No matter what style or subgenre you play in rock and roll, it’s always going to come back to guitar. That same 6-stringed monster that gave birth to artists like Chuck Berry has remained the cornerstone of the genre and made every little kid intrigued with the concept known as rock and roll. The guitar is only as good as the fingers behind it though, and each of these guitarists were tapping into something otherworldly behind the fretboard.
For as long as rock has been going, these guitarists have been the benchmarks of the genre, changing the approach to the guitar and making the lead guitarist seem like the coolest person in the world whenever they took to the stage. That doesn’t mean that all of these people are necessarily virtuosos or anything.
As much as these guys may have a decent amount of chops between them, what gets you on a list like this is how you’re able to step out of the confines of guitar, bringing in a new approach or reminding us why a certain genre was so great in the first place. Even if rock has been around for almost a century at this point, these sonic wizards gave us sounds that no one had ever heard before.
10. Tony Iommi
Most of the '60s era of rock and roll tends to still feel like the Flower Power period of rock and roll. No matter how many bands like the Who and Led Zeppelin may have been pushing the barriers for how heavy you could get in mainstream rock and roll, this was still the Summer of Love, where acts like Jimi Hendrix were playing songs that felt like an era of peace might actually fall upon the world. That was the ideal version of the '60s, and the next decade gave us a nice dose of reality through Tony Iommi's guitar.
Being influenced by the traditional blues of the day, Tony went in a different direction by playing much darker riffs on his guitar, giving way to the heavy metal movement which would be underway in the next few years. Even if Tony himself didn't identify as a metal guitarist in the early days, all the seeds for the genre are there in his playing, from the gritty tones that he gets on songs like Children of the Grave to his underrated solos, where he makes his guitar sound like it's pleading for mercy.
To ease up tension on his fingers after a sheet metal factory incident, Tony's decision to tune down his guitar also opened up a world of possibilities for bands to play with how gutteral their guitars could be. The minute that you heard a song like War Pigs, you knew that the era of Hendrix was dead and the scene was about to gets its real bite.