Welcome to our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll, where 128 guitarists go head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format, in the style of NCAA basketball's March Madness tournament.
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.
We know there are going to 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?
Today's Round 1 matchup features two masters of spaced-out guitar sounds.
Robert Fripp's guitar playing is undeniably everywhere, from David Bowie's "Heroes" to the sounds that greet you when you start up Windows. Fripp has contributed to more than 700 studio albums in his storied career, all the while being the most consistent member in King Crimson's ever-evolving lineup. His wild experiments with "Frippertronics" — his use of tape loop experiments to create ambient soundscapes, made famous in his collaborations with Brian Eno — sometimes overshadow the fact that he was a master of many techniques, including banjo-style crosspicking.
Opposite him is Tom Morello, who has handled guitar duties in not one, but two platinum-selling rock bands, first with rap-metal juggernaut Rage Against the Machine and again with Audioslave. Morello is well known for using everything from a mega arsenal of effects pedals to simple, household items to generate some of the strangest guitar sounds in recent memory. An accomplished shred guitarist before joining RATM, Morello opted to emulate the sounds his hip-hop heroes with his six-string, spawning numerous copycats in the coming decade.
Which one of these guitar heroes will advance on to Round 2? Vote now!
Yesterday's matchup saw Billy Gibbons (81.25%) defeat Mick Taylor (18.75%).