Welcome to our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll, where 128 guitarists go head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format, all to crown your choice for the Greatest Guitarist of All Time.
We filled 124 of 128 slots with the names of a host of incredible guitarists (dead and living) — players chosen for their technical ability as well as their importance and creativity, not to mention how influential they've been. We asked you to vote in the final four names, which you did. Now the 128 slots are filled, and we're ready to go.
There might be some weird style matchups in this poll, which may lead many of you to ask questions like, "How do you compare a shred guitarist to a blues guitarist?" Aside from how good a player is at their given style, here are some things to take into consideration:
• Influence: Who inspired more kids to beg their parents for a guitar for Christmas? Who inspired a wave of copycats?
• Chops/Versatility: Is the guitarist in question a one-trick pony or a master of many styles?
• Body of Work: Who had the more consistent career? Who has played on more classic albums?
• Creativity: Who pioneered new techniques? Who sounds the most radically different from what came before them?
Round 1 — Today's Match
In the heyday of The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts' melodic, country-infused guitar solos were the perfect yin to Duane Allman's fiery, bluesy, slide yang. After Allman's death, Betts stepped up big time, penning and ripping through Southern rock classics like "Jessica" and "Ramblin' Man," his signature song. Throw "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Blue Sky" into the mix, and you see why Betts -- now fronting Great Southern -- is in our top 128.
From Georgia, we head south to Florida, birthplace of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Les Paul-wielding guitarist Gary Rossington, one of the band's founding members. Rossington, whose name has become synonymous with that of Skynyrd, has an unmistakable blues-rock style that can be heard on "Tuesday's Gone," "Simple Man" and "Free Bird," which is just the tip of the iceberg. Rossington is the only original member still performing with Skynyrd -- a true link to the band's past.
(P.S.: Betts was born in Florida too!)
Yesterday's matchup saw Rick Nielsen (51.3%) narrowly defeat Andy Summers (48.7%).