10 Best Blues Guitarists Of All Time

Do you love the blues? Even if you're new to this distinctive music style, you have to admit that there is nothing better than a great blues guitar solo. The range of artists who have advanced this style is phenomenal. If you are looking to learn about the best blues guitarists and add more great artists to your music library, we have quite a few iconic suggestions.

Below we have a compiled a list of the top ten best blues guitarists of the past century. Briefly, we'll explore how they influenced the music scene and identify some of their greatest accomplishments, also doing some service to fans' regrets about their careers and output. Keep reading to learn more!

Blues Guitar FAQ

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 Are you confused about what blues music is? Don't worry, we have you covered. Below we have gathered and answered some of the most common questions that pop up when you discuss blues music overall, and blues guitarists more specifically.

1. What Is Blues Music?

2. What Does Blues Music Sound Like?

3. Where Can You Buy Blues Music?

Different Styles of Blues

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Did you know there are numerous different styles of blues music? Four of the most distinct styles are Delta, Piedmont, Jump, and Chicago Blues. While there are many sub-genres of even these four styles, these are the most common, influential, and prolific.


    1. Delta Blues

Delta blues is categorized by multi-instrumental musicians with great talents and even greater rhythm. This music style is one of the earliest forms of blues music known to the United States. You'll notice that the vocal styles in Delta blues tunes can be anywhere from soulful to incredibly fiery or guttural.


2. Piedmont Blues

The next style on our list is Piedmont blues. This style is also called East Coast or Southeastern blues. What you may notice in the Piedmont style is the predominance of fingerpicking and alternating-thumb bass lines in the guitar playing. You'll notice a syncopated melody in Piedmont jazz that is hard to miss. Many people feel the Piedmont guitar playing style gives off an old-fashioned, ragtime feel, and it is certainly related to that genre.


3. Jump

Jump blues is most commonly a faster-paced style that includes a saxophone or several brass instruments. This style of music originated in the 1940s and greatly influenced early American rock-and-roll. In the 1990s, jump blues had a resurgence with a widespread swing music revival.


4. Chicago Blues 

Chicago blues gets its name from Chicago, Illinois, of course where the style first thrived. Pioneered mostly by street musicians, Chicago-style blues grew to live in the first full-time blues clubs in the United States. When technology evolved, Chicago blues added drums and more electric instruments to help it continue to thrive in the ever-changing club culture.
 


How We Chose & Reviewed the Best Blues Guitarists

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Our list of the top ten best blues guitarists of the past century was extensively reviewed across a wide range of platforms and sources. We not only wanted to bring you some of the most popular blues guitarists, but we also wanted to showcase those artists who've had the most influence on music culture as a whole.

In addition to calling out these great bluesmen's achievements, we've also included career shortcomings, or "cons," to help you tailor your sampling and listening experiences. Take a look at our list to get a well-rounded group of singers, songwriters, and breakthrough musicians who have changed the ways we listen to and enjoy music forever.

Artists Included

  • Eric Clapton
  • B B King
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • T-Bone Walker
  • Howlin' Wolf
  • Joe Bonamassa
  • Muddy Waters
  • Albert King
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Chuck Berryment

Eric Clapton

Beefy's Big Bash, Charity Fundraiser, Wormsley Estate, Buckinghamshire, Britain - 25 Jul 2015

Description

Eric Clapton is one of the best blues guitarists in the world, and we are far from the only ones who think that. In fact, Eric Clapton is the only person to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame three times: once as a solo act and also with two groups. Mr. Clapton is much more than just a blues giant; he is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist that is still going strong and just recently released a Christmas album in 2018. Rolling Stone magazine even listed Clapton as number 53 on its list titled “Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” You don't get much more prolific or influential than that.

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • British blues and rock pioneer
  • Lauded as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist
  • The only artist inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame three times

CONS

  • Career output impacted by early, but long-term, drug and alcohol addictions
  • Releases less music these days due to peripheral neuropathy

BB King

B.B. King Performs At Le Grand Rex

Description

BB King is an iconic artist that influenced blues music directly across several generations. BB King is one of the best blues guitarists of all time due to his sophisticated style and unique vibrato. Mr. King is so renowned that he was ranked number three on Rolling Stone's list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Respected singer, guitarist, songwriter, and record producer
  • Influenced virtually every electric blues guitarist
  • Ranked #3 on Rolling Stone's “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list

CONS

  • Passed away at age 89

Jimi Hendrix

jimi

Description

Jimi Hendrix is a singer, songwriter and one of the best blues (and rock, of course) guitarists on the planet. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame agrees and has designated Hendrix “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.” Jimi Hendrix himself was influenced by several of the other blues artists on our list such as BB King.

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Guitarist, singer, songwriter, and innovator in electric sound
  • Rock & Roll Hall of Fame literature calls Jimi “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music”
  • The first artist to use stereophonic phasing effects

CONS

  • Mainstream career only lasted roughly four years
  • Became addicted to drugs and alcohol
  • Passed away in 1970

T-Bone Walker

Tbone

Description

T-Bone Walker is one of the best blues guitarists on our list due to his many innovations in Jump and electric blues. Rolling Stone magazine placed him at number 67 on their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” Believe it or not, T-Bone Walker is often identified as the first blues artist to use the electric guitar and kick-start its popularity.

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Early blues artist to popularize the electric guitar
  • Ranked number 67 on Rolling Stone's “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list
  • Multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter

CONS

  • Passed away at the age of 64 in 1975 after suffering a stroke a year before

Howlin' Wolf

Howlin

Description

Howlin' Wolf was actually an early blues band led by Chester Arthur Burnett, a singer, guitarist, and harmonica player from Mississippi. Howlin' Wolf's lead player was the six-foot, six-inch-tall man budding with electric blues prowess who also came to be known by that name. He earned it with his booming voice that was perfect for his style of raucous blues singing.

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Guitarist, singer, and harmonica player
  • Influenced American blues music heavily
  • One of the most memorable voices of the 1950s

CONS

  • Died at the age of 65 due to complications from surgery after a car accident curtailed his music career

Joe Bonamassa

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Description

Joe Bonamassa is one of the best blues guitarists of all time in our view, and his career is just getting started relative to the other names on this list. Many consider Bonamassa our modern-day, living Jimi Hendrix. He opened for BB King when he was just a boy. Starting guitar at four years old, he was taught by the late, legendary American guitarist Danny Gatton at just 11 years old, and his career has been exemplary in output and quality.

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Opened for BB King as a youth
  • Started playing at age four
  • Still tours widely today

CONS

  • He does not produce recorded music in great volume
  • Had less influence on blues than other, older artists on our list

Muddy Waters

muddy

Description

Although a Mississippi native, Muddy Waters had a massive influence on the British blues explosion of the 1960s. Often considered the father of Chicago blues, Muddy Waters was an incredible singer, songwriter, and one of the best blues guitarists on this earth. He has a loud and iconic sound that is always paired with a thunderous beat.

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Guitarist, songwriter, and singer
  • Considered the father of Chicago blues
  • A major inspiration for British blues guitarists who reached iconic status

CONS

  • Passed away at age 70
  • Last album was released in 1979

Albert King

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Description

Albert King was one of the best blues guitarists of all time and one of the most unique as well. Known for playing guitars upside down and in other odd positions, Albert King made a name for himself with his unorthodox stylings and licks. Those who love his music enjoy the way he bends notes and plays each song expressively.

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Versatile guitarist and singer
  • Could play the guitar upside down
  • Laid down an expressive and unique style of music

CONS

  • He often used unorthodox tunings, making his work hard to replicate
  • Passed away in 1992

John Lee Hooker

john

Description

John Lee Hooker is one of the best pure blues guitarists who achieved some significant mainstream success and renown. Hooker is best known for developing his own style of blues music. In fact, he was the first artist to introduce metrically free blues music to the general public.

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Singer, songwriter, and guitarist
  • Developed his own style of blues music
  • First person to introduce metrically free blues music

CONS

  • Passed away in 2001, and last recording was released in 2004

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry Portrait

Description

Chuck Berry, or more formally, Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry, was a singer, songwriter, and pioneer of American rock-and-roll. This is one of the best blues guitarists of all time that influenced music through his incredibly energetic showmanship and rollicking guitar solos. Unfortunately, Chuck Berry passed away in 2017, but there is a lot of his rocking music out there to discover.

Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Singer, songwriter, and guitarist
  • Pioneer of American rock-and-roll
  • Redefined rhythm and blues for many

CONS

  • Passed away in 2017 and never got to see the release of his final album

The Verdict

person playing a guitar

There are so many different influential and important blues guitarists that helped shaped the way we listen to music today! Taking a look at each of the artists above, it is clear that there is not one "better" than the other. Each of the artists on our list helped contribute and develop blues into what it is today.

For a great taste of the blues, we urge you to take some time to listen to at least one track from each of these artists. We love to listen to influential artists and take notes on different motifs or styles that we notice replicated in today's music on the radio. This is a great way to acknowledge some of the greats and learn where new artists get their influence as well.

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