After seen that 'popularity' poll for guitarist, I'd like to point out some guitar players that don't get the attention they deserve as 'skilled musicians'.
I can care less about popularity/commercial success and attitude which seem to be the determining factor in many cases
, I'd like to hear about guitar players that are actually good.
I've been playing guitar since I was 12 and I like to hear players/songwriters who are good regardless of style of music.
My favorites would be:
Alex Lifeson of RUSH
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
As for RUSH, you have to go beyond Tom Sawyer (the radio song) to hear what he is capable of. Listen to Hemispheres (all 18:07 of it), All of Permanent Waves and even Power Windows (which has a lot of synth) and you will be amazed. A great guitar player does more than shred or bend every note like the blues guys, an excellent player can paint a picture and get the most sound out of 6 strings (or 12).
I was lucky to meet him at a music & tennis festival back in 1990. Very funny and down to earth guy who like to crack a lot of jokes. Our style of humor was so alike it almost scarred me.
Mike Campbell is great because of all the fills and colors he adds to the music. He is one of the few rockers who can solo on a Rickenbacker 12-string. Any guitarist who has played one of these knows that's not an easy task. Those slim necks with all of that lacquer can make things very hard to move around.
Phil Keaggy is simply amazing. Excellent songwriter/composer and player. He is missing two fingers on one hand and can pull off what many can't do with all 10. He is unknown to many because he is on the Christian record labels and is mainly in to singing religious songs and doesn’t really care for all of the fanfare and hype.
A good album to get a dose is ‘Love Broke Through’ (1976) and The Master and the Musician (1978)
I've actually met him too at a church once to see him put on a small show. Very nice guy.
BTW, I am not one of those ‘holy-roller’ types.