Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 4 — Jimmy Page Vs. Robert Johnson

by Guitar World Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2012 at 10:39am

Welcome to the Sweet 16 portion of our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll!

It all started a few months back, when 128 132 guitarists went head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format. We filled all but four of the slots with the names of incredible guitarists (dead and living) — players chosen for their technical ability as well as their importance and creativity, not to mention how influential they've been. We asked our readers to vote in the final four names, which you did, selecting Nuno Bettencourt, Chet Atkins, Malcolm Young and Jake E. Lee.

But now, several rounds later, we're into the Sweet 16, which is being brought to you by Sweetwater Sound.

Some things to take to consider before casting your vote:

Influence: Who inspired more kids to beg their parents for a guitar for Christmas? Who inspired a wave of copycats?
Chops/Versatility: Is the guitarist in question a one-trick pony or a master of many styles?
Body of Work: Who had the more consistent career? Who has played on more classic albums?
Creativity: Who pioneered new techniques? Who sounds the most radically different from what came before them?

You can check out the full results via our regularly updated bracket here and at the bottom of this story. (Click on the bracket to expand it.)

Round 4 — Today's Match

Between his legacy as Led Zeppelin's fabled lead guitarist and his work as a producer and session guy, it's hard to understate the impact of JIMMY PAGE on the world of rock music. Introducing folk and Eastern music elements into Zeppelin's music put the band in a whole different box than their would-be peers, cementing Page as the face of '70s guitar rock.

The story of ROBERT JOHNSON is quite literally the stuff of legends (not to mention a major motion picture). Whether or not Johnson ever sold his soul to Old Scratch at the crossroads, his legacy as a blues innovator and an indispensable influence to an untold number of blues and rock players alike has carried him past many of those he would inspire, including Eric Clapton and John Lee Hooker.

Readers Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time — Page Vs. Johnson

Guitar World Staff Picks

BRAD TOLINSKI, Editorial Director

Pick: Jimmy Page

They've both made deals with the devil, and both play the hell out of the guitar. But I have a new book coming out on Jimmy on October 23 — Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page (Crown Publishing) — so he has to get my nod!

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RICK SPRINGFIELD: Singer, guitarist, writer of "Jessie's Girl," actor, man about town

Pick: Jimmy Page

That's a tough one, but I have to go with Page. That said, Robert Johnson was almost the first rock and roll guitar player. Just listen to the sound of his guitar — it almost sounds like an electric guitar on those old recordings. And then there's his massive influence on generations of guitar players, of course. But I have to go with Page for the breadth and depth of his work.

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DAMIAN FANELLI: Online Managing Editor

Pick: Jimmy Page

Although I cut my teeth on Robert Johnson's records (My molars still bleed regularly from the experience), I'm picking Jimmy Page. Look, if we were asking this question in 1969 or 1973 or whatever, Johnson would win, hands down, due to his legendary status, the whole "sold his soul to the devil" thing and the fact that every popular blues and rock guitarist of the era borrowed from him on a monthly basis, compounded quarterly. In 2012, however, Page is the more accessible "legendary elder statesman," himself an inspiration to millions of guitarists.

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JOSH HART, Online Producer

Pick: Jimmy Page

As I said in my Sweet 16 preview, Robert Johnson was a great blues guitarist, but Jimmy Page is a great guitarist. Period. Robert Johnson's legend often overshadows his peers like Son House and Lightnin' Hopkins, so I think anyone arguing that Johnson originated the blues ex nihilo is sorely mistaken. A great player and undeniable influence on future generations, Johnson simply produced too scant a catalog for me to be able to make a case against the man who wrote "Heartbreaker," "Kashmir," "Stairway to Heaven" and "Over the Hills and Far Away."

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JIMMY BROWN, Senior Music Editor

Pick: Jimmy Page

Robert Johnson is, without a doubt, King of the Delta bluesmen and a true innovator who, in his 26 years, contributed more than any of his contemporaries to writing the bible of the language of modern blues, a body of work that generations of guitarists would build upon and plagiarize to varying degrees. Speaking of which ... Jimmy Page, while he indeed owes much to Johnson, has perhaps done even more in his first 26 years to advance his art form. Page's catalog of acoustic-based compositions alone should earn him historic immortality. He also is unquestionably King of the Riff, a brilliant soundsmith and one of the most visionary and accomplished producers in the history of the recording arts.

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PAUL RIARIO, Technical Editor

Pick: Jimmy Page

Because Jimmy Page moved his Led Zeppelin Walmart into Bobby Johnson's neighborhood and stole every riff off the shelf of his five and dime store. Seriously, it's impossible not to play any riff on the guitar that Page hasn't already written and deliver it with such authority. Besides, once you figure out the unorthodox altered tuning of "The Rain Song," it's proof enough that Jimmy has Lucifer on speed dial. I'm cool with that.

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