No matter what style or subgenre you play in rock and roll, it will always come down to the guitar. That same 6-string monster that spawned artists like Chuck Berry has remained the cornerstone of the genre and intrigued every little kid with the concept known as rock and roll. The guitar is only as good as the fingers behind it, however, and each of these guitarists tapped into something otherworldly behind the fretboard.
For as long as rock has existed, these guitarists have been the benchmarks of the genre, changing the approach to guitar playing and making the lead guitarist look like the coolest person in the world every time he takes the stage. That doesn’t mean that all of these people are necessarily virtuosos or anything.
Even though these guys may have a decent amount of chop between them, what puts you on a list like this is how you’re able to step outside the confines of the guitar, bring a new approach or to remind us why a certain genre was so big in the first place. Even though rock has been around for almost a century at this point, these sonic wizards have given us sounds that no one has ever heard before.
Much of the 60s era of rock and roll still tends to resemble the Flower Power period of rock and roll. No matter how many bands like the Who and Led Zeppelin were able to push the boundaries of mainstream rock and roll weight, it was still the Summer of Love, where bands like Jimi Hendrix played songs that sounded like an era peace could actually fall upon the world. It was the ideal version of the 60s, and the following decade gave us a nice dose of reality through the guitar of Tony Iommi.
Influenced by the traditional blues of the time, Tony went in a different direction by playing much darker riffs on his guitar, giving way to the heavy metal movement that would be underway in the next few years. Even though Tony himself didn’t identify as a metal guitarist in his early days, all the seeds of the genre are there in his playing, from the gritty tones he gets on songs like Children of the Grave to his solos under -esteemed, where he makes his guitar sound as if begging for mercy.
To ease the strain on his fingers after an incident at a sheet metal factory, Tony’s decision to turn his guitar down also opened up a world of possibilities for bands to play with how guttery their guitars could be. The minute you heard a song like War Pigs, you knew the era of Hendrix was dead and the scene was about to come into its own.