Brian May nudges out Jimi Hendrix to top Total Guitar greatest rock guitarist of all time poll

(Image credit: Roberto Finizio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Earlier this year, Total Guitar asked its readers to vote for the greatest rock guitarist of all time – and the results are in.

The electric guitar player who came in at number one? Queen legend Brian May, who edged out Jimi Hendrix to nab the top slot.

To honor the guitarist Total Guitar readers crowned the greatest, the magazine recently sat down with May to talk all things guitar.

Regarding being voted into the top spot, May said, “I’m absolutely speechless. I’m blown away. I have to say it’s completely unexpected."

He continued, “Obviously I’m deeply touched that people feel that way about me. I’m not under any illusions that, technically, I’m even on the tree of great guitarists. I guess this tells me that what I’ve done has affected people, and that means a great deal to me. 

"I will never claim to be a great guitarist in the sense of, you know, a virtuoso. I guess I just try to play from my heart and that’s about it.”

Asked about the guitarist who came in at number two, May said, “Jimi is, of course, my number one. And I’ve always said that. To me, he’s still something superhuman. It’s like he really did come from an alien planet, and I will never know quite how he did what he did.

“And every time I go back to Hendrix, I’m thrilled and stunned, and I get that feeling all over again, like either I’m going to give up playing guitar, because I can’t face up to this, or I’m gonna really have to get into it in a big way and try and do what is in my own body and soul. I never stop learning from Jimi.”

In addition to the chat with May and the full poll results, the special issue of Total Guitar also features his 20 best guitar moments, a lesson on how to play like the Queen hero, and a guide to achieving Red Special tones from a regular guitar.

You can pick up a copy of the new Total Guitar from My Favourite Magazines.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.