41 Best Slide Guitarists Of All Time

best slide guitarists
Photo Credit: David McClister

Searching for a list of the world’s best slide guitarists? Well, you’ve just hit paydirt! In this in-depth article, we’ll check out some of the greatest bottleneck guitar players from past to present.

Within this summary of slide sensations, you’ll find all of the heavy hitters that are household names when it comes to this playstyle. However, I’ve also made sure to include a few lesser-known artists that you may not yet be familiar with.

Derek Trucks, Duane Allman, Robert Johnson, Ry Cooder – all of the greats are present and accounted for, plus many, many more!

The list is in no particular order, and I have made sure to include a video featuring some of the artists’ best playing, as well as some fun facts about each slide guitarist that you may not know.

Best Slide Guitarists In The World

Derek Trucks

Derek Trucks is essentially to slide guitar what players such as Petrucci and Vai are to shred guitar. He is the very definition of the modern slide guitar hero, inspiring countless new players with his staggering style and technique.

By the age of 20, Trucks had already managed to play slide guitar alongside many greats such as Buddy Guy, Joe Walsh, Bob Dylan, and Stephen Stills. He has also toured with the Allman Brothers Band as well as Eric Clapton.

Currently, Derek is part of the Tedeschi Trucks Band which he formed with his wife Susan Tedeschi in 2010. Watch some of his best moments in the video below where he can be seen tearing it up on his signature Gibson SG.

Fun Fact! Derek is the nephew of Butch Trucks, who was the drummer for the Allman Brothers. He picked up guitar at a young age, and, due to his smaller hands at the time, gravitated towards slide as this allowed him to play with fewer physical limitations.

Ariel Posen

Canadian guitarist Ariel Posen is well-known for his soulful but mind-blowing slide guitar playing as part of the award-winning ‘The Bros Landreth‘ band. In 2019 he also released his debut solo record, earning him a ton of recognition as an individual artist.

Unlike many of the other slide guitarists in this list, Ariel typically plays in standard tuning. He also plays with the slide on his pinky which allows him to easily flip between different styles and techniques with ease. You can watch a hypnotizing example of this in the live video below.

Ariel currently has his own ‘The Rock Slide‘ signature model that is available in a variety of materials, including a very cool-looking aged brass version.

Fun Fact! If you’d like to learn to play slide guitar in the style of Ariel Posen, he currently offers two fantastic in-depth courses over at TrueFire, including how to play in standard tuning.

Duane Allman

Considered by many as being the greatest slide guitarist of all time, the late Duane Allman has inspired many of the modern greats such as Derek Trucks.

As a slide guitarist, his groundbreaking style and techniques were integral to the sound of the Allman Brothers Band, helping to define the entire Southern Rock genre. He also popularized the use of open guitar tunings, which allowed for a much fuller and longer-sustaining sound.

Learn more about the legacy of Duane in the short docu-video below and find out why many consider him as being the best slide guitar player ever.

Fun Fact! In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named Duane the 2nd greatest guitarist of all time – quite the accolade! He was only beaten by the great Jimi Hendrix.

Warren Haynes

The legendary slide licks from Warren Haynes have made the guitarist a household name when it comes to the slide greats.

Like Ariel Posen, Warren is known for playing in standard tuning. This allows him to perform incredible blues slide guitar playing without the constraints associated with open-E tuning.

Warren has been a member of iconic bands such as Gov’t Mule, the Grateful Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends, and of course, the Allman Brothers Band.

Allman sure is a name that crops up a lot in this list! In the video below, you can watch Warren playing killer slide on Duane Allman’s original 1961 Gibson.

Robert Johnson

A man the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls ‘the first ever rock star’, Robert Johnson was one of the true blues pioneers, with several of his songs becoming blues standards.

Johnson was such a talented musician that the story of him selling his soul to the Devil at a crossroads in exchange for incredible guitar-playing abilities is now legendary.

Like many other iconic musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, Robert died young in 1938 at just age 27. Although no one was ever convicted, it is believed that a jealous husband murdered him when he drank a poisoned bottle of whiskey.

Ry Cooder

A master of both acoustic and electric slide guitar, Ry Cooder is often referred to as ‘an American genius’. He merges elements of rock, blues, and folk into his playing and is known for his incredible timing, sense of melody, and perfect pitch.

As a songwriter, film score composer, and record producer, Ry has used his talents on an extraordinary number of musical projects, making him one of the most experienced slide guitar players on this list.

He is also known for his deep interest in traditional music, which has led to many collaborations with artists from countries all over the world.

Fun Fact! Well, maybe not a fun fact, but did you know that at the age of 4 Ry accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with a knife?! He has had to sport a glass eye ever since.

Bonnie Raitt

A guitarist that B.B. King famously called ‘the best damn slide player around’, Bonnie Raitt is well known for her killer slide style.

She is a self-taught slide guitarist and learned to play with the slide on her middle finger. However, I’ve read numerous interviews where she says she wished she had used the slide on her ring finger which is less limiting.

Still, this doesn’t seem to have held her back, as you can see in her incredible slide solo in the video below.

Fun Fact! Despite being an incredible multi-instrumentalist, there was one guitar technique that Prince was lacking at – slide. So, when he invited Bonnie to collaborate with him he made sure to ask her for some lessons. He also sampled her slide guitar playing for his hit track ‘Cream’.

Johnny Winter

Typically seen playing Gibson Firebirds, the ‘Texas Tornado’ Johnny Winter was known for his high-energy blues-rock playing throughout a career that spanned over five decades.

Considered one of the true slide guitar masters, Johnny’s playing really stood out thanks to his intense vibrato, epic sustain, and rapid phrasing, as well as an incredibly advanced blues repertoire.

He famously played slide guitar using a piece of plumber’s pipe for almost his entire career. This was the only thing he found that worked for him after trying everything else from a wristwatch to lipstick cases.

Fun Fact! Johnny set the record for the largest-ever advance from a record label when Columbia signed him for $600,000. The previous record holder was the mighty Led Zeppelin, who only managed $200,000!

Sonny Landreth

Once described by Eric Clapton as “probably the most underestimated musician on the planet, and also probably one of the most advanced.” High praise from old Slowhand!

Indeed, Sonny’s slide playing is chock-full of high-level techniques, including being able to simultaneously play chords and partial chords by fretting behind the slide whilst playing.

He has his own signature slide model from the same brand that offers Ariel Posen’s – The Rock Slide.

Fun Fact! For many years as a slide guitarist, Sonny played slide using some motorcycle handlebars that he cut up when he was 16 years old.

Megan Lovell

Megan Lovell fronts grammy award-nominated band Larkin Poe alongside her sister Rebecca. She is known for her killer lap-steel virtuosity and is helping to introduce a brand new generation of fans to the often forgotten about instrument.

For years she has rocked an original 1950s Rickenbacker lap steel, but has recently worked with Beard Guitars to create her own signature model – the Electro-Liege.

Her new guitar is 50% lighter than her Rickenbacker and is specifically designed to be the perfect standing lap steel. Check it out in the video below!

Fun Fact! The band is named after the sisters’ great-great-great grandfather Larkin Poe, a distant cousin of Edgar Allan Poe!

Charley Patton

Born in 1891, Charley Patton is considered by most musicians as being the ‘Father of the Delta Blues’. He has inspired almost every Delta Blues player, including greats such as

He was known for his booming voice, incredible guitar skills, and captivating performances. He was such a showman that, decades before Jimi Hendrix made it popular, he was known for playing with his guitar behind his head!

Fun Fact! Throughout his short life, Patton married eight times – it would seem that he was a difficult man to live with! This was likely due to his issues with alcohol, as well as the fiery temper he was known for.

Elmore James

Elmore James had such a killer slide technique that he earned himself the nickname of the ‘King of the Slide Guitar’.

Many top-flight players such as Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Frank Zappa, and George Harrison have cited him as an influence in their playing.

Aside from his impressive slide guitar playing ability, Elmore was also known for using loud amplifiers complimented by his haunting vocals.

Fun Fact! If you visit Elmore’s grave you will find his tombstone engraved with ‘King of the Slide Guitar’, as well as a relief of him playing the instrument.

Robby Krieger

As a founding member of The Doors, Robby Krieger helped to write some of the best-loved rock songs of all time, including ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Touch Me’, and ‘Roadhouse Blues’.

His unorthodox slide-playing style is immediately recognizable through his long swoops into and out of notes. Although he doesn’t tend to stick to the usual moves, his playing tends towards a bluesy sound.

You can hear some of Robby’s unique slide technique at around the 1:28 mark in the video for ‘Moonlight Drive’ below.

Fun Fact! At an early rehearsal, Jim Morrison heard Krieger playing slide guitar and immediately decided that he wanted that sound on every song. Unfortunately, for slide fans, that never happened.

Erja Lyytinen

So, Elmore was the King of Slide, but who takes the crown for the ladies? Often referred to as ‘the Queen of Slide Guitar’, Erja Lyytinen is a Finnish blues-rock guitarist and singer.

She was recently voted the ‘Best Guitarist of The Year’ at the European Blues Awards and has a large body of work including over 10 studio albums that you can dive into and enjoy.

When playing, she uses a Dunlop glass slide combined with fingerpicks on her thumb and middle finger to unlock a variety of different sounds and techniques.

Fun Fact! Erja has launched her very own brand of tea that is available to purchase on her website.

Blind Willie Johnson

Considered one of the masters of the blues, Blind Willie Johnson gained his nickname after his stepmother allegedly threw lye in his face, permanently blinding him.

He recorded only 30 songs during his short life, and tragically, did not receive any recognition until after his death in 1945. His slide-playing has influenced many of the greats such as Ry Cooder, Duane Allman, and Elmore James.

As one of the true blues slide guitar pioneers, his signature wailing, and haunting sound would become known as the ‘Blind Willie Johnson Moan’.

Fun Fact! The location of the cemetery in which he is buried was forgotten about until it was rediscovered in 2009. His exact grave site is still unknown, but a monument was erected in 2010 in his honor.

Joanna Connor

Often referred to as ‘the Queen of Chicago Blues Rock’, Joanna Connor is probably one of the most high-energy slide guitarists currently rocking the scene.

A combination of heavy metal slides, a low-slung Les Paul, and the use of a pick rather than fingers all contribute to her signature raw and powerful sound.

Her talents were largely underappreciated until the video below went viral and helped to bring her music to the world’s attention.

George Harrison

Amazingly, it wasn’t until after the break up of the Beatles that George Harrison unleased music featuring his incredible slide guitar playing. This would become his characteristic sound for the remainder of his career.

Many of his slide-based songs were rejected during his tenure in the Beatles, so he built up a hefty bag of tracks that he would go on to use in his solo work.

As a slide guitarist, his use of the technique is very much unique, avoiding the usual tricks and often playing on just a single string. As such, his playing is instantly recognizable, leading him to be dubbed one of the top slide guitarists of all time.

Fun Fact! George was the first ex-member of the Beatles to top both the album and singles charts at the same time! He achieved this with ‘All Things Must Pass’, an album featuring some of his best slide guitar playing.

Son House

Delta blues legend Eddie James ‘Son’ House was a true master of the slide guitar, influencing blues greats such as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.

Beginning life as a Pastor he would initially steer clear of the blues until hearing a friend play slide one night. He was immediately in awe and started to play right away, also putting his singing skills as a preacher to good use.

You’ll notice in the video for his best-known song ‘Death Letter Blues’ below, that he uses the slide at an extreme angle. Perfectly fine for single-string lines, but not ideal for playing on more than one string in terms of intonation.

Fun Fact! Son House was sentenced to 15 years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary after shooting a man during a bar fight. He was released after just two years served.

Robert Randolph

In a list of the greatest slide guitar players you just cannot ignore the incredible talents of pedal-steel maestro Robert Randolph. This was the man that first opened my eyes to the world of slide after spotting him on the Jools Holland show many years ago.

His group ‘Robert Randolph and the Family Band’ have been nominated for a Grammy four times, he has toured with Eric Clapton, has been called one of the greatest guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone, and has a number 2 charting blues album to his name. He’s doing rather well…

As 6-string slide guitarists, we may not be able to learn too many of his songs, but we can certainly broaden our horizons and pick up a veritable smorgasbord of slide-playing tips from this man.

Dan Toppo

Let’s mix things up a bit! A fresh new player that you may not have heard of is Dan Toppo. I have been eagerly following his Instagram channel for a few months where he posts phenomenal slide content weekly.

Clearly influenced by top slide players such as Derek Trucks and Duane Allman, Dan isn’t a household name, but is a superb resource for slide guitarists into this specific style of play. I’ve certainly learned a lot!

His videos include lessons, covers, and re-imaginations of modern songs if they incorporated a slide solo. His website also offers slide lessons in the style of Trucks and Allman.

More Slide Guitar Players

So, there were 20 incredible slide players for you to check out, enjoy, and learn from. But, why stop there? In case you’re still hungry for more, here is a list of additional slide maestros that you can dig into.

  • Mick Taylor
  • Mike Bloomfield
  • Lowell George
  • Blake Mills
  • Joey Landreth
  • Dave Hole
  • Daniel ‘DaFreez’ Johnston
  • Eric Sardinas
  • Ash Grunwald
  • Troy Redfern
  • Justin Johnson
  • Billy Gibbons
  • Rory Gallagher
  • Joe Walsh
  • George Thorogood
  • Chris Rea
  • Leo Kottke
  • Rod Price
  • John Hammond
  • Doug Wamble

I have no doubt that I have missed plenty of great slide guitarists from around the world, so feel free to fire me an email if you believe that there is an obvious omission here! Head down to the footer of this page for a link to my contact form.

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Author
Neal
Neal has been playing guitar (left-handed!) for over 20 years, and has also worked in various roles within the guitar retail industry since 2012. He started LeftyFretz in 2010. More Info