Frontal Assault: The Top 10 Guitar-Playing Frontmen in Rock
Guitar World's guide to the top 10 guitar-playing frontmen in rock—past and present.
Even though Metallica's James Hetfield makes it look all too easy, there are countless guitarists who find it challenging to sing while doing anything on the guitar—besides strumming.
Some players (myself included) even get bent out of shape when they're asked to provide the simplest of vocal harmonies while playing solos or semi-challenging riffs.
Which is why Guitar World has decided to honor the 10 worthy guitarists/singers named below. We feel they are—or were, since we're honoring some artists who have passed away—10 of the best (if not undoubtedly the best) guitar-playing frontmen in rock history.
The criteria is simple: They must have outstanding voices—either technically impressive or pleasingly "warm," unique or offbeat—and a heapin' helpin' of distinctive six-string badassery. Of course, since we're talking about frontmen, they also need a touch of charisma, maybe a spot of quirkiness and/or what is commonly called "stage presence."
Note that, while we don't like to exclude such players as Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, this is a list of guitarists who don't/didn't share the frontman spotlight with anyone in the band. This is also why you won't find the Beatles' John Lennon or Paul "guitarist before he was a bassist" McCartney on this list.
With that in mind, here are our 10 choices. If you disagree with our picks or would like to suggest other players, let us know in the comments below. Note that these names are presented in no particular order. Once again, the names are presented in no particular order!
Frontman: Stevie Ray Vaughan
Band: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
With his electrifying prowess, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan refocused attention back to the essentials—guitar, bass and drums in a basic 12-bar format.
He had no light show to speak of, no dry ice, no fog, no lasers. He didn't go in for leather-and-studs macho posturing. A longtime local hero in juke joints throughout Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth, Stevie Ray waved the Texas flag all over the country in one sold-out concert venue after another.
His secret? A soft-spoken, laconic man, Vaughan summed it up in three little words: "I just play."
Of course, there's more to it than that. Along with his unquestionable prowess on the guitar, Vaughan, who died in August 1990, had one hell of a voice, a voice that still makes every "SRV bandwagon" blues-er sound, well, incomplete. Although you wouldn't have wanted to sit through a concert titled "SRV Sings Verdi" (or "SRV Sings Freddie Mercury"), there's no denying SRV had his own thing, a voice that oozed authenticity and confidence.
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