The Best Blues Artists of All Time

Over 23.0K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Blues Artists of All Time
Voting Rules
Best artists of the blues music genre

Whether you like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, or Etta James, there's no denying that they're some of the most famous blues musicians of all time. This list of blues singers ranks the best blues music artists, singers, and musicians, and has been voted on and ranked by blues fans worldwide. These best blues singers are known for their great voices and music that will stand the test of time, and for spearheading legendary tracks with their good blues bands.

Note that this ranking is for blues artists only - no best blues rock bands here. Many of the greatest blues-men, old blues singers, and female blues artists are sadly no longer with us, but their legacies live on, often in rock artists who sold millions more records with versions of classic blues songs written by these great blues legends.

Who are the greatest blues artists? The featured musicians below are the best blues musicians that the world has to offer: from the Mississippi Delta to the streets of Chicago, Detroit, and even London. Make sure to vote for the blues greats whom you consider to be the top blues artists of all time.

Most divisive: Coco Montoya
Ranked by
  • John Lee Hooker
    I'll Play the Blues for You, Live at the Fox Venice Theatre, Collection
    4,508 votes
    • Genres (Music): Americana, Electric blues, Talking blues, Blues, Country blues

    See: The Best John Lee Hooker Albums

    A unique sound that consists of a dark, pulsating rhythm and raw electric guitar made this individual an integral figure in the development of electric blues. Known for his distinctive vocal style that can be both haunting and guttural, his music has influenced generations and left an indelible mark on rock 'n' roll. Throughout his career, he garnered a sizeable following in pop culture, making appearances in movies and collaborating with numerous artists across various genres.

    John Lee Hooker (August 22, 1917 – June 21, 2001) was an American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist. The son of a sharecropper, he rose to prominence performing an electric guitar-style adaptation of Delta blues. Hooker often incorporated other elements, including talking blues and early North Mississippi Hill country blues. He developed his own driving-rhythm boogie style, distinct from the 1930s–1940s piano-derived boogie-woogie. Some of his best known songs include "Boogie Chillen'" (1948), "Crawling King Snake" (1949), "Dimples" (1956), "Boom Boom" (1962), and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" (1966). Several of his later albums, including The Healer (1989), Mr. Lucky (1991), Chill Out (1995), and Don't Look Back (1997), were album chart successes in the U.S. and U.K. The Healer (for the song "I'm In The Mood") and Chill Out (for the album) both earned him Grammy wins as well as Don't Look Back, which went on to earn him a double-Grammy win for Best Traditional Blues Recording and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (with Van Morrison).
  • Robert Johnson
    King of the Delta Blues Singers, The Complete Recordings, King of the Delta Blues
    5,060 votes
    • Genres (Music): Rock music, Blues, Country blues, Delta blues

    Considered one of the most important pioneers of blues music, his poignant lyrics and expressive playing style have influenced countless musicians. As a master of fingerstyle guitar, he displayed incredible precision and a unique slide technique that would later inspire a generation of rock 'n' roll guitarists. Despite his tragic early death, his legend lives on as a cornerstone of blues music, with his soulful voice and emotive playing still widely recognized and celebrated today.

    Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues singer, songwriter and musician. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians. Johnson's poorly documented life and death have given rise to much legend. The one most closely associated with his life is that he sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads to achieve musical success. He is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly as a progenitor of the Delta blues style. As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances, Johnson had little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime. He participated in only two recording sessions, one in San Antonio in 1936, and one in Dallas in 1937, that produced of 29 distinct songs (with 13 surviving alternate takes) recorded by famed Country Music Hall of Fame producer Don Law. These songs, recorded at low fidelity in improvised studios, were the totality of his recorded output. Most were released as 10-inch, 78 rpm singles from 1937–1938, with a few released after his death. Other than these recordings, very little was known of him during his life outside of the small musical circuit in the Mississippi Delta where he spent most of his life; much of his story has been reconstructed after his death by researchers. His music had a small, but influential, following during his life and in the two decades after his death. In late 1938 John Hammond sought him out for a concert at Carnegie Hall, From Spirituals to Swing, only to discover that Johnson had died. Brunswick Records, which owned the original recordings, was bought by Columbia Records, where Hammond was employed. Musicologist Alan Lomax went to Mississippi in 1941 to record Johnson, also not knowing of his death. Law, who by then worked for Columbia Records, assembled a collection of Johnson’s recordings titled King of the Delta Blues Singers that was released by Columbia in 1961. It is widely credited with finally bringing Johnson's work to a wider audience. The album would become influential, especially on the nascent British blues movement which was just getting started at the time; Eric Clapton has called Johnson "the most important blues singer that ever lived." Musicians as diverse as Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Robert Plant have cited both Johnson's lyricism and musicianship as key influences on their own work. Many of Johnson's songs have been covered over the years, becoming hits for other artists, and his guitar licks and lyrics have been borrowed and re- purposed by many later musicians. Renewed interest in Johnson's work and life led to a burst of scholarship starting in the 1960s. Much of what we know about him today was reconstructed by researchers such as Gayle Dean Wardlow. Two films, the 1991 documentary The Search for Robert Johnson by John Hammond, Jr., and a 1997 documentary, Can't You Hear the Wind Howl, the Life and Music of Robert Johnson, which included reconstructed scenes with Keb' Mo' as Johnson, were both attempts to document his life, and demonstrated the difficulties arising from the scant historical record and conflicting oral accounts. Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first induction ceremony, in 1986, as an early influence on rock and roll. He was awarded a posthumous Grammy Award in 1991 for The Complete Recordings, a 1990 compilation album. His single "Cross Road Blues" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and he was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. In 2003, David Fricke ranked Johnson fifth in Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
  • Howlin' Wolf
    The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, The Genuine Article, Howlin' Wolf
    4,315 votes
    • Genres (Music): Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

    With a deep, gravelly voice perfectly suited for the blues, this influential artist became a driving force behind the genre's development and popularization. An electric performer on stage, his ferocious energy combined with his exceptional guitar and harmonica skills captivated audiences worldwide. As a result, his name is now synonymous with the blues, as his iconic sound continues to influence modern blues artists and thrive in pop culture.

    Chester Arthur Burnett (June 10, 1910 – January 10, 1976), known as Howlin' Wolf, was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player, originally from Mississippi. With a booming voice and imposing physical presence, he is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists. The musician and critic Cub Koda noted, "no one could match Howlin' Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." Producer Sam Phillips recalled, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'" Several of his songs, including "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful", have become blues and blues rock standards. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 54 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
  • Muddy Waters
    Anthology, Super Blues, Fathers and Sons
    6,938 votes
    • Genres (Music): Blues-rock, Chicago blues, Rock music, Electric blues, Rhythm and blues

    See: The Best Albums Of Muddy Waters

    Regarded as the "father of modern Chicago blues," this seminal artist seamlessly integrated the sounds of the Mississippi Delta with electrifying urban grit. His innovative slide guitar technique and passionate vocal delivery left an indelible mark on the industry, influencing legions of musicians for generations to come. Cemented in pop culture through numerous appearances in films, documentaries, and even postage stamps, his legacy as a blues icon is indisputable.

    McKinley Morganfield (April 4, 1913 – April 30, 1983), known professionally as Muddy Waters, was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician who is often cited as the "father of modern Chicago blues", and an important figure on the post-war blues scene. His style of playing has been described as "raining down Delta beatitude".Muddy Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation near Clarksdale, Mississippi, and by age 17 was playing the guitar and the harmonica, emulating the local blues artists Son House and Robert Johnson. He was recorded in Mississippi by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1941. In 1943, he moved to Chicago to become a full-time professional musician. In 1946, he recorded his first records for Columbia Records and then for Aristocrat Records, a newly formed label run by the brothers Leonard and Phil Chess. In the early 1950s, Muddy Waters and his band—Little Walter Jacobs on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Elga Edmonds (also known as Elgin Evans) on drums and Otis Spann on piano—recorded several blues classics, some with the bassist and songwriter Willie Dixon. These songs included "Hoochie Coochie Man", "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and "I'm Ready". In 1958, he traveled to England, laying the foundations of the resurgence of interest in the blues there. His performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960 was recorded and released as his first live album, At Newport 1960. Muddy Waters' music has influenced various American music genres, including rock and roll and rock music.
  • Buddy Guy
    Damn Right, I've Got the Blues, A Man & the Blues
    3,711 votes
    • Genres (Music): Chicago blues, Electric blues, Blues

    See: The Best Albums Of Buddy Guy

    A master of the electric guitar, this trailblazing musician boasts a brilliant combination of technical prowess and emotional depth in his playing. Instilled with a fiery passion, his distinctive style and legendary showmanship have made him an integral figure in the history of blues music. Infused into pop culture through collaborations and performances with a range of other notable musicians, his impact on the genre is virtually unparalleled.

    George "Buddy" Guy (born July 30, 1936) is an American blues guitarist and singer. He is an exponent of Chicago blues and has influenced eminent guitarists including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Gary Clark Jr. and John Mayer. In the 1960s, Guy played with Muddy Waters as a house guitarist at Chess Records and began a musical partnership with the harmonica player Junior Wells. Guy was ranked 23rd in Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". His song "Stone Crazy" was ranked 78th in the Rolling Stone list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time". Clapton once described him as "the best guitar player alive". In 1999, Guy wrote the book Damn Right I've Got the Blues, with Donald Wilcock. His autobiography, When I Left Home: My Story, was published in 2012.
  • B.B. King
    Let the Good Times Roll, Live at the Regal, Ladies and Gentleman... Mr. B.B. King
    7,685 votes
    • Genres (Music): Blues-rock, Soul blues, Rock music, Memphis blues, Electric blues

    See: The Best Albums Of B.B. King

    Synonymous with the blues, this powerhouse performer captivated audiences for decades with his unmatched charisma and fluid, intricate guitar work. Famed for his groundbreaking fusion of gospel-tinged vocals and searing electric guitar licks, he played a pivotal role in bringing blues music into the mainstream. With innumerable accolades and a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, his influence on pop culture and modern music is truly incalculable.

    Riley B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015), known professionally as B.B. King, was an American blues singer, electric guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that influenced many later electric blues guitarists.King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and is considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname "The King of the Blues", and is considered one of the "Three Kings of the Blues Guitar" (along with Albert and Freddie King). King was known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing on average at more than 200 concerts per year into his 70s. In 1956 alone, he reportedly appeared at 342 shows.King was born on a cotton plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, and later worked at a cotton gin in Indianola, Mississippi. He was attracted to music and the guitar in church, and began his career in juke joints and local radio. He later lived in Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago, and as his fame grew, toured the world extensively. King died at the age of 89 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 14, 2015.