Heroes From the Past: 8 Guitar Gods We Shouldn't Let Fall Into Oblivion

Name an axeman we shouldn't forget.

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The rock world is filled with extremely talented artists who simply didn't get a chance to deliver that distinctive, often compact impact that would launch them into the rockstar stratosphere. But this definitely doesn't mean they should be forgotten. Check out some of the lost axemen we singled out and share your personal favorites in the comments.

Steve Howe (Yes)

Yes are in many way a criminally underrated band, and the same goes for guitarist Steve Howe. The impact these guys made should never be forgotten, especially while praising some of the later prog giants like Rush.

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Eric Bell (Thin Lizzy)

Featuring many iconic axemen in its lineup, Gary Moore, Snowy White, John Sykes to name a few, Thin Lizzy kicked off with Mr. Eric Bell, a highly underrated guitarist capable of delivering top-notch efforts. Check out his solo in "The Rocker" to get my drift.

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Rory Gallagher

One of the more prominent guitarists on the list, Rory Gallagher isn't exactly fearing from falling to oblivion, but still earns far more kudos than he gets.

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Paul Kossoff (Free)

Late Free axeman Paul Kossoff delivered quite a few clever licks back in the day. There's also that inevitable story about Eric Clapton asking young Paul to show him some of his vibrato tricks.

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Alvin Lee (Ten Years After)

Another late giant, Alvin Lee of Ten Years After. Not a full-on guitar God like Page, Blackmore or Townsend, Alvin still knew to come up with a stellar riff worthy of the God title. Not to be forgotten by all means.

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Tommy Bolin (Deep Purple)

Unfortunately, untimely death prevented Tommy Bolin from reaching the stars. He made it to Deep Purple and started making it, but left us on December 4, 1976 at the age of 25.

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J.J. Cale

The man with an ability to turn a mediocre blues bar into a stellar jam, late great J.J. Cale gets plenty of kudos from fellow guitar greats, but should get far more from the crowd.

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Leslie West (Mountain)

Finally, we'll bring up Leslie West of the Mountain. Fuzzy, distorted, wall-crushing.

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Got some other guitarists from the past you'd like to see get more exposure? Share them in the comments.

96 comments sorted by best / new / date

    K33nbl4d3
    I'm sure most people could think of more to add but I agree with these, especially Rory Gallagher purely because I adore his work, even if he isn't too threatened.
    Philld2p
    How about Jason Becker? Great guitarist most people forget about. A lot of people are not even aware that he is still with us! I know we all know he is though!
    Basti95
    I agree. We mustn't let Jason Becker fall into oblivion, he's a source of inspiration for tons of guitarists as well as to anyone else, seeing as he's still making music despite everything.
    sock_demon
    I don't think he has. Anyone who's a fan of the shrapnel "genre" gives him his due.
    Iommianity
    Not sure why this got downvoted. If you think of 80s neoclassical shredders, Jason Becker is up there with Marty Friedman, Yngwie, Paul Gilbert, anyone. The only difference is his career was obviously less prolific due to circumstances outside of his control, but he will always be one of the more well known guys to popularize shred. Being a solo artist, this isn't the case of him not getting recognition because someone else was soaking it up.
    cithigibvee1
    He set the standard back in the 80's. Lost his chops to debilitating ALS. It'd blow people away to hear what he did back then.
    JimDawson
    While Jason is one of my favorites, remember this is UG we're talking about. I'd be amazed if UG forgot about him, so I have to respectfully say that he doesn't belong on this list. I am surprised more people don't know about him though.
    bunnyh0pz
    Dick Dale doesn't get as much recognition as he deserves, along with Surf music as a whole.
    Pretelethal
    As a big Thin Lizzy fan I appreciate how you named Eric Bell in your list. The other guitarists for Thin Lizzy that you named, in addition to Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, also deserve worship. Good list overall.
    Scourge441
    Larry LaLonde doesn't get nearly the respect he deserves as a guitarist. He joined Possessed at 16, helped pioneer death metal, and then a few years later he was in Primus. Granted, it's not at all surprising that he's overshadowed by Les Claypool, but the dude can absolutely rip. (On a related note, Tim Alexander doesn't get enough respect as a drummer, either.)
    kthompson1121
    B.B. King said this about Peter Green "He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats."
    Also, Alan Wilson from Canned Heat, Glad to see Alvin Lee on this list. My dad tells me that Alvin Lee's performance of I'm Going Home @ Woodstock was one of the best experiences of his life. Probably from the LSD but drugs aside that dude can shred.
    SleepFan
    I love LEslie West and we should remember the bassist and singer, Felix Pappalardi too! Frank Zappa too!
    Axeman Eugene
    What about Andy Latimer from Camel? That guy can almost make the guitar sing like Gilmour
    Neon_Buffalo
    I'd have to say Robby Krieger. I think he(Much like the rest of the Doors) get overshadowed by Jim way too much. Those three are some of the most original and talented musicians I can think of
    ChucklesMginty
    Here are some of mine, although these are mostly current. Steve Lukather, easily one of the greatest players on the planet. But no one talks about him as such. I guess it's the curse of being more of a session guitarist. Adrian Belew Chet Atkins (well known, but how many guitarist [i]really listen to him.) Scott Henderson Albert Lee Muhammed Suicmez - I think if he was more active, he could be regarded as one of the greatest metal guitarist/shredders. I've never heard anybody else with such an incredible sound in metal. He has an almost violin like neck pickup tone.
    coenvanderzande
    I'd say John Frusciante as well. Not that he's a guitar god or whatever, but his compositions are awesome, and he made a lot (like, a lot) famous guitar riffs. Many people may not agree with me, but I hope you get why I want to add John Frusciante to the list
    mattjamesrenn
    people like frusciante, Django Reinhardt, Robert Fripp, Frank Zappa and Chet atkins won't fall into oblivion.
    Ruark
    One guy that comes to my mind is Earl Klugh. OK, he doesn't play metal shred - he plays nylon string smooth jazz, but this cat can PLAY. He's made a mountain of albums, huge concerts worldwide, and won every music award in existence, yet most people have never heard of him. His music is gorgeous, the kind you can listen to all day.Earl Klugh LIVE! - Midnight in San Juan
    thebigredjj10
    In that vein, Paco de Lucia and Al di Meola are also great.
    DrZaiu5
    I love you for putting Rory Gallagher on this list
    sexdrive5
    michael schenker, uli jon roth
    esergeenko
    Hillel Slovak (RHCP)
    Toasted_Waffelz
    Thought of him the second I saw this article, I agree completely As much as I love Frusciante I think Hillel deserves more recognition from fans
    Basiltherat
    Stuart Adamson ( skids, big county) was/is a legend!
    ultimate.nacho
    Pat Travers!
    wolfehpoohs
    I've always looked up to Ben Matthews and Luke Morley from Thunder. They are never going to be at the stratospheric levels of Vai etc... but my god can they play some damn fine British blues rock! Check out both:
    and:
    GuitarsGood
    Rory is awesome
    Z0S07657
    Can't forget D.Boon! RIP
    emiliolanca
    Jimmy McCulloch
    TMoreau15
    Alex Lifeson? Also female nomination, Nancy Wilson?
    the_bi99man
    Chuck Schuldiner. No matter how much recognition he gets, it's not enough. Every time anyone puts together a "greatest heavy metal guitarists" list, or something similar, Schuldiner was easily better than almost everyone who gets mentioned.
    gquady09
    Terry Kath of Chicago was an absolute BEAST of a player!
    Submachine9
    Shawn Lane. He bent and almost broke the outer limits of guitar playing. While at the same time injecting so much passion into his music.
    Jimmix10
    So glad that Tommy Bolin has been recognized!! I may have been born 23 years after his passing but I still see him as a huge inspiration
    McPhantasm
    He is great for sure. Its a shame about the video they used though since he was having problems with his fretting hand following passing out after shooting up and lying on his left arm for hours.
    Iaraeluun
    Lil Wayne.