Any list claiming to contain top anything has to be subjective; that means based on the author’s opinion. With that said, it is still possible to narrow down the list of top blues guitarists to provide a starting point for the new listeners of this genre of music. And that is exactly what we are going to do.
This is not an artistic judgement of authority. It is simply a guide (hopefully helpful) for the musically adventurous people who are new to the blues music and want to get some good recommendations.
We will list 5 top blues guitarists that you need to listen to in order to get a “feeling” for the blues. We try here to represent blues guitarists who shaped this music as well as some of its contemporary flag bearers. Once again trying to limit the list to only 5 players is an exceedingly difficult task verging on impossible. But this will be a good starting point in your journey into the world of blues guitar music.
Muddy “Mississippi” Waters was one of the chief architects of electric blues guitar sound. He successfully translated and interpreted the tasty and beautiful blues licks and melodies from the realm of acoustic sound to the electrifying world of the amplified guitar. A good place to start digging into Muddy’s music is The Anthology album.
People like T-bone Walker and Muddy Waters paved the way for B.B. King to come in and use the electric guitar to create a universe of his own made of blues melody. B.B. King influenced whole generations of artists including people who became the major blues players of our time. When recommending B.B’s music people often recommend the famous Live at the Regal (1965) live album. It is a great place to start, but we want to recommend B.B. King’s third studio album My Kind of Blues (1960) because of its immense melodic prowess and soulfulness. The live album might obstruct a new listener from absorbing the music (even though it is a very good quality recording). It might take a while for you to understand why B.B. was called the “King Of The Blues” but you will start to realise that he was a worthy candidate.
Even though we are technically straying away from the pure blues category into the realm of rock music, Jimmy Page’s guitar playing cannot be separated from the great blues tradition. Jimmy Page was the guitar player for one of the world’s biggest rock band: Led Zeppelin. What did Jimmy do that affords him such a lofty place alongside Muddy Waters and B.B. King? This is what he did: young English boy Jimmy listened to all the authentic blues music coming from the other side of the ocean. He soaked up its spirit and then spit it out with fire. It is this unique interpretation and re-imagining by Jimmy that makes his playing so valuable. You should listen to all Led Zeppelin albums, but you can start with the first one titled simply Led Zeppelin I.
Eric Clapton is one of the most recognised names in the world of music, irrespective of genre. Eric Clapton, like his fellow countryman Jimmy Page, got lost in the blues. Consequently, he created a whole bunch of amazing music with a lot of amazing artists. Any attempt to fully describe his music within the confines of this article will fail. We recommend his album with Cream titled Disraeli Gears (1967) as the starting point. It is also among his most recognised and acclaimed works.
Joe Bonamassa is considered by some as the Eric Clapton of our time. Raised as a child prodigy, Joe became a touring guitarist before he became 14. He was tutored by famous Danny Gatton. B.B. King noticed Joe at his early age and asked him to play with him on tour. From then on Joe Bonamassa has been making music and playing to a global audience. In a way Joe encapsulates the spirit of all the people mentioned above. Joe has released 33 albums (live and studio) so far. A good album to pick up first would probably be Live from the Royal Albert Hall released in 2008.