The Greatest Guitar Solos in Recorded Rock History

by jimesposito

The Top 10 Guitar Solos in Recorded Rock History listed by internationally recognized music Journalist Jimmy "The Finger" Esposito

A great guitar solo is a thing of beauty, a composition. Many guitarists jump into a break with loud, flashy scales played at a warp speed. Those guys are just filling space, showing off to get girls, not constructing a lyrically cohesive piece of music. Some players, however, have a way of composing while they improvise. Either that or they might’ve taken a couple takes, work out a great guitar part.


Everybody’s into Lists these days: the Top 10 this, the Top 10 that... Decided to compile my List of the Greatest Guitar Solos in Recorded Rock History.

A great guitar solo is a thing of beauty, a composition. Many guitarists jump into a break with loud, flashy scales played at a warp speed. Those guys are just filling space, showing off to get girls, not constructing a lyrically cohesive piece of music. Some players, however, have a way of composing while they improvise. Either that or they might’ve taken a couple takes, work out a great guitar part.

Now I know whatever I list some people will agree, some will disagree, tell me I’m full of it. Others will be irate I left their hero, or the song that changed their life off my list. (“Dude! I was all messed up. Then I heard so-and-so playing such-and-such…”) There will be great guitar players who don’t appear on my list. This is not to denigrate their virtuosity. Some guitarists boast an incredible body of work, however you can’t point to one solo in one song that simply crystallizes their brilliance. Other guys are technical virtuosos, but somehow don’t have the mentality to construct a fluid solo.

In addition, I realize songs and artists I list go back aways to the Golden Days of Classic Rock. Some people may cite newer music (from the 80s or 90s perhaps). All I can say is the artists and songs I list here are the originals. Eddie Van Halen did great work, but without Jimmy Page preceding he might’ve been flipping burgers. Popa Chubby, Jimmy Thackery and Joe Bonamassa have likewise played excellent guitar, but stood on the shoulders of Eric Clapton and Ritchie Blackmore.

I have looked at lists of Great Guitar Solos on the Internet. I differentiate here between a Solo and an Instrumental. To me a Solo is a guitar part, a dedicated interlude in a song. “Pipeline,” “Hideaway” or “Samba Pa Ti” are Instrumentals. You want to talk about the greatest Guitar Instrumentals, that’s a whole different List. Which, by the way, would start with Billy Butler’s incredibly inventive solo in Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk.” A seminal piece of guitar work.

Again I know whatever I list is going to piss some people off, calling it the Greatest Guitar Solos. Well, it is highly subjective. By definition these are obviously MY favorite solos. I was an internationally published rock journalist and music critic, so I feel I have the credential to venture an opinion on the subject. You don’t like mine, shut up and write your own darn list.

Alvin Lee
Alvin Lee

1. Alvin Lee, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl"

Ssssh by Ten Years After

Anybody who disagrees is on drugs. Though, come to think of it, anybody who agrees was probably on drugs as well. The only people might argue have either never really listened to this song, or they met Alvin Lee. Most people remember him for his amphetamine driven rendition of “I’m Goin’ ‘ome (by ‘eli-copter)” at Woodstock, but Ten Years After released a string of excellent albums through the early 70s: Ssssh, Cricklewood Green, Watt and A Space In Time. More jazz-influenced than his contemporaries (the early British giants – Clapton, Page, Beck, Peter Green) Alvin Lee was as good as a guy can get on guitar. Though he could play real (real, real) fast, his solos were fluid and coherent, and he wrote interesting songs which ventured beyond the 12 Bar Blues, Barre Chord and Riff Rock which dominated that era. For a masterfully constructed guitar solo you will not find one better than in Lee’s arrangement of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” twin leads searing through a scorching riff when suddenly he’s off into an incredible improvisation. Just over three minutes long, it’s amazing if you ever saw the man perform it live. His hands hardly ever move out of one pentatonic box; he’s playing basically the same notes over and over, just a lot of different ways. Also, listening to Ten Years After, especially through the guitar solo in “Little Schoolgirl,” pay attention to Leo Lyons on Bass. People talk about the best Bassists in Rock History, they overlook this guy. Find me one better.

2. Jimi Hendrix, "Little Wing"

Hendrix In The West

A friend once described this solo as “transcendental.” I would agree. Jimi’s intro on this track is also a masterpiece of extemporaneous free-form composition. We could also make a pretty good case Jimi’s symphonically constructed solo in “All Along The Watchtower” belongs in the Top Ten as well. And people talk about Hendrix, nobody ever mentions “Message of Love” off Band of Gypsies, an absolute monster cut with some of Jimi’s best guitar work ever. Between being left-handed, playing an upside down guitar, and what must’ve been going on in that mind of his, there can never be another Hendrix. I always remember the quote from the book Rock Dreams when a reporter introduces himself: “I’m from The New York Times.” With a faraway smile Jimi replies: “Really? I’m from Mars.” Around 1:20 in duration, the wah-wah work he winds it up with is positively sublime. Way too short, this solo simply does not last long enough. Then again, to our misfortune, neither did Hendrix.

Plant & Page, "Stairway to Heaven" Tour
Plant & Page, "Stairway to Heaven" Tour
Captured by Larry Singer

3. Jimmy Page, “Stairway to Heaven”

Led Zeppelin IV

You know Jimmy Page belongs somewhere near the top of this list but I’m still conflicted here, for “Stairway to Heaven” is probably one of the most over-played tracks in recorded Rock History. Back in the day we were known as Punk Writers, and the Punk in me would love to pick another cut. Though undeniably excellent it is frankly pretty far down my list of favorite Led Zep tracks. This band was an incredible musical force, but after their first two albums it was all downhill. Number Four was a slick, polished effort, but two total throwaway tracks will always delegate it a notch below their first 2 LPs when they were doing heavy blues. In addition, their Fourth marks the spot they really began morphing off into that mystical never-never land dominating their later work. As far as soloing is concerned you could make a case for “Dazed and Confused,” Heartbreaker,” “Communication Breakdown” or the succession of lazy fills playing off Robert Plant’s vocals in “Lemon Song,” but Page simply never did a better solo than “Stairway to Heaven.” This may piss off a lot of Zep fans, but I never considered Jimmy that great a soloist. To me he’s more a composer who used progressive acoustic space chords and hot guitar riffs like Mozart and Beethoven used symphonic movements. As a guitarist Page’s body of work is without peer, and his contribution to Rock Music, Rock Culture incalculable. Without Jimmy Page there might not have been Riff Rock, might not have been Heavy Metal. Certainly those genres would not have been as big without “Communication Breakdown” and “Whole Lotta Love.” Some of Page’s riffs were better than a lotta guys’ whole solos. In “Stairway” Jimmy’s solo is an absolute masterpiece, though a bit out of character. Usually he jumped into the fray with a frenetic onslaught of blistering riffs. But in “Stairway to Heaven” Page composed an ascending succession of brilliant call and response licks. It’s distressingly short: a mere 50 rapidly passing seconds near the end of a seven minute song, but if it were not on this list I would be defending its exclusion. So here it is. But it’s still way over-played. Three-quarters of the time you hear Led Zep its either “Stairway to Heaven” or “Whole Lotta Love.” Would it kill these people to play “Dazed and Confused” and/or “Heartbreaker” once in a while?

4. Eric Clapton, “Key To The Highway”

Derek And The Dominos

E.C.’s another guy gotta be near the top of this List, and like his fellow Twin Tower of modern Rock Guitar (see preceding paragraph) it’s almost impossible to single out one song, one solo from a truly staggering body of work. Was tempted to cite “Badge,” but that solo’s way too short, and much as I love his work in “Let It Rain” looking at Clapton’s career you are practically required to select something off Layla by Derek And The Dominos, pretty much the best album ever recorded with electric guitars. Clapton was arguably at the peak of his proficiency for these sessions, a fully formed virtuoso who still played with spontaneity, inspired by the presence of Duane Allman and assorted illegal chemical stimulants. If you listed his 10 best solos maybe six or seven would probably come from this album. “Keep on Growing” is a monster. Some of E.C.’s finest blues playing’s in “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” and “Bell Bottom Blues.” And you want tasty? Listen to “I Am Yours” and “It’s Too Late.” Ultimately, however, I go with “Key To The Highway” because it’s simply longer than the others, so there’s more of it. A 9:40 track, Clapton sings five verses and Duane Allman gets 8-bars on slide. The rest of this song is Eric on his Strat soloing to an easy blues shuffle. A little of this, a little of that, a little of some other stuff. He plays loud, he plays soft. He’s ringing out, then he takes it down. An encyclopedia of blues riffs, this track showcases – perhaps even defines – E.C.’s smooth, elegant, fluent style. Other players get flashy and obtrusive, have to play fast to get noticed. But Clapton was like Cary Grant on guitar, suave and debonair.

Backstage with Purple
Backstage with Purple
Captured by Larry Singer

5. Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple

Special Lifetime Achievement Award

“Why Didn’t Rosemary,” “Child In Time,” “Pictures of Home,” “Lazy,” “Smoke On The Water,” “Never Before,” “The Mule” and “Strange Kind of Woman.” Go ahead and pick one. I think I did good just narrowing it down to those few. Left out “Speed King” because it’s predominantly Ritchie dueling with organist Jon Lord. Frankly surprised Blackmore’s even this far down the list, but brilliant as he was Ritchie wasn’t the pioneer like some of the preceding. Still it’s likewise important to note that more than any of those guitarists Blackmore made his name on solos. Deep Purple was not the innovator Hendrix was, didn’t revolutionize rock guitar like Cream and Led Zep. These guys just liked to jam. The core of the band was Blackmore on guitar and Jon Lord on organ, and songs they wrote pretty much an excuse to wrap around their dueling solos. These guys were hot. If you made a list of artists who made Heavy Metal a household name they’d have to be pretty close to the top. There’s some good raw work on Shades, and Purple flirted along the fringes of the Progressive Rock Movement in the late 60s. “Why Didn’t Rosemary” is the only decent track on their third LP, but its lengthy, well-constructed guitar solo foretold the future, because Deep Purple’s fourth was In Rock and they’d chucked all pretensions, simply started burning. Gotta love the way they deke you into it. First track on In Rock opens with a swelling symphonic organ intro from Jon Lord, then Purple kicks into “Speed King.” Ritchie plays some great guitar through this song, but he’s mainly dueling licks with Lord, and his solo in “Child In Time” is almost faster than the human ear can hear. Deep Purple’s triumph, though, was Machine Head. A legendary tale, the band had two weeks between tours, was planning to release a live album of songs they were already performing, record a gig they were playing at a Casino in Montreaux, Switzerland. The night before Frank Zappa and the Mothers were playing. During that show someone shot off a flare gun which started a fire – “burned the place to the ground.” Deep Purple had two weeks to write and produce an entire album before they went back out on the road. The result was Machine Head, a real work of art, a document, pure raw power with a life of its own, and a vibrant spontaneity which is the mark of true inspired genius. Ritchie Blackmore’s staggering work on Machine Head, for quantity and quality, is on par with Clapton’s contribution to Layla, and I don’t think you can name many other LPs where a guitarist contributed such a sterling, album-wide performance. Led Zeppelin II, perhaps. Band of Gypsies maybe. That’s some elite company. By this time Ritchie had switched from a Les Paul to a Strat, which gave him a more searing, precise tone, seemed to fit him better. Hard Rock Anthem “Highway Star” doesn’t even make my list. To me “Pictures of Home” is the best track on the disc, and  Blackmore’s work in “Lazy” is pure joy. Everybody talks about the lead riff in “Smoke On The Water,” but Ritchie’s solo in that tune is top notch as well. “Never Before” is a short track, but Blackmore’s never played better guitar in any song. As a result it’s seriously impossible to choose one of these songs over another.

When it came to being temperamental Ritchie was legendary. Ronnie Dio used to tell me stories. But seriously, nobody has ever been better than Blackmore on guitar.

6. Gary Rossington, “They Call Me The Breeze”

Second Helping by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Most would cite the solo from “Free Bird” but that’s three guitars and those guys worked on that part for years when they were playing bars before they got a record contract. Great work, mos def, and the song which turned most people on to this band through their whole history. Almost any story about someone discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd starts with: “Well, I heard ‘Free Bird…’” For myself, I was downed out on the floor of a friend’s house in Gainesville, Florida, when “Free Bird” came on the FM station. Before it was over I knew Skynyrd was the best Southern Band I’d ever heard. Skynyrd had an edge. Not only were they from Jacksonville, a really rude town, but when other Southern bands were playing Elmore James and T-Bone Walker these guys were doing Yardbirds. Ronnie Van Zant got most of his notoriety as a lyricist from “Sweet Home Alabama” (“a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow”), but he also penned “Thing Going On (That You Don’t Know)” and “you’ve got it made it the shade, babe, don’t let that tree fall down on you.” Their first album, Pronounced, had some great work, but aside from “Free Bird” nothing on par with Second Helping. Gary Rossington’s solo in “The Breeze” is a lot more spontaneous. In addition to which, in conjunction with Clapton’s “After Midnight” it turned me on to J.J. Cale. I could seriously rank this Third on my List, however Skynyrd was influenced substantially by The Yardbirds, so it doesn’t seem right therefore to list it higher than Clapton and Page. Great piano work in “The Breeze” by Billy Powell, too. And as far as Skynyrd’s guitar solos are concerned, Honorable Mention must also go to Allen Collins for “Needle And the Spoon.”

7. The Beatles “Carry That Weight”

Abbey Road

Much has been written into the legend which is The Beatles concerning this guitar solo, performed by Paul, George and John trading licks. Some say it was them having a musical conversation, some say an argument, and others claim it somehow shows the inner strife and incompatibility which tore them apart. All I can say is its way too short. A very atypical little jam for the Fab Four. I’m not one of those people who think the Beatles were God. To me they were a great singles band, truly incredible song writers. Apparently unlike others I did not discover the true meaning of life through their music. Fair is fair, however. No list of Rock’s Greatest Guitar solos would be valid if this track were omitted, perhaps because it was so atypical, and they are The Beatles, who changed culture, changed HISTORY. Don’t think any other musical artist since the very dawn of time ever had the impact of the Fab Four on the world.

8. Martin Barre, “Aqualung”

Aqualung by Jethro Tull

A very strange band for me, I really tried to like their other work, and though I appreciate their art on a purely aesthetic level these guys never even came close to Aqualung again. Still millions of people and thousands of artists pass through life without ever creating an aesthetic document of this magnitude. This is one of those albums which somehow crystallize in time and space – like Who’s Next, Derek & The Dominos, Let It Bleed, Parsley Sage or Rumours. But where most releases in Jethro Tull’s discography seem based in acoustic Celtic folk music Aqualung stands alone as electric Hard Rock. The songs are strong, several scorching indictments of organized religion, and the sound and production perfect. There is simply not a bad note on this record. The subject of the title track’s a bit off the wall, even if it was a part Ian Anderson could play disconcertingly well. Who ever thought you’d like a song about a disgusting perverted homeless derelict? At 3:21 Guitarist Martin Barre abandons his searing lead riff, eases in with a series of tasty fill licks, then takes off into a masterfully constructed solo. The tone he wrings out of his ’58 Les Paul Junior just verges on distortion. The solo seems to keep going and going, building from one level to the next, lasting 1:10, a perfect illustration how some guitarists compose spontaneous music whereas others simply play scales and string together riffs that fill space. The rest of the album’s excellent, but I don’t know if I was ever more let down in a subsequent effort than Thick As A Brick, which wasn’t cut from anywhere near the same cloth. Still, Jethro Tull hit the heights once, and that’s more than many ever achieve.

9. Keith Richards & Mick Taylor, “Sympathy for The Devil”

Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! by The Rolling Stones

This seems pretty far down the list for “The Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band in the world.” Mainstay Keith Richards, half the band’s creative force, has to be second behind Jimmy Page as purveyor of the greatest Rock Riffs, giving us “Satisfaction,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Heartbreaker” and “Miss You.” Just to name a few. The Stones contributed a body of monster guitar work, but their tight four minute “Singles” type writing style did not showcase much extended soloing, though many songs feature excellent short instrumental breaks – two to four bars, 20 to 30 seconds here and there through standouts like “Gimme Shelter,” “Heartbreaker,” “Live With Me” and “Star Star.”

When you want to talk solos this boils down pretty quick to either “Sympathy For The Devil” or “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” though a pretty good case could also be made for “Time Waits For No One.” Keith Richards does the solo in the Studio rendition of “Sympathy.” Mick Taylor plays great solos in the latter two. Seems only fair to settle, therefore, on the live version of “Sympathy” off Ya-Ya’s! where both Keith and Mick get to solo. Moody and brooding as the studio version was, the live version off Ya-Ya’s! is a totally hot and dynamic performance. Keith goes first in the right channel, commencing around the 3:12 mark. His work here is not all that far off the sharp, choppy, stop and go solo he performs in the studio rendition, a lot of attack in his tone. Jagger comes in with some vocals, playing off some nice fills by Mick Taylor in the left channel. Around 5:17 Taylor launches into a great solo of his own. His style’s a bit more fluid than Keith Richards, and the tone he gets is pure Les Paul, all smeary sustain.

Mick Taylor did some decent work after departing The Stones – specifically on Dylan’s Real Live – but still does not get the props he probably deserves. His solo at the end of the extended (and very un-Stonesian-like) instrumental break on “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” is a true masterpiece, and few people place “Time Waits For No One” very high on the list of great Rolling Stones songs. A tragic omission, but Taylor’s majestic guitar work through that track is magnificent. Even through the rest of Ya-Ya’s! Taylor really lights it up through numbers like “Live With Me” and “Little Queenie.”

10. Pete Carr, “Mainstreet”

Night Moves by Bob Seger

You don’t get to be guitarist for the legendary Muscle Shoals Swampers without having some serious chops. A lot of people probably never heard of Pete Carr, but almost everybody has heard him play. The guy’s been on records behind Connie Francis, Barbra Streisand, Wilson Pickett, Luther Ingram, Bobby Womack, The Staple Singers, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Joe Cocker, Boz Scaggs, Paul Simon and Rod Stewart.

Barbra freaking Streisand gave Pete Carr a one minute guitar solo in one of her songs. How many players can claim that?

In the late Sixties Carr and Paul Hornsby played with Duane and Gregg Allman in a band called The Hour Glass, after which he wound up as guitarist for the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.

In 1973 Bob Seger recorded half his long-lost album Back in ‘72 at Muscle Shoals. Aside from the original studio recording of Seger’s signature ballad “Turn The Page,” this record features three monster cuts, though liner notes are not clear about who’s playing on what tracks. It is almost certainly Pete Carr playing guitar on “I’ve Been Working,” the title track, probably “Rosalie.” His work in (the song) “Back in ’72” is very hot, but there’s no real solo, just an incredible rhythm lead, searing fills, and a 15-20 second guitar break. Seger went back to Muscle Shoals to cut tracks for Night Moves, Beautiful Loser, Stranger in Town and Against The Wind. Among these songs are “Old Time Rock and Roll,” “No Man’s Land,” and “Long Twin Silver Line.”

Night Moves, however, is unquestionably Seger’s masterwork. From the opening licks of “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” (“all of Chuck’s children are out there playing his licks…”) it is quite simply one of the best American rock ‘n roll albums ever recorded. The title track is a haunting masterpiece. (“Started humming a song from 1962…” And, man – THAT was in ’76!) I have a little “hang-out” piece posted on Rock’s Back Pages from 1973, backstage at a gig Seger was playing at an outdoor movie theater across from Fort Lauderdale International Airport. His dressing room was a crowded Winnebago. At one point Seger picked up an acoustic guitar, started strumming some chords, basically a G to C change. A couple years later “Night Moves” came out. It was those same chords. Which was neat, because he’d probably been working on writing it even then, maybe even created it right in front of me.

For this album, Seger recorded four songs at Muscle Shoals – “Come to Poppa,” “Ship of Fools” “Sunspot Baby” and “Mainstreet.” Seger was a singer, a troubadour, a writer, hardly ever gave his guitar players extended opportunities to solo, but Pete Carr’s work in “Mainstreet” jumps out. First of all it seems to fit so well within the smoky context of the song, a beautiful composition full of poignant imagery almost every urban male of that generation could relate to, the lonely late-night city streets. A soaring, haunting, almost hypnotic intro riff turns into a recurring theme through a short bridge between verses which serves as the song’s abbreviated chorus. After the second verse, just past the two minute mark, Carr drifts off into a dreamy, wistful reverie, sliding from note to note in pensive yearning. And man, you are THERE – midnight on the streets of Detroit, in the glow of a neon Budweiser sign hanging in the window of a pool hall, trying to muster the courage to approach an exotic dancer who just got off work without coming off like one of the creeps. The solo only lasts around 30 seconds, but the feeling it evokes lingers in your soul as Carr’s melancholy licks trade off with the vocals through Seger’s third verse and the track’s bittersweet conclusion.

A beautiful song, made so in large part thanks to the captivating guitar work of Pete Carr, which perfectly captures all the wistful, faraway longing and emotion of the composition.

Specific credits were never published, however, it would appear Carr also does the solo in “Sunspot Baby,” which is interesting, for it is such a radical departure in style, all sliding sustain.

Peter Townshend
Peter Townshend
Captured by Larry Singer

Notable Exceptions

Peter Townshend might be the Beethoven of his Generation. A great composer, and a great guitar player, but known more for his crashing wind-milling chords. If you ever read interviews with the man (a very intelligent guy) even he laughs about his soloing. He’s harder on himself than he deserves, however. A Guitar God, for sure. But a soloist? You can’t really say that was one of Townshend’s strengths.

I'm not a huge Pink Floyd fan, being more into amphetamines than barbiturates, but David Gilmour certainly deserves a mention. I cut this list off at the Top 10. His solos in "Comfortably Numb" probably would've been 11th or 12th on my list, Especially the long one. Great tone. Great sustain. Great accents with the bend bar. Really captures the essence of the song. Think his guitar should've been a little louder in the mix. You can argue he belongs in the Top 10. There's times I might agree. I could even see slotting him in place of The Beatles, who are basically only there because they are The Beatles. Gilmour was a definite master of those slow, dreamy chops.

Johnny Winter, may he rest in peace, was great. Listen to Live Johnny Winter And from 1971. This rendition of “It’s My Own Fault” might be one of the best Blues tracks on record, and for my money he and Rick Derringer were the hottest guitar duo ever. For pure blistering guitar, tough to top his live renditions of “Johnny B Good” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” off this disc. What’s always fun – listen to Johnny try and play rhythm when Derringer gets his one solo per song. A perfect case in point: “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” off the album above. Johnny solos for most the song, but Derringer gets his chance. Winter plays chords for a couple bars, then starts getting bored, does some rhythm style licks, eventually decides just screw it, starts wailing right along. Still in a body of work dominated by searing hot guitar, tough to pick out one song, one solo. I have a fond spot for Still Alive & Well, the album, and “Life Is Hard” could be Johnny’s best track ever.

I can already hear Stevie Ray Vaughn fans screaming. The guy was great, no doubt about it, but it’s hard for me to pick one solo that would've cracked my Top 10. In addition, he had that frenetic style of blues soloing I frankly do not care for much. Actually, some of his best work is done on In Session with Albert King. Had I included any tracks by Stevie Ray I probably would’ve chosen between “Pride and Joy” and “Stormy Monday” from this album. And if we were doing a list of Instrumentals instead of guitar solos I’d have to include “Scuttle Buttin’.” I do not consider this track that good of a song; it’s not that pleasing to the ear. Still, as a demonstration of sheer virtuosity on electric guitar, I don’t think you can top this track. It is a truly staggering performance.

I know I’ve got Clapton and Page, and some people are going to wonder why no Jeff Beck. Virtuoso though he was on guitar, Jeff Beck did great intros and great fills, but I never thought his solos were all that coherent. Still, listen to his intro on “Living Alone” on Beck, Bogert & Appice. Or check out his fills through “Going Down” from the critically-panned Jeff Beck Group LP. That was a great song for Beck, a hundred tasty fills. Another outstanding track by Beck was “Jeff’s Boogie.” Again, mostly a collection of fills. To me, Beck’s masterwork was Blow By Blow, when he just gave up on singers and did instrumentals. “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” and “Freeway Jam” were incredible. Again, if I were making a list of instrumentals one of those tracks would probably be included. 

One guy I must seriously apologize to is Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, a band who was famous back in the day for (appropriately enough) selling more tapes than records. This guy was deceptively great, an incredible body of work, just didn’t crack my Top 10. Like actors with staggering performances in comedies never get considered for Oscars people tend to overlook guitarists who play boogie rock. I don’t know if there’s ever been anybody better at single note rhythm guitar. The virtuosity Gibbons displays doing boogie rhythm riffs is ridiculous. Most times you don’t even notice what this guy’s playing behind his wise-ass vocals, but it’s real good work, and he has this sneaky way of oozing off into fills between verses which morph into solos. Guess the trouble is a lot of times Gibbons’ solos sound a lot like a collection of rhythm riffs, you don’t really pay attention. Listen to “Give Me All Your Loving.” There’s a couple great solos, but they blend into the song so well you hardly even notice. Most people would probably cite “La Grange” as his best solo, and that would be hard to disagree with. First of all, listen to the rhythm riff. People who don’t play guitar may not realize just how hard it is to do that little Texas boogie rhythm. It’s just three notes. But the virtuosity Gibbons displays in the way he cruises through that rhythm is amazing. Still, for me, if I was going to cite a ZZ Top solo it would be “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.”

And  there's no way I can say this with sufficient emphasis we must remember that none of these guys would probably have been anybody if it hadn’t been for the great Chuck Berry. As Bob Seger said: “All of Chuck’s children are out there playing his licks.” This guy effectively invented rock ‘n roll guitar. One of the true travesties in Rock History is that though many artists hit the charts with their whitened up versions of Berry's songs, the only Top 10 Hit Chuck himself ever had was “My Ding A Ling.” Ultimately he’s known more for his classic double-stop intro and his rhythm licks than his soloing, but Chuck Berry did some tasty blues. Indeed, most of his signature rock ‘n roll licks are simply blues riffs which he sped up. Still, check out his renditions of “It Hurts Me Too” and “Wee Wee Hours,” and his London Sessions album released by Chess in the 70s. Talk about a genius. I don’t think there’s a better line in rock ‘n roll than: “Roll over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news.”

Other guitarists who deserve a quick honorable mention include Peter Green, who started Fleetwood Mac, Carlos Santana, J.J. Cale, Robin Trower, Peter Frampton for Humble Pie’s “One Eyed Trouser Snake Rhumba,” Jeff “Skunk” Baxter for “Neal’s Fandango” off Stampede by Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan's "My Old School," Toy Caldwell for Marshall Tucker’s “Ramblin’” and Rick Derringer for his solo in Steely Dan’s “Chain Lightning.”

My personal thanks to all these great guitarist for decades of great music.

Updated: 11/12/2019, jimesposito
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MIchael C. on 03/13/2017

I've always liked that solo in "Watching the River Flow." As for Winter, anything Johnny released in 1969 wasn't half bad (and that's an understatement if ever there was one) - Wow, what a singular year for an artist! There's a nice slide intro he does on his cover of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl." For the solos I'll go with "Be Careful With a Fool" and his cover of Dylan's "Highway 61."

Thundert65 on 03/12/2017

Cant believe no David Gilmore mention at all. Especially Comfortably Numb and Time. Excellent tone and probably had about as good a feel for the guitar than most.

Jimmy The Finger on 02/23/2017

Some great work there, no doubt. But you wanna talk slide, 2 words -- "Tell Mama." And Johnny Winter was no slouch on "Rock & Roll." And Ron Wood did some great work on "A Nod Is As Good As A Wink." And I have a special fondness for Dylan's "Watching The River Flow" with Jesse Ed Davis on guitar. And I just hear the Duane fans screaming already because he hasn't been mentioned thus far.

Michael C. on 02/23/2017

So what do you have against slide solos?

As great as Pete Carr and his body of work are, the best guitar solo on a Seger song is Rick Vito's slide overdub near the end of "Like a Rock," even if it was tracked in L.A. thousands of miles away and several months after the main session. And that's coming from someone with intense regional pride who grew up and now lives less than 50 miles from Fame and MSS and went to high school with Johnny Sandlin's (producer who got his start as a member of Hour Glass) daughter and son-in-law.

Jimmy The Finger on 02/22/2017

I do mention "Free Bird"

gary on 02/22/2017

who makes these lists

John beaton on 02/22/2017

Great list, but hitchin a ride (Boston)? Or 38 special (so caught up in you)? Sknyrd ( free bird)?

Jimmy The Finger on 02/20/2017

Actually, the Steely Dan solo I like (besides Rick Derringer in "Chain Lightning") is Skunk Baxter's in "My Old School."

ge perry on 02/20/2017

ry cooder,steve vai,neal schon, duane/dicky,

ge perry on 02/20/2017

larry carlton w/steeley dan

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