Five Underrated Guitarists

October 16, 2013

The great thing about surviving a discussion about overrated guitarists (maybe the ONLY great thing about having that discussion, actually) is that you inevitably get to swing over to talking about underrated guitarists.


And there’s one completely terrible thing about discussing underrated guitarists:




Here at PGS, each of us could name twenty or thirty players that we all feel don’t get proper recognition. Unfortunately for those players, only one of us is writing this, so I get to play favorites here. These picks are mine and mine alone and do not represent the views of PGS as a whole or even as a half.  We expect everyone here to have a favorite player to highlight-- let's turn the spotlight to players who deserve to be in it a little more than they are!



Though Fripp routinely shows up in the best-of lists of well-read music historians like David Fricke, the guitar playing public at large seems relatively unaware of this amazing and inventive musician. Perhaps best known for his work in King Crimson, Fripp blossomed as an artist as he began working on other projects, notably with Brian Eno and David Bowie. In 2004, Fripp joined Satriani and Vai (themselves well-read music historians) for a G3 tour. Fripp’s playing is inventive and avant garde, often mixing elements of jazz and classical into his progressive playing—even developing a “New Standard Tuning” which he has taught in his Guitar-Craft courses. Check out this video from 1979 where Fripp performs Frippertronics—a tape looping technique he developed long before we had our Dittos and JamMans.







Okay, yes—Lifeson gets props from time to time, but not enough. His riffs, his dynamics, and his regular guy approach to some of the most complicated songs in the rock canon landed him on this list. Rush is always going to be a love/them or hate them band, but you can’t deny Lifeson’s abilities. In a thirty year career (with the same band!), he has written so many legendary riffs you can't count them. One of the few guitar heroes from the "classic rock" era who is still working and still producing stadium-worthy tunes. What's Jimmy Page up to these days, anyway?!!! Touring the world?!!! No?? Oh, okay...   ;)






Seriously. This guy has written some of the greatest, sleaziest rock riffs of all time. He knows when not to play. You can hear his blues influence in everything that he does. He survived being in a band with Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, and Nikki Sixx. He has a debilitating bone disease and is still going out on tour to melt fans' faces. Most impressively? He always looks scary as s@#*. Mars packed up his Kramers ages ago and now plays his battered Fender Strats which sound so heavy I forgot for a second that Les Pauls even existed.






We all know the Boss is an American treasure and a living legend—but did you know that he shreds?!!! Just cause he's the master of the American murder ballad ("Nebraska") and just cause he can dance with Courtney Cox ("Dancing in the Dark") doesn't mean the man can't play-- clearly he can. It should come as no shock that he's equally able on guitar as any of the amazing musicians in the E Street Band are on their respective instruments. 







You know, the other guy in Aerosmith. Who is easily as good as yet destined to be eternally overshadowed by his counterpart. Not much more to say than that-- except that he's also a super cool guy who is happy to do meet & greets with fans who get to film him showing off his stuff:






Jeff Buckley is largely remembered for his otherworldly voice, but it’s a little discussed fact that he was an absolute BALLER on guitar. Unfortunately there’s no video of him performing this song live, but listen to his rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Je N’en Connais Pas La Fin” and imagine attempting to manage all that fingerpicking while singing your heart out-- or at all.





Alright, let's get ready to rumble (in the comments, that is)... ! Cheers, PGS Fitz


  1. Gareth Mostert says:

    Roy Buchanan
    Danny Gatton
    Snowy White
    Mark Knopfler
    Donald Roeser and Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster Cult)

    Honourable mention: James Gurley

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 8:42 am
  2. Kenny says:

    This would be a hard list to put together without leaving out a ton of guitarists who deserve more credit, but good job for making a positive list. This is much better than the “crappiest guitarists” article you guys posted a few weeks ago. Thanks for staying positive.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:28 am
  3. Matthew Brehm says:

    Lou Reed.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:32 am
  4. Will T says:

    I really appreciate the honorable mention of Jeff Buckley. That guy was a champion of the phrase “less is more”.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:32 am
  5. Gearhund says:

    To qualify as underrated, I don’t think the list should include anyone that’s ever been on the cover of any guitar magazine.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:34 am
  6. nashmoss says:

    Trey Anastasio

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:35 am
  7. Austin says:

    finally, someone giving springsteen some props.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:36 am
  8. Dan says:

    Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:36 am
  9. Kyle Alm says:

    Maybe not under-rated, but Rory Gallagher is under-appreciated to say the least.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:40 am
  10. Basgall says:

    Nels Cline

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:44 am
  11. Fabián says:

    Martin Lancelot Barre

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:44 am
  12. Marco says:

    Steve James
    Rich Robinson

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:45 am
  13. Jae says:

    Jamie Hince

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:46 am
  14. Darren says:

    Mick Ronson

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:48 am
  15. DannyTangle says:

    No list of underrated guitarists is complete without Richie Kotzen.  I know these lists are inviting debate and conversation, and I’m playing right into your hands, but there’s no way Alex Lifeson should be on any underrated list.  He plays is RUSH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!  It’s not like anyone hasn’t heard of Rush or knows about Rush without knowing the guitar players is pretty great.

    My underrated:
    Richie Kotzen
    Jeff Healey
    Eric Schenkman (nasty rhythm player)
    Brad Paisley (famous, yes, but he doesn’t get enough credit for his playing)

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:49 am
  16. Glenn says:

    Lindsay buckingham

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:49 am
  17. alex says:

    greg ginn, baby…

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:51 am
  18. Max Ravencroft says:

    Ian Bairnson
    Ed Wynne
    Kerry Livgren
    Uncle Buck Dharma
    Ronni LeTekro

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:51 am
  19. underrated says:

    there’s ratings for guitar players? where? you mean like health code ratings for restaurants?

    ok… I’ll play your game. here’s my top 5 underrated guitar players

    Tony Scherr
    Rich Hinman
    Grey MacMurray
    Adam Levy
    Teddy Kumpel

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:51 am
  20. Josh says:

    Mike Einziger, the shear eclecticism of his riffs is most impressive. Metal, Funk, Jazzy stuff, acoustic, wacky sounds, he pretty much covers it all.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:51 am
  21. Bill says:

    Greg Koch - One of the most jaw dropping guitar players I’ve seen lately.  He’s way below the radar and smokes all mentioned.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:52 am
  22. headsnap says:

    Glad to see Mick Mars on the list… rock solid on his playing, iconic riffs and tastefully placed notes, almost Billy Gibbonsesque.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:53 am
  23. raul vela III says:

    michael crow - grand champeen
    rob bernard - prescott curlywolf

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:53 am
  24. Cam says:

    Don Felder - Most underrated guitarist of all time. People remember his amazing work, but few ever talk about him as being one of the greats, which he surely is.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:53 am
  25. donald says:

    John Cipollina…

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:54 am
  26. Gus says:

    Maybe only in Australia but i never here or see josh home (very clever take on blues scales) or graham coxon (blur) in any lists for great guitarists. I think they both totally defined there styles in music.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:54 am
  27. Michael Tran says:

    Danny Gatton
    Andy Timmons
    Reb Beach
    Tom Morello
    Joe Bonamassa

    Although I wouldn’t say they’re underrated, I noticed that not enough people listen to them.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:54 am
  28. Lono says:

    Lindsey Buckingham.  A badass.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:56 am
  29. Marty Priller says:

    Gary Moore
    Robin Trower
    Uli Roth
    Rory Gallagher
    Mick Taylor
    Paul Kossoff

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:56 am
  30. MJA says:

    Lou Reed .... Really?

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:58 am
  31. Dale Robbins says:

    Louie Shelton
    Kirk Lorange

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:01 am
  32. Gregg says:

    Jeff Buckley, YES.  His musical intuition,  the otherworldy open string chord progressions, he is THE reason I started playing in the first place.. nice call PGS, you guys rock.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:01 am
  33. Anton says:

    Great to see MICK MARS on that list!  He was denigrated in the 80’s because he couldn’t shred and thankfully nowadays we know that’s rubbish.  Excellent rhythm work, a real lesson on hard rock guitar for any budding guitarist.

    Anyways my most underrated would be DICK DALE.  Yes he’s famous, but almost in a novelty kind of way.  It’s like modern guitar didn’t exist pre-Beatles the way he is not given credit for his playing and innovations.  With his combination of energy, technical prowess, and equipment innovation, he was the Eddie Van Halen of his times.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:01 am
  34. Bill says:

    Another waste of time, however humorous it might be.  I know guys that can juggle 8 baseballs; but, that don’t make them great baseball players.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:01 am
  35. Dave says:

    Albert Lee
    Rick Nelson (Bebop Deluxe)
    Elliott Easton
    Leslie West
    Ty Tabor (King’s X)
    The list goes on and on and…

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:02 am
  36. Metlkin says:

    Gary Richrath…....

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:02 am
  37. Steve Wood says:

    Trey Anastasio
    Jerry Garcia
    Jimmy Herring

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:03 am
  38. Jeremy says:

    Terry Kath
    Big Jim Sullivan
    Nokie Edwards
    Danny Gatton
    Steve Cropper

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:07 am
  39. Ron says:

    Dean Deleo (STP)...great chord voicing and melodic solos.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:08 am
  40. Sean says:

    Maybe not underrated, but sometimes forgotten:
    Lenny Breau

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:09 am
  41. Mark says:

    There are so many who do not seem to get the credit they deserve.  Well here are 5 more….

    Kim Mitchell (Check out “In The World Of Giants” or “Beyond The Moon.”
    Scotty Anderson (Check out “Sweet Georgia Brown, or “Are You From Dixie.”)
    Don Ross (Check out “The First Ride” or “Slow Burn”)
    Warren Cuccurullo (Check out “Ordinary World” instrumental version or “The Canarsie Daiquiri”)
    Frank Marino (Check out “I’ll Play The Blues For You” or “Red House Montreal 2002”)

    All the best

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:10 am
  42. Eric says:

    Kelly Johnson of Girlschool!

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:12 am
  43. hue says:

    Lou Reed? He’s a terrible guitarist. I don’t care if you think he’s an artist.

    Gary Moore has plenty of accolades,along with Trower.

    Knopfler is a great guitarist but not underrappreciated.

    Mick Mars? Meh.

    Lifeson? As has been said, anyone who knows Rush, knows Alex Lifeson. Same with Fripp. Anyone who has heard of Crimson knows Fripp. I love both of these bands.

    These lists really are a waste of time.

    Any guitarist who has created a signature sound for himself really can’t be compared to another regardless of skill. Once you are able to express yourself at will, there’s no need to compare.


    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:13 am
  44. Tom says:

    “Great to see MICK MARS on that list!  He was denigrated in the 80’s because he couldn’t shred and thankfully nowadays we know that’s rubbish.  Excellent rhythm work, a real lesson on hard rock guitar for any budding guitarist. ”  Absolutely!  Definitely a powerful player. 

    I’ve got to say seeing Brad Whitford on there did my heart good.  Brad can do the solo thing no doubt, but together he and Joe Perry have great chemistry.  And let’s face it, during the 70’s there were times when Brad was carrying the guitar duties for Aerosmith when the toxic twins were busy doing their thing.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:13 am
  45. Stonergrunge says:

    Creston Spiers (Harvey Milk)
    Buzz Osborne (Melvins)
    Samuel Maquieira (Yajaira and The Ganjas)
    Adam Jones (Tool)

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:15 am
  46. James says:

    Bruce Cockburn is absolutely amazing on acoustic and electric and criminally underrated, especially here in the States.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:16 am
  47. Josh says:

    Mentioning Jeff Buckley is right on.  He was a baller on guitar.

    Speaking of Danny Gatton who was often referred to as “The worlds most underrated guitarist”, how about Lenny Breau?  I encourage you to YouTube away, if you want to be seriously taken to school.

    Les Paul always kicks my ass too.  Turns out he was an actual person.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:16 am
  48. almond says:

    Rory Gallagher for sure

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:17 am
  49. David Rourke says:

    Great list… great to see some prog guitarists in the limelight (no pun intended for Alex Lifeson) which they deserve!! There are always going to be people commenting about guitarists that weren’t mentioned but you can’t mention everybody.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:18 am
  50. Dave Gaskin says:

    Gotta re-iterate Buck Dharma/Don Roeser
    ‘On Your Feet or On Your Knees’, Blue Oyster Cult’s 1974-vintage live album, is one of my favorite albums of all time, and ‘Uncle Buck’ (I like that) is the main reason why. 
    Gatton and Buchanan are both exceptional, tragic figures.
    Also worth checking out—the documentary ‘Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet’; another tragic but much more positive story of a guy who could have been the second coming of Randy Rhoads, or even the first coming of Jason Becker. 
    I also love pretty much everything Mick Taylor did with the Stones, but his solo on ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ on Get Your Ya-Yas Out (after Keith plays a pretty decent but low key solo—and you can REALLY tell when Keith stops and MIck takes over!) of my favorite solos ever
    Interesting to note the number of highly regarded players—Fripp, above, along with Randy Rhoads, Becker, Ritchie Blackmore, and so many others—who incorporate classical influences into their playing. 

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:21 am
  51. Pete says:

    Andy, if you think that what Springsteen did in that video is “shredding” in any sense, you still have some stuff to learn. Maybe Brad Whitford is an amazing guitarist, but that video certainly didn’t show it.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:21 am
  52. Travis says:

    No one think Kim Thayil should be mentioned? His alternate tunnings kick ass.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:22 am
  53. Helio Valverde says:

    Randy Bachman ( Guess Who, BTO)
    Andy Scott (The Sweet)
    Dave Hill (Slade)
    Tommy Bolin (D.P.)
    Dave “lonesome” Peverett (Foghat)

    Johnny Winter

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:26 am
  54. Art says:

    Terry Haggerty, original guitarist with the Sons of Champlin, who put out their first major label album in 1969,  His playing on that album was a revelation.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:30 am
  55. Randy Creath says:

    Bruce Cockburn is an amazing and unusual guitarist!!

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:33 am
  56. Steve Adkins says:

    Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Michael Schenker were two of the best during the 70’s. Blue Oyster Cult and UFO are pretty much forgotten bands, but both were very good in large part because of their guitarists. I consider Mark Knofler to be the best living rock guitar player. Tommy Emmanuel is beyond unbelievable. Elliot Easton was under appreciated. Not to gripe, but Mick Mars and Bruce Springsteen are not what I would call great guitar players. Johnny Winter, Duane Allman, and Richard Betts seldom get mentioned any more, and if not for Chuck Berry and Link Wray, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. Someone mentioned Louie Shelton (Valeri” by the Monkess is a good example of his chops) and I would like to add Tommy Tedesco of the Wrecking Crew.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:35 am
  57. Robert says:

    Alex Lifeson is not underrated. He is without a dought one of the most greatest guitarist of all time . “Rush” for Gods sake has mega fans all over the world. He was voted in Guitar player magazine ,” Best overall guitarist” for many, many years in a row all through the eighties, more than anyone ...I cant think of any bands today that have had such and inpact as RUSH. Alex Lifeson was the reason I picked up a guitar in 1981. GOD BLESS HIM !!!

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:36 am
  58. Jim says:

    Todd Rundgren

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:42 am
  59. zerf says:

    bill nelson
    tom verlaine
    will sergeant
    dawayne bailey
    glen buxton
    frank zappa

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:45 am
  60. Sandro says:

    Robert Quine
    Robbie Robertson

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:49 am
  61. Dimitri says:

    Finally, Alex…gets the love!!! Gary Moore for sure. Al di Meola?

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:57 am
  62. Dilson Benevides says:

    Rory Gallagher and Robin Trower !

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm
  63. Leo says:

    The one and only George Harrison.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm
  64. Doug A says:

    Is Robert Fripp really under-rated? He’s one of the few guitarists I’ve consistently listened to for over 30 years.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm
  65. david nouis says:

    lifeson, add adam jones

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm
  66. SupaDoom says:

    I have one that comes to mind but don’t laugh, Christopher Cross. I was floored when I saw him on a youtube video. The dude can shred!

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm
  67. Ricardo Blanc says:

    Great list man,

    Can I add some more? These gut bellow are stunning some not rated at all!!!
    David Gilmour
    Martin Barre
    Steve Hackett
    Mark Farner
    Billy Gibons
    Johnny Winter
    Allan Holdsworth
    John Maclaughlin
    in memory - Duane Allman, Frank Zappa, Albert King, Freddie King, Wes Montgomery…
    Great list of yours, and as a matter of fact there are great unknown guitarrists and music is what unity as all.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm
  68. Abbacus says:

    Sure are right about MICK MARS managing to always look scary! When Motley Crue was auditioning for a guitarist back in the early days, a knock came on the apartment door: It had been a long procession of try-outs that were just not at all right. Then, opening the door, there stood Mick Mars looking like COUSIN IT from the old B&W Adam’s Family TV show. Just seeing him, before he even played anything, they knew! Someone said “That’s the guy!” and he was in!

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm
  69. Jo-dan says:

    Stephen Malkmus! and second that for Nels Cline. New school guitar heros

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm
  70. GB says:

    apologies to all the 80’s hair band burn outs but that Mars solo was hands down one of the worst piles of shite I’ve ever seen.  he got out of key playing the Hey Joe riff for goodness sake.  sorry about his bone disease and all but that guy should be unrated not underrated.  so many others that everyone mentioned should go waaaay before that dude.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm
  71. Lowell says:

    James Honeyman Scott

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm
  72. Alan H. Veil says:

    Well, I definitely second the vote for Robert Fripp. His work on Bowie’s album “Scary Monsters,” & on Eno’s song “St. Elmo’s Fire,” are some of my favorites. Of course, he’s most known for King Crimson, a band in which he has been the only permanent member throughout its many incarnations.  Anyway, here’s my list, which like any is of course incomplete:
    1.Mick Ronson
    2.Robyn Hitchcock—SO under-rated as an artist, period! Vocally & stylistically, he’s like a mix between Barrett & Lennon. Check out his work on “Underwater Moonlight,” by The Soft Boys.
    3.Robert Smith—listen to his amazing classical guitar on The Cure’s “The Blood of Christ.”
    4.Daniel Ash—from Bauhaus, Tones on Tail (the best, IMO), & Love & Rockets.
    5.Johnny Hiland—a currently-working player & Nashville session-guitarist, Hiland worked w/boutique PU winder David-Allen on the development of D-Allen’s “Johnny-Blades” Strat PUs, which I have in my own guitar & which are amazing. Fans of country & chicken-pickin’ should check this guy out. Ironically, John 5—ex-guitarist for Marilyn Manson—is also a great country player & chicken-picker. Indeed, he excels in many styles, & would’ve been my 6th pick, probably. 5 is barely scratching the surface! But you have to stop somewhere w/such a list.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm
  73. Dennis says:

    Steve Lukather
    Terry Kath
    Jorma Koukonan
    Bob Marley
    George Harrison

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:18 pm
  74. Justin Bolwell says:

    Martin Rotsey
    Jim Moginie
    Nels Cline

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm
  75. sandy becker says:

    phil miller (hatfield, nat’l health…)
    andy partridge/dave gregory
    michael gregory jackson
    gary green (gentle giant)

    btw, jeff buckley gets my vote for ANY list! he had a gorgeous harmonic sensibility. and mick mars is a cretin, BOTH as a player & a writer…

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm
  76. elvis costanza says:

    Shawn Colvin
    Andy Partridge
    Paul Kossoff, too many people know All Right Now but not his name which should be a household word. MAJOR influence on AC/DC
    Steuart Smith, pure genius and killer technique
    John Leventhal

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm
  77. TheStratGuy says:

    Sorry, but I disagree with most of those mentioned. Knopler I feel is very underappreciated, but Mars? C’mon. Dude is rich and famous as shit for playing power chords and 4th interval 2 note riffs. His rythms are great in that shitty C.C.Deville, cant get em out of you head way, but a great guitarist…... no really, He has some great famous riffs, but it was Crue who carried him, not the other way around. I remember reading an interview with him in the 80’s and he was quoted as saying. “We could practice and become really good musicians, but that wouldnt be Motley Crue”

    I feel A.L. gets plenty of credit, you’re not forgotten when Gibson makes a $6k sig model in your honor.

    Sorry guys, but you coulda dug ALOT deeper…..................

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm
  78. Crump says:

    Ty Tabor
    Gary Hoey

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm
  79. RhodesTraveled says:

    Frank Zappa anyone? Or even Joe Walsh.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm
  80. Emmett says:

    Glad to see Springsteen. Really any of the three E Street Band guitarists could have been on this list. Springsteen’s great, Little Steven’s great, but doesn’t get a lot of solo work. Nils Lofgren is amazing. Whenever he has a solo it’s like another mini show. The Ghost of Tom Joad and Because the Night are both great Nils solos, and a lot of his pre-Springsteen stuff is good too.

    posted on October 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm

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