The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
Guitar players are the coolest creatures on this planet.
Don’t believe us? Consider Buddy Holly. Take away his guitar and he might as well be Melvin Poindexter, full-time accountant and part-time carnival geek. Give him a Stratocaster and suddenly he’s dumping Peggy Sue Gerron and shacking up with Maria Elena Santiago, una caliente Latina!
In fact, guitarists are on a whole different planet when it comes to defining cool. When you play guitar, you can get away with all kinds of acts normal people could never attempt. Face it: An ordinary dude could not walk down the street wearing a leopard-skin jacket, high-heel cowboy boots, flowing silk scarves and dozens of silver bangles without getting beaten up within minutes.
But put a guitar case in that dude’s hands and suddenly grown men want to buy him a drink, and ladies slip him their phone numbers. Or try doing Chuck Berry’s famous duck walk without a guitar; people will think you’re mental. But do it with a guitar and they’ll pelt you with a sea of money and panties.
Since guitar players are automatically cool, that means cool guitar players are the coolest of the cool. In this issue, we exalt this elite class of cold—the players who even we would sell our wives and first born just to have some of their mojo rub off on us. Some of them are pioneers who paved a bold, daring path to define new styles of cool, while others are simply the kind of guitarists we want to be when we never grow up (which is part of being cool).
These people are the real reason why the guitar remains the world’s most popular instrument, so let’s all raise our headstocks and give them a 21-power-chord salute.
Born August 3, 1963
Iconic Guitar 1984 Gibson Explorer
Coolest Riff “Leper Messiah” — Master of Puppets
Most metal guitarists would kill to have half of the power and precision of James Hetfield’s right hand, not to mention his ability to write the most devastating riffs known to mankind, from “Seek and Destroy” and “Creeping Death” to “Enter Sandman.” Of course, most musicians with skills comparable to Hetfield’s have such big egos that they become the targets of our murderous intentions. That’s not the case with Hetfield.
Years of hard-earned success and fame have not changed his down-to-earth attitude. Even though he has become one of the world’s richest rock stars, he hasn’t married a supermodel or become a pompous art collector. Instead, he’s remained true to his working-class roots, spending his spare time building incredibly cool kustom cars and cruising the streets with his car club buddies, the Beatniks of Koolsville.
His kustom masterpieces like “Slow Burn” (a 1936 Auburn boat-tail speedster), “Skyscraper” (a 1953 Buick Skylark) and his daily driver known as “The Grinch” (a 1952 Oldsmobile) are drivable works of art that defy the bland Toyota Priuses, Lexuses and Land Rover SUVs of his Northern California environs like a stiff middle-finger salute wearing a skull ring.