Best Guitar Solos of the 50s (with Tabs)

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Best Guitar Solos of the 50s

Let’s have a look at the best guitar solos of the 50s! Since the birth of rock and roll starting in the 1950s, countless guitarists have played unreal guitar solos, which are indicative of the era and caused landslides in the way we look at the rock guitar. Hendrix played behind his back, with his teeth, and while his guitar was on fire. Eddy Van Halen made the distinctive sound of tapping known to a worldwide audience and later took a drill on stage. Steve Vai went wild on the whammy bar and introduced the dark sounds of the 7-string rock guitar.

For years there has been heated debate about what is best solo. But since music is an art form, it’s also a matter of taste. We made a chronological list of 50 of the best guitar solos from 1950 – 2000. We limited ourselves to 10 solos per decade. Our list is based on polls amongst readers of guitar magazines, international music awards and countless discussion forums on the internet. We chose the solos that we felt were iconic because they showed the unique characteristics of the guitar and new, until then unseen guitar techniques to the world. After these jaw dropping solos, the world of rock guitar was forever changed.

Below you’ll find the best guitar solos of 50s. For the best guitar solos of other decades, check these posts:

Best Guitar Solos of the 50s

The 1950s laid the groundwork for the explosion of guitar solos in the 1960s. Solos in the 50s were relatively short. The guitar in the 50s was still really a rhythm instrument over a solo instrument. Here are some guitarists who really brought the guitar to the forefront and made the guitar shine as a solo instrument.

10. Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line

Recorded as a solo artist in 1957.

This song of appeared on the debut album of country singer Johnny Cash. The song is about the promise of commitment in marriage and was originally a quiet ballad. Through producer Sam Philips, Cash changed the song to a faster arrangement with a distinctive riff. It became Cash’s first No. 1 hit and landed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs Thant Shpaed Rock and Roll” list.

Johnny Cash - I Walk The Line 1958

Watch the video where he gives the screaming ladies in the audience a big wink (0:49), just before he sings that he always keeps his eyes open. 🤣

Download Guitar Tabs for Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line.

9. Duane Eddy – Rebel Rouser

Recorded as a solo artist in 1958.

This song was originally released in 1958 by mister ‘twangy guitar’ Duane Eddy. Duane Eddy is seen as one of the founders of roackabilly guitar. The instrumental guitar song was quite a hit worldwide in the late fifties. Eddy played lead guitar on a Gretsch 6120 guitar that he played through a modified 100 watt Magnatone amplifier.

Duane Eddy "Rebel Rouser"

And let’s not forget the role of the forklift in rock and roll history: check the great entrance of these rebels. The audience went crazy.

Download Guitar Tabs for Duane Eddy – Rebel Rouser.

8. Scotty Moore – Jailhouse Rock

Recorded with Elvis in 1957.

Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock (Music Video)

Scotty Moore is considered the inventor of the Rockabilly guitar style with which he established the guitar as the main instrument of rock ‘n’ roll. Moore’s playing style with pounding chords and sharp solos were very influential in the sound of Elvis Presley’s singles. He inspired several later rock guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Mark Knopfler. Moore has also been featured in several Elvis films including Jailhouse Rock in 1957. Moore was included in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 best guitarists of all time in 2011.

Download Guitar Tabs for Scotty Moore – Jailhouse Rock.

7. Buddy Holly – That’ll Be The Day

Recorded with The Crickets in 1957.

Buddy Holly & The Crickets "That'll Be The Day" on The Ed Sullivan Show

This song was inspired by a movie with John Wayne, in which he made the statement “that’ll be the day” several times. The song became a No. 1 hit on both the U.S. and British charts. In 2005, the song was included in “the list of sound recordings that are culturally, historically or aesthetically significant and/or inform or reflect life in the United States. Rolling Stone named the song in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song has been released by several artists, including The Beatles, The Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt and Pat Boone.

Download Guitar Tabs for Buddy Holly – That’ll Be The Day.

6. Eddie Cothran – Summertime Blues

Recorded as a solo artist in 1958.

This song is about the life of a teenager during summer vacation. He has to work late hours from his boss, to whom he lies that he is sick. His parents think he is lazy and are unwilling to lend him their car. He complains in a letter to a local congressman, but gets no response because he is not yet of voting age….

Eddie Cochran - Summertime Blues (Town Hall Party - 1959)

Cochran played all the guitars on the song that ended up on several international charts at the time. The song later gained greater fame through hit versions by Blue Cheer (1968) and The Who (1970). The song has also been released by other major artists such as The Beach Boys, Johnny Hallyday, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen.

Download Guitar Tabs for Eddie Cothran – Summertime Blues.

5. Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy

Recorded as a solo artist in 1955.

Muddy Waters - Mannish Boy (Live) - Best Version (Feat. Johnny Winter)

This list would not be complete without a some blues ;-). First recorded in 1955, the song is an anwer song to Bo Diddley’s ‘I’m a Man’, which on its own was inspired by ‘Hoochie Coochie man’ from Waters and Willie Dixon. It has become one of the great blues standards of all time. The guitar riff of Mannish Boy is quite easy to play, and will be instantly recognised by your audience. The riff appears on many other blues performances, so you certainly need to have this in your fingers ;-).

Download Guitar Tabs for Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy.

4. Humbert Sumlin- Smokestack Lightning

Howlin' Wolf and Hubert Sumlin--LIVE-excerpt from the DVD

The song is also called ‘a hypnotic one-chord drone piece’ and draws on several earlier blues songs. According to Wolf, the song was inspired by watching the trains go by at night outside in the country: ‘Waching the sparks come out of the smoke stack, that was smokestack lightning.’ The song has also been covered by Soundgarden in 1988.

Download Guitar Tabs for Humbert Sumlin- Smokestack Lightning.

3. Dale Hawkins – Suzie Q

Written and released in 1957 by Dale Hawkins and Robert Chaisson.

Dale Hawkins - Susie Q LIVE

The song Suzie Q became known linternationally through the version released by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) for their debut album. The Rolling Stones also released a short version of the song in the 1960s. The song was recorded in a radio station at the end of the period when rockabilly was popular. The song is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll” list.

Download Guitar Tabs for Dale Hawkins – Suzie Q.

2. Ritchie Valens – La Bamba

Recorded as a solo artist in 1958.

Ritchie Valens - La Bamba (Live)

La Bamba was the second single of Ritchie Valens. It was the only non-English language song to be included in Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In the late 1980s, the American band Los Lobos had a big hit with it in the United States and in the United Kingdom. They recorded the song La Bamba for the film of the same name about the life of Ritchie Valens.

Download Guitar Tabs for Ritchie Valens – La Bamba.

1. Chuck Berry – Jonny B. Goode

Winner best guitar solos of the 50s

Recorded as a solo artist in 1957.

Chuck Berry had a major impact on the development of rock and roll through his hit song “Jonny B. Goode. In his song, he incorporated aspects of blues and country into his electric eguitar playing. In the opening lick he uses a double stop to play two notes simultaneously, while he slides dwon the fist two strings. Throughout the song he uses bends and slurs that were later adopted by numerous rock guitarists.

Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode (Live 1958)

The song is about a poor boy from the countryside who dreams of one day becoming famous with his guitar playing. The song is partly autobiographical and is one of Berry’s best known songs.

Download Guitar Tabs for Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode.

Be sure to check out our other posts in this series!

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Friso is as excited about playing guitar as the moment when he picked up the instrument for the first time, about 35 years ago. He is the founder of where he likes to share his knowledge about guitars, guitar gear and guitar playing.

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