No, not just hard rock, all rock. Top ten, best rock guitarists of all time; across all genres of rock.
Rock, not blues, not jazz. This leaves out, B.B. King, Robert Cray, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Stanley Jordan, Pet Metheny, Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt etc... but includes mostly blues or mostly jazz artists who also play rock like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, Leo Kottke, Ry Cooder, Al DiMeola etc...
Also, this is only for their guitar work; nothing about how good their bands were etc... pure guitar; but it ISN'T just about how technically good they are. This is just all around greatness, including technical, soul, funk, rhytym, balls.. everything that makes a guitar player great.
This one really sucks, because there are so damn many absoltuely incredible all time great guitarists in different genres, and it can be difficult to compare.
Ok, here's my list
1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Stevie Ray Vaughan
3. Eric Clapton
4. Jimmy Page
5. Joe Satriani
6. Eddie Van Halen
7. Ritchie Blackmore
8. Eric Johnson
9. Steve Vai
10. Yngwie Malmsteen
Ok, now, before y'all start ripping my head off (and lord knows this comment thread should get interesing), remember I have to limit it to 10, and theres about 200 other insanely great guitarists I could name in a heartbeat. If I expanded it to 20, or 30, or 40 I wouldn't run out of people you'd recognize as great rock guitarists.
I think by the time I got down to around number 100... somewhere around Link Wray or so I'd guess, I'd cover all the folks I love to listen to and would kill to play like. Maybe not.
Ok, so who do I absolutely have to mention in this post or be eviscerated?
AAArgh... I actually put in about 30 names above before I realized what I was doing and had to stop and limit it to 10 more.
If I could just categorize this like top ten metal, top ten blues rock etc... I could actually get like.. half of the guys I want to list on there.
One funny thing though; they are all guys that I want to list on there. I think guitar is the only instrument where I can name 200 (or more) top guys straight before I get to a woman. I think it's because guitar virtuosity requires such a concentration on the instrument to the exclusion of all else, combined with the types of music that top quality guitar is played in; that there are very few women willing to do that. Some of the greatest violinists, floutists, vocalists (of course), cellists etc... are women, but really not guitar (or bass or drums really either, but its closer)
I actually have one small problem with my intial top ten list. See, I have a thing with the difference between technical brilliance, and soul... Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen are probably the two most technically brilliant rock guitarists of all time. There is literally noone better technically then Yngwie, at least to my knowledge; and I've heard a hell of a lot of guitar.
But they both lack something...
There are a lot of other guitarists I like more, who are not nearly so technically good, because they have fire, soul, ... something... that Vai and Malmsteen lack. But they are literally so good technically that I could not leave them out of the top ten.
As it is, it pains me to leave off Tony MacAlpine, Al DiMeola, Steve Lukather, Phil Keaggy, Fripp and Belew,and about 40 other guys who are just absolutely amazing; but their work doesn't move me as much as the others.
Ok, now REALLLY go at it boys and girls. This one should be fun to watch.