Hero worship: guitarists on their favourite players
From Hendrix to Page to Clapton, anybody who has ever picked up a guitar (or failing that, a tennis racket) has their nominated guitar god.
Even your heroes have heroes of their own - and that's exactly what this gallery is all about. We wanted to find out which guitarists keep other players picking up the instrument and aspiring to new creative heights.
We'll be talking to a wide variety of guitarists from across a broad spectrum of genres about their picks, which will include everyone from bonafide guitar icons to lesser-known talents.
We think you might be surprised at some of their choices. And who knows? Perhaps you'll discover a new hero of your own...
Reason: "Robin Finck, because he's an amazing guitar player: live, technically, he puts his heart into every show I've seen him in, and he can do everything. I like the dynamics of his playing, because he can go from super-fucking aggressive to just playing a nylon-string on Hurt.
"That is super-delicate, and then he can just go to fucking smashing guitars. I love that – and I think he's an underrated player. You don't see him in magazines. I'm like, 'What the fuck's wrong with people!? I've just always thought he was a great player for, like, 20 years."
Austin Williams, Swim Deep
Reason: "I love John Frusciante. I think his riffs are so good. He's so clever and melodic, and there's this certain peaceful vibration that comes off him. You feel like you know what he means by that guitar line…
"That's who I aspire to play like. That funky style sounds so great, and the dance element is integrated into it. I really like to make people move when I play guitar. When you find yourself dancing to it, that's great."
Sam Fryer, Palma Violets
Reason: “I suppose Mick Jones from The Clash was a guitar hero of mine. That kind of thing really inspired me. His playing seemed really effortless, and it wasn't about all of the notes that he hit.
"He only hit the notes that he needed to hit, and his guitar was really crunchy and crisp. And then, if you go through the different Clash albums, it sort of adapts and changes – it's really special.”
Jake Pitts, Black Veil Brides
Reason: "My favourite guitar player is Paul Gilbert. The techniques and styles that he uses [have fed into my own playing]. It’s funny, because I like a lot of sweep-picking and stuff, but he’s not really into that, he’s more into the string-skipping arpeggio kind of stuff, which I think sounds cooler.
"It sounds similar, and a lot of people mistake it for sweep-picking, but the dude is just insane. I don’t know if I could ever be that good. But I try and pick up on his techniques and his styles and incorporate it into my own style."
Will Rees, Mystery Jets
Reason: "I really liked the way they played together. Robert Fripp had a very mathematical approach. Live, he’d be sitting on a stool, playing these grid-like arpeggios, like a metronome – everything pre-worked-out.
"Whereas Adrian Belew’s style was very spontaneous. He played a Strat with a whammy bar, and he was pulling out very weird parts, almost like animal noises - he was more of a fluid player. I always felt, 'Well, what if I could embody the two of those and combine those two styles?' I wanted to marry the mathematical with the crazy, the human. I think they did it so well. I really recommend them."
Corey Beaulieu, Trivium
Reason: "I'd have to pick Marty Friedman. Rust In Peace was a record that was one of those defining moments. Being a young guitar player, I was like, 'Holy crap. I can't believe what I'm hearing.' The lead playing on that record blew me away.
"He's a guitar player that has so many exotic playing ideas - scales and weird bends and stuff like that. Whenever I'm in a rut or need something new to play, I'll go to his solos. His lead playing has always been a huge thing for me as far as giving me the inspiration to make my own playing better."
Reason: "I really like Doyle Bramhall II. If you don't know who he is, you should Google him. He's amazing. He's a buddy of mine, and we've written songs together. He's produced and written with Eric Clapton [on Riding With The King] and with Roger Waters [playing on the In The Flesh tour].
"There's a certain calm to his playing that I really like. A certain calm and confidence. It's not overdone. He's very tasteful, and he's a great singer, as well."
Paul Mahon, The Answer
Reason: "I'd say Leslie West. I think he's very underrated. Clapton gets the credit for the 'Woman Tone', but I think Leslie one-upped that. I think his tone is even better.
"And also his phrasing. He's a master at that. I really like Never In My Life and Mississippi Queen, of course, and I like the octave pedal stuff he does as well. But yeah, he's an underrated player - a great singer, as well."
Danny Jones, McFly
Reason: "My number one is Gary Moore.It's his blues playing [in particular] that I love, his Blues Alive tour. I was just gobsmacked every time I heard that.
"I saw him twice at the Manchester Apollo, and as a kid I dreamed of playing like him – and I still can't play like that. He's a god. And I grew up on old blues music, so I love that side of him. He really was one of the best modern blues players."
Dan Auerbach, The Black Keys
Reason: "When I was starting to play guitar, Fred McDowell blew my mind. He played in open-tuning with a slide; it was very rhythmic in his finger-picking, and a lot of it was just kind of one chord.
"It was not your basic 12 bar. That’s the kind of stuff I love, like Lightning Hopkins. He played 12-bar blues, but not basic at all. There was no time signature; rhythmically, he was very hard to follow.
"If you wanted to start hearing some weird electric s***, I would definitely say listen to Junior Kimbrough. He’s just amazing – he played his own style. He was another guy that was almost just one chord the whole song and just hypnotic finger-picking. I love that stuff so much.
"With Lightning Hopkins, Junior Kimbrough, Fred McDowell, their music was who they were; it was their life, whether they made money or not. It was a beautiful thing – the music just represented them. It was a natural extension of their personalities, of who they were as human beings."
Dan White, Tribes
Reason: "Someone who I’ve always admired is George Harrison, for his inventiveness. Because the other two [Lennon and McCartney] would come to him with a song and he’d have to put a line or a second melody to the track.
"He’s just so out of the box with the way he’s approaching the songs, even the way that he progresses through chords, with just really simple picking, it’s crazy. I think he’s one of the most inventive guitarists of all time. He really had to be!"
Ben Sansom, Lower Than Atlantis
Reason: "The one person I was inspired by growing up was Justin Beck from Glassjaw. He'd make the craziest sounds with his guitar and then on the other tack, it would be something completely different and he still managed to make it sound like a song.
"When I left school, I didn’t have the grades to get into college, so I worked for a year in a warehouse while I did my maths GCSE again and bought a Gibson Les Paul. That was inspired by him."
Reason: "I keep an eye out for people who can teach me new things. On [one of my new songs] Orange Skies I've got Thomas Leeb doing the counter guitar part. He's my favourite guitarist in the world.
"He was the first person that I ever heard in the style that I now play in all of the time. He's an instrumental acoustic artist, but he's my favourite player and to have him sending parts in has been mind-blowing… I'd love to sit down with him and properly pick his brain again."
Harrison Koisser, Peace
Reason: "A notable mention, in terms of talking about real life guitar influences over the last few years is Will Rees from Mystery Jets.
"He taught me so much, literally how to play loads of different techniques. How to use more than one finger [on my rhythm hand]. He taught me loads of stuff and he was a big help in my playing. Then we recorded the EP straight after, so I was using quite a bit of that on our first recording."
Sam Duckworth, Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly
Reason: “Graham Coxon. What I love about Graham Coxon is that it’s meat and potatoes, but it’s done better than anyone. He can just pick a melody on a guitar and let it soar. It’s brilliantly played and it’s technical in that it’s spot on, but not too complex. I just love people that are confident in what they are doing.
"Like Tommy Emmanuel - at times he can be a bit cheesey and a bit show-offy, but other times, you’re watching him and going ‘Man, it sounds like there’s four of you playing there’. And that’s what it is for me about guitar. I just love people who want to try and find their own style or their own sound.”
Jack Bottomley, Marmozets
Reason: “I love Larry LaLonde from Primus. It's weird stuff that he plays. It sounds stupid at times, but it works. He doesn't limit himself.
"Then, obviously, Les Claypool, the bassist, is writing these stupid bass riffs all of the time and Larry LaLonde is putting his guitar on top of it, and you're like, 'How!?' I love the fact that he can do it.
"Obviously, people like Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix are great guitarists that started off an era and I respect them and everything, but I like guitarists that make me freak out a bit and think, 'How the hell have you written that?'"
All Time Low
Jack Barakat: “I’ve always liked Tom Delonge as a guitar hero. Not because I really like his guitar playing, but just because I loved his image on stage. Just a bad-ass guitarist that didn’t really give a fuck and just had fun and that’s what I want from my guitar playing.”
Alex Gaskarth: “I really like playing the Weezer song on Guitar Hero… Oh, we not talking about Guitar Hero? Er, I’d say Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine, he’s so awesome."
Conner Molander, Half Moon Run
Reason: "I've gone through so many phases. This morning I was reading about Django Reinhardt. He's someone that we put on fairly often as we fill the room [before gigs]. The virtuosity of it, it's always humbling listening to him.
"You always feel like you've got a lot of work to do, because he did more with two fingers than I can do with four. He's also got that improvisational style that can really wear you down, but he's always got really excellent melodies."
Matt Tuck, Bullet For My Valentine
Reason: "He was in a band called Stuck Mojo and now he plays with Chris Jericho in Fozzy. He was one of my top three of guitar players that I learned my trade from, stylistically.
"He's a massive rhythm player, a down-picking god. He's like Hetfield. There's no up-strokes. He digs in with this bluesy feel and loads of pinch harmonics. He's just got this crazy style and class. He doesn't over-think or over-play and he's totally got his own thing going on.
“I've got to know him over the last couple of years. I first met him two years ago on a tour in America because Fozzy were playing this, Uproar package tour, or something. It was the same as meeting James Hetfield. Regardless of whether this guy was in a small underground metal band, which Stuck Mojo were, or whether he plays with Chris in Fozzy now. I was still like, 'Fuck! It's Rich Ward!'
“He was one of the reasons I play like I do. He was a massive hero of mine. He's very highly rated by Zakk [Wylde] and Slash and all of these players who have that persona and skill. Rich has all of that, but has stayed under the radar. He's shit hot!"
Mark Trotter, Lonely The Brave
Reason: "Peter Buck from REM is wicked. Just because he is the definitive rhythm player. It doesn't matter what he does, you can tell it's him - it wouldn't matter if he was playing on a biscuit tin with a bit of shoelace, it's going to sound like him!
"I've got massive time for that. On some of the tracks it is in your face, but it's never overpowering. It doesn't take over the song. I was listening to Monster the other day on the car stereo and, fuck me, the guitars are so high in the mix, it's crazy!"
Reason: "Mike Campbell from The Heartbreakers is probably my favourite guitarist that I don't know, just one of those rock god kind of dudes.He just knows exactly what to play, you can sing almost every solo he's ever played.
"He's so melodic and so tasteful and he's capable of doing anything. He's a songwriter's guitar player. He never steps on any other part of the song, which is the most difficult thing to do.
"Then, as far as someone I know, it would be Chris Walla from Hot Water Music. He just, in a similar way to Mike Campbell, I think because he's a songwriter and he's got such a cerebral and, at the same time, passionate way of looking at songs. When I used to roadie for him, he'd be barely able to get on stage for all of the booze, you'd have to like prop him up onstage, but hang a guitar on him *snaps fingers* and he was just off to the races.
"So those are the two titans for me. One guy I know, and one guy I wish I knew!"
Phil Manansala, Of Mice And Men
Reason: “I would say my friend Jason Richardson of Chelsea Grin. He's a prodigy. He was 18/19 years old when he played guitar in All Shall Perish and then he used to be in this band Born Of Osiris, he did the record Discovery with them and totally changed them.
"You can tell his solos because they're insane. Now he's in that band Chelsea Grin and they're recording an album right now, so I'm waiting to hear the shred that he's going to come up with next. He's phenomenal. He's reminds of like a young Petrucci - that intense, face-melting shred. When we did a tour with them, he'd just warm-up and solo without the guitar even plugged in and I'd be like, 'GOD DAMN, DUDE! Get out of my dressing room!'"
Reason: ”I’m a big fan of Johnny Lynch, aka the Pictish Trail, he's a Scottish musician and he's a really great picker. He does a lot of harder [technique] on some stuff, but he's a very melodic guitarist. It's beautiful playing. His album is called Secret Soundz Volume Two. He's a brilliant player.
"Then Jimmy Page. I always get absolutely overexcited hearing him play. I think he's just got that amazing mix of really visceral, raw genius and being a total geek, at the same time. I've always loved that mix in musicians, because it just means that they push themselves to become brilliant at what they're doing and they have got a slight technical bent to it, so they're impressing with what they're managing to get out of an instrument, but at the same time, they're just fucking losing it! It's just such a good mix."
K.R. Starrs, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats
Reason: “I don't think he gets a lot of attention, [or not as much as deserves]. He was one of my biggest influences growing up. I always tried to learn his solos. I love his legato playing. It's really fluid, always on the neck pickup and so smooth.
"He's just such an underrated player. I would say Phantom Of The Opera is a good showcase and that's quite an underrated song. There's a lot of legato and a lot of different styles and the tempos change, so I think that's a good example of Dave Murray's playing. You never hear people give him enough praise, I think."
Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel, Killswitch Engage
Adam Dutkiewicz: "Probably Jeff Loomis. He gets shouted about, but probably not enough. Jeff Loomis is insane. He's just a maniac!"
Joel Stroetzel: "He's one of the few guys that is a really good rhythm player and a really, really good lead player. A lot of the times, it's one or the other, but he's really ballsy and he's got great lines - and awesome vibrato. We met him briefly and he just seemed like the nicest dude on the planet."
Adam: "He's a really, really nice guy."
Joel: "I recommend a song called Psalm Of Lydia. There's some insane tapping on that. I kind even wrap my brain around it! And it's got this pumping riff at the start…"
Paul Jackson, Blackberry Smoke
Reason: "When you listen to him he's got great fucking feel. I'm the lucky guy, I get to play next to him every night.
"It's the honesty in it. That's very important to me. You can tell when somebody's kind of faking it. The hard part is, like, when you're playing, not to do the exact same thing because you like it so much! It's one of those things, when you're playing and you're like, 'Fuck! I should've done that!' That's what it's about, man."
Joe Marriner, Decade
Reason: "I think his writing style, and the way Brand New sound, I think they should have been a lot bigger than they are. And I don't think many people have looked into why the guitars are written the way they are. For me, on Deja Entendu and The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Of Me, I notice something different about the way the guitar's played every time I listen to them.
“We take a lot of influence from Brand New, they're one of the bands that we all love. It's the same debate about whether Tom Delonge is a good guitarist or not - people say all Blink songs are simple, but maybe he's a good guitarist for leaving them simple!"
Johnny Lloyd, (formerly of Tribes)
Reason: “I’m like the biggest Jimmy Page fan ever. When I was seven, my Dad got me this classical Spanish guitar and he was like, ‘Check out this tune, it’s called Tangerine’ and that was it. I’m fucking obsessed. I went on a pilgrimage with my mate Dave to Bron Yr Aur, where they recorded Led Zeppelin III. It’s a complete obsession. It’s just that crunch. It is one amp, one guitar and a volume control.
"On the Song Remains The Same DVD, you’ve got Since I’ve Been Loving You, it’s just fascinating to watch, because he’s just got such grace in his right hand. It’s so gentle. And then when he picks in – that crunch is the most exciting thing. Or if you listen to Lemon Song on Led Zeppelin II. If you have a break-up, or you feel depressed, anything, you listen to that and feel better immediately."
Zach Blair, Rise Against
Reason: "He wasn't a lead guitar player like Hendrix or Clapton, or the guys of his era, but for me he did make the guitar dangerous. And I don't just mean because he hurt himself, although he did, but I remember seeing him when I was five years-old and thinking that it was scary, in a weird way, and that's what made me want to do it - I was so intimidated by it.
“So many guitar players say, 'Oh he was a great rhythm player but he wasn't a great lead guitar player.' I think he was a fucking fantastic lead guitar player! His leads are so lyrical, because he's a song writer. All of his leads are new parts of the song, they were like a bridge. He never did a 'wank off' sort of lead, he always played for the song, so for me, he was by far my favourite guitar player.
"And I got into all the metal guys, as far as lead stuff goes, I'm a 70s rock guitar player. I like those guys, I like Michael Schenker, I like Ronnie Montrose and Gary Moore and even Lita Ford of The Runaways, Ace Frehley... But I have to go back to Pete Townshend, because in my personal opinion, I think he invented punk rock, and that's what I do."
Kenyon Puntenney, American Fangs
Reason: "Animals As Leaders are phenomenal. They have the right touch, they play the right things. They're not making songs man, they're making movements. That's what inspires me, of course you've gotta be nailing the part, but you've also gotta be writing something that takes the other person away, you know?
“Those guys are really doing it for me, right now. I'm sure it's hard to package those guys and package them up next to Taylor Swift, but those guys are killer talents. I don't see anyone here who makes music like that. Get those guys there own island! Give them a bank account! Let them blossom, you know?"
Alex Lifeson, Rush
Reason: "I've come across many players over the years and I've learned a lot from a lot of players, but I think one of the most underrated players - and he's respected, but he just didn't get the recognition he deserved - is Steve Morse.
"I remember when we were playing with The Steve Morse band and he'd be there when we were there at soundcheck, at three or four o'clock in the afternoon, and I'd just watch him and he'd be wandering around the hall playing and warming up.
"They'd always play a different song every night for their soundcheck and he was just such an amazing player. He has such an amazing ability. I always thought that he should have been huge in whatever he did. He was definitely successful in whatever bands he worked in, but I don't think that he ever had the kind of recognition that he so deserved. So I'd have to say Steve Morse."
Chris Stein, Blondie (pictured)
Reason: "Ricky Wilson from The B-52s. He was just awesome, in his own quirky style.
"I saw guitars of his where we he would have the middle two strings, the D and the G strings, removed. I'd say listen to Rock Lobster because it's not normal. That simple part is played in probably a very weird and exotic way."
Wille Adler, Lamb Of God
Reason: "There's a guy named Leo Kottke - he's an amazing player and story teller. He's mainly in the folk genre, but he does things with the guitar that are just amazing. Another guy is Jon Gomm, who I just saw and met the other night.
"He's of the same kind of style, where it's basically all on his guitar - everything - like a percussive acoustic player and he creates a kind landscape and tells a story with it. That kind of shit is really, really fascinating for me."
Ben Wells, Black Stone Cherry
Reason: "I love Joe Perry, but Brad Whitford, too, from Aerosmith is an amazing guitar player and I don't think he gets the recognition he deserves.He's not "the face of the band", but he's an excellent guitar player. He's a great riff guy and he's a great lead player.
"People don't realise that he wrote a lot of those great riffs for Aerosmith. He wrote Last Child and that's a classic Aerosmith song, he wrote Round And Round on Toys In The Attic. He wrote some awesome stuff – and when you hear him play the lead on Last Child, he's just excellent. Him and Joe Perry complement each other really well."
Matt Healy, The 1975
Reason: "It's his simplicity and minimalism and feel. He's all about the feel. He's not going to do a 25 minute solo, but he'll make people want to have sex in four bars.
"When he wants to be he is quite technical and in the studio he can go fucking crazy. He's amazing, but he transcends everything. He's Prince, isn't he? //I Wanna Be Your Lover//, that's a perfect example. He's playing under the strings, it's all he plays, but it's classic."
Steve Howe, Yes (pictured)
Reason: "I'd rather choose someone that is seriously unknown but that I do believe has that secret ingredient. Some years back I was in Venezuela and a guy gave me two CDs by an Italian named Flavio Sala.
"I'm sitting there listening to this whole CD, and when you listen to a whole CD you know that it's good, because it's an hour long. It was all this classical guitar and I'm thinking 'Who is this guy? And what the hell guitar is he playing?'
"I tracked him down and he went 'What!? Is that really Steve Howe?' And I said, 'This is really Steve Howe and I've really got to see you!' What's remarkable is that he's only 30 and he's got all of the classical repertoire under his hands.
"I've been promoting him whenever the chance comes. I reckon within 10 years he'll be an international guitarist. I'm really for him. Many other players have had an influence on me, but I love to see a 30 year-old guitarist knock my socks off!"
Callum Burrows, Saint Raymond
Reason: "The person I saw this year [that comes to mind] is Yannis from Fouls. Is that a good shout? The thing with him is not just the fact that he is unreal live and the Foals guitarists are mental. It's the fact that he plays those lines and sings, and he's casually doing it, then he'll jump in the crowd and still play mad riffs.
"That guy is on-point. It would be fair enough if he was just the lead guitarist, but it's the fact that he does all of that crazy stuff while singing these big choruses... Well, that was definitely a guitar moment I will remember."
Reason: "I appreciate what he does because the dude is just metal head that can come up with these crushing riffs and then he can go and do this melodic stuff.
"He's influenced me. Seriously. He influenced me back when Deftones weren't even signed and Korn was playing shows with them. He influenced me to bring that melody into the chords and stuff where you can just really feel it in your heart. I love it. I'm all about melody and balls!"
Tom Fletcher, McFly
Reason: "He's someone that I find, I'll go and pick up the guitar afterwards and be like, 'God damn you guitar! Why can't you make me play like him?'
"There's a song called Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, which has a really nice solo in it. He also has a song called Gravity, which is nice. He did a cover of Jimi Hendrix's Bold As Love on Continuum which is so good. YouTube him doing that live - it's insane!"
Matt Heafy, Trivium (pictured)
Reason: "He's one of the best guitar players I've ever known. If you want to talk about accreditation, he can play any solo off [Megadeth's] Rust In Peace perfectly.He's completely knowledgeable in jazz theory and composition and technical theory.
"I was in a technical death metal band called Capharnaum with him and he flew down to record some stuff for Capharnaum shortly before [Trivium released] Ascendancy. Our producer at the time Jason Suecof got me into Martyr.
"I had the tab books and I started learning those and that's a lot of what helped my rhythm guitar playing. Daniel gave me a couple of lessons and he is one of the most well-rounded players as far as rhythm guitar playing, lead playing, theory and song composition... Mongrain needs some love. Make sure people check out Warp Zone. That's the name of the record."