100 Greatest Guitarists

71

Robert Johnson

robert johnson
Robert Johnson Estate/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He was barely known for decades after his 1938 death. But the 29 songs Robert Johnson recorded in 1936 and 1937 became holy writ to rock guitarists from Clapton to Dylan. They were dazzled by the way he made a guitar sound like an ensemble – slide and rhythm parts yelping in dialogue, riffs emerging from the mist. Dylan remembered playing King of the Delta Blues Singers, the 1961 LP that rescued Johnson from obscurity: "The vibrations from the loudspeaker made my hair stand up. The stabbing sounds... could almost break a window."

Key Tracks: "Ramblin' on My Mind," "Traveling Riverside Blues"

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