The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
Born May 28, 1910 (died March 16, 1975)
Bands Solo, Sebastian’s Cotton Club Orchestra, Freddie Slack’s Orchestra
Iconic Guitar Gibson ES-250
Coolest Riff “Strollin’ with Bone”—The Complete Imperial Recordings, 1950–1954
As the first blues guitarist to pick up an electric guitar and play single-string solos in the late Thirties, T-Bone Walker didn’t just lay down the foundation for electric blues and rock and roll—he also built the first three or four floors. John Lee Hooker credits T-Bone Walker with making the electric guitar popular, claiming that everybody tried to copy T-Bone’s sound.
That’s not an overstatement, as traces of T-Bone’s influence can be heard in the early recordings of Albert, B.B. and Freddie King, Muddy Waters, and especially Chuck Berry, who adopted many of Walker’s signature licks as his own. A sharp-dressed, flamboyant performer who played the guitar behind his head and did the splits without missing a note, Walker helped reposition the guitar player from the sidelines to center stage, inspiring Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan to copy his impossible-to-ignore moves.
Walker’s licks were so fresh and ahead of their time that his solos on the 1942 single “Mean Old World” and his 1947 breakthrough “Call It Stormy Monday” still inspire guitarists today.