There aren’t many guitar players in this world that supersede Jimmy Page. Not only was he the monstrous maestro behind much of Led Zeppelin’s world-dominating success, but the guitarist was also a noted session musician before the idea of forming his own band even existed. A player forged in the pits of a recording studio, he emerged to become one of the ultimate guitar heroes. However, there is someone he considers to be far greater than himself.
In fact, Page has never been shy about throwing around his admiration for certain guitarists. “Out of all the guitarists to come out of the sixties, though, Beck, Clapton, Lee, Townshend and I are still having a go. That says something,” Page once noted when asked for his favourites. “Beck, Clapton and I were sort of the Richmond/Croydon type clan, and Alvin Lee, I don’t know where he came from, Leicester or something like that. So he was never in with it a lot. And Townshend, Townshend was from Middlesex, and he used to go down to the clubs and watch the other guitarists.”
Aside from that, Page has also been noted as calling Clarence White one of the greatest as well as Amos Garett and Elliot Randall: “The other guitarist I started to get into died also, Clarence White,” Page once shared. “He was absolutely brilliant. Gosh. On a totally different style—the control, the guy who played on the Maria Muldaur single, ‘Midnight at the Oasis’. Amos Garrett. He’s Les Paul oriented, and Les Paul is the one, really. We wouldn’t be anywhere if he hadn’t invented the electric guitar.”
Adding: “Another one is Elliot Randall, the guy who guested on the first Steely Dan album. He’s great. Band-wise, Little Feat is my favourite American group.”
Page’s list is so long because of one inherent belief he shares: “I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it.” It’s something he certainly took into his own playing. Having started life as a session guitarist, adding little licks and muted riffs, he soon evolved into one of the most encompassing guitarists the world has ever known. But, according to Page, he’s certainly not the greatest.
That honour goes to the one and only Jimi Hendrix. Page hasn’t been able to elucidate too often on his assertion that Hendrix is the greatest guitar player of all time, likely because it is such a widely held belief that he doesn’t have to. But, when speaking to Rolling Stone in 1975, he was unequivocal: “We’ve lost the best guitarist any of us ever had, and that was Hendrix.”
Considering the two giants of guitar operated in the same space for many years, it’s strange that they never really crossed paths, with Page only sharing one experience: “Did I ever meet him? I did actually go into a club in New York called Salvation, and he was there, but he was totally out of it. He didn’t really know who anybody was — he was barely conscious. Somebody was just kind of holding him up.
“It is just kind of a shame that I never really had a chance to talk with him or hear him,” the Zeppelin man confirmed. “I heard his records, naturally, but it would’ve been a thrill to see how he worked things out on stage. That’s quite another ballgame, as you know.”
Sadly, the opportunity for Page to witness the awe-inspiring performance of Jimi Hendrix never presented itself before the famed guitarists tragically died. However, like the rest of us, it’s clear that Page held Hendrix in such high esteem that his legacy can never be eradicated — he is the greatest guitar player of all time.