Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 5 — Jimmy Page Vs. Brian May

by Guitar World Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2012 at 10:46am

Welcome to the Elite 8 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 Elite 8, 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 5 — Today's Match

If this was a poll to determine the greatest vocalist of all time, the frontmen of these next two guitarists may very well be battling it out for the top spot.

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 Jimmy Page as the face of '70s guitar rock. With the buzz around the upcoming Celebration Day DVD, it's clear that Page and the gang are as relevant as ever.

BRIAN MAY has been a one-man upset machine, knocking off legends like Jeff Beck, George Harrison and Les Paul right and left on his path to the Elite 8. Like his opponent, he has a massive catalog of classic songs to back up some impressive chops. And with one of the most unique lead guitar tones of all time, May has to be considered a serious threat to make it into the Final Four to take on Hendrix.

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

Guitar World Staff Picks

BRAD TOLINSKI, Editorial Director

Pick: Jimmy Page

While it is true that one man's "Stairway to Heaven" is another man's "Bohemian Rhapsody," I still have to give the edge to James Patrick Page. His "hammer of the gods" is simply more dynamic, powerful and versatile than Brian May's celestial "guitar orchestra."


JIMMY BROWN, Senior Music Editor

Pick: Jimmy Page

Brian May is without a doubt one of the most brilliantly innovative rock guitarists and arrangers ever, and his tone, touch and melodic sensibilities on songs like "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" are impeccable. "39" is an acoustic masterpiece, with all those unlikely chord changes flowing very logically and musically into each other. But, at the end of the day, May's impressive body of work is ultimately surpassed by Page's, in terms of the sheer volume of classic and brilliantly original riffs, compositions and solos, both acoustic and electric ("Since I've Been Loving You," "Stairway to Heaven," "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," Kashmir" and at least a dozen others). Moreover, May did some really cool things with an EchoPlex, but so did Page, in conjunction with a wah pedal and a violin bow. Sheer genius!


DAMIAN FANELLI, Online Managing Editor

Pick: Jimmy Page

Let's get serious here, folks. We're talking about Brian May — a swell bloke with a great sound and several hit records under his belt — versus Jimmy Page, a true rock god and/or legend in every freakin' sense of the word/s. Some guitarists have enjoyed a nice little ride into the Elite Eight (Draw your own conclusions about who I'm talking about), but we need to vote the truly deserving guitarists into the Final Four.


PAUL RIARIO, Technical Editor

Pick: Brian May

This reminds me of a joke I once heard: "A priest, a rabbi , Jimmy Page and Brian May walk into a bar and ..." Ya know, I don't remember the punchline, but what I do know is Brian May exits the bar dressed in drag as "Killer Queen" plays in the background. OK, the joke wasn't that funny, but I'm going to pick Brian May.


JOSH HART, Online Producer

Pick: Jimmy Page

It's impossible to really debate between the back catalogs of these two legends, but Page's versatility as a guitarist gives him a distinct edge. When he set out to create " a marriage of blues, hard rock, and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses," he did it flawlessly, melding folk music and hard rock in a way that seemed so natural that it's hard to believe it wasn't done before.


Add a Comment

Similar Guitar News

Soloing Strategies: The Most Electrifying Riffs of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page (8/6/2015)
Truly a guitar god, Jimmy Page is one of the most captivating soloists the rock world has ever known. Daring, spontaneous, melodic, bluesy, diverse, flashy, breathtaking and, yes, sloppy, all are adjectives befitting his singular style. And whil...
Ritchie Blackmore, David Gilmour, Brian May and Others Play "Smoke on the Water" in 1989 — Video (7/13/2015)
It was 26 years ago this week that one of the greatest guitar hero gatherings of all time got under way. The occasion was a remake of the 1972 Deep Purple hit “Smoke on the Water” that featured some of the biggest players in rock, including Ritc...
Queen's Brian May: ‘Wayne’s World’ “Bohemian Rhapsody” Scene Hit Close to Home (11/2/2015)
Saturday, October 31, marked exactly 40 years since Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released. Despite four decades of performing and hearing the song, guitarist Brian May still enjoys what is undoubtedly his biggest hit. “I’m not sick of it,” he...
Queen's Brian May Provides "Rude Awakenings" on New Kalinich and Tiven Album (7/1/2015)
Today, GuitarWorld.com presents "Rude Awakenings," a new song by Kalinich and Tiven that features a somewhat unorthodox guitar solo by Queen's Brian May. The track is from Kalinich and Tiven's new album, Each Soul Has a Voice, which will be rele...
Metallica, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck Jam at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 — Video (7/30/2015)
Sometimes, my mind randomly flashes back to 2009. After all, that was a really good hair year for me. But it's also the year rock fans got to see a particularly extraordinary assemblage of iconic musicians on one stage. I'm talking about that sp...
Jimmy Page Shows His Double-Neck Gibson and Fender Tele with B-Bender — Video (6/16/2015)
Here’s a little something from 30 summers ago. On July 18, 1985, The Guitar Show visited Les Paul’s home in Mahwah, New Jersey, to tape Les and Jimmy Page for an episode. It was five days after Led Zeppelin’s reunion performance for Live Aid in...
Jimmy Page Releases Lighter, Early Version of Led Zeppelin's “When the Levee Breaks” (7/23/2015)
Jimmy Page has released audio of “If It Keeps on Raining,” an early version of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” You can check it out below. The previously unissued track will be released July 31 as part of the companion disc included wit...
Jimmy Page Plays Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" with Paul Rodgers and Nirvana, GNR Members — Video (11/20/2015)
Last night in Seattle, at the Experience Music Project Museum, a group of musicians got together to honor Jimmy Page. But no one expected the former Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and Firm guitarist to actually perform. Then, as the night (and the Fi...
Jimmy Page Plays Chopin at 1983 ARMS Concert — Video (10/27/2015)
Jimmy Page has demonstrated his guitar talents in a range of musical styles over the course of his career, from hard rock to folk. And for one celebrated event, he dabbled ever so briefly in classical, when he adapted Frédéric Chopin’s Prelude i...
Jimmy Page Plans to Record Solo Album in 2016 (11/24/2015)
According to The Pulse Of Radio, Jimmy Page wants to start recording his next solo album in 2016. If this is true, it will be Page's first solo album since 1988's Outrider, which featured vocals and writing by Page's old Led Zeppelin band mate, ...
Jimmy Page Elaborates on His Solo Plans, Says New Material Might Be Instrumental (7/30/2015)
After Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham, Jimmy Page wanted to stop playing. “I didn’t want to play the guitar,” Page tells Rolling Stone’s David Fricke in a new interview. “It was going to bring up too muc...
Guitarist Quotes 10 Legends — from Jimmy Page to Steve Vai — in One Guitar Solo — Video (9/24/2015)
Below is a fairly recent video from Andre Antunes, one of our favorite video-making guitarists. We’ve previously featured Andre’s videos—including “Uptown Funk—Played by 10 Epic Famous Guitar Players” and
100 Greatest Guitar Solos: No. 20 "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Brian May) (7/19/2015)
“Freddie [Mercury] had the whole piece pretty well mapped out, as I remember, but he didn’t have a guitar solo planned," Queen's Brian May said. "So I guess I steamed in and said, ‘This is the point where you need your solo, and these are the c...
Hear Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck Sing on Their Debut Solo Singles (4/10/2015)
In early 1965, when Jimmy Page was an in-demand London session guitarist, he—thanks to the encouragement of pop singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon—decided to branch out a bit. He—for the first time—released a single under his own name. Although ...
Jimmy Page and Soundgarden's Chris Cornell Talk Led Zeppelin History and More — Video (2/10/2015)
To celebrate the release of Jimmy Page’s new photo book, Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page, the guitar legend appeared with Chris Cornell, guitarist and singer for Soundgarden, at the Theater at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for a relaxed question-an...
Brian May Guitars release ukulele (2/3/2015)
Read more about Brian May Guitars release ukulele at MusicRadar.com Brian May Guitars has announced a concert model ukele, designed by the Queen guitar legend himself. With a body shape reflecting the double cutaway curves of May's iconic Red Sp...