Guitar World has a long history of uniting guitar legends – as evidenced in these classic covers

Guitar World classic magazine covers
(Image credit: Future)

#GuitarWorld40: In 2020, Guitar World marks its 40th anniversary. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we’ll be sharing key moments from the magazine’s storied history, taking you inside the guitars, the stars and the bizarre from 40 years of the world’s biggest guitar magazine.

With the April 1990 issue – which featured Steve Vai and Joe Satriani on the same cover for the first time ever – we began a tradition of pairing some of the world greatest guitarists with one another, and that is something we have gone to great lengths to bring you continually over the past 30-plus years.

Eric Johnson and B.B. King; Carlos Santana and Buddy Guy; Billy Corgan and Eddie Van Halen; Dimebag Darrell and Ace Frehley; James Hetfield and Tony Iommi; John Petrucci and Steve Morse; Kirk Hammett and Adam Jones; Slash and Ace Frehley; Zakk Wylde and Buddy Guy; Rancid and the Ramones; Billy Gibbons and Dan Auerbach; Joe Perry and Jimmy Page; Jack White and Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, the Black Crowes and Jimmy Page (can we help it if everybody wants to meet Jimmy?) – it does the heart good to make wishes come true. Putting starry-eyed fans in the same room as their heroes is always a special moment.

Steve Vai and Tosin Abasi; Trent Reznor and Dave Navarro; Jerry Cantrell, Kim Thayil and Steve Vai; Tony Iommi and Eddie Van Halen; Reb Beach, Nuno Bettencourt and Ritchie Kotzen; Slayer and Zakk Wylde, Adam Jones and Tom Morello; Billy Gibbons and Jeff Beck, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy – contemporaries checking one another out.

Sometimes the groupings are weird, and at times the talk gets heated, but ultimately there’s an understanding that art is art, and artists must do what artists must do.

And then there’s old friends. Zakk and Dimebag, Tom Morello and Adam Jones, and, of course, the mother of all metal meetings, the Big 4 cover story from November 2011, which featured thrash icons James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Dave Mustaine, Kerry King and Scott Ian together in one happy group and baring lots of teeth.

We try and make it look easy to pull together all of these incredible pairings of guitar gods for our covers, but believe us when we tell you that it’s never that simple. The end result is usually well worth all the frustration, political wranglings and logistical roadblocks we encounter while trying to make them happen – but the truth is that many of our gray hairs can be attributed to these history-making endeavors.

You can view a few more of our favorite pairings below…

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Jeff Kitts

As a teenager, Jeff Kitts began his career in the mid ’80s as editor of an underground heavy metal fanzine in the bedroom of his parents’ house. From there he went on to write for countless rock and metal magazines around the world – including Circus, Hit Parader, Metal Maniacs, Rock Power and others – and in 1992 began working as an assistant editor at Guitar World. During his 27 years at Guitar World, Jeff served in multiple editorial capacities, including managing editor and executive editor before finally departing as editorial director in 2018. Jeff has authored several books and continues to write for Guitar World and other publications and teaches English full time in New Jersey. His first (and still favorite) guitar was a black Ibanez RG550.