There is a consistency to country music that is refreshing to country fans as they patronize their favorite songs and artists on streaming sites. Guitarists continue to play a major role in creating the consistency of the sound and framework of top tunes that fans enjoy. From traditional to modern country, the range of talent is broad in scope when it comes to country's best pickers. Here are the top 13 best country guitarists whose artistry stands as a testament to the universal appeal of country music.
13. Scotty Moore
Scotty Moore is best known for his work as the sought after country music guitarist who Elvis Presley hand-picked for his band. Moore's ability to infuse feeling in the tone of his guitar licks gave Presley his notable sound in studio and in live performances on tracks like "Heartbreak Hotel" and "That's Alright Mama" that are noted as a few of Presley's top tunes.
12. John Denver
"Take Me Home, Country Road" and "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" mark some of the top hit records that Denver scored as a folk/country artist. Denver made a mark as a noted vocalist and acoustic player on the guitar. Denver would often perform acoustic shows with just vocals and guitar to the appeal of his fans. His picking style was smooth and rapid similar to the style of Roy Clark whose music inspired him as a picker.
11. Jimmy Bryant
Jimmy Bryant is a country music guitarist who discovered his niche in country listening to the music of country guitarist, Merle Travis. Bryant found his own sound as a musician while overseas serving in the military. He came up with new flavors of interpretation from listening to Django Reinhardt after hearing his music while in the service. Bryant is known as the pioneer of Country Jazz on the guitar.
10. Hank Garland
Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland made his official debut a the Grand Ole Opry His performance on that show landed him in music row. Garland brought pure country to life in the recording booth that led to him becoming the go-to guitarist for live studio sessions during the 1950s. His style illustrated his unique talent to play trailblazing solos on the guitar.
9. Grady Martin
Grady Martin played with Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson and other greats. Martin’s talent in blending picking and rhythm helped create the classic country sounds of Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. Like Hank Garland, Martin could play various styles of music rock to country. His natural playing style along with his ear for the music made room for Martin to expand chord structures and offer sounds that later became the essence of classic country music.
Glenn Campbell began his career as a session guitarist in the city of Los Angeles. Through his passion for country, he became a top-notch picker on both acoustic and electric guitar. In addition to gigs and session work, Campbell showed fans his mastery of country picking on his weekly variety television show, "The Glenn Campbell Goodtime Hour."
7. Roy Clark
Roy Clark is one of the country music industry's pioneer crossover musicians who took country across from the concert stage to national television. Clark's talent as a solid banjoist and guitarist led to his starring role on the hit TV show, “Hee Haw.” As a guitarist, he was skilled as a rapid-fire picker on acoustic and electric guitar.
6. Merle Travis
Merle Travis grew up listening to pickers like Ike Everly whose music inspired him to play guitar. Travis soon found himself developing his own style of fingerpicking that took his career to heights of success in the country music industry. He inspired players like Chet Atkins and others with his solid technique as a musician. As a writer, Travis wrote country standards like “Dark as the Dungeon” and other country hits.
Hank Williams achieved success in country pioneering acoustic country as a guitarist and singer/songwriter. His unique acoustic guitar picking validated the popularity of acoustic country and contributed a major influence to the sound of country music. Songs like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Hey Good Lookin” are two of his hit tracks that established his brand and versatility as a singer and guitar picker to fans. He earned the title of “the King of Country Music” for his talents in acoustic vocals and guitar picking.
4. Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins also known as "Mr. Guitar" is one of the pioneering founders of the Nashville sound of country music. His playing style influenced Eric Clapton, George Harrison and other stars. Popular on the circuit as a producer and master picker on the guitar, Atkins earned the achievement of becoming the most recorded guitarist in the history of country music.
3. Vince Gil
Vince Gil is known for his heartfelt solos in his guitar picking in live shows. He has received numerous country music awards as well. He continues to be a driving force in today’s country music sound as a singer/songwriter and speed picker on electric guitar.
2. Brad Paisley
Brad Paisley is known as one of today’s most progressive country music guitarists. Paisley has a signature style that illustrates the essence of traditional country with an emphasis on creative improvisation on intricate solos that Paisley delivers on live concerts for fans to enjoy.
Luther Perkins is a country music guitarist who rose to national recognition as a member of Johnny Cash' band, The Tennessee Three. Perkins played lead guitar for Cash with a clean crisp sound that blended with Cash' voice in a way that defined their mutual styles in artistry. Perkins played with ease of picking on the guitar in a mid-range tone mixing country and blues that helped create Cash’ signature sound in classic country.