100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke’s Picks – Rolling Stone
Home

Mark Knopfler

Scottish musician Mark Knopfler performs in his first concert in Barcelona on April 2, 2008 for the presentation of his new album "Kill To Get Crimson". AFP PHOTO/LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

Gene/AFP/Getty

Dire Straits founder and solo artist Mark Knopfler emerged at a
time when guitar virtuosos were spurned by punks and New Wavers.
Yet from the first stinging notes of "Sultans of Swing," Knopfler's
roots-based approach and supple, burnished leads found almost
universal appeal. A fingerpicker who favors Fender Stratocasters
— a Knopfler-designed Strat was introduced in July as part of
Fender's "Artist Series" — he's known for his rich tone,
sinuous melodicism and rangy, fluid solos. "My sound is fingers on
a Strat," he once said.

27

Mark Knopfler

Dire Straits founder and solo artist Mark Knopfler emerged at a
time when guitar virtuosos were spurned by punks and New Wavers.
Yet from the first stinging notes of "Sultans of Swing," Knopfler's
roots-based approach and supple, burnished leads found almost
universal appeal. A fingerpicker who favors Fender Stratocasters
— a Knopfler-designed Strat was introduced in July as part of
Fender's "Artist Series" — he's known for his rich tone,
sinuous melodicism and rangy, fluid solos. "My sound is fingers on
a Strat," he once said.

26

Tom Morello

In the early days of Rage Against the Machine, Morello watched
local California metal guitarists play "as fast as Yngwie
Malmsteen" and realized, "That wasn't a race I wanted to run." So
he began to experiment with the toggle switch on his guitar to
produce an effect like a DJ scratching a record. The result was
true rap metal and a redefinition of the guitar's potential.
Morello absorbs hip-hop mixology as a true son of Grandmaster Flash
and the Voodoo Child, making his riffs rumble and boom like
crosstown turntable traffic.

25

Freddy King

King was born in Texas, but in 1950, when he was sixteen, his
family moved to Chicago, where he would sneak into clubs to play
with Muddy Waters' band. His style was a mixture of country and
urban blues, and his instrumental sides such as "Hide Away," "Just
Pickin" and "The Stumble," from the early Sixties, had immense
impact on the British blues scene — Eric Clapton says King
was one of the first guitarists he tried to copy. His playing
employed taut, melodic riffs that erupted into frantic, wailing
solos on the upper strings. King, who also recorded for the
Cotillion, Shelter and RSO labels, died at forty-two of heart
failure in 1976.

24

The Edge

Rarely has a guitarist achieved so much by playing so little. Most
of what the Edge (real name Dave Evans) played on U2's early
albums, from Boy in 1980 to the '87 global smash The Joshua
Tree
, can be described thusly: circular skeletal arpeggios
swimming in oceans of reverb; few conventional chords or solos. But
the elegant urgency of the Edge's minimalism on those records
perfectly framed and fueled the earnest, flag-waving theatricality
of Bono's voice. With U2's swerve into apocalyptic dance music on
1991's Achtung Baby, the Edge coated his riffs in extreme
distortion and electronic treatments but without betraying his
playing credo: Less is most.

23

Warren Haynes

Haynes is possibly the hardest-working guitarist on the planet
— a cornerstone of the Allman Brothers Band, leader of Gov't
Mule, pivotal member of Phil Lesh and Friends. Displaying
controlled intensity, he's a meaty and masterful slide player, as
well as a soulful singer and songwriter. Steeped in the uncut blues
of Muddy Waters and Elmore James, and especially bitten by the
heavy rock-trio sound of Cream and Mountain, Haynes has kept the
blues-rock