The following five guitarists helped define and shape the blues-rock genre, their work crossing the boundaries between traditional blues and guitar-driven rock. Although the recorded work of these talented musicians has sold millions of copies, the influence of these five artists extends far beyond their commercial and critical success.
Duane Allman's star burned brightly, albeit briefly, as he rose from the ranks of studio session player to band leader to legend seemingly overnight. As a session musician, Allman played behind such rock, soul and R&B artists as Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis and Boz Scaggs. It was with the Allman Brothers band that he earned his reputation however, creating two studio albums and one classic live set. Allman's contribution to the Derek and the Dominos album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs cannot be overstated.
One of rock's most revered legends, Eric Clapton has accomplished everything that a musician could possibly dream of achieving, from widespread critical-acclaim to multi-Platinum sales, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Clapton's work with the Yardbirds and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers laid the groundwork for the revolutionary power-trio Cream and the guitarist fronted beloved classic rock band Derek and the Dominos. Clapton's impressive solo career began in 1970; now spanning four decades, Clapton shows no signs of slowing down.
More than any other musician, the phenomenal six-string genius Jimi Hendrix influenced the future direction of both blues and rock guitar, resulting in a generation of Hendrix-influenced guitarists as well as outright mimics. Hendrix earned his bones playing on the Southeast "chitlin' circuit" with R&B and soul giants like Little Richard, the Isley Brothers and King Curtis. It is the three groundbreaking albums that he created with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, however. that re-defined the role of guitar in rock music.
It could be argued that guitarist Jimmy Page did more to introduce a rock audience to the blues than any other musician. From his early-1960s session work, through the groundbreaking years of Led Zeppelin, and into various post-Zep creative collaborations, Page has continued to expand upon his talents and expose listeners to various forms of blues, folk, and rock music. Although Page's tenure with the Yardbirds resulted in one acclaimed album, it is his role as the mechanic of the Led Zeppelin sound - a mix of hard rock and highly-amped blues - that ensures his legacy.
Extraordinary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan hit the early-80s rock and blues music scenes like a lightning bolt. Fusing the blues-rock styles of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton with the electric blues sound of Muddy Waters, Albert King and Lightning Hopkins - with a few rockabilly licks and random jazz styling thrown in for good measure - Vaughan single-handedly revived the slumbering blues scene with his six-string talents and onstage showmanship.