The acoustic guitar has been around for close to 5,000 years. Millions of people have played them, but there is only room on this list for the top 10 acoustic guitar players ever. The list is bound to challenge the preferences of musicians and fans, with artists chosen for their influence as well as their artistry. Enjoy the list and enjoy listening to the songs suggested within.
No. 10 Bob Dylan
An appropriate beginning to the top ten acoustic guitar players list is Minnesota’s favorite troubadour. Bob Dylan reinvents himself constantly. In the early 1960’s his folk guitar style changed the musical world. Accompanied by a plaintive harmonica, Dylan’s songs such as Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright spoke to a generation and beyond. His earnest strumming became synonymous with protest songs and authenticity.
No.9 John Lennon/George Harrison
Both of these Beatles are strong guitarists on their own, but combined they laid the backbone for the greatest recordings of the Twentieth Century. John Lennon’s picking on Dear Prudence is unmatched, while George Harrison’s 12 string on Here Comes the Sun is some of the most beautifully recorded acoustic guitar playing ever.
No. 8 Pete Townsend
Talents of great electric guitarists often lend themselves to playing acoustic guitar. Pete Townsend is famous for a windmilling, guitar-smashing persona. Behind Blue Eyes is an extension of his electric guitar style, both raucous and beautiful.
No.7 Lindsay Buckingham
An instinctively savvy recording artist, Lindsay Buckingham plays some superlative licks. Buckingham’s ability to overdub acoustically is best demonstrated by Never Go Back Again. The layered guitars chime like a musicbox.
No. 6 Neil Young
“Steel Neil”, the Canadian classic rocker, performs ear-shredding, feedback-laced, amplified music. Yet Neil gives fans a surprise at every turn, with many Young concerts starting acoustically before becoming louder and louder. Fan favorite, The Needle and the Damage Done, shows off Neil’s ability to tell a story with an acoustic.
No.5 Jimmy Page
Founder of one of the loudest, heaviest rock bands of all time, Jimmy Page is also one of the greatest acoustic guitar players ever. Not everyone knows of Page’s interest in classical guitar or that he spent years practicing classical guitar. The time spent shows in some of the most incredible acoustic guitar ever recorded. Listen to Led Zeppelin’s often heard icon, Stairway To Heaven with fresh ears. You’ll soon be reminded why Page is the most imitated guitarist in music store history.
No. 4 Frank Zappa
It is so easy to think of Frank Zappa purely in terms of shock, schlock and Valley Girl, but Zappa was a relentless composer and virtuoso guitarist. Though the electric guitar was his main axe, Zappa could play an acoustic like no other. My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama was a hit which boasts an electrifying acoustic guitar solo.
No. 3 Laurence Juber
Attentive readers will notice the Beatles influence on this list. As talented as the Fab Four were, during their solo careers, they surrounded themselves with some incredible musicians. Laurence Juber played guitar on Paul McCartney’s final Wings album and has since released some amazing versions of both Beatles and Wings songs.
Performing on solo acoustic guitar makes Juber even more incredible. Find Juber’s version of Strawberry Fields Forever and you’ll never listen to a Beatles cover the same way. Juber’s specialized tuning brings the soul out of these timeless compositions.
No.2 Paul McCartney
Half of the greatest songwriting duo ever, Paul McCartney contiues to be fab even into his 70’s. From his first acoustic songs, like Yesterday and Mother Nature’s Son, through Band on the Run, to his current concert performances, McCartney delivers the goods.
Not simply able to rock the electric guitar and bass, McCartney plucks an acoustic with assurance and grace. Listen to a live performance of “Blackbird” for a perfect example. Macca isn’t too shabby on ukelele either.
No. 1 Chet Atkins
At the top of the list is the guitar picker’s god, Chet Atkins. Born during the 1920’s and raised during the Great Depression, this viruoso pioneered his own thumb and three fingered style. Atkins presented pop, country and traditional tunes to the world in a sweet and simple, instrumental manner.
Atkins also made the electric guitar sound as pleasant as the acoustic. If there is any doubt about his abilities, listen to Atkin’s rendition of Don McClean’s Starry, Starry Night or the Beatles’ If I Fell. Atkin’s Starry Starry Night re-fashions an otherwise unpalatable song into a thing of beauty.
These are the top 10 acoustic guitar players ever!Where there is differing opinion, hopefully there is also thoughtful discussion and further sharing of acoustic guitar performances.
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