100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks

From Jerry Garcia and Joan Jett to B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stone critic chooses the best and most influential guitarists in rock

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Frank Zappa
100
Terrell/Redferns45/100

45. Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa was a drummer (at age twelve) and composer (writing a string quartet in his teens) before he got serious about the guitar. But in his more than four decades on stage and record, Zappa — who died in 1993 — soloed with the same discipline and experimental appetite that he applied to the rest of his protean legacy: symphonies, doo-wop parody, big-band fusion, sociopolitical satire. For a man who ran his Mothers of Invention with an iron fist, Zappa was actually a joyful improviser who combined the melodic rigor of his orchestral ideals with the dirty, frenzied pith of his earliest love, 1950s R&B. He also came up with the best instrumental titles in the business, including "Invocation and Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin" and "In-A-Gadda-Stravinsky."

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