Country music guitarists don’t get the credit they often deserve. Reason why? Well, let’s just say you aren’t there to perform outlandish guitar solos like those lead guitarists do at a Rock or Heavy Metal concert. There are some several Country music great lead guitarists and this list here, are some of my favorite lead guitarists that have played in Country music over the last 50+ years.
14. Duane Denison: Duane is part of Hank 3’s Damn Band on tour. His guitar technique is more based on Punk Rock and other elements of Heavy Metal. What he offers up to Hank 3, is a heavy crisp sound during the live performances which incorporate Country, Metal, and Punk.
13. Johnny Hiland: Johnny is best known for his lead solos on Hank 3’s studio albums. Although, legally blind, his style of chicken picking brings a certain traditional sound to Hank 3’s overall sound.
12. LeRoy Powell: Best known as the lead guitarist with Shooter Jennings’s old band the 357’s, until they were fired by Shooter. I love his style that incorporates his influences of Eddie Van Halen, Neil Young, and Jerry Reed.
11. Vince Gill: Although, I am not a big fan, he does have my respect as being one of Country music’s best lead guitarists of all time. He has conducted a very successful solo career after leaving Pure Prairie League. He was also a member of the Cherry Bombs, a Country music super group.
10. Brad Paisley: I like Brad’s style of guitar picking. He was influenced by Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck for starters as well as other Country musicians such as Alabama.
9. Greg Martin: The lead guitarists of a band that calls themselves as Heavy Metal Bluegrass, the Kentucky Headhunters. Greg’s style of incorporating Blues with that big electric sound was far ahead of the time in Country music. He is a big influence on many younger pickers for sure. His work on “Electric Barnyard” is amazing.
8. Waylon Jennings: Waylon is on this list as he is one few Country music signers who actually did lead guitar. He has that certain style and sound incorporating Blues, Texas Swing, and Rock n’ Roll. He was also the guitarist for Buddy Holly’s band.
7. Merle Travis: Could easily been the best all time Country music guitarists. He incorporated so many musical styles that included ragtime, blues, boogie, jazz and Western swing. His style featured many rapid chord progressions, harmonics, slides and bends, and key changes. He played by a combination of finger picking and flatpicking.
6. Wayne “Animal” Turner: Wayne’s work with Hank Jr. and the Bama Band is impressive. He incorporates that southern sound into the style of Country music that he plays. His leads are among the best in Country music.
5. Carl Perkins: This guy may have created Rockabilly guitar that has influenced so many from Country music to Punk Rock. He incorporated Blues and Rock n’ Roll in order to mixed it with Country music that helped to jump start the Rockabilly craze.
4. Roy Clark: Another guitarist who helped to popularize Country and Bluegrass music. Many will recall him as being on the HeeHaw Show, but his guitar skills reach back into the 1960’s. I love the song “Roy’s Guitar Boogie.” He sure knew how to boogie and play the rag. It’s a shame that once a great guitarist, is now showing up on the top lists of guitarists that are forgotten.
3. Luther Perkins: He was the guitarist for Johnny Cash until his death in 1968. His guitar playing can be heard on the songs like “Walk The Line.” His style of Boogie music and Rockabilly has influenced many generations and genres of music.
2. Chet Akins: Chet has done much for Country music guitar. He knew how get around the fret board. He had a very distinctive picking style that influenced so many guitarists. Although, often credited with Country music, Chet played Folk, Jazz, Rock, Rockabilly, and Blues. He is also credited for saving Country music by inventing that Nashville Country music sound.
1. Jerry Reed: Discovered by Chet Akins, Jerry is one of few guitarists who created his own style of playing that is hard to reproduce. He knew the ins and outs of the guitar. His Claw style of finger picking and lead guitar makes him one of my favorite Country music guitarists.