44. Mark Knopfler
Mark Knopfler's first big guitar-hero moment – the fleet, gloriously melodic solo on Dire Straits' 1978 hit "Sultans of Swing" – came at a time when punk seemed to be rendering the idea of a guitar hero obsolete. And yet Knopfler built a reputation as an intensely creative virtuoso (not to mention an ace songwriter), showing remarkable command over a range of tones and textures – from the gnarly distortion on hit single "Money for Nothing" to the stinging precision of "Tunnel of Love." One key to Knopfler's signature style: playing without a pick. "Playing with your fingers," he has said, "has something to do with immediacy and soul." Knopfler's versatility made him much in demand for projects with artists including Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, who first called on Knopfler for 1979's Slow Train Coming. "He's one of the great players around," said Knopfler's hero-turned-collaborator, the late country legend Chet Atkins. "He doesn't think that, but he is."
Key Tracks: "Sultans of Swing," "Romeo and Juliet"