Next to the singer they’re the most recognized members of the band. They get the solos, write the songs and craft those insanely catchy riffs. They’re the guitarists. They wield the instrument that has become a staple of rock music; it’s hard to find a rock group that doesn’t feature at least one guitar player. Over the years techniques have changed, different effects have added to the sound of multiple genres and sub-genres that have spawned from the strumming of a few strings.
The most popular riffs in rock were crafted on the guitar. “Stairway to Heaven”, “Smells like Teen Spirit” and “Purple Haze” to name just a few. Success as a guitarist means writing memorable songs that are both popular with a group’s fans as well as a wider audience. Certain artists find more success than others. More success means more money, so it’s highly likely that members of big name bands will get paid well, especially the guitarists who often serve as the principal songwriters. Unfortunately, a couple of the names on this list belong to artists who are no longer with us, but whose fame has transcended time itself.
These are the worlds top ten richest guitarists.
10. Tom Petty – Net Worth: $75 Million
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are one of rock’s classic acts still active today. The band found success with singles like 1977’s “American Girl” and 1981’s “The Waiting”. The Heartbreakers have released 13 albums over their almost forty-year-long career, and in that time have sold over 80 million records worldwide. At the head of the group is lead singer and rhythm guitarist Tom Petty who, before forming the Heartbreakers in 1976 was part of the band Mudcrutch that would feature some future members of the Heartbreakers in its line-up. Petty released his first solo album Full Moon Fever in 1989 to critical acclaim, followed by two follow-ups Wildflowers and Highway Companion. He was also a member of the short-lived super group The Traveling Wilburys that consisted of himself, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and George Harrison.
9. Angus Young – Net Worth: $140 Million
The battery that powers AC/DC’s electrifying sound, lead guitarist Angus Young co-founded the group with his brother Malcolm back in 1973. Since then the guitarist has become famous for his powerful yet catchy riffs, stage presence and his signature schoolboy-uniform stage outfit. Young’s playing style is heavily influenced by blues guitar and incorporates the use of power chords to create a simple formulaic style that despite some criticism has become one of the most recognizable sounds in all of rock and roll.
8. The Edge – Net Worth: $200 Million
David Evans – better known by his stage name The Edge – is best known as the guitarist for the legendary rock band U2. The Edge has become famous for his intricate use of guitar effects. His usage of delay effects especially has become a well-known element of U2’s signature sound. Apart from his contributions to U2, The Edge has collaborated on a number of different musical projects such as the soundtracks to the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage adaption of A Clockwork Orange. Outside of the music world The Edge is involved in multiple different philanthropic and human rights causes. He co-founded the Music Rising project aimed at helping musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina.
T6. Dave Matthews – Net Worth: $250 Million
Dave Matthews has been the front man for the popular Dave Matthews Band for over twenty years now. From 2000 to 2010 they sold more tickets and earned more money than any other group in North America during that span. Matthews has also released a couple of studio albums and a number of live-collaborations with musician Tim Reynolds. Outside of music Matthews has had a number of acting roles both on stage and on screen. He was a member of the Charlottesville’s Offstage Theatre and Live Arts theatre in the 1990s, and has made appearances in two Adam Sandler films, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.
T6. Eric Clapton – Net Worth: $250 Million
One of the most decorated and talented musicians of his era, Eric Clapton’s career in music spans several decades. He got his start as a member of the iconic Yardbirds in 1963 and in 1965 he left the group. A year later he would go on to form what is considered to be rocks first rock supergroup, Cream. After a couple years and a few albums Cream disbanded and Clapton went on to his next short-lived project, Blind Faith. Clapton would later move on to his solo career and released a number of critically acclaimed works such as 1977’s Slowhand and 1985’s Behind the Sun.
5. Dave Grohl – Net Worth: $260 Million
The Foo Fighters front man first made his name as a drummer, playing for punk group Scream and more famously grunge icons Nirvana. Grohl eventually eased out of the drums with the Foo Fighters and established himself as a top notch guitarist and front man. One of the most active musicians out there, Grohl has contributed drums to acts such as Slash, David Bowie and Zac Brown Band. He co-founded the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures along with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme and made his directorial debut in 2013 with the music documentary Sound City. Talk about a man who wears many hats.
4. Bruce Springsteen – Net Worth: $300 Million
Bruce Springsteen started out in the music industry way back in 1965 and first found success with 1975’s Born to Run. Having sold over 120 million records worldwide he’s one of the world’s best-selling artists. His music, which often focuses on the American working class and American dream, has earned him over 20 Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes and an Academy Award. He is backed-up by the world famous E Street Band who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, 15 years after Springsteen’s induction.
3. Toby Keith – Net Worth: $320 Million
Toby Keith is one of the most recognizable figures in country music today, as well as one of the most successful artists in the genre. His first four records all reached gold or higher in the US and his debut single “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” received more than 3 million spins on country radio stations, becoming the most played country song of the ’90s. Keith has founded his own restaurant chain Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. As of 2014 the chain has spread to over 16 locations across the United States.
2. Keith Richards – Net Worth: $340 Million
The Rolling Stones are one of rocks oldest active bands in existence, and they’re still kicking over fifty years after their conception. Leading the group is front man Mick Jagger and lead guitarist Keith Richards, who has created some of the most recognizable and famous guitar riffs of all time. Apart from the Stones, Richards has worked with multiple talented and renowned artists such as John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Tom Waits. Richards has sung on a number of Rolling Stones songs like “You Got the Silver” on Let It Bleed and “Something Happened to Me Yesterday” off Between the Buttons where he actually alternates with Mick Jagger.
1. Jimmy Buffett – Net Worth: $400 Million
Jimmy Buffett‘s music has long been synonymous with hot beaches and tall island drinks. In 1977 Buffett released his breakthrough album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Altitudes. The album proved to be Buffett’s most successful of his career, peaking at number 12 on the Billboard 200. The album also featured Buffett’s most famous song “Margaritaville”, which peaked at 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 at the time of its release. Buffett has used the “Margaritaville” moniker for a number of chain restaurants and casinos as well as his own record label.