Top 10 Country / Roots Guitarists

Chet-AtkinsI don’t do a lot of “top whatever” lists but as an advanced mediocre guitar player I’ve always been fascinated by the instrument. So here goes! I asked my much more intelligent than myself twitter followers who they thought was the best country / roots guitarists of all time was and i got a lot of excellent responses. Though I used those responses as a source all blame of leaving Buddy Miller off is mine and mine alone.

These 10 masters that squeeze magic from lumber and have changed the genre and influenced scores of followers. Country and roots guitarists don’t hide behind fancy technology. Their stock-and-trade is built on clean tone and fiery or soulful picking.

Don’t see your favorite? Drop them in the comments below.

10. Willie Nelson – An under-appreciated player. Willie’s been playing this ode to his hero, Django Reinhardt, on his one-of-a-king acoustic – Trigger – for years.

9. Junior Brown – Junior is an absolute beast on his signature double-neck 6-string meets lap steel guitar guitar. He’s dubbed it his “guit-steel”.

8. Dave Rawlings – You may go to see Gillian Welch but you’ll walk away knowing that it’s Rawlings that brings musical depth to the duo.

7. Jerry Reed – most people knwo him as Cledus Snow from the Smokey and the Bandit films but Reed was a top-notch songwriter and guitar slinger.

5. Brent Mason and 6. Vince Gill – Soem might say the whole point of this post was to show these masters at work. Who am I to argue?

4. Hank Garland – Garland wrote “Sugarfoot Rag” when he was 19. It went on to sell over a million copies. He went on to be a sought after Nashville session guitarist working with Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins, the Everly Brothers, Boots Randolph, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty.

3, Kenny Vaughan – You can’t be a sloucher to play with Marty Stuart. Vaughn has lent his talent to Staurt, Lucinda Williams, Rodney Crowell and others. He’s also used his fiery tele to carve a=out a right respectable solo career.

2. James Burton – James “Master of the Telecaster” Burton is in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. the latter of which his induction speech was given by longtime fan Keith Richards. bUTON’S session work has appeared on the works of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, John Denver, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Lee Lewis, Claude King, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, Vince Gill, Suzi Quatro and more.

1. Chet Atkins – In his lifetime Atkins set a new bar for guitar players. His clear-time picking could shift from roadhouse to supper club in a the same piece. Influenced by Merle Travis, Django Reinhardt, George Barnes, Les Paul, and Maybelle Carter. He has nine Country Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year awards, and was inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

25 thoughts on “Top 10 Country / Roots Guitarists

  1. Philbillie
    January 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    All great choices, but you are absolutely insane to leave out Buddy Miller.

  2. Baron Lane
    January 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I’m hearing lots of requests for Buddy.Though my sanity may be in question, i think he’s a tad subdued for this list. Willie just barely made it.

  3. January 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Buddy Miller, Pete Anderson

  4. Baron Lane
    January 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    both great

  5. Philbillie
    January 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Guessing you never heard his work with Emmylou & Spyboy.

  6. Baron Lane
    January 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    we need to do this over beer!

  7. emfrank
    January 19, 2013 at 11:25 am

    If you really mean “roots” there are a great many blues artists who should be considered. This is a good list of roots artists that lean toward country. I would definitely add Chris Whitley and Kelly Joe Phelps, though neither was/is “country.”

  8. April 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    I can’t believe you left out Johnny hiland,Albert lee, and johnny Gaton.

  9. Miguel Enguidanos
    July 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    These lists are always difficult and you will never get everyone to agree. I like the list but I agree with Richard Yost, although I think he meant Danny Gatton. If you ever listen to Brad Paisley (who also deserves to be on the list) he did a song called Clusterpluck, which won an emmy. Clusterpluck has a who’s who of great guitarists on it. There is one section where Brad pays tribute to the guys by playing their licks.

  10. Miguel Enguidanos
    July 1, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    One more thing on Buddy Miller is that he has won more Americana instrumentalist awards than anyone else (4 times) since 2004. Dave Rawlings won this year.

  11. Miguel Enguidanos
    July 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    sorry, Brad won a grammy not an emmy, duh!

  12. rick
    August 3, 2013 at 6:47 am

    what about Roy Clark and Glen Campbell

  13. ian
    September 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I know the list is hard,but seriously Albert Lee is tops for me.

  14. January 2, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Roy Clark and Carl Perkins.

  15. Jack
    May 1, 2014 at 9:28 am

    I am relatively certain that if you were to go visit 78 year old Glen Campbell in his care facility, he could still outplay half of these guys. Seriously, he was probably at least on par with Jerry Reed.

  16. Larry Lynn
    June 22, 2014 at 3:00 am

    Re: Miller, Lee, Burton – Add Frank Rekard. Anyone who has been Emmylou’s lead guitar merits consideration.

  17. Andrew
    September 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Cough Cough. Albert Lee. Cough Cough. Albert Lee.

  18. steve
    November 20, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Glen Campbell, Brad Paisley & Clarence White 4 me – I like a bit of ummph 🙂

  19. Eddie
    November 23, 2014 at 6:40 am

    All mentioned are great in their own right but Danny Gatton is the man!

  20. Josh
    January 30, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    You can’t leave out Waylon Jennings, his sound helped launch outlaw country

  21. Fat Duck Floyd
    April 17, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    All great choices, and how many more there are. I love Jim Campilongo’s country noir thing, for one.

  22. November 28, 2015 at 6:15 am

    Roy clark, brad paisley, Keith urban

  23. Adam Hill
    June 1, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Ever Heard of Billy Grammer?

  24. Baron Lane
    June 11, 2016 at 7:50 am

    I have now!

  25. Hal Gamnle
    January 2, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Check out Andrew Hardin. Played with Tom Russell back in the day.

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