I am, but I'll be modest and say Alvin and Jeff are pretty good too..
I would say it depends on category of music. Alvin Lee is without my doubt the best Rock'n Roll guitarist who's ever bent a string. Never heard anything like him in all my years. Jeff Beck outclasses even Jimi Hendrix when it comes to "let his instrument talk". Andrés Segovia was among the best classical guitar players and Django Reinhart the best Jazz player, IMHO. But of course, Alvin Lee knows how to pick some Jazzy tones too - Woodchoppers ball is not exactly for the beginner to try to do..
Let's bring the "live" performance into the equation. I won't rank those I haven't seen live (film clips don't count). I've seen many performers a great number of times and I love when they blow me away from a great performance.
1) Alvin Lee - Has always performed above & beyond expectation. Passion, crunch & of course, that blazing speed & skill!
2) Mick Ronson - This guy always put in a stellar performance either with Bowie or Ian Hunter. Made me cry!
3) Mr. Blackmore - In 1972 on the Machine Head tour I walked out of Winterland totally blown!
4) Steve Howe - Consistent.
5) Carlos Santana - Blew away the Stones at one of the Day on the Green performances.
6) Jeff Beck - Hands down made Jimmy Page & Eric Claption seem like disinterested bystanders at the Cow Palace. Would rank higher, however, the other three times I've seen him - he didn't display any of the fire he did at the Cow Palace. In fact, BB King, was a better entertainer on this night at Knocti Harbor.
7) Steve Morse - Loves to play and it shows in his performances.
8) Johnny Winter - Ditto the Morse comment.
9) B.B. King - What can you say about Lucille?
10) Leslie West - Crunch your soul?
1) Eric Clapton - Seen him three times & all three times he appeared bored. During one show he had a young guy playing with him that actually kicked his ass. I wish I could remember his name. Will buy his records but I won't kick out the cash for another live show.
2) Jimmy Page - Suppose to be one of the Gods - I must have gone to the wrong shows.
3) Pete Townsend - Great Windmill! Won't spend my money on another "Who" tour with this guy. Buy the records, though, they're great!
Who knows? But if we're giving credit to influential pickers... let me put in a word for Frank Beecher, lead guitar for Bill Haley's Comets. That solo in Rock Around the Clock is seminal and still sets a standard... often imitated but they never seem to hit quite as many of the notes as Frank, do they? And his work on Skinny Minnie is just sublime.
Roy Buchanan! Bugs Henderson! Jimmy Thackery!
And of course that British guy, whats his name, Elvin Leigh or something........Alvin Lee!! And never forget Johnny Winter!!
I'd have to agree with the Frank Beecher comparison,I didnt actually know his name though until I read that post, but he is really good and you can tell he has a great understanding of what he is doing from the solos he produces. For his day, Just incredible, and Fast too ,great 'phrasing 'if thats the right word for it.
I love Alvin's records and His playing but I think even He gets embaressed with comparisons with other players. The simple answer is comparisons dont work, they dont stand up if you inspect them closely because they are just preferences and therefore thats not a basis to compare ability. I have a friend Loves Pat Metheny and cannot stand any blues/Rock&Roll formatted music and its educational cause it moves me out of my comfort zone musically but I still love the Rock&Roll Rocking Blues style of Alvin Lee which gives me a buzz I dont get from Listening to Pat Metheny, infact I dont get any buzz from Metheny at all but I try to listen to what He's trying to achieve and in his field his is brilliant of course and he is breaking new ground. I prefer Wes Montgomery ,yet, theres no point in comparisons there.
One way I think you can compare is to find out if a guitar player can understand different genres of music, like could Clapton fit in on a set with Wes Montgomery if he was Alive today? I dont think so. Though I think Alvin crossed over much more into Jazz ,and for me that gave him the edge over Clapton.Which still proves nothing . Except to say if you really want to go watch Clapton playing Blues shuffle Robert Johnson cover tunes in his Miami Vice suits , if that excites you then thats cool too,but I'd prefer Alvin with a Double Bass player throwing in bits from Scotty Moore, and Woodchoppers ball/Rock Around the Clock solos here and there anyday. Alvin brought back the spirit of Rock&Roll to us last year. When Alvin's good He's very good. So is Brian Setzer ,now theres a whole new argument, not to mention Eddie Van Halen. I knew I shouldnt have started this ..........
Hm, yes - Franny Beecher is probably one of the most under-rated guitarists in music history. Some amazing stuff he's done, very inventive. I say is, because I think he's still alive, still playing with the Comets. Funny how it is with rock musicians - either they die young, else they keep going forever..
Yep, it's all a matter of what kind of mood I'm in!
There is a fellow out of Texas named Monte Montgomery that plays accoustic - with distortion- that will blow you away. He has a lot of soul and feeling in his playing. You would never know he was playing an accoustic. I've never seen him play live but if he ever gets to Atlanta, I'll check him out.
What I think would be a much more interesting question than "who is the greatest guitar player?" would be to ask as many for the names that come up in the "greatest" discussions as possible who THEY admire. THAT would be an interesting list!
Has no one ever heard of Stevie Ray Vaughan? Sure, he'll always be "pigeonholed" as a blues guitarist, but anyone who witnessed him live cannot deny the passion, soul, and mind blowing grasp of his instrument in his playing. The young dude with Clapton was Doyle Bramhall II, but when I saw Clapton last September in Columbus, Ohio, he looked, and sounded, anything but bored. E.C. TORE IT UP, especially the old Derek and the Dominoes tunes, playing with a fire he has'nt had in years. Some of the other "greatest guitartist" for me...Hendrix, Page, Beck, Chet Atkins(don't laugh, he's a HUGE influence on ALOT of our 60's guitar hero's), Chuck Berry, The Kings...B.B., Albert, and Freddie, just to name a few. Oh, yeah, Alvin Lee's not half bad either, lol. Just saw Woodstock on VH1 today, and without a doubt, "Goin' Home", Santana's "Soul Sacrafice", and the Hendrix set were by far the most explosive musical moments in the film.
Oh heck, no one minds pigeonholing anyone as a blues guitarist - we love the blues! I think our ages may have something to do with why we tend to leave Stevie Ray out of our discussions - for most of us, we came of age with the playing of Lee, Beck, Hendrix & Clapton, so they remain our "favorites". Stevie Ray was without a doubt an amazing guitarist ( I'm listening to the Live at Montreaux CD while I'm typing this) - yet for some reason, for me personally, his playing doesn't always connect with me emotionally. No fault of his obviously, as his passion is evident in every note.
As for Clapton, while I'll always rank him among my top favorites, I've been to two concerts of his where I felt like he could have phoned it in. That made me feel cheated so I hesitate to see him live again. Funny, we talked about Chuck Berry a few threads ago, and I have felt that way about him for 20 years - he just goes through the motions. Thank goodness, I can't say I have ever once felt that way about an Alvin Lee concert - or a Jeff Beck one, come to think of it.
By the way, I'd also never laugh at Chet Atkins being a favorite - and I love every single one of the "Kings". Did you get to see B.B. and Jeff Beck together? Great show.
Never realy thought about the age thing, lol. Unfortunately, I came of age in the early eighties when Clapton went pop, Zeppelin had disbanded, and most guitar hero's seemed to be going for a more "modern" sound to compete for mainstream radio. Everything had this cheesy keyboard sound to it, when Stevie Ray came along and kind of opened a door alot of people had thought was closed, at least in the mainstream. I've seen Clapton twice also, first on his Journeyman Tour, and then this last one. Both concerts were great. I don't think I would've bothered to see him in his "Phil Collins period", but as soon as I heard his solo in "Bad Love", the tone, the bent notes, the phrasing, I became a fan of more than just his old stuff, wich had influenced my own playing probably more than anyone else. Sorry to say (hope ya'll don't hate me for this) I've never had the pleasure of seeing Alvin Lee live, as I'm sure it's always great. I did'nt see the Beck/King tour, but I have seen B.B. twice and was blown away both times. You've never heard "The Thrill Is Gone" until you hear it live, with the tempo at the end speeding up faster and faster and sweat pouring off him drenching Lucille. I got to see Johnny Winter doing the power trio thang back in '91 at a small club in Cincinnati. From the opening lick on his Steinbrenner(always hated the look of that thing) to the last slide on his old Firebird, I had chills. He was fantastic. I hope to get a chance to see Alvin live.
Groan - the early 80s were the worst time in music for many of the 60s/70s musicians - Alvin's two early 80s albums, in my opinion, are the worst he's ever done. Not that there aren't some great songs on them, and not that his playing wasn't suberb - they just seem to fall in that "Adult Oriented Rock" (i.e. boring) mode that too many great musicians trapped themselves in then. Clapton in the early 80s put me to sleep ( I like the reference to his "Phil Collins" period, great description). I can just imagine the thrill of hearing somebody like Stevie Ray for the first time when all you've had up to that is b-o-r-i-n-g.
But what a great treat to move backwards in time discovering some of the great guitar music of the 60s/70s - I guess that's very much like we were after hearing bands like Cream and getting to move backwards to "discover" the innovators like Muddy Waters. Awesome stuff. Besides, one of the great things about moving backwards is that you don't have to suffer through the huge arena venues - you can see some of these amazing guitarists is smaller clubs "with sweat dripping off the walls" (an Alvin quote) - truly the way the blues should be experienced.
No problem that you haven't seen Alvin, by the way - coming into the blues when you did you really haven't had all that many opportunities. But man, I promise you that when you do, you're going to be blown away - his playing, his energy level, the emotion is so incredibly powerful that I swear you'll walk out so high from it, it will take days to come back down. Kinf od like when you saw B.B. or Johnny Winter (and how can we forget to mention Johnny when we're talking about the greats?)
I think the thing I realy disliked about the late 70's early 80's period was that awful chorus tone that EVERYONE used. I mean, too much of anything is, well, too much.
I was lucky in that I had an older brother who was always listening to Cream, Ten Years After, Zeppelin, Grand Funk, etc..., so I've always been somewhat familiar with the classic guitar hero's. And reading interviews with Stevie Ray, Johnny Winter and so on did lead me back to the "source", all the old 50's blues guitarists like Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Hubert Sumlin, and even further back to Robert Johnson, Skip James, and Son House. Have you ever heard of Mose Rager? He was a huge influence on Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. He was a white dude that played delta blues WAY BACK WHEN.
I guess the main reason I included Chuck Berry earlier was there's no denying his influence, even though he says he got most of his licks from T-Bone Walker(another great)and Johnnie Johnson, Berry's piano player. I thought of a couple more I would add to the list. Michael Bloomfield (check out his live stuff with Al Cooper), and Rory Gallagher, another fiery blues-rock guitarist. I was also heavily influenced by the early Allman Brothers, the interplay between Duane and Dicky was magical, to say the least. Hey, aint music a wonderful thing?,
How could I ever forget Mike Bloomfield? I first heard him at the extremely tender age of 12 when a local record store owner (who knew my dad liked blues) sent me home with a copy of the first Butterfield Blues Band album. I think it changed my life, honestly - it was the start of my own love for blues guitar. I still rank Bloomfield as one of my all time favorites; he was just an amazing bluesman. Hard to believe both he and Butterfield are gone.
First time I saw Stevie Ray he was playing guitar for David Bowie. Great Show! I feel much like Toni does as far as the passion thing goes - I recognize his talent it just doesn't move me like some others. That's the beauty of music. In reality there is no such thing as "best" because "best" is different to everyone. On my above list I also forgot Bill Nelson, who played a brilliant show at Winterland back in the day.
How could I have left David Gilmour off my list? He had slipped my mind until last night when I heard "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", and realized it STILL sends chills down my my back. And he seems to always be consistent AND passionate, wich is no easy task.
I've read some post's saying Clapton is'nt always either of those (I'm glad evertime I've seen him, he was "ON"), and I've heard lot's of live Hendrix material where his playing is WAY off, even though he's BY FAR my favorite guitarist. Personaly, I'd take passionate over consistent any day.
But I have to agree with Victor. There is no "best". Most peoples favorite will be the first one who grabbed their heart and stoked their imagination. I have to plead ignorance on the Bill Nelson reference. Was he a solo artist, or did he play with a band? Sorry. Speaking of Winterland, you don't have to be a Dead-Head (wich I'm not) to be a huge fan of Jerry Garcia (wich I am). But again, as with the Hendrix staetment, he had some "rough" nights, to say the least. But when he was on, he could take you to another place.
alvin hands down the solo part on cant keep from crying isle of wight right after chics organ brake fu??ing alvin takes off on a guitar frenzy still never heard nothing like it god bless mr.lee made me pick up the trade and showed me about true respect toward the guitar thanks master lee.lenny v.
Preferences in order:
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Honorable Mention: Jimmy, Jimi, Eric, Jeff, Keith, Eddie, Pete, Dickie, Duane, Bill Nelson, Achim Reichel
Disgusting egomaniacs: Blackmore, Malmsteen, Dharma, all whom have criticized Alvin’s playing and style as well as many of the others on this list over the years