Famous Black Guitar Players in Rock Music

Jimi HendrixRock n’ Roll was born out of the black music of the South. Long before we filled arenas to bang our heads and pump our fists, black guitar players were filling juke joints and smokey dive bars with the sounds of their jiving with masterful guitar wizardry. These days, not many black musicians preserve or expand that juke joint music into modern rock n roll. (It’s a terrible shame.)

Here are some of the more famous black guitar players.

Jimi Hendrix – You can hardly start any list of famous guitar players, black or white or other wise, without Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix almost single handedly invented the term “guitar hero”.

Vernon Reed – Living Colour sure turned some heads when they came on the scene in the mid to late 80′s. Eddy Van Halen was taking notice of this guys style.

Prince – Not always known for his guitar playing, Prince is a powerful and lyrical guitar player that few can match. If you are in doubt, pull out a copy of Purple Rain and give it a listen.

Eric Gales – Storming onto the rock n roll stage before he was out of high school, Gales, can throw down with the best of them. Crunchy and emotional is one way to describe the way Gales plays guitar.

Robert Randolph – Noted for his pedal steel guitar playing, Randolph brings crowds from miles around to hear him shred on the steel and stomp his feet. Rolling Stone listed Randolph as the 97th best guitarist of all time in 2003.

Ernie Isley – If you can mix passionate soul and shredding rock music, Isley is the man to do it. Receiving his first guitar lessons on Jimi Hendrix’ knee, Isely became and important guitar player in his own right. If you happen upon solo Ernie Isley, you should pick it up.

Bo Diddley – There would probably be no rock n’ roll without Mr. Bo Diddley. Diddley was the bridge between what was blues to what became early rock n’ roll. You can hear his influence in everything from Guns n Roses to U2 and back again.

Chuck Berry – One of the founders of rock n’ roll, Berry, has left his mark with songs that most of us know by heart.

Victor Johnson – Sammy Hagar is not the only guitar player in his Wabo band. Johnson, is the other player doing the shredding that Hagar can’t.

Eddy Hazel - George Clinton may be the only guy your remember from Parliment/Funkadelic, but there was Hazel on guitar that made it all possible. Some believe that Hazel is one of the best guitar players that ever lived.

This list should get you started and help you find some new material to listen to. By no means is this list complete. There are other great black guitarist that I wouldn’t lump into rock n roll. A short list of these players would look like this: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, BB King, George Benson, Buddy Guy, Stanley Jordon among many others.

Lastly, if I’ve missed an important black guitarist, please let me know in a comment.

Eric Gales – Storming onto the rock n roll stage before he was out of high school, Gales, can throw down with the best of them. Crunchy and emotional is one way to describe the way Gales plays guitar.

27 Comments

  1. Leo Nocentelli of the Meters

  2. Great post, some awesome black legends of rock. Jimmy Hendrix was a revolution in black rock music and lead the way for many other black artists. Awesome guitarist who sounded best through a semi acoustic guitar and his les paul guitar.
    .-= Daniel Jones´s last blog ..Ibanez AS93 Artcore Review =-.

  3. You forgot to list one of the best..
    Robert Cray
    .-= Ron´s last blog ..Rock Songwriter Intros Songs Online (for Free) =-.

  4. Upon listening to Prince recently, I had forgotten what a bad ass guitar player he is. Not only can he shred, but he just writes really intelligent music.

  5. Yeah, Guitar Speed has it right. Prince is an great guitarist, and musician.

  6. Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Jon Butcher, Nile Rodgers, Slash (yes his mother is black), Lenny Kravitz, Ben Harper, Alvin Youngblood Hart, & R.L. Burnside.

    Then there’s all the ones from WAY back:

    Charlie Patton, Lonnie Johnson, Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tampa Red, Blind Blake, Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Charlie Christian, T Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Hubert Sumlin, Willie Johnson, Pat Hare, Earl King, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Albert King, Freddie King, B.B. King, Mickey Baker, Wayne Bennett, Johnny Guitar Watson, Albert Collins, & Curtis Mayfield.

  7. what about kevin eubanks….! ya know, it used to be “kevin eubanks and the tonight show band!” no more though :(

  8. What about Hiram Bullock of Sting? Unfortunately, he passed away too young. More on his http://guitarbites.com/players-mainmenu-93/196-stings-guitarist-hiram-bullock-dies
    .-= guitar god´s last blog ..Grasshopper James Daily Accelerated Practice Plan =-.

  9. have you all forgotten about Elmore James prety sure he was black. And if you don’t think he was great just ask the Allman Brothers, Yard Birds, and E C.

  10. Elmore was great… but he’s a blues player. I think this article is about rock players.

  11. Hey thanks for the inspiration guys. I’m about to buy a guitar for the first time and it makes me feel better that I have people to emulate that look like me.

  12. Welcome Dude! Happy playing and good luck.

  13. These are some great ones! However, a lot were more prevelent in blues than rock n roll. I’ve noticed some other comments that include BB King and such.. Mostly blues! Of course rock n roll came from blues anyway! So, I guess you could say these are rock and roll guitarist?
    Learn Guitar Chords´s last blog post ..Intermediate Guitar Lessons

  14. Christ. Colour has nothing to do with it.

  15. It is funny but term “black guitar player” is sometimes used for describing something that does not exist, like a myth. On most of top ten lists of guitar players Hendrix is only black one. Strange thing when it is known that old black blues players where the first ones who played guitars in rock manner. It seems that somewhere along the line white players took over.

  16. what u mean by rock n roll?.
    Charlie Patton, Lonnie Johnson, Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tampa Red, Blind Blake, Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Charlie Christian, T Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Hubert Sumlin, Willie Johnson, Pat Hare, Earl King, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Albert King, Freddie King, B.B. King, Mickey Baker, Wayne Bennett, Johnny Guitar Watson, Alb

    THESE IS NOT ROCK AND ROLL

    blues or whatever …. you forgot the one
    ROCK AND ROLL guitar CHUK BERRY

    sorry guys but u have no idea

  17. I believe Chuck Berry is in the list. You do mention some great guitar players, but I would call most of those blues stylist.

  18. @Guitar God:

    Hiram Bullock is king! Too bad he passed away and unfortunately he hasn’t got the recognition I think he deserves. Probably because he did mostly work as a musician for others?

    Best
    Martin
    Here’s my blog:

    How to learn guitar

  19. Man, Jimi Hendrix is the best ever! I’m not sure if you agree with me but he redefined rock music with his amazing skills and awesome performance.

    No wonder this lefty was voted as the greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone in 2003 and named the 6th Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Artist of all time by the same magazine.
    Leo@FreeSamplesCanada.org´s last blog post ..Free Admission to Toronto Zoo for All Teachers in Ontario

  20. If you say rock players? What kind of guitars did they usually played? An Electric guitar or acoustic? Still confused.

  21. All these guys are great hard to top, but look out for Brandon Jarod.
    His tone is special and in few years you ‘ll be adding him to the list.
    Ran Du´s last blog post ..Wicked winds

  22. Robert Johnson,Mickey Baker. Maybe!

  23. Earl Klugh – Acoustic guitar

  24. Why is Prince always left off these list?

  25. OMG. eddie hazel and all the funkadelic guys. jesse johnson, greg howe, tony macalpine just to name a few. there are 100′s of great players, jimi hazel and the list goes on. check out the blackrockcoalition.org write them and ask. music has evolved. thanks for the article.

  26. This is a great list but there are others who really rocked like IKE tuner,listen to rocket 88 and nut bush city limits.also lenny kravits,curtis may field,darrius rucker,howling wolf,clarence carter and he was blind.

  27. Lyfe jennings,tracy chapman they rock

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