Welcome to the Elite 8 portion of our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll!
It all started a few months back, when 128 132 guitarists went head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format. We filled all but four of the slots with the names 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 our readers to vote in the final four names, which you did, selecting Nuno Bettencourt, Chet Atkins, Malcolm Young and Jake E. Lee.
But now, several rounds later, we're into the Elite 8, which is being brought to you by Sweetwater Sound.
Some things to take to consider before casting your vote:
• 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?
You can check out the full results via our regularly updated bracket here and at the bottom of this story. (Click on the bracket to expand it.)
Round 5 — Today's Match
If this was a poll to determine the greatest vocalist of all time, the frontmen of these next two guitarists may very well be battling it out for the top spot.
Between his legacy as Led Zeppelin's fabled lead guitarist and his work as a producer and session guy, it's hard to understate the impact of JIMMY PAGE on the world of rock music. Introducing folk and Eastern music elements into Zeppelin's music put the band in a whole different box than their would-be peers, cementing Jimmy Page as the face of '70s guitar rock. With the buzz around the upcoming Celebration Day DVD, it's clear that Page and the gang are as relevant as ever.
BRIAN MAY has been a one-man upset machine, knocking off legends like Jeff Beck, George Harrison and Les Paul right and left on his path to the Elite 8. Like his opponent, he has a massive catalog of classic songs to back up some impressive chops. And with one of the most unique lead guitar tones of all time, May has to be considered a serious threat to make it into the Final Four to take on Hendrix.
Guitar World Staff Picks
BRAD TOLINSKI, Editorial Director
Pick: Jimmy Page
While it is true that one man's "Stairway to Heaven" is another man's "Bohemian Rhapsody," I still have to give the edge to James Patrick Page. His "hammer of the gods" is simply more dynamic, powerful and versatile than Brian May's celestial "guitar orchestra."
JIMMY BROWN, Senior Music Editor
Pick: Jimmy Page
Brian May is without a doubt one of the most brilliantly innovative rock guitarists and arrangers ever, and his tone, touch and melodic sensibilities on songs like "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" are impeccable. "39" is an acoustic masterpiece, with all those unlikely chord changes flowing very logically and musically into each other. But, at the end of the day, May's impressive body of work is ultimately surpassed by Page's, in terms of the sheer volume of classic and brilliantly original riffs, compositions and solos, both acoustic and electric ("Since I've Been Loving You," "Stairway to Heaven," "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," Kashmir" and at least a dozen others). Moreover, May did some really cool things with an EchoPlex, but so did Page, in conjunction with a wah pedal and a violin bow. Sheer genius!
DAMIAN FANELLI, Online Managing Editor
Pick: Jimmy Page
Let's get serious here, folks. We're talking about Brian May — a swell bloke with a great sound and several hit records under his belt — versus Jimmy Page, a true rock god and/or legend in every freakin' sense of the word/s. Some guitarists have enjoyed a nice little ride into the Elite Eight (Draw your own conclusions about who I'm talking about), but we need to vote the truly deserving guitarists into the Final Four.
PAUL RIARIO, Technical Editor
Pick: Brian May
This reminds me of a joke I once heard: "A priest, a rabbi, Jimmy Page and Brian May walk into a bar and ..." Ya know, I don't remember the punchline, but what I do know is Brian May exits the bar dressed in drag as "Killer Queen" plays in the background. OK, the joke wasn't that funny, but I'm going to pick Brian May.
JOSH HART, Online Producer
Pick: Jimmy Page
It's impossible to really debate between the back catalogs of these two legends, but Page's versatility as a guitarist gives him a distinct edge. When he set out to create " a marriage of blues, hard rock, and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses," he did it flawlessly, melding folk music and hard rock in a way that seemed so natural that it's hard to believe it wasn't done before.