Uli Jon Roth Reacts to Rolling Stone’s New Greatest Guitarist List: ’They Don’t Know About Guitar Playing, They’re Picking Who’s Trendy’

The new greatest guitarist list by Rolling Stone magazine made quite a stir among guitar players when it came out this October, both online and offline. Be it fans or musicians, it seems like everyone has something to say about it. German guitar legend Uli Jon Roth, also known for his work with the Scorpions back in the day, recently also addressed the said list, simply explaining that you “wouldn’t go to Rolling Stone to be educated about guitar playing.”

And he has a point, but it’s still one of the most impactful magazines in the world of music and popular culture, and it definitely affects public opinion on these matters. Nonetheless, as Uli said in a recent interview on the “Academy of Tone” podcast, he “wouldn’t get too upset about these things.”

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And he said this when reminded that no German guitar player was featured on this list, including himself.

“You see, Rolling Stone is a cult magazine,” the guitar legend explained. “You don’t read Rolling Stone because you want to be educated about music. These people don’t really… They don’t know about guitar playing. They’re picking who’s trendy.”

“I mean, you probably have people like Nirvana in there, and probably Django Reinhardt isn’t even in there.”

Uli Jon Roth Incredible Acoustic Guitar Solo

To be fair, Django Reinhardt was actually featured on this list, taking the 70th spot. But it’s still not that difficult to understand Uli’s point on the matter, with the list excluding some of the most influential guitar players (we’ll get to that in a bit).

Either way, Roth isn’t all that concerned about it, adding:

“So, you cannot take it seriously. It’s just a joke. I’m sure it’s a great magazine. And they were also great in the heyday of the counter-revolution, and in San Francisco, the days of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and all that.”

Uli Jon Roth live | Rockpalast | 2018

“Great. But you wouldn’t go to Rolling Stone to be educated about guitar playing, would you? Don’t take it seriously. All these things are also very money-driven. And they will project that which they think sells the best.”

The biggest critiques of the list were not only about omissions but placements as well. With 250 guitar players on there, Rolling Stone claimed that they wanted to do more than just “mythic guitar gods” and “show the scope of the guitar’s evolution.” As they also added: “We tended to value heaviness over tastiness, feel over polish, invention over-refinement, risk-takers and originators more than technicians.”

Despite the legendary magazine’s claims, there were still so many critiques of their choices. For instance, Rick Beato, who’s very well-known for his takes on modern music, wasn’t at all happy about Rolling Stone’s list, outright calling it a “joke.”

In one of his recent YouTube videos, Rick said:

“I can’t even fathom that Andy Summers [of The Police] is at 250. He barely made it. Some of my friends are on there, who haven’t even been out on the scene for 10 years, and this is of all time! People have been playing electric guitar for 100 years!”

Uli Jon Roth - Full Show - Live at Wacken Open Air 2015

He added:

“There’s a bunch of indie rock on here, where the people can barely play — even though I love their songs, but they can’t even play!”

During the video, Beato mostly focused on critiques of some obvious omissions. His suggestions went on and on, but he just couldn’t get over the fact that some of the greats were not on there. He continued:

“Here’s some of the people that are left off the list; George Benson is not on it, one of the grooviest guitar players I have ever heard…”

Rolling Stones' Idiotic Top 250 Guitar Players List

“Feel, chops — everything in you want in a player. Matter of fact, I watch a video of George Benson improvising every couple of months just to remind myself how great somebody could be.”

“Al Di Meola, one of the greatest fusion players, acoustic — everything! Yngwie is not on there — what!? Is that possible?”

“Peter Frampton, maybe I don’t know anything, but he’s not on there — c’mon man! Peter Frampton’s incredibly influential, at least to every guitar player I know. Neal Schon from Journey? He’s like one of the most copied players out there! Tommy Emmanuel, is it possible he’s not there?”

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“Pat Metheny is a 157? One of the most melodic players, greatest improvisers? John McLaughlin is 72? He was the guitar teacher of half the people that were at the top of the list!”

“Joe Pass? Not only is he the greatest solo guitarist of all time, but he also had books that everyone my age learned how to play guitar from… He had a million records; I guess Rolling Stone never heard any of them — including ‘Virtuoso’, the greatest solo guitar record that came out in 1973.”

Photo: Markus Felix (20180520 Gelsenkirchen RockHard Uli Jon Roth 0043)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.