Top 11 Alternative Rock Guitarists Revealed. Vote For Number One!

We asked, and you answered. After presenting a diverse field of 25 alternative rock guitar heroes, the almost 60,000 votes from readers have been tabulated to result in your Top 11 Alt-Rock Guitarists of All-Time.

Before revealing the Top 11, it should be mentioned that there are more than a few surprising omissions from the list of guitar players moving on to the next round. Adam Jones of Tool was edged out by Bink-182/Angels & Airwaves leader Tom DeLonge by a mere 12 votes for the 11th and final slot. The Edge (U2), Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) and Daron Malakian (System of a Down) are also among the notable axe-slingers who were unable to garner enough votes to make the Top 11 cut.

In terms of votes, no one came close to clear winner Mike Einziger of Incubus, who generated over 10,100 votes. Coming in at Number Two was former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, who pulled more than 7750 votes. The Top Five was rounded out by Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, The Nighwatchman), Jack White (White Stripes/solo and Mike Ness (Social Distortion).

“Wow, what an incredible and unexpected honor,” Mike Einziger said when informed of the tally. “I need to thank all of the Incubus fans out there for their support, I love and appreciate you guys & gals so very much. Thank YOU for supporting Incubus from the very beginning. “It’s such an honor to be alongside all of these incredible guitarists, many of whom are good friends of mine and surely deserve this honor much more than I. I wake up every single day in total amazement that I’m able to live a life of music, day in and day out. Thank you to all.”

“First, it’s an honor to be placed in this category amongst such incredibly talented musicians,” echoed Mike Ness of Social Distortion of placing in the Top Five. “Second, and most importantly, thanks to all of my fans. Without you, Social Distortion would not have been able to maintain its career of 33 years and I would not be able to do what I love. Regardless of where I end up on this list, I wouldn’t be here without you – so thank you.”

Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Matt Bellamy (Muse), Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day), Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta/At The Drive-In), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) and Tom DeLonge (Blink-182) round out the list of guitarists who’ve made the cut to the second and final round. Who is the single greatest guitarist in alternative rock? Voting will be open for exactly one week, during which you can support your favorite guitarist in the bunch. Here are the nominees, in order of votes received:

1. Mike Einziger (Incubus) This wildly inventive guitarist makes the most of his effects units, which he pairs with a studied musicality and good, old-fashioned chops.

2. John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) Inventive and eclectic, Frusciante’s wild blend of playing styles and emotive phrasing has made him one of alt-rock’s most respected and beloved axe-slingers.

3. Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave/Nightwatchman) Combining classic metal inspirations with the profound influence of old-school hip-hop, Morello’s style ranges from flashy shredding to making his guitar sound like turntables-scratching or even a charging elephant.

4. Jack White (White Stripes/Dead Weather/Raconteurs/solo) In the tradition of legendary blues men like B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughn, White’s heavy emphasis on feeling has helped him create an individual and immediately recognizable sound big enough to power football stadiums.

5. Mike Ness (Social Distortion) With as much of a rockabilly-roots influence as OC punk, Ness has developed a rich, muscular tone to motor the life-affirming anthems of Social D.

6. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) The late rock legend had an innate sense of melody, creating unforgettable guitar lines out of chaotic punk riffs.

7. Matt Bellamy (Muse) Representing Great Britain, Bellamy’s grandiose licks and lyrical melodies keep the spirit of prog-rock alive.

8. Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) Punk’s reigning prince remains an underrated guitarist, despite a seemingly endless bag of riffs and the ability to rip out a blistering solo when necessary.

9. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta/At the Drive-In) The prog-rock prodigy is a six-string technician, incorporating a plethora of tones and complex time signatures to the heady, art-rock stew of both Mars Volta and ATDI.

10. Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) Heavily influenced by blues masters and metal mavens alike, McCready’s blistering technique fits perfectly with fellow six-stringer Stone Gossard’s rhythmic attack.

11. Tom DeLonge (Blink-182/Angels & Airwaves) DeLonge’s catchy, pop-punk riffs power Blink-182’s high-energy tunes, while he explores his more grandiose, arena rock side with the band Angels & Airwaves.

Tweeting? #GuitarKing

–Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local


One Comment

  1. Trevor says:

    What about Tim Mahoney from 311? This list is horseshit without him!

  2. Chris Jones says:

    Maybe this list should have a different title- people’s favorite alternative bands. Now everyone votes for thier favorite band since its subjective, everyone is like grr when thier favorite guitarist isn’t top of the pops. Every list is always different every time from where ever its from whether it be Spin or Rolling Stone’s,;’s, or’s, .Stereogum or NME’s. Its like everyone has to make thier little listsm, its silly and something i used to do in 5th grade because its like saying which band is best. It’s just personal preference at this level. So maybe it should be called what band do u like most out of these? 🙂 I like all of them, because I like all different kinds of alternative music, hence the name “alternative’ a category that is not really a category that is easily defined= that in which bands in it are totally different as can be. So its tough to make comparisons to who is top is so impossible since comparission are usually made on things that are simliar!
    All that being said I am going to fill in the bubble for Mike McCready since when i was little and first heard “Porch” on the radio from Pearl Jam’s “Ten” that got me into all this “alternative music” in the first place. Or music in general for that matter! That song made me wonder how all those sounds in there could come from a guitar as a child and how those sounds made many different emotions in me at one time! So for this reason, and so much more I can relate to MikeMcCready’s work the most. But everyone on this list is so talented- I am still trying to figure out how to make sounds similar come out of my little crate practice amp. So I will just say that everyone on this list is monster, and there deserve to be SO many more. (As Johnny Marr, Joe Strummer, Peter Buck. Thurston Moore, David Byrne, David Bowie, and a crowd of other guitar players responsible for the term “alternative” mean something in the first place in music wonder why they aren’t on this list…)

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