Welcome to our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll, where 128 guitarists go head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format, in the style of NCAA basketball’s March Madness tournament.
We filled 124 of 128 slots with the names of a host of incredible guitarists (dead and living) — players chosen for their technical ability as well as their importance and creativity, not to mention how influential they’ve been. We asked you to vote in the final four names, which you did. Now the 128 slots are filled, and we’re ready to go.
We know there are going to be some weird style matchups in this poll, which may lead many of you to ask questions like, “How do you compare a shred guitarist to a blues guitarist?” Aside from how good a player is at their given style, here are some things to take into consideration:
• Influence: Who inspired more kids to beg their parents for a guitar for Christmas? Who inspired a wave of copycats?
• Chops/Versatility: Is the guitarist in question a one-trick pony or a master of many styles?
• Body of Work: Who had the more consistent career? Who has played on more classic albums?
• Creativity: Who pioneered new techniques? Who sounds the most radically different from what came before them?
Round 1 — Today’s Match
Zakk Wylde emerged in the late ’80s as Jake E. Lee’s replacement in Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band, eventually having the longest tenure of any Ozzy guitarist. His signature brand of pinch harmonics and lethal guitar solos made him an instant hit among guitar lovers everywhere. When not shredding for the Ozzman, Zakk showed us his Southern rock roots in Pride & Glory before founding Black Label Society in 1998 and going on to release modern classics like 1919 Eternaland The Blessed Hellride.
Taking on Wylde is George Lynch, who shares a thread with Zakk in that he auditioned twice for Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band, only losing out to Randy Rhoads. Lynch would gain notoriety for his inventive lead guitar style with Dokken, playing on classic records like Under Lock And Key andBack For The Attack. During a temporary split with Dokken in 1989, Lynch formed the aptly named Lynch Mob, which charted with two albums, Wicked Sensation and Lynch Mob, in the early ’90s.
Yesterday’s matchup saw Tom Morello (52.44%) defeat Robert Fripp (47.56%).