The wit, wisdom, zen, and philosophy of Paul Diamond Blow.

The Top Ten Rock Guitarists of All Time
The Coolest of the Cool Rock Guitarists, baby!

by Paul Diamond Blow

I’ve written articles on the top ten coolest rock stars and the top ten coolest rock singers, so it’s about time I wrote my “top ten coolest rock guitarists” article, seeing as how I myself am a rock guitar player. So here it is—the top ten coolest of the cool guitarists in rock music, according to me, Paul Diamond Blow. Now then, this is not a list of the top ten best guitar players in rock music, the guitarists on my list are the coolest. I mean, let’s face it… good guitar players are a dime a dozen. You can walk into any Guitar Center on any given night and hear good guitar players shredding leads at 100 notes a minute. But most of those shredders lack style, personality, pizzaz, and the coolness factor that the players on my list have. To me, a “cool” guitar player is someone who not only plays well, has their own style, and puts on an exciting show, but someone who also looks like a rock star and who inspires us lesser mortals to want to pick up and play the guitar. In short, a “cool” rock guitarist is someone who rocks the guitar and looks good doing it. You will find that many of the guitar players on my list have this much in common: they play Gibson Les Paul guitars (the coolest guitar in rock music). So take note, all you up-and-coming rock guitarists: if you want to be a super cool guitar player, get yourself a Gibson Les Paul! But again, enough of my rambling… here are the top ten coolest guitar players in rock music:

10) Jimmy Page
First off, I have to admit that I am by no means a fan of Led Zeppelin; never have been, never will be. While I don’t care for Led Zeppelin songs or Robert Plant’s singing, I must admit that Jimmy Page is indeed a super cool guitar player. He’s got the chops and can play some very tasty, bluesy leads, but mostly Jimmy Page just plain looks like a cool rock guitarist/rock star, what with his long curly locks and his flamboyant stage wear, plus he looks totally rad with the Les Paul guitar. Jimmy Page is simply one of the coolest of the “classic rock” guitarists, so I’ve got to give him props for that and put him on this here “top ten coolest rock guitarists” list. There you go, Led Zeppelin fans—this should mellow you out a bit!

9) Joe Perry
Joe Perry is the American version of Jimmy Page. They’re both cut from the same classic rock guitarist mold with the long curly dark locks, the flamboyant stage wear, the rock star looks, the sexy Les Paul guitars, plus they both play the same style of bluesy classic rock leads. They could be “brothers from another mother,” musically speaking. Just like Jimmy Page, Joe Perry is also a true, unadulterated rock star with plenty of rock solid guitar chops, but I gotta put Joe Perry one notch ahead of Jimmy Page just because I actually like Aerosmith.

8) Steve Vai
Steve Vai is probably the most talented and the flashiest guitar player on my list. The man is incredible, a true virtuoso, a wizard on the guitar and a real innovator with the whammy bar. Once upon a time Steve Vai played guitar for Frank Zappa, and he also has released several solo albums, but it was his work with David Lee Roth in the late 1980s that made him a genuine rock star and boosted his coolness rating tenfold. That’s when I first took notice of Steve Vai—on David Lee Roth’s Eat ’em and Smile CD—and I was totally blown away by Vai’s flashy style and lightening fast, yet melodic leads. Steve Vai’s preferred axe is the Ibanez guitar, and he even designed Ibanez’s 7-string electric guitar. Vai gets the most amazing, mind boggling sounds out of a whammy bar, and as a matter of fact, he is the entire reason I bought an Ibanez with a whammy bar back in the day. Not only is Steve Vai a flashy master of the six-string jet machine, but he also looks super cool with his long dark hair and his rock star looks. Steve Vai is so gosh danged cool he got the part of the devil’s guitar player in the movie Crossroads, and that—along with his amazing axe wielding skills—puts him here on my top ten rock guitarists list.

7) K.K. Downing
K.K. Downing is my token heavy metal guitar shredder on my “top ten” list, not necessarily because he’s so much better than all the other metal shredders, but because he is so much cooler than the rest, plus his band Judas Priest totally rocked! K.K. was especially rad in the late 1980s, with his gaudy leather outfits, the mirrored sunglasses, and his big, poofy, blonde, poodle-esque hairstyle. That’s right, K.K. Downing is also my token blonde on my list, and let’s face it—back in the day K.K. was one helluva sexy beast, a real rarity in the heavy metal genre. Compare K.K. Downing then with the metal guitar players of today’s metal scene—the fat, ugly dudes with gross beards, bald heads and tribal tattoos—and you can see why K.K. Downing is the coolest and sexiest guitar player in metal, period, and that’s what shoots him to the top and puts him on this list.

6) Warren DeMartini
Next to the great Steve Vai, Warren DeMartini is the second most amazing and talented guitar player on my list. Warren DeMartini’s guitar work in RATT is the stuff of dreams. I myself am a huge fan of RATT—one of the few L.A. buttrock bands I ever really liked—and a big part of it was Warren’s truly amazing playing, not to mention the awesome riffs he wrote. DeMartini played probably the sweetest leads of any of the 1980s era buttrock guitarists, and that—along with his gangly rock star looks and his super cool style—puts him at my number six slot.

5) Johnny Thunders
Johnny Thunders made a name for himself back in the 1970s as a guitarist for glam rock band the New York Dolls. He later went on to a solo career (playing guitar and singing) with his band the Heartbreakers, and he also released many albums under his own name. Johnny also had a very cool solo acoustic act that he did, an act that has inspired many (including myself) to play solo acoustic shows. Although Johnny Thunders was not a great guitar player—in fact his playing was trashy and sloppy, much like his band the New York Dolls—it’s his image that makes him so friggin’ cool. What with his flamboyant outfits and his big ol’ mop of black hair, Johnny Thunders just plain looks like what a rock star guitar player should look like, and there are legions of guitar players far and wide who try their hardest to be Johnny Thunders, even today. Sadly, Johnny Thunders was a heroin addict most of his career and died of a heroin overdose in 1991 at the age of 38, but his legend, notoriety and fame live on and he makes it on my list.

4) Slash
By now you’ve probably realized that most of the rock guitarists on my list are from the 1970-80s era of rock, and maybe you’re saying, “Mr. Paul Diamond Blow, are there no cool rock guitarists in recent history?” Well, yes there is, and that would be Slash. Slash became a genuine rock star and made a name for himself in the legendary Guns N’ Roses, of course. Funny thing is, back in the day I always thought Izzy Stradlin was the cool guy of GNR, but Izzy clearly did not want to be a rock star and he left the band. I’ve since learned to appreciate the rock solid skills of Slash—his song writing, his beautiful lead work, and of course his hard rocking rhythm playing—and I now consider Slash to be the coolest rock guitarist of the last 15 years. Slash himself is heavily influenced by the idols (Keith Richards, Johnny Thunders, Joe Perry), but he’s been able to come up with a style all his own and has one of the most unique images in modern rock, what with his curly locks that always seem to cover his face, his black leather jacket, his trademark top hat, and of course—his Gibson Les Paul. Slash is a genuine rock super star, an amazing player, and he’s cool, baby… cool enough to take my number four slot.

3) Johnny Ramone
Hey ho, let’s go! Johnny Ramone is not one of the best guitar players in rock music and I don’t know if he ever even played a lick of a guitar solo, but he is indeed one of the coolest guitar players ever, thanks to his totally awesome, high-energy, blitzkrieg style of buzzsaw guitar play. Plus, he was in the Ramones, man—one of the coolest rock bands ever. As far as I’m concerned, Johnny Ramone invented the art of “downstrokes picking” and was indeed the fastest downstroker on record. Believe it or not, most otherwise “good” guitar players I know have a lot of trouble trying to play with downstrokes like Johnny did—they just plain lack the energy. Johnny Ramone put massive amounts of energy into his playing, and I can honestly say he’s one of the most exciting guitarists I’ve ever seen. I would go so far as to say that it was Johnny Ramones’ guitar style that invented punk rock, and he has inspired countless scores of youngsters to buy guitars and start punk bands. Even though Johnny Ramone was said to have been a super control freak, a right-wing conservative, and nobody in the Ramones circle seemed to like him much due to his mean-spirited nature, his super cool image—the scowling face, the blue jeans, the black leather jacket, and the bowl haircut (a look that never changed in over 20 years)—and his super-exciting, blitzkrieg style of guitar play put him at number three on my top ten coolest rock guitarist list.

2) Ace Frehley
Ace Frehley is another guy who is not the greatest nor the fastest guitarist around, but he’s got something no other guitar player has: he is gosh dang, mother freaking Ace Frehley, the Space Ace, from super star, rock legend band KISS! Just being in the band KISS gives any guitar player a thousand bonus cool points (except for Vinnie Vincent, since he was a geek), but Ace Frehley was the original lead guitarist for KISS and the guitar hero of millions, including myself. Ace Frehley could indeed play well enough and his leads are solid (the standard classic bluesy rock fare, of course), but what with his Space Ace image he just plain looked super freaking super cool. To tell the truth, I’m not really much of a fan of Ace Frehley’s work outside of KISS, but just being mother freaking Ace Frehley—plus the fact that he may well be the first rock guitarist to rocket off into space in a NASA space shuttle—puts him permanently in my number two slot.

1) Keith Richards
Once again, mother freaking Keith Richards is my number one! (See: top ten coolest rock stars.) Keith Richards is simply a true rock’n’roll institution and the coolest cat to ever pick up a guitar. The first time I ever laid eyes on Keith Richards was when his solo band the X-pensive Winos appeared on Saturday Night Live back in the early ’80s, and he blew me away. This was well before I was ever turned on to the Rolling Stones. As far as the Stones go, my favorite tunes have always been Keef songs (“Little T&A,” “Happy,” “Before They Make Me Run” to name a few) and I am also a huge fan of Keith’s solo albums, Talk is Cheap and Main Offender. That being said, what makes Keith the world’s coolest guitar player are two things: his riffs and his style. Comon, you know a Rolling Stones song when it comes on just by the opening Keith Richards Riff ™, and as far as style goes the 1970s–80s era Keith Richards—the vintage, scrappy Keith with the shaggy rock’n’roll hair, the skull rings and the bandanas—is the Ultimate in rock style. No one else comes close. Even though Keith Richards is not one of the greatest guitar players (he even admits to being a “hack”), he is the coolest, and I would say that without a doubt Keith Richards has inspired more young lads (Johnny Thunders being one of them) to pick up the guitar and start a rock band than anyone else on the planet. Keith Richards is so cool that not only was he Johnny Depp’s inspiration for the Jack Sparrow character in Pirates of the Caribbean, but Keith even played the part of Jack Sparrow’s father in the sequels! Now that’s cool! Keith Richards is indeed a living legend, and his supreme coolness, his signature riffage, and the fact that he continues rocking the guitar well into his sixties, makes him the coolest—and sexiest—guitarist of all time.

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