Queen’s Brian May voted the greatest rock guitarist of all time

Queen's Brian May
Queen's Brian May (Image credit: Don Arnold/WireImage - Getty)

Queen’s Brian May has been named the greatest rock guitarist of all time by readers of Total Guitar magazine.

The magazine had a shortlist of 170 players which they split into six categories: classic rock, blues, heavy metal, shred, indie/alternative and ‘best right now’. Fans got to have their say in an online poll – and it was May who came out on top of the rock category.

Reacting to the news, May tells Total Guitar: “I’m absolutely speechless. I’m blown away. I have to say it’s completely unexpected. Obviously I’m deeply touched that people feel that way about me. I’m not under any illusions that, technically, I’m even on the tree of great guitarists. 

“I guess this tells me that what I’ve done has affected people, and that means a great deal to me. I will never claim to be a great guitarist in the sense of, you know, a virtuoso. I guess I just try to play from my heart and that’s about it.”

Rounding out the top five guitarists in the rock poll were Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton.

May adds: “Well, it is very humbling. Jimi is, of course, my number one. And I’ve always said that. To me, he’s still something superhuman. It’s like he really did come from an alien planet, and I will never know quite how he did what he did. 

“Every time I go back to Hendrix, I’m thrilled and stunned and I get that feeling all over again, like either I’m going to give up playing guitar, because I can’t face up to this, or I’m gonna really have to get into it in a big way and try and do what is in my own body and soul. 

“I never stop learning from Jimi. Strangely enough, these days I very seldom play his stuff but it’s kind of inside me anyway.”

May features on the cover of the new edition of Total Guitar which is dedicated to the 100 best players of all time. Get your copy here.

Last month, May revealed he suffered a heart attack after he was taken to hospital after ripping buttock muscles in a gardening accident. He later posted a video thanking fans for a “torrent of love and support.”

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.