The 5 Guitarists That Eric Clapton Picked As The Best Of All Time

The 5 Guitarists That Eric Clapton Picked As The Best Of All Time

What are the top 5 guitarists that Eric Clapton listed as the best of all time? In this article, we will focus on the guitarists who inspired Eric Clapton during his ongoing career.

Born on 30 March 1945 in Ripley, Surrey, Eric Clapton is a blues and rock guitar player that has been actively creating music since 1962. He is widely regarded as one of the leaders of the rock music scene as well as the most influential guitarist in music. In Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, the guitarist numbered second thanks to his huge career.

When we mention his ongoing career for about six decades, Clapton released his debut solo effort back in 1970, his self-titled 11-piece album, and has released 24 solo studio albums in total. Clapton‘s latest album was a Christmas album named Happy Xmas, which was released in 2018. Before he launched his solo career, he played with important bands, such as Cream, The Yardbirds, and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers.

However, as he is one of the most influential guitarists in rock, Eric Clapton has his own favorite players as well. As he previously said, Robert JohnsonJimi Hendrix, and Prince were some of the guitarists he picked as the best of all time. Let’s see the full list.

The 5 Guitarists That Eric Clapton Picked As The Best Of All Time

5. Jimi Hendrix

(image: Bruce Fleming)

Jimi Hendrix was the one Eric Clapton named one of the best guitarists of all time. As you know, Hendrix was an American guitarist who gained world success in the mid-60s. As for his different style and guitar skills, he is widely regarded as the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.

Both musicians had shared to stage with each other when Clapton was a member of Cream. Then, in 1966, Hendrix joined Cream on stage while rocking in London. At the time, Clapton had left the stage when he saw playing Jimi Hendrix for the first time ever because he was so good.


He recalled Hendrix’s first joining Cream, saying: “The first time I met Jimi, he came to see Cream play at an early Cream gig when we were playing universities and stuff like that, and the Cambridge May Ball,” he says.

“He came to the London Polytechnic and we were playing there, we got up on stage, and then Chas Chandler came up to us and said, ‘I’ve got this friend who would love to jam.’

“And I thought, ‘Well, yeah…’ And it was funny in those days anybody could get up with anybody if you were convincing enough that you could play.

“And he got up and blew everyone’s mind. And me too, I just thought, ‘Ah, someone that plays the stuff I love, in the flesh, on stage with me.’

“I was actually privileged to be part of something that no one’s ever gonna be, that incident that night is historic in my mind.”

4. Prince

(image: Theo Wargo)

Starting his musical journey in 1975 and rocking the whole music industry since he died in 2016, Prince was an American-born musician who pioneered the Minneapolis sound. In his career, the musician often played all instruments on his recordings.

Prince’s debut solo release was 1978’s For You, which numbered 138 on Billboard’s US 200 chart. Bringing 42 studio albums to his fans throughout that more than 4-decade career, his latest album was 2015’s HITnRUN Phase Two.


Covering Prince’s Purple Rain, Clapton wrote the following letter after Hendrix died: “I’m so sad about the death of Prince, he was a true genius, and a huge inspiration for me, in a very real way…

“In the the eighties, I was out on the road in a massive downward spiral with drink and drugs, I saw Purple Rain in a cinema in Canada, I had no idea who he was, it was like a bolt of lightning!…

“In the middle of my depression, and the dreadful state of the music culture at that time it gave me hope, he was like a light in the darkness…

“I went back to my hotel, and surrounded by empty beer cans, wrote Holy Mother. I can’t believe he’s gone.”

3. Robert Johnson

Playing music from 1929 to 1938, Robert Johnson was one of the earliest influences of Eric ClaptonClapton, who had not yet been born while Johnson was making music, expressed his admiration for Johnson when he first listened to him. Clapton once explained what struck him most about his playing by releasing a cover album for the late music giant, Me and Mr. Johnson

“It was the whole package,” Clapton told Music Radar. “His guitar – especially his slide playing – was an extension of his singing. The slide part in Come On In My Kitchen is a great example of that. In fact, the one regret I have about my album is that I didn’t play a particular slide part of his on my version. I regret it because I think it would’ve been possible to do.

“There’s a part where Robert sings, Can’t you hear the wind howling? and follows it with a response with his slide, and it’s just like his voice. I thought to myself, I’m not going to do that, I just don’t think I can. I couldn’t allow myself to go there… and now I think I should’ve tried.”

2. Duane Allman

(image: Michael Ochs Archives)

Duane Allman was one of the guitar players that Eric Clapton named one of the best of all time. Being one of the founding members of the Allman Brothers Band, Duane Allman was ranked number 2 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists.

In the past, Eric Clapton clarified how he fell in love with Duane Allman’s music. Saying that the musicians contributed to Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett blew his mind, and Clapton explained why he thought he was one of the bests.


“I remember hearing ‘Hey Jude’ by Wilson Pickett,” he said. “‘Who’s that guitar player? I just filed it away… To this day, I’ve never heard better rock guitar playing on an R&B record. It’s the best.”

1. Albert Lee

(image: Richard Ecclestone)

According to Eric Clapton, Albert Lee is the greatest guitar player in the world.

Debuted in 1979 with an album named Hiding, Albert Lee released 15 albums in total. 2019’s Gypsy Man – A Tribute To Buddy Holly marked his latest release during his ongoing career, and Lee has played numerous great artists in music.

In the past, both musicians had played for five years together. There were also three different Eric Clapton efforts that Albert Lee performed, which were Just One Night, Another Ticket, Money and Cigarettes.

However, when Clapton chose Albert Lee as the best, he said: “He’s the greatest guitarist in the world. The ultimate virtuoso. His skill is extraordinary, his ear is extraordinary, and he’s gifted on just about every level.”


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  1. It blows my mind that Eric was an admirer of his friend Peter Green and guitarist that proceeded him in The Blues breakers. Peter played The Beano LP live due to Eric’s departure pushing sales of the LP in Mayall’s Blues breakers. In 1967 their was many arguments over who was Britans best guitarist, Green or Clapton. On Clapton’s latest LP he chose two Green songs to include on his album. It’s clear that Eric has much praise for Green but always snubs Peter when he is asked about great guitarist. The truth being that Green outclassed Eric as a Blues breaker and Peter’s band Fleetwood Mac was considered the best blues band in England in the 60’s . Eric was said to run to see Green perform after Creen concerts. Wake up Eric give Peter the love you hold for him, envy will only eat at you. Clapton was Peter’s favorite guitarist.

  2. So many great electric guitarists in the late 20th century. Mr Clapton has mentioned a few. I personally don’t regard Hendrix as on of the best – but he was an amazing innovator. All the people Clapton has mentioned here brought something very special and unique to the rock universe.

  3. Wow. Will have to listen to Albert Lee.
    I thought Stevie Ray Vaughan would make this list , but what do I know ?!?

  4. Surprised he didn’t mention his good friend, George Harrison. I’m not particularly a George Harrison fan, as a person; but he was an extraordinary guitar player. According to John Lennon, in his RS interview, “one of the best guitarist out there.” Peter Frampton was amazing too, and was a session player for many bands.

  5. I’m surprised by him not mentioning Jeff Beck. He’s been his friend for many years and clearly a monumental guitar virtuoso.

  6. John Mclaughlin changed the evolution of the guitar 3x. Nobody will ever be as innovative, pioneering jazz/fusion guitar and changing the entire world w the album “Inner Mounting Flame”. At the time they didn’t know what to call it, so they said it was the most highly conscious music ever recorded. That was 1971, then Shakti, and the first guitar trio that was the greatest acoustic trio of all time. He was Miles favorite guitarist. Then after Shakti and endless list of albums and the classical one as well. Rock is another genre all together. There’s no such thing as comparing anymore, or who’s best. It’s whoever is touching Mt heart and shaking my soul, as I think it should be for everyone. People have their lists and favorites, but its their reality, and we can’t take each others reality away from one another. The greatest list is endless, then we can talk about pioneers and innovators. I learn so much from these groups. I consider myself a fair guitar player that loves to play and sing. So keep it all coming.

  7. I believe that there is one man, seems hardly never gets mentioned, maybe because he rarely made any appearances outside of 2 David Letterman’s Show in the early 1990- 91, is CHRIS REA! The man played an awesome “slide guitar” as well as regular, in addition to be a fabulous songwriter/singer in Europe/Asia/Great Britain/Ireland/Scotland/South Pacific!!

  8. He forgot to mention the man who could make him and all those on his list look like ameteurs the greatest of all time Stevie Ray Vaughn

  9. Glenn Campbell is one of the greatest guitarists that ever lived, he was able to play anything from blue’s to rock to country. I just think he goes unrecognized all the time.

  10. Mike Boomfield. Edward Van Halen ,John McLaughlin. Jeff Beck..
    Limiting the list to only 5 is very limiting .

  11. I rate guitarists by their originality and how they influenced guitarists all over the world. Eddie VanHalen comes to mind. As far as technical ability , one needs to checkout YouTube. Some of these up and comers are from a different planet.

  12. Phil Keaggy was recognized by Hendrix as the best. Not well known but a must for the top ten of all time.

  13. I’d add Freddie King and Larry Coryell, but certainly would include Duane Allman, SRV, John McLaughlin, Jimmy Page, snd Jimi.

  14. I think EC is excluding jazz guys, just sticking with genres he plays. So no McLaughlin makes sense. Or DiMeola or other monster jazz players.
    Beck is a notable absence as are EVH, Eric Johnson. SRV may have been too similar to Hendrix for Eric to acknowledge. No way Santana belongs on the list. Roy Clark, Glen Campbell, Jerry Reed and other country dudes could make the list.

  15. Conrad Brodie put Mr. Clapton’s list in proper prespective. It’s how the players style touches and moves your soul. I am familiar with all he listed and have recordings of them, but none move my soul as much as Frank Zappa. His Watermelon in Easter Hay will be played at my memorial services because of how it moves me.

  16. Music is a subjective thing. It depends on so many variables, listing the “best of all time” in anything is a crap shoot.

  17. It seems that Mr Clapton have problems with Pink Floyd, esp. with Gilmore. I think he is the greatest!

  18. Sounds like he picked the guitarists who most influenced him. Robert Johnson? Influence? Yeah! Great guitarist? Nah!

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