Queen’s Brian May recently topped a fan-voted Total Guitar list of the greatest guitarists of all-time, but during a recent interview with SiriusXM’s The Howard Stern Show, May chose to put the spotlight elsewhere, shouting out a number of top guitarists whose talents he admires.
Talking about the honor, May commented, “The nice thing about guitar playing is that everybody’s different. You can’t really rank people. Of course I’ve got my favorites too. But the fact that people put me in that position makes me smile. It’s a lovely feeling.”
Being humble, the guitarist told Stern, “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.”
When it came time to name who he thought was the greatest guitarist of all-time, May spread the wealth.
“I listen to 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,” recalled May.
He continued, “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.”
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He also took a moment to praise Kurt Cobain, using the Nirvana frontman as an example of a guitarist who shouldn’t feel they have anything to prove. “I don’t think any guitarist should feel like they have anything to prove,” May declared. “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.”
While May may be humble about his playing, he didn’t get voted to the top of the list without reason. Fans will get a chance to see May and Queen on tour later this year as the band just announced dates for the fall in the U.S. The run kicks off Oct. 4 in Baltimore, Maryland.