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Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 1 — Eric Clapton Vs. Freddie King

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 interesting 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

At this point, Eric Clapton doesn't need much of an introduction, since he's one of the most famous guitar players in the world. He started out in The Yardbirds, made a massive impact with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, formed Cream, played a classic solo on a Beatles song, formed Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos -- then launched a solo career full of hits, guest appearances, awards, signature-edition Strats, amps, effect pedals and cell phones -- and he has his very own guitar festival. Need we say more?

He's going up against Freddie King, one of his biggest influences during the early to mid-'60s. In fact, the groundwork of 1966's Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton was at least partially laid on 1962's all-instrumental Let's Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King. (He called himself Freddy back then). Of the three "Kings of the blues" -- Albert, B.B. and Freddie -- Freddie's style was arguably the most overdriven and rocking, as evidenced by his fiery playing on Live at the Electric Ballroom. Clapton and King got to record together (Check out King's 1974 Burglar album) before King's way-too-early death in 1976.

Yesterday's back-and-forth battle saw Buckethead (54.73%) defeat Michael Angelo Batio (45.27%).