Our Top 10 All-Time Favorite Slide Guitarists

Mark Johnson and Tom Gray
(Photo: Daniel Coston)

Driving home from a gig in Mobile yesterday, Mark and I put together a list of our top ten favorite slide guitar players (bottleneck or steel). Here’s what we came up with, with a link to a song for each:


1. Mick Taylor - Beautiful tone and exceptional vibrato. "Love in Vain"

2. Ry Cooder - To me he's got the hugest slide sound. His technique and vocabulary are so refined that he's impossible to copy. "Get Rhythm"

3. Lowell George - For his economy of notes and his use of compression and sustain. His rhythm playing was impeccable. "Rock and Roll Doctor"

4. Mississippi Fred McDowell - He incorporated bottleneck slide into funky, hypnotic, rhythmic riffs. "Write Me a Few of Your Lines"

5. Sonny Landreth - He's taken everything one step further, doing stuff that no one has ever done before, including fretting behind the slide. He's influenced the whole next generation of players. "Bayou Teche"


6. Blind Willie Johnson - One of the earliest recorded slide players and still one of the greatest. His music was beyond genre and beyond time. "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground"

7. David Lindley - He brought the lap steel, kicking and screaming, into rock and roll in the 1970s, and later inspired a renaissance of Weissenborn acoustic Hawaiian guitars. "Mercury Blues"

8. Jerry Byrd - He recorded with Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, and hundreds of others. He was the absolute master of the lap steel guitar and the source of most of the technique I've managed to absorb. "My Little Chickadee"

9. Josh Graves - He established the Dobro in bluegrass music. Yet his sound with Flatt and Scruggs was so gritty and bluesy that Carl Smith once told him, "If they ever figure out what you're playing they'll fire you." "Fireball Mail"

10. The Campbell Brothers - There's some amazing music being played in the Sacred Steel churches, and the Campbell Brothers -- Chuck on pedal steel and Darick on lap steel -- are making some of the best of it. "The Judgment"

Of course, this list barely scratches the surface. I can think of many other great players who deserve to appear on it, and probably you can too. If so, please leave a comment. Whose name would you add and why?

Views: 34101

Comment by chris sweeney on August 1, 2010 at 5:04pm
First, I would have to second the motion on Sonny Landreth. He is an amazing slide guitarist.

I have been a big fan of Jerry Douglas for many years. I think he raised the bar for Dobro players when he came on the scene.
Comment by Randy S on August 1, 2010 at 6:18pm
How about Jerry Douglas on dobro and Derek Trucks...the best in the world at the moment?...and of course, Duame Allman who channels through Derek...
Comment by SuperKing Coz on August 1, 2010 at 6:53pm
You're missing one of the most avant garde slide players of all time; Chris Whitley and he did it within well written songs, (not typical blues I-IV-V) and on old National Resonators!
Comment by mario duran on August 1, 2010 at 6:54pm
how about rich robinson of the black crowes on the song "desending" from Amorica.
damn good song!!
Comment by Henry Jasen on August 1, 2010 at 7:03pm
Doesn't Leo Kottke fit in here somewhere?
Comment by Art Klein on August 1, 2010 at 7:04pm
duane allman
ry cooder
leo kottke
david bromberg
rusty young?
Comment by scott spencer on August 1, 2010 at 7:15pm
Saw Sonny Landreth and was amazed the best I have seen.
Comment by Rob Taylor-Manning on August 1, 2010 at 7:26pm
not to disagree with any of these suggestions, just throwing gurf morlix into the discussion.
Comment by RobinPiney on August 1, 2010 at 7:29pm
I agree with your 10 and Jerry Douglas raises the bar whenever he steps up to the mic. I'd add the late greats Duane Allman and Merle Watson, as well as Leo Kottke, Joe Walsh and young female whippersnapper Anne McCue.
Comment by Joe Gorfinkle on August 1, 2010 at 7:31pm
Elmore James would be high on my list.If you were including lap guitar,pedal steel and Dobro ... Buddy Emmons, Sneaky Pete, Ben Keith, Mike Auldrige, Pete Drake,Ralph Mooney, Curley Chalker, Buddy Charleton,Lloyd Green,Tom Brumley, Leon McAullife,Cindy Cashdollar(she is EXCELLENT).. Bottleneck..Kokomo Arnold, Tampa Red, Bukka White,Robert Johnson...so many names & Styles..so little space


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.