Queen's Brian May reveals his favourite guitarists of all time

Queen's Brian May
(Image credit: Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

Brian May has revealed his favourite guitar players of all time.

While in conversation with SiriusXM's The Howard Stern Show, Queen's guitarist discussed Total Guitar's recent fan-vote list in which saw him ranked at number one as the greatest guitarist of all time.

Instead of elaborating too much on the honour, May paid tribute to his own personal favourites, with a particularly lengthy focus on Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.

"The nice thing about guitar playing is that everybody's different" May says of the list. "You can't really rank people. Of course I've got my favourites too. But the fact that people put me in that position makes me smile. It's a lovely feeling."

Pushing the spotlight elsewhere, May continues, "I'm not in the first million guitarists in the world; I know that. There's people I listen to every day that do things that I could never do."

Listing his favourites, he says: "I listen to [Extreme/Rihanna guitarist] Nuno Bettencourt and I just smile because it's so beautiful and it's so way out of what I could ever do. It doesn't bother me, 'cause I don't feel in competition. I just love the guy and I love what he does. Same with Jeff Beck. Same with Ed Van Halen. We worked together, and it was the most wonderful experience. My jaw dropped every time he touched the strings. It was just beautiful.

"There are so many wonderful guitarists. Steve Vai is just colossal, beautiful. And of course I still have my old heroes. Eric Clapton is still my hero. Jimi Hendrix is still my hero. Of course — it's always gonna be that way. Jeff Beck, to me, is something so exceptional and outside anything you could have imagined."

Then, the Queen legend takes some time to share his thoughts on late Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain.

"I don't think any guitarist should feel like they have anything to prove," May says. "It's not a competition. Kurt Cobain is a great example. There's not a lot of technical stuff there, and he didn't work that hard at being technical, and yet he gives us a legacy of some of the greatest guitar music of all time. So it's not about technique. It's about what you put into it and what you feel and how that feeling gets across in your guitar playing."

Later this year, Queen will hit the road with Adam Lambert for an autumn tour, kicking off on October 4 in Maryland, and coming to a close on November 11 in California. 

The run of 14 shows will be Queen + Adam Lambert's first US shows since the Rhapsody Tour in 2019, and tickets will go on general sale March 31 at 10am local from Live Nation.  

Queen + Adam Lambert: Rhapsody Across America tour 2023

Oct 04: Baltimore CFG Bank Arena, MD
Oct 08: Toronto Scotiabank Arena, ON
Oct 10: Detroit Little Caesars Arena, MI
Oct 12: New York Madison Square Garden, NY
Oct 15: Boston TD Garden, MA
Oct 18: Philadelphia Wells Fargo Center, PA
Oct 23: Atlanta State Farm Arena, GA
Oct 25: Nashville Bridgestone Arena, TN
Oct 27: St. Paul Xcel Energy Center, MN
Oct 30: Chicago United Center, IL
Nov 02: Dallas American Airlines Center, TX
Nov 05: Denver Ball Arena, CO
Nov 08: San Francisco Chase Center, CA
Nov 11: Los Angeles BMO Stadium, CA

Liz Scarlett

Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music.