By Amanda Wicks for

Singer Johnny Van Zant and guitarist Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd sat down with MetalXS recently, and their interview turned to the state of music today; specifically, they bemoaned absence of true “guitar heroes.”

Van Zant said, “A wise man told me that there’s no guitar heroes in the last 20 years or 10 years, and that’s probably the God’s honest truth.”

Rickey Medlocke agreed, “If you really stop to think about it, the last really big guitar hero was Eddie Van Halen, and that was back in the ’80s — early ’80s, you know what I mean? That’s a long time ago.”

Related: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gary Rossington Thanks Fans for Support

Guitar based rock music has surely had its ups and downs in the past three plus decades since Van Halen hit the scene with their 1978 self-titled debut. Still, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There have been plenty of fantastic guitarists since the 1980s. Here’s our list of five guitarists, in no particular order, who could easily challenge Lynyrd Skynyrd’s statement.

Jack White

White started out on the drums (he’s also the drummer in the Dead Weather) before segueing to guitar, but it’s clear his first instrument’s rhythmic influences defined his melodic creativity. Tinged with a gritty garage rock feel, White’s guitar prowess rose to national attention with The White Stripes, but he’s an adept solo musician as well. His playing doesn’t stay within the confines of rock, either. He bleeds and blurs the lines between rock, country and blues, building in heavier gutter punk sounds for a new take on “rock guitar hero.”

Carrie Brownstein 

Brownstein picked up the guitar at 15 and would eventually influence the riot grrrl movement with her first band, Excuse 17. However, she’s most famous for punk-indie band Sleater-Kinney, and the raw guitar licks she builds into their gritty songs. Brownstein proves that being a great rock guitarist isn’t always about cranking it up to 11; instead, they know when to quiet it down in order to kick it back up again. (She’s also the co-star of the IFC series Portlandia.)

See who else made the list over at




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