If you have short-term memory problems, or haven’t visited the site before, you’ll know that I am not a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix having received as many accolades as he has. He’s been named Best Guitarist of All Time and Guitarist of the Century.
Don’t get me wrong, Hendrix was a good guitarist. He took things from other artists, put them together in a package all his own, and did things with the guitar (in totality) that other guitarists simply weren’t doing at the time.
But, listen to his live stuff. He couldn’t stay in key, couldn’t play the same thing twice, knew maybe a dozen basic progressions and scales, and was remarkably sloppy.
I won’t deny that he was influential. I can even say that he’s influenced me. I can also say, with some absolute certainty, that I can play everything Hendrix played and I can play it better than he did. It’s not hard. If you want something difficult, try Leyenda (Asturias).
So, without further ado, let’s examine the 2nd guitarist who was far more deserving of being called Greatest.
#2 Chet Atkins
If you don’t know who Chet Atkins is, you really don’t have any business opining about the greatest guitarists of the 20th century. If Les Paul hadn’t existed, Chet Atkins would have taken his place as the guitarist of the century. Well, that’d be the case if both Les Paul hadn’t existed and the world listened to me. For better or worse, neither of those two things are true and Chet is forced to 2nd place.
Chet was brought into this world in 1924 and left this world in 2001. Given that the list was originally based on guitarists of the 20th century, I’d say that immediately qualifies him for the list. Though, I suppose I should probably provide better reasoning than that. I can do that.
Put it this way, Chet’s nickname was “Mr. Guitar.” This is probably because his nickname was given to him at a time when “Mr. Motherfucking Master of Guitar” simply wasn’t considered a socially acceptable option. They don’t just call you Mr. Guitar for no reason.
In my goal to make this an absolutely not authoritative source, I quickly checked checked Wikipedia. Strangely, they make no reference to the moniker “Mr. Motherfucking Master of Guitar.” I assume this is an oversight on their part and will write a letter to the CEO of Polaroid to issue a formal complaint.
Making matters even more confusing is this gem:
Rolling Stone credited Atkins with inventing the “popwise “Nashville sound” that rescued country music from a commercial slump”, and ranked him number 21 on their list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time.”
I think we’ve already clearly established the illegitimacy of Rolling Stone and I’d further suggest that Wikipedia has become suspect, as well. I see absolutely no mention of “Guitar God.” In fact, I do a CTRL + F and search for “god” and my browser informs me that there’s exactly zero instances of that particular combinations of letters to be found on the page. Again, I submit that this is a horrible oversight.
I’d also like to point out that Rolling Stone only had him at 21 on their list. This is definitely an error on their part. In the sake of being truly objective, I’ll assume that’s a typographical error and that they simply added the 1 by mistake. I’d assume they’d hire editors, but this appears to just not be the case.
Watch this and wait for it, it’s coming:
That is probably the quintessential Chet Atkins’ style of music. It’s a lovely little medley that demonstrates his ability. Still not convinced?
Yup, that’s Chet and one Mr. Les Paul jamming on stage together. They’d do that with remarkable frequency and it was delightful – every single time. But, Hendrix set fire to his guitar! Oh, how innovative!
Here, try this one:
That’s from 1965, a time when I was just a wee lad and guitars were still made from stone! Slow it down, add some feedback and distortion, and you’ve got Hendrix! Nah, it’s still better than Hendrix. Here’s something to compare it to:
Obviously, we hadn’t invented the idea of fire marshals back then. That’s some real talent on display, Jimi. Some real talent.
So, there you have it. If you’re not convinced that Chet belongs in the #2 spot, why not go learn this little number (it’s fairly short and not entirely too difficult to replicate) and then get back to me:
Mr. Sandman. Mr. Guitarist. Mr. #2 On My List.
Again, feel free to leave comments and suggestions. If you have a favorite guitarist that you think was better than Hendrix, leave a comment and, if they’re any good, I’ll go ahead and feature them when I get the time to fit them in. If you disagree with my choices, you can also leave a comment. It’s okay, I don’t mind if you disagree – you’re just wrong!