Fred “Sonic” Smith

Sinclair/Michael Ochs Archive

In the MC5, Wayne Kramer and Smith funneled Sun Ra's sci-fi jazz through
twin howitzers. Together they staked out a vision for hard rock
that felt ecstatic, giddy, boundless.


Fred “Sonic” Smith

In the MC5, Wayne Kramer and Smith funneled Sun Ra's sci-fi jazz through
twin howitzers. Together they staked out a vision for hard rock
that felt ecstatic, giddy, boundless.


Wayne Kramer

In the MC5, Kramer and Fred Smith funneled Sun Ra's sci-fi jazz through
twin howitzers. Together they staked out a vision for hard rock
that felt ecstatic, giddy, boundless.


Robby Krieger

Krieger's strengths are flexibility and self-effacement. A broad
stylist whose influences extend to country, flamenco and raga, he
could also get as nasty as he needed to, but he understood that
instrumental interplay was what mattered.


Glen Buxton

Buxton was a gifted mimic whose ability to unlock the guitar
secrets of his Stones and Yardbirds 45s gave a Phoenix garage band
the breathing room to develop into Alice Cooper. His dirty,
elemental leads wrapped around Michael Bruce's meaty riffs to
create a legacy of exemplary hard rock.


D. Boon

At the time of his death, in 1985, it seemed nothing was out of
reach for Boon. The forty-three songs on the Minutemen's masterful
Double Nickels on the Dime ventured thrillingly into
free-jazz dissonance, up-tempo country, helter-skelter funk and
dense experimental rock.


Dave Davies

Davies' guitar was the dynamo that drove the Kinks. Brash,
aggressive and entirely unforgettable, his chord progressions on
their early hits have become a rock & roll rite of passage for
any aspiring guitarist; "You Really Got Me" has alone launched
countless garage bands.


Joan Jett

Lead guitarists gave rock its icons; rhythm players gave it soul.
The line runs from Eddie Cochran to Pete Townshend to Johnny
Ramone, a lineage in which Joan Jett should not be taken lightly.
In the early Runaways and the later Black-hearts, she played it
straight ahead: No frills, all heart, no fucking around.


Tony Iommi

Heavy, really heavy, starts here. While others were spinning solo stairways to the stars, the left-handed Iommi went in the opposite direction. Black Sabbath took rock's simplicity and simplified it even further. The occasional minor chord and a low, rumbling tone added to a guitar sound dripping menace and foreboding.


Randy Rhoads

In 1980, Ozzy Osbourne hired the diminutive, classically trained
twenty-three-year-old Rhoads from Santa Monica, California, away
from Quiet Riot. His screeching, arpeggiated solos on "Crazy Train"
introduced the one true contemporaneous peer of Eddie Van Halen.
Were it not for his 1982 demise in a plane crash, his already
enormous influence on metal-guitar playing would have increased a


Eddie Cochran

He became a rockabilly star at nineteen, in 1957, and died at
twenty-one. In between, his itchy, aggressive strum of fat,
irresistible rhythm figures was a mighty weapon that could be
wielded to battle authority ("Summertime Blues"), rally the troops
("C'mon Everybody") or summon some lovin' ("Somethin' Else").
"Summertime Blues," Somethin' Else (1998)


Neil Young

The haunting, delicate clarity of Young's acoustic playing should
not be underestimated. But it's on electric that he has staked his
claim to ragged glory. A restless experimenter, he returns without
fail to simple melodies, bludgeoning chords and a savant's knack
for transforming the most obvious music into something revelatory.


David Gilmour

Roger Waters gave Floyd conceptual weight and lyrical depth, but
Gilmour brought drama. His solos exuded a slow-burn stateliness
that could be soulful ("Comfortably Numb") or evoke sci-fi
dreamscapes ("Echoes") first glimpsed by the man he succeeded, acid
casualty Syd Barrett.


Derek Trucks

Trucks hit the road with his first band at age twelve. Now
twenty-four, he does double duty as guitarist with the Allman
Brothers Band and leader of the jazz-tinged Derek Trucks Band. He's
a fluid slide guitarist who moves easily between Southern rock,
reggae, gospel, jazz and African music.


Robert Quine

With a guitar style that owed as much to free jazz as it did to
blues and rock, Quine was the perfect choice to complement Richard
Hell's intuitive street poetry in the New York punk band the
Voidoids. Quine went on to make vital contributions to Lou Reed's
solo masterpiece The Blue Mask and Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend.

cliff gallup

Cliff Gallup

In the few months he spent as lead guitarist for Gene Vincent's Blue Caps in 1956, Gallup introduced the stylistic swagger that every rock guitarist now takes for granted. His slashing, razor-blade-in-the-ducktail assaults pushed the instrument one big step away from country picking and down the mean streets that rock & roll guitar has traversed ever since. "Race With the Devil," The Screaming End: The Best of Gene Vincent (1997)


Robbie Robertson

Robertson's songwriting laid the foundation for the Band's rustic
soul, but his terse, poignant guitar playing was the group's most
underrated weapon. The Canada-born Robertson and the rest of the
Band — then still called the Hawks — backed Bob Dylan
on his first electric tour, in 1966, during which Dylan proclaimed
him a "mathematical guitar genius."


Henry Vestine

Vestine's interplay with Alan Wilson's slide in Canned Heat sparked
hits including "On the Road Again" and "Going Up the Country."
"Sunflower," as he was called, was an early member of Zappa's
Mothers and played with free-jazzman Albert Ayler.


Ali Farka Toure

The Malian singer and guitarist is often compared to John Lee
Hooker, though that's too easy. He has clearly been influenced by
rural blues, but Toure is a technical marvel, and his delicately
plucked clusters and blindingly fast runs gather influences from
African hymns to folk songs.


Adam Jones

In high school, Tool's Adam Jones played bass in a band with future
Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. In Tool, he
combines the tuned-down chug of death metal with ominous
atmospherics influenced by Rush and King Crimson. Rarely letting
loose with a conventional solo, Jones prefers riffing in 15/8 time.


Johnny Winter

In the early Seventies, Winter took the blues into hard-rock
territory with his overdrive takes on anthems such as "Johnny B.
Goode"and "Jumpin' Jack Flash." He produced a string of solid
albums for his hero Muddy Waters in the late Seventies. "It's a
living music," Winter has said. "For me, blues is a necessity."