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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Johnny Ramone
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16. Johnny Ramone

Johnny Ramone invented punk-rock guitar out of hatred: He couldn't stand guitar solos. So the former Johnny Cummings of Queens, New York, played nothing but concrete-block barre chords on twenty-one albums and 2,263 shows with the Ramones. His elementary attack was part of the essential simplicity — matching last names, two-minute tunes, a strict uniform of black leather and ripped denim — with which the kings of Queens ruled punk rock from the mid-1970s until they called it quits in 1996. But there was more to Johnny's sound than bricks of distortion. "In sound checks, the band would do a couple of songs without vocals," recalled the band's late singer, Joey Ramone, in 1999. "I'd listen to John's guitar and hear all these harmonics, these instruments like organ and piano that weren't really there. And he didn't use any effects." Johnny now lives in retirement in Southern California.

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