names on this list. Blues is an independent entity and thank the Lord for that. I can hardly listen to a pop song these days without wanting to hurl.
But if people want to talk best. I wish someone out there would put on some cutting head shows . There are some great independent blues artist out there right now. Bring them together and let them show off their chops. Then use the proceeds to teach and support the independent blues artists. To me I want to listen to it all. Johnny Copeland, Shemeka Copeland, Ruthie Foster, Samantha Fish, Gary Clark Jr, Joe Bonamassas, Rhianna Giddens, Danielle Nicole, Dana Fuchs, Anthony Gomes, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Beth Hart, Alabama Shakes, Ida Mae, Larkin Poe, Ana Popovic and so on. There are many more. I love all the stuff that Joe B does. He is sharing blues all over the map, so is Samantha Fish and Clapton. Then my car radio stays on BB Kings bluesville. It covers so many greats from beginning to end!
Blues I love it!
Gary moore should be on this list
I can’t believe Joe Bonamassa is better than all those other guys that’s insane.
Joe Bonamassa is not on this list because he is a contemporary musician. He hasn’t done anything for blues that his predecessors haven’t already. Some like his music, some don’t, but I can’t make a case for seeing him as one of the “most influential blues guitarists”, which is what this post is about.
Only a bunch of kids who grew up listening to Bonamassa and think he invented the blues and everyone else is copying him would put him in the number one spot. I mean, he’s good, but I went through his entire catalog a few years ago and I didn’t find a single song or even an original lick that I wanted to steal.
Where is Kenny Wayne Sheppard. Joe bonamassa absolutely should be on the list. Stevie Ray Vaughn is the clear number 1. Check this guy out Billy strings on YouTube. This guy is invredible
Jim McCarty of Cactus. I don’t have time to push my case but if you research him you’ll probably wish you had put him on the list. Still around. Gives free lessons in the Detroit area. Fastest damn blues/rock guitarist I’ve ever heard. Played with Joe Bonomasa one time that can be found on YouTube. Never self marketed himself. Cactus was America’s LED Zeppelin.
Sorry for spelling errors.
Thank you for the list!
Personally I’d add Blind Willie McTell and Blind Blake =)
Mike Bloomfield was playing with Muddy as a teen.
Derek Trucks is pretty special now
Modern Blues prodigy Joe Bonamassa…played with all the “Kings” as a child..😎
Perhaps Gary Moore (RIP God bless you) was just an oversite. This man put his heart and soul into every song he played. He was known for bending strings on his, formally owned by Peter Green, 1959 Les Paul. He was an extraordinary blues musician. Thank you
Yes, I know his music well. He was a great player, but I’m not sure he can be named one of the best or most influential blues musicians. Which is the title of this list.
What does everybody else think?
Gary Moore (RIP) never gets his dues. One of the all time best blues players I’ve seen.
Gary Moore, always overlooked
One of the all time greats.
How can a list of the greatest blues guitarist not include Joe Bonamassa? He opened for BB King when he was 12 years old. Just as good as Clapton and maybe even better in my opinion.
I totally agree, however, Joe is fairly recent to the mix. By far Bonomassa is incredible.
Joe Bonomasa is THE BEST yet…seen & heard them all. Amazingly gifted.
Green created iconic songs like “Black Magic Woman”, “the Green Manilishi”, and Oh Well”.
Led Zeppelin admitted “Black Dog” was modeled after “Oh Well”. Of course Santana used Green’s influence in many of their songs including their biggest hit. “Albatross” was actually a huge hit in England and even topped the Beatles in their hey day. Listen to his solo for “I’ve got a mind to give up living.” If you are not convinced it is a lost cause.
Numerous musicians and blues guitarists that are in the know mention Green as their influence. B.B. King said Green was the only blues guitarist that ever made him sweat. I could go on and on. Jimi Hendrix and Robert Johnson both died in their early years. Don’t hold it against Green because in his years before the drug problems he made masterpieces.
Thanks for your comment Vince. After so many commenters recommending Peter Green’s addition to this list, I have now added him as well.
I am soooo tired of Johnny Winter being left off greatest lists. The guy was insanely good. A guitarist’s guitarist. And also an incredible blues vocalist. He gave Muddy Waters a 2nd career. I saw him 4x over 4 decades. In ’98 he was the best he ever sounded. Unfortunately, ten years later, I had to walk out of his show; it was too painful to watch. He had to be lead out to the microphone, one bandmate on each arm as he shuffled in tiny steps. Every song they played was a slower tune, but he still couldn’t keep up with the band. The looks on their faces told the story. But when JW was healthy, his playing was fluid and lightening fast. Listen to the opening bars of the studio version of “Be Careful With A Fool” and tell me that’s not the greatest opening guitar solo you’ve ever heard. Also, “Hustled Down To Texas,” “Check Out Her Mama” (very entertaining lyrics), and Winter’s cover of the Stones’ “Let It Bleed.”
he gave muddy waters a second career…..its muddy waters bro….he doesn’t need any help from johnny winter….that’d be like saying john mayer gave the stones a second career
true that. Seeing Clapton’s name on a guitar list is like seeing the Beatles name on who is the #1 Band of all Time and Rock Band no less.
Amen! Glad to see Rory Gallagher, but Peter Green’s ommission is inexcusable.
I was and still am on the fence about Peter Green.
He was definitely great, but I don’t feel he contributed enough to music to be on this list of the best and most influential blues guitarists. If he wouldn’t have had the psychiatric problems, he probably would have taken things much further.
But I can be convinced. Why do you think Green belongs on this list?
Hubert Sumlin should be on that list
Sister Rosetta Tharp
She was an amazing musician for sure, influenced the future of music.
The reason I didn’t put her on this list is that she was the mother of Rock, not really blues. Although some of her songs are definitely bluesy, like “That’s All”. One of my favorites.
Why is Peter Green always over looked?
Duane Allman,,, the best!!
I’m a real latecomer to this list I see. Nonetheless, I’m putting in my two cents. If one includes all the ABB guitarists, most of whom were great (influential can be argued), but besides Duane, Dickey, Trucks, and Haynes, can’t help giving a shout out to Jack Pearson and Jim Hall.
Curtiss Lowe was a real real good blues guitar player and I think Stevie Ray Vaughn should be in the top 5 at least with Bb King and Freddy King and Jimi Hendrix and I think in this order 1 Stevie Ray Vaughn 2 B.B. King 3 Jimi Hendrix 4 Curtiss Lowe 5 Freddytexas cannonball King you can’t forget Muddy Waters Buddy Guy Eric Clapton Rory Gallagher just to name a few
Thanks bro I appreciate the support.
I guess Richie Blackmore… One of the most influential. Of all time….no doubt!
How about Blind Willie Johnson ?
On the ‘most influential’ side, the list has to include Mississippi Fred McDowell. His slide work influenced so many slide players. Speaking of which – I would certainly include Ry Cooder and Mick Taylor over Clapton.
Lol maybe cause you’re dumb. Do you understand the meaning of INFLUENTIAL or are you say unable to look past your bias to understand what the word means? Please look up how many blues guitarists/ rock guitarists/ bands even freaking pop guitar players that Clapton has influenced and then come back here *EDITED
I also thought of Mississippi Fred. And Charlie Patton – father of the Delta Blues. Glad to see Rory Gallagher on the list. Good list on its own.
Where is Skydog! Where in the f*** is Skydog? Nothing against the others listed, I enjoy all their music but to exclude Duane Allman is unbelievable. I realize we are discussing an art form and to each their own. However, in my opinion, Duane took slide playing to a level no one was doing at the time. Him and Dickey combined, with their interweaving and note phrasing were also unsurpassed and to this day I have not heard two guitarists in an electric rock/blues/whatever band play the way they do. OK, enough trying to explain…just listen to the Allman Brothers “Live at Fillmore East” and the leftovers from the concerts on “Eat A Peach”. The slide work on Mountain Jam will bring tears to your eyes.
Yes, Duane Allman and Big Jack Johnson!
I saw something on PBS the other day, might have been Soundbreakers? Idk but they mentioned a guy, I swear his last name was Christians or some form of it, but they were saying all electric guitar driven blues artists, including the 3 Kings, owe him a debt of gratitude. I opened the list to see if I could find his name but no mention. Do you know who I’m talking about? Skinny black guy with glasses, kinda nerdy looking, well dressed?
Charlie Christian from the 1940s …
Duane Allman… Unfortunately for everybody died prematurely.Given his body of work,Mastery of the genre,respect he commanded especially by his contemporaries..qualifies him completely… In my opinion… but thank you for the list I’ve got a lot of time on my hands driving across the country and I look forward to checking out some of the older pioneers…
Leaving Freddie King off a list like this is just about unthinkable.
Nice list. All the guitar players on the list are great and very influential. I would have included Mick Taylor someplace on the list.
ABSOLUTELY!!!!!! Mick Taylor
Big Bill Broonzy was better than Leadbelly IMO
right. nothing to contribute, really, to the list. first off, because a “best…” / “most influential…” list is subjective, like you said. secondly because i don’t really know enough about the subject to have a decent opinion on the matter. that being said, rory gallagher is absolutely amazing, should be on a top ten list if you ask me. not quite what you’d call influential, but always brilliant listening to. i digress :). the reason i started writing this message is to make a suggestion. you obviously love blues, and while he’s not exactly well known, nor a blues guitarist per se, and maybe not even great in the true sense of the word, i think you should give bjorn berge a try. hope you enjoy his playing as much as i do :). right, that’s about it. have a good one.
Got to include Freddie King, Duane Allman, and Jeff Beck (Jeff Beck Group period).
The beauty of it all is that Blues guitarists don’t seem to care which one of them goes above another on any kind of the list. The genre itself is too pure and filled with powerful feel to focus on minor things like this.
Ry Cooder? Regarded by Eric Clapton as the greatest slide guitarist ever. I’ve looked on a dozen or more of these “greatest” lists. No sign of Ry anywhere. Hard to believe!
You forgot Sister Rosetta Tharp….as usual no women in the top 20…
You’re right, she was an influence on later musicians, even blues players that later became an influence. Wow, that sounds complicated. Anyhow, I just found a great performance from here, check it out.
Does anyone else think she should be in the top blues influencer list?
Albert Collins? Freddie King? Magic Sam? Earl Hooker? Otis Rush? Guitar Slim? Long John Hunter??????????????
1 Albert King
2 Albert Collins
3 Buddy Guy
4 Freddie King
5 Otis Rush
three of my top five are not even on the list……..
Nice list – another 20 added to the list might help. Mike Bloomfield and Freddie King need to be on the list as well as Duane Allman, etc. Listen to Mike Bloomfield’s “Altar Blues” where he sings/lists a large number of guitarists and folks who influenced him. I’m sure its on You Tube or buy it on Amazon.
How ’bout Gary Moore. Or check out Alvin Lee ” The Bluest Blues” on You Tube.
Clapton got Duane Allman to help him out on the Derek and the.Dominoes album because he just coudnt pull off
the scortching slide work work that Duane could do as evidenced on Layla.
Johnny Winter can play the blues any way imaginable to pe
rfection aether he is playing a 12 string,slide or the Dobro,no one can match his versitility
sure he was accused of plagarism, maybe it was a tribute to all the blues guitarists he formed his style after.
Nice list as it puts all the classics on there, nice to see nobody modern on there because with out any disrespect to them, there isn’t anything much more that can be done that hasn’t already been done.
All rock n roll guitar players from todays biggest bands: Jimmy Page (Zepplin) to Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) to Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), to Jack White (White Stipes) Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), or Joe Perry (Aeromsith)!
They all give a nod to those who came before them. Nice to see this list do so also. And to moden blues men who are just as talented Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Gales, Derek Trucks, Jonny Lang, Melvin Taylor, Jason Barwick , Zac Harmon I could go on!
Michael Bloomfield? Got to have him on every blues guitar list….somewhere
near the top.
And whoever plays guitar on the theme music for “Becker”.
It really wonderful to see all these gr8 musician their work and great comments too by fantastic critics. Thanks
A list of “top” blues guitarists without Charlie Patton? How is this so?
I came across your site by accident but have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. We owe such a debt to those guitarist and singers.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us and let’s keep plucking!
I absolutely love BB King, Clapton, SRV, Kenny Wayne, and Robert Cray. I happened to catch Robert Cray in Vegas a couple of months ago and he still rocked the house. There are so many great ones, but these are just a few of my favorites.
Roy G. SRV Clapton Hendrix???? All blues influenced but not blues in my opinion…. where’s Otis Rush? GUITAR SLIM? Magic SaM? U know ZZ top made millions doing nothing but copying Magic Sam…. and wait Earl Hooker….. Earl Hooker was everybody’s fav… he hasssss to be on there
doing nothing but copying Magic sam…..yeah the riffs, but dome on homie, the songs the lyrics the swag the vocals. that’s
ZZ top originality. they fused the real deal riffs with a beat that was just tight and white enough to reach mainstream, and they wrote songs
that were blues and pop. Mot an easy trick. You are so far off the mark. “Just copied”. Jesus. Clueless.
Where is Michael Bloomfield?
Freddie King should absolutely be on this list. Clapton said Freddie was the first blues player he tried to copy. I really don’t see how Clapton can be on the list without Freddie being there too.
While not so much influencial, Jeff Healey was a truely legendary blues-rock guitarist and singer. You could feel the heart & soul in his music. There are some great videos on YouTube of Jeff playing with SRV, Clapton, other greats. Another great artist taken so young.
His first love was jazz. He will never be forgotten.
He’s great, but I wouldn’t call him one of the most influential blues players yet. Give it 20 more years though, he’ll probably get there 🙂
So, where’s Joe Bonamassa?
I think that Hendrix was the greatest rock guitarist of all time, I have great respect and admiration for Clapton, but when it comes to most influential, without all the old masters neither would have never reached the level of musicality that they achieved. As a result, you can never list one of the old masters behind either Hendrix, Clapton or anyone of their generation. And I think that they would agree. .
Jorma Kaukonen…granted he’s from Mars, but he’s gotta be up there with the best of ’em !
Roy Buchanan’s ‘Wayfaring Pilgrim’…is the best blues tune ever.
a really good and accurate list. This writer knows the meaning of blues except for SRV (but that’s my opinion lol)
Roy Buchanan, the “world’s greatest unknown guitarist”
I’m almost certain that’s Roy Buchanan doing the (uncredited) solo on “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones
Agreed. The master of the telecaster!
Roy Buchanan. Has pinch harmonics and volume swells made a sound that no one else has duplicated nearly as well.
The master of the telecaster!
Can not leave out kenny wayne shepherd
Some of my TOP Blues guitarists are as follows:
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Finally someone who appreciates and recognizes the great Peter green!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No one has ever said more with fewer notes!!!!!!
I’ve seen these 2 sets of graffiti I’m almost positive they were in England I’m assuming and surely gone by now, but photos exist online! One says “Clapton is God”, the other says “Peter Green is better than god”. True! Green is criminally underappreciated as a musician and as a human being!
My list would include the sadly ignored Peter Green, Otis Rush, Freddie King and Johnny “Guitar” Watson
I think its a DeArmond Jet Star.
Can someone tell me what guitar Muddy waters is playing in the picture above?
The guitar is the Guild Thunderbird of the mid sixties, also prominent on the cover of his”electric mud” album,… it’s not related to the Gibson Thunderbird Bass,and was known as “the melted Hershey bar”for its odd shape… reproductions are currently on the market..it was vaguely influenced by the Bo Diddley customs by Gretsch,and the electronics are pretty much the same as the FenderJazzmaster…it didn’t sell well originally, which makes you wonder why they reintroduced it!?!
I would rank Frank Zappa somewhere here. Maybe not the top but his work covers lots of blues and influences from Howlin Wolf and a few that also should be ranked ie Clarence Gatemouth Brown. His sound is like nothing else.
WOW, not a mention of Duane Allman.
This man is second on my list behind Hendrix. And when Hendrix was asked after Woodstock how it felt to be the greatest guitar player in the world, his response. I don’t know ask Rory Gallagher.
BB King is in a league of his own. On “All Over Again” he made that guitar speak what his soul was feeling. That came so far from the depths you felt it.
BB KING is WAY overrated as a BLUES GUITARIST!!!
He likes playing just ONE note in the higher register!!
NO CHORDS and a WEAK TONE!!
B- for the guitar playing but he still gets an A for his singing!!
where is he
no clapton without bloomfeld i think and no cream withoutpaul butterfield blues band
There are so many great bluesmen that it’s hard to pick from all the greats however, let’s not forget the great Roy Buchanan “When My Guitar Sings the Blues”
In my opinion the best blues guitarist is Joshua Jet Vaughan. I’m not sure if he’s any relation to Stevie Ray. The first time I heard him was in Austin, Texas. Though that was over a decade ago. He plays just like Stevie, and has a little bit of Clapton in his style. The most recent I had heard him was in Michigan. However, I have not heard anything about him for quite a while. The last thing I read was that he had come down with a serious illness, I think he would be about 36 now. In the article I had read about him it said that he was either Stevie Ray Vaughan reincarnated or God had just come down and decided to play through his body. I have never heard anybody who encapsilates Stevie’s sound and intensity as being an open channel of music like him. My opinion is that he’s the most soulful and melodic blues guitarist ever. I’ve heard about every blues guitarist that’s available for listening, and they don’t even measure up. I’ve always wondered if he was the unclaimed son of Stevie. One thing that he has that other blues guitarists don’t have is an incredible voice. One of the best guitar players ever, but definately the best voice ever. The most powerful and a natural rasp. Actually the last I heard he was living in Central Lake, Michigan and hasn’t gotten any better health wise. I wish everybody could hear him. Oh, and I think he may be the most beautiful man I have ever seen.
My top 10 is:
10: Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters)
9: Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple)
8: Jimi Hendrix (The Jimmy Hendrix Experience)
7: Pete Townshend (The Who)
6: David Howell Evans a.k.a. The Edge (U2)
5: Slash (Guns n’ Roses, Slash)
4: Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
3: Matthew Bellamy (MUSE)
2: Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
1: Brian May (Queen, The Brian May Band)
are you kidding or is it a side effect of mushrooms
the most influential blues guitar players man
you are on the velvet moon
You must be high.
You need to listen to more blues.
None of them but Hendrix plays any kind of blues.
Cobain? Kurt would laugh at you for including his name. You named some great guitar players, but none can hang
on a real deal down-home blues. or a shuffle. or a funky blues. None of them. Even Page.
Brian May? Oh lord. This is a blues list. Go away. Listen to some real blues and meditate on why it sounds real.
i doont know about major influence but Billy Gibbons and his boys Dusty Hill and Frank Beard (ZZ TOP) all have one of the best blues sounds ive heard.
B.B. King, Freddy King, SRV, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy -just to name a few.
quite a few of your top ten blues guitarists say that one of their favorite blues players was freddie “texas cannonball” king. one of my favorite blues men is buddy miles(who was in hendrix band of gypsies), and in his song texas cannonball he talks about how both bb king and albert king mentioned to him that freddie was one of their favorites.. now buddy himself i love his blues, but hes a drummer, and he really only has one pure blues album “blues berries” but that is one of my all time favorite blues albums. well worth checking it out if you have the inclination.
Thanks Green Eagle, I added a reference to Sumlin in the Howlin’ Wolf section.
When you list Howling Wolf, I think you should really give the credit to Hubert Sumlin, who did most of the guitar playing for Wolf.
Other than that, I am sure we could all find our favorites to add, but this is a pretty good list. I particularly liked your inclusion of Jimmy Reed, who was not even close to the class of Buddy Guy or B. B. in instrumental ability, but whose sound had a really profound effect on so many guitar players, particularly in his having been the first person known to play power chords.
how about mick taylor,alvin lee,peter green, johnny winter?
Agreed. Mike. Johnny Winter was one of the best bluesmen. RIP, Johnny. You’re missed.
rory gallagher a fantastic guitar player!
I agree with your list!! Outside of originators, Rory Gallagher is the most creative, dynamic and musical. There will never be another like Rory- the whole package that was Rory. Thank you for including him.
Lonnie Johnson has got to be in the Top-5. Credited with “inventing” the guitar solo. That’s right every guitar solo you have ever heard can be traced back to Johnson. Easily the most-influential of all early Blues guitarists (on other Blues guitarists that followed).
Bill Broonzy would also definitely be in my Top-10. Amazingly melodic and soulful.