Animal’s Daily Guitar News

And now, for something completely different; my list of the five best guitar players in rock & roll history.  Here they are, at their finest and in no particular order.  These are all live shows – no studio riffs here.

First up:  The irreplaceable Jerry Garcia, in 1990, playing lead in Eyes of the World.  Mrs. Animal and I saw the Grateful Dead in 1991, and this was one of the best tunes in the almost 5-hour show.

Next, the irrepressible Frank Zappa, from a 1977 concert, with his favored show-closer The Muffin Man.

Next, the irreproachable Stevie Ray Vaughan, with a live rip of his Couldn’t Stand the Weather.


And then there’s the irredeemable Jimi Hendrix, with a 1970 performance of his famous Purple Haze.

And finally, the only member on the list still walking the mortal coil; the irresistible Carlos Santana.  I didn’t pick one of his usuals for this; instead I chose a more intimate performance, where he met the radiant Faith Hill and accompanied her on her song  Breathe. 

So.  Thoughts?  I would have named my top ten, but I was running out of words that began with the ‘irr’ prefix, and besides, after five the choices widen out some.  I suppose I’d put Eddie Van Halen in that list, and Jimmy Page, and maybe George Thorogood.

  • Tanuki Man

    I’d add Mark Knopfler to the list but that would bring it to six.

    • You can never have too many great guitar players.

  • Andrew Pearce

    Gerry was one of a kind, a master of the minor chords with the ability to blend folk, rock, blues, jazz, country, and darn near any other kind of music, and create ad-hoc jams that could flow from one tune into the next. A 16 minute Eyes is about right, compared to the 3 minute version on the album. I lost count of the Dead shows I went to, probably at least 100. Funny how the show went on for many years after he was gone, with one guitarist after another finding his magic groove. These days it’s John Mayer, and this immersion has transformed his music totally.

    I saw Stevie twice in concert. Awesome talent. Never saw the others, but I’ve got piles of CDs that agree with your list. Although I’d put Joe Satriani in there somewhere.

    • We only saw the Buddha of Rock once, in that concert in 1991. But guess who opened for the Dead in that show? (Not, not the Guess Who.) None other than Carlos Santana!

      I regret I’ve never seen any of the others live. I’ve taken in some great concerts, especially back in the Seventies, in the heyday of rock – Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Foghat, and George Thorogood (about 1985, that last one.)

      What I really wish, though, is that I could have seen Zappa, just one time. The man was about nine different kinds of genius.

      • Andrew Pearce

        Carlos and Jerry got together many many times over the years. Santana still sat in, even years after Jerry was gone.

        Where was your Dead show, Mile High in Denver? Odds are decent you can find the show online and listen to it all over again

        • That was the show indeed. We had only been back from General Schwarzkopf’s Highway of Death Road Show for a few days. I snagged some tickets and off we went!