Electric guitars have been a staple of the music world for over 60 years. To many people, including a group of dedicated music fans at Spark Energy, the electric guitar is the defining instrument in contemporary music ensembles. So we decided to sit down and rate what we think are the 10 most iconic electric guitars of all time. The discussion was opinionated, to say the least, and the final list of 10 guitars was easier to agree upon than their individual rankings.
So, without further ado, here’s part one of our list of the 10 most iconic electric guitars of all time. Make sure to check out part two for the rest of the best, to vote on how you would have ranked these 10 guitars and to set us straight about any electric guitars you would have put on the list instead.
1. Fender Stratocaster
Outside of the Gibson Les Paul Standard, no electric guitar says rock-and-roll like the dual-horned Fender Stratocaster. It could be the most easily-recognized and widely-played electric guitar in the world, by pros and amateurs alike. Exactly how iconic is this axe? Well, Jimi Hendrix set fire to it, Eric Clapton bought six at once, Stevie Ray Vaughn singlehandedly resurrected blues with it, and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour owns serial number #0001.
Year introduced: 1954
Key players: Randy Bachman, Jeff Beck, Adrian Belew, Eric Clapton, The Edge, John Frusciante, David Gilmour, Buddy Guy, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Eric Johnson, Mark Knopfler, John Lennon, Alex Lifeson, John Mayer, Pete Townshend, Robin Trower, Ritchie Valens, Stevie Ray Vaughan
2. Gibson Les Paul Standard
One of two of the most recognized electric guitars in the world along with Fender’s Stratocaster, the Gibson Les Paul Standard has been THE electric guitar for generations of rock-and-rollers. There’s nothing quite like the universal appeal of the Standard’s beautiful, simple design and smooth lines. After all, it’s not called the Standard for nothing.
Year introduced: 1958
Key players: Duane Allman, Billie Joe Armstrong, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Ace Frehley, Billy Gibbons, Steve Jones, Mark Knopfler, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Randy Rhoads, Slash, Zakk Wylde
3. Gibson SG Standard
The best-selling Gibson guitar of all time, the SG (officially renamed the SG Standard in 1963) was originally intended as a redesign of the Les Paul Standard. When the SG hit in 1961, it sold more than three times the number of Les Paul Standards sold in the guitar’s entire three-year run from 1958–60. Maybe that’s because the SG looks as hard as it rocks.
Year introduced: 1961
Key players: Eric Clapton, Elliot Easton, Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Robby Krieger, Pete Townshend, Thom Yorke, Angus Young, Frank Zappa
4. Fender Telecaster
Originally introduced as the Broadcaster, the Telecaster, or Tele, hasn’t evolved much over the years, and with good reason. After all, when you’re the revolutionary model that finally put solid-body electric guitars on the map and started the rock-and-roll lead guitar phenomenon, what exactly do you need to improve on? The original’s simple design and fluid lines have been retained throughout the Tele’s production, which has gone uninterrupted since its debut over 60 years ago.
Year introduced: 1950
Key Players: Syd Barrett, Jeff Beck, Frank Black, Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan, David Gilmour, Jonny Greenwood, Merle Haggard, Chrissie Hynde, George Harrison, PJ Harvey, Waylon Jennings, Alex Lifeson, Mike Oldfield, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Robbie Robertson, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend, Muddy Waters
5. Rickenbacker 300 Series
The Rickenbacker 300 Series is instantly recognizable by its single, straight-cut modern f-hole and oversized headstock. The “Ricky” was wildly popular during the 1960s and served as the backbone of pop music during the decade, most notably as the main axes of The Beatles. It was also among the first electric guitar models to get a 12-string edition, called the 360/12.
Year introduced: 1958
Key players: Peter Banks, Peter Buck, The Edge, Noel Gallagher, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Tom Petty, Pete Townshend, Hilton Valentine, Thom Yorke
“25 Most Iconic Guitars Ever,” Stuff, Sept. 16, 2010.
Gibson, “15 Iconic Les Paul Players.”
Gibson, “15 Iconic SG Players.”
Gibson, “The Best-Selling Gibson of All Time: The SG Standard.”
Wikipedia, “Fender Telecaster.”
Wikipedia, “List of Gibson Players.”
Wikipedia, “List of Rickenbacker Players.”
Wikipedia, “List of Stratocaster Players.”
Wikipedia, “List of Telecaster Players.”
Wikipedia, “Rickenbacker 330.”