For context, Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a mountain sculpture carved in the Black Hills region of southwestern South Dakota, U.S. The colossal structure depicts the faces of four former American presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. According to the artist Gutzon Borglum, they represent important events in American history and serve as a symbol of freedom.
Now, a forum user asked, “Let’s say there was a Mount Rushmore of the greatest guitarists of all time. Who would be the four people on there, in your opinion?”
Tough question, but commenters passed different verdicts, and these are the guitarists whose legacy deserves to be cast in the stone of “Mount Rockmore.”
1. Jimi Hendrix
Half of a popular online forum thinks Hendrix is overrated, and the other half regards him as one of the founding fathers of the guitar world. One even compared him to Thomas Jefferson, one figure on Mount Rushmore.
One user argues that, like Jefferson, Hendrix unveiled an entire new continent of possibilities on the instrument, extensively exploring its potential. No other individual accomplished as much to show the guitar's capabilities.
Jimi Hendrix remains one of the most influential electric rock guitarists, even though he only had a four-year reign as a superstar.
2. Les Paul
Les Paul was an American jazz and blues guitarist and one of the pioneers and inspirations of the solid-body electric guitar of the Gibson Les Paul. Artists like Jimi Hendricks, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton have enjoyed playing the guitar for its versatility.
Someone comments that Les Paul deserves to be on the list since he's an influencer of influencers and one of two people who invented the electric guitar.
Prince may be renowned for his incredibly high pitches and influences on fashion and culture, but he was also a virtuoso at instruments, specifically guitars. He was often regarded as the next great after the Hendrix era, with a matching “electric” stage presence. His signature song, “Purple Rain,” featured one of his best guitar solos.
4. Chuck Berry
A person describes Chuck Berry as the first Rock and Roll guitar hero, saying he created a basic rock guitar vocabulary, influencing Joe Perry, Keith Richards, George Harrison, and many others.
Chuck Berry, influenced by musicians like T-Bone Walker and Nat King Cole, influenced other artists like Bruce Springsteen, George Harrison, and Pete Townshend. He paved the way for artists like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. He rose to prominence through his innovative, creative style, becoming one of the most influential artists of his time.
5. Eddie Van Halen
A user suggests that Eddie Van Halen is one of the most influential guitarists since Hendrix since he inspired so many generic shredders. This user compares Halen to former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt Jr., matching his sound to Roosevelt's foreign policy and ambition to reach Roosevelt's wide reading and post-presidential life.
Eddie Van Halen, raised by a multi-instrumentalist, was a Dutch-born guitarist and keyboardist renowned for his number-one hit “Jump.” His record “Eruption” features one of the greatest guitar solos of all time and the artist's best. His love for the guitar-fueled his existence until his death when he was buried with the guitar “that inspired him the most.”
6. Frank Zappa
One person chooses Frank Zappa because he is intellectual, outspoken, and a promoter of industry diversity. He brought talented musicians and bands to the stage to make music that resonated in the future.
Another is impressed with the amazing things Zappa did on the guitar and wonders why it isn't discussed as part of his legacy. This person says that Zappa was a sometimes vulnerable player that was also incredibly expressive, but the vastness of his compositions overshadowed his musicianship.
Frank Zappa was an American guitarist. He had a distinctive, experimental, and boisterous style, with a musical complexity attributed to his high IQ — 172. His non-conforming, self-governing nature presided over his lifestyle, permeating through the groundbreaking art he created.
7. Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck rose to prominence as a member of the rock band the Yardbirds. He was a founding member of Jeff Beck Group and Beck, Bogert & Appice. Rolling Stone described him as “one of the most influential lead guitarists in rock” and included him in the top five of their “greatest guitarists” ranking.
Jeff Beck was one of the boundary-pushing, groundbreaking guitarists who expanded the rock world.
8. Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is the one the online forum users have crowned “The man, the legend, the myth.” Clapton is an American trailblazing guitarist, singer, songwriter, and one of the founding fathers of the rock genre. He features in major “greatest guitarists” rankings including Rolling Stone‘s and Time magazine's. He was also part of the Yardbirds as a bandmate to the aforementioned Jeff Beck and the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Clapton revolutionized the world of Rock and Roll; fans, through the help of a widespread meme, have immortalized him as a god.
9. Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana is an American guitarist who became famous with the Santana Blues Band. He is one of the most influential and greatest guitarists of this decade. His music is renowned for its genre-bending, innovative style, inspired by the likes of B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, and Ray Charles. It is often a fusion of jazz, blues, and rock, with Latin undertones.
10. Mark Knopfler
The lead singer and guitarist of Dire Straights, Mark Knopfler, has an extensive back catalog and is an excellent storyteller with his music. He has done movie scores including The Princess Bride and Local Hero.
Several people agree, including one who comments that Knopfler is an insanely talented guitarist who shreds like a virtuoso. Someone else concurs that he shreds pretty hard for a “dude who doesn’t use a pick.”
11. Terry Kath
Jimmy Hendrix once called Terry Kath the best guitarist in the universe. Tragically, a gun accident ended his life early at 31. Unbeknownst to Kath, he was holding a loaded gun and died instantly when he put the pistol to his head and pulled the trigger.
A person comments that Kath, dealing with long-term health issues and drug abuse, had a sad ending to his complicated and troubled life. But, the person adds that he was such an incredibly talented musician.
12. Mick Mars
A forum user says Mötley Crüe guitarist Mick Mars is the king of massive tones. Someone else replies that his tones made Motley Crue what they are.
He recently filed a lawsuit against Mötley Crüe, alleging the band tried to kick him out of the group.
13. Charlie Christian
An American jazz artist, Charlie Christian is known for being one of the first to use electrically amplified equipment to produce masterpieces. He became famous as a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra.
Charlie Christian helped develop Bebop. A contributor suggests that if you want to make your solos swing, you should study Charlie Christian.
14. B.B. King
B.B. King is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest and most influential blues guitarists of all time and is often called the King of the Blues.
He started recording music in the 1940s, and since then, he has released over fifty albums, many of which are classics.
A forum member argues that more accurately, due to his varied and long-lasting influence, B.B. King should be known as the Blue's lifetime ambassador.
15. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an electric guitar trailblazer. She's often called the Godmother of Rock and Roll, inspiring musicians such as Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard.
One user remarks that she was an innovative and outstanding guitar player.
Someone writes that they recently discovered her, and any videos of hers are a treat to watch.
16. Stevie Ray Vaughan
Before Stevie Ray Vaughan's unfortunate death 33 years ago, he was regarded as one of the best guitar players of all time. He was known for his blues playing and played on a number of the best blues and rock songs, including playing on David Bowie's “Lets Dance.”
Vaughn died in a helicopter accident after playing a show at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. His helicopter hit the side of a hill during a foggy ride.
17. Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin has always been a band that rocks and we can thank Jimmy Page's guitar skills for that. Page, who still plays today, is known for his creative riffs, melodic solos, and his overall shredding skills. He is the sound behind “Stairway To Heaven,” and “Whole Lotta Love.”
18. Jerry Garcia
While Grateful Dead fans still love the pyscidellic music of this jam band, nothing has been the same since the death of frontman and guitar player, Jerry Garcia.
Garcia was known for his guitar improv and how easily he could shred with his band. He continued to tour with The Grateful Dead until his death in 1995, when he passed away of a heartattack.
19. Buddy Guy
At 87 years old, Buddy Guy is still touring and still putting on awesome blues shows across the world. Guy is known as one of the best blues players ever, usually on lists with B.B. King himself.
His career started in the mid-1950s and he has been releasing new music as recently as 2022! Talk about a long, amazing career.
20. Jack White
Jack White is one of the youngest guys on this list, but he has cemented himself in rock history. White got his start by playing in The White Stripes, producing some of the most iconic garage rock songs of the early 2000s. He's known for his face-melting guitar solos and by being a versitle frontman who can jump on drums or hold a crowd for hours.
He's also been apart of The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and his own solo work, all of which have produced a numnber of hits over the past few decades.
Boloere Divine Seibidor, fondly called B.S., is a Nigerian-based writer and poet. Her favorite topics include music, especially Hip-Hop, film, lifestyle, and fashion. She's been published by Feral Journal, Fantasy Magazine, The Temz Review, and most notably, Wealth of Geeks. She enjoys romantic dinners, movie nights, and touring new sights. When she's not writing, she's delving back in time to the underground world of Hip-Hop, watching TikTok, or visiting the cinema.