Top 20 Fender Artists of All Time

Published on 30 May 2024

9 minutes

It’s all about the number ‘20’ this year! Guitarguitar has turned 20 and we’ll be celebrating with yourselves all year! We’ve invited a number of top brands to celebrate with us too, and they don’t get any bigger than Fender! We all love Fender, and judging by what gets played and bought in our stores, you do too!

Today, I aim to draw together a list of 20 great Fender artists from throughout the company’s history. The story of Fender IS the story of rock ‘n’ roll, so you’ll see some of the most legendary artists appearing, as well as some well-deserved but perhaps less stratospheric stars, too. All deserve our attention, and so in no particular order, here are the top 20 Fender artists of all time

Top 20 Fender Artists of All Time

John Frusicante

You all overwhelmingly voted for him in our recent poll about the most influential artists of the last 20 years. He’s one of your favourite players for sure, and I have to say, y’all have pretty good taste!

Frusciante has been with the Red Hot Chili Peppers since Mother’s Milk, though there have been stints in the band’s history when both Dave Navarro and Josh Klinghoffer took up guitar duties in his absence. Great players as they undoubtedly are, I think we can all agree that there is only one true guitarist in the Chilis, right?

Although John plays a variety of guitars, he’s clearly a Strat guy. Here’s a secret tip for you: he’s very vocal about loving his vintage ‘62 Strat (rightly so) but doesn’t often mention the fact that the pickups are a set of ‘regular’ Seymour Duncan Californian single coils! Worth a try if you love his tone!

Jimi Hendrix

All these years later, and most of us still instantly think of Hendrix whenever anyone mentions the terms ‘best guitarist ever’, ‘whammy bar’, ‘white strat’ or ‘Woodstock’. He’s just indelibly in there, within the DNA of each guitar player who has come around since.

We all love Hendrix, and for quite different reasons. For me, it was his wild spirit: it was as if he could see shards of lightning coming from his guitar as he played, and strove to chase that lightning wherever it took him. It’s breathtaking stuff, and I suspect it’ll remain that way forever.

Ritchie Blackmore

A titanic hero for many, Deep Purple’s classic axeman Ritchie Blackmore deserves his status for sure. He not only gave the world the most well-known riff ever (Smoke on the Water), but he changed the game as a lead player too, bringing exotic playing and wild whammy bar tricks to one of the defining 70s hard rock bands. What is it about white Strats and influential lead guitarists?

Jeff Buckley

The tragic and awesomely talented Jeff Buckley continues to inspire, some 27 years after his accidental drowning in the Mississippi. A gifted guitarist and absolutely supersonic singer, Buckley also had a uniquely epic songwriting style that mixed melancholy with melodrama to unforgettable effect. A Tele fan, his iconic 1983 blonde Tele was actually on ‘permanent loan’ from his friend!

David Gilmour

Big Dave is the People’s Champion when it comes to guitar heroes. He’s a great equaliser out there in the world, where people like all kinds of music: from reggae lovers to metal maniacs, everyone agrees that Gilmour’s guitaring is pretty wonderful.

He has a killer sound (not too ‘anything’, but just the right amount of everything), he plays memorable parts that are on the right side of showy, and all of his playing is accessible and tasteful. Whatever ‘it’ is, David Gilmour’s got plenty of it.

Buddy Holly

Another gifted artist lost at a young age, Buddy Holly is the OG Fender guitar hero. Before Weezer, before Hank, Buddy Holly was the original bespectacled guitar-toting lead singer, and he made an international name for himself whilst still in his teens.

He wasn’t long for the planet, but people are still listening to his music 70 years later. In that regard, he has become immortal.


Flea is probably the world’s favourite bassist. Think about it: when do you ever hear people saying ‘I don’t like what Flea does’? He’s universally loved, whether that’s with his day job with the Chilis, or his stints with Jane’s Addiction and Atoms for Peace.

From hummable bass melodies to insane displays of freakery, Flea has all bases (sorry) covered.

Yngwie Malmsteen

Talking about excess, it’s still worth remembering what this crazy Swede is able to conjure up on his blonde Strats. Eschewing subtlety for a vibe that blends ferocity with finesse, Malmsteen is the one guy who will always be able to out-shred you. His large personality, distinctly baroque dress sense and taste for the finer things in life make him a lovably eccentric star and then some.

John 5

Flamboyant in a completely different way to Yngwie is John 5, the Tele-toting rock ‘n’ roll  horror heavyweight. Easily one of the world’s best players, John still understands the importance of playing actual songs and being part of an ensemble. He’s performed lead guitar duties for shock-rockers Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, and has most recently joined Motley Crue, where he fits in just perfectly.

PJ Harvey

Look up the word ‘iconoclastic’ in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of Polly Jean Harvey. Restlessly reinventing herself from album to album, PJ Harvey seems to be on an inspiring and never-ending quest to follow her muse. She’s a great collaborator, but seems to be at her most potent and effective when she calls the shots. An avid Tele fan, her biggest record Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea is essential listening.

Jonny Greenwood

Most guitar players live for the day they get referred to as a ‘guitar hero’ but for Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, he gets embarrassed and retreats behind a stack of keyboards and samplers instead. He’s a humble man, because he single-handedly rewrote the blueprint for 90s guitar heroes, and created a whole vocabulary of sounds and techniques that still sound fresh and edgy today.

Brad Paisley

He’s an arena-filler anywhere he goes in the world, and his unapologetically flash Country guitar shreds are legendary. He’s a people’s player for sure, but for people who love to watch a man in a cowboy hat occasionally go bananas on a sparkly Telecaster.

What’s not to like? His music can be slick, but in the context of modern country music, this guy is giving it some welly, and it’s made him a hero to many.

Tom Morello

For guitarists who came through in the 90s, Tom Morello was a big line drawn in the sand: older players could appreciate the skill, but they maybe didn’t understand how such a gifted shredder could also be so ‘anti-guitar’ in his approach.

Using a brace of modified Strats, Teles and his famous ‘Arm the Homeless’ guitar, Tom has made a point of using only a handful of standard effects pedals to create sounds that are literally otherworldly.

Considering his riff writing is normally pretty straightforward, his solos are anything but: from harmonised dive bombs and toggle-switch manipulation to playing an entire song with an allen key, Morello remains an inspiring one-off.

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Big SRV is another one of those Strat-toting Blues Rock players who continues to inspire each subsequent generation. He had the tone, the feel, the passion and the chops to execute it all with a finesse that eludes most players.

Vaughan is a great example of someone who wasn’t really innovating as much as he was channelling emotions, using the familiar blueprint of the blues to bare his soul.

Julien Baker

Whether solo or with Boygenius, Julien Baker is a heavily influential presence in today’s music scene. Her deeply confessional lyrics and raw performances have won her a large and passionate fanbase, and her innovative loop-laden guitar style is proving to be inspiring copycats all over the alternative scene.

The best thing is, I get the feeling she’s only beginning to hit her stride. Who knows what she’ll do next?

Larry Graham

Sly and the Family Stone were far more innovative and influential than history gave them credit for. Their bassist Larry Graham is at least partially responsible for this, as the man who first put ‘slap bass’ onto a record!

He’s a lot more than that, though, and his feel and timing are a huge contribution to the inspiring funk that the Family Stone put out in the 70s. Never a note too many or too little, and always right in the pocket. Perfect.

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck was the artist that other great artists looked up to as their font of greatness. His touch, his tone, his restless, wayward spirit following his intuition… he bore all of the hallmarks required for legendary status, and he seemed to wear it all very lightly.

A humble guy, but an enthusiastic one, and a player of such richness and emotion, there’s no mistaking why the world collectively sighed when he passed on.

Bruce Springsteen

Where do I start with Springsteen? He’s a living legend, out there proving it every night with the E-Street band and his trusty Telecasters. With a voice that’s equal parts granite block and tender, and a songwriting style that effortlessly blends the intimate with the epic, there’s no performer that delivers a sound or vibe quite like Bruce. Many try, but it’s the light touch he gives his heavier statements that help him resonate in a uniquely identifiable way.

He ain't called The Boss for nothing!

Tom Delonge

Am I being divisive by including the frontman from Blink 182? I can already hear the protests from certain circles, but I’ve also seen how enthusiastic you’ve all been about his signature Fenders, and about the buzz surrounding Blink’s comeback tour recently. It seems to me that there are lots of ways to be influential, and Tom Delonge is probably as responsible for getting people into guitar playing as any Slash/Hendrix/whomever.

Great songs are great songs, and great tone is great tone. Tom’s got both of those things, so he’s a top Fender artist as far as I’m concerned!

Hank Marvin

It can sometimes be difficult for a contemporary listener to fully understand the climate in which Hank and the Shadows made their waves in the music industry. The music sounds pretty and kind of antiquated at a casual listen, but put yourself in the context of a listener in the late 1950s and a magic trick seems to happen in your ears: the music of The Shadows becomes beautifully romantic and full of a lost charm. It certainly takes you somewhere!

This is all down to Hank Marvin’s twangy tone and highly developed sense of melody, as well as the space and restraint given by the rest of ‘the Shads’ to allow his guitar to shine. Older people may well hear the music entirely differently, but there’s definitely something special about it regardless.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain is often a polarising figure in the guitar world, but as someone who was (just) old enough to remember him being alive, I can say he was an influential and respected musician at the time. His single-handed takedown of the hair metal shredders actually didn’t feel too deliberate at the time: people were too caught up in how the songs sounded by care about bands from 6 years previous.

What is clear is that Cobain was a very specific player: his approach was to serve his ideas, and his ideas were always the strongest thing about Nirvana. In that sense, he was undeniably a great player.

Plus, what a tone!

Eric Clapton

Blues rocker Eric Clapton has had an enduringly long career as not only a guitar hero but as a singer and songwriter. Certainly, he’s best known for his tasteful playing on a black Strat whilst wearing an Armani suit, but there was the Cream Clapton prior to that, and the Bluesbreakers Clapton before even that!

He’s a big deal to lots of guitar fans, that’s for sure: the ‘Clapton is God’ graffiti says it all, and whilst ol’ Slowhand is not as active musically as he once was, there’s a huge back catalogue of his music to enjoy.

7 Decades of Great Music

How was that for a list? Did I include most of the people you wanted? I actually realised when writing this section that I’d missed out an absolute belter of a player, so this top 20 is actually 21!

There are, of course, a great many more than 20 wonderful Fender artists out there. I went with 20 to coincide with our 20th anniversary, so it was never going to be a simple task!

Who did I miss out? Do let me know, and make sure you enjoy our 20th anniversary festivities at a guitarguitar store near you!

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I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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