Exclusive: Brian May Weighs in on His Ranking as No. 1 Guitarist

Plus, Adam Levine takes issue with Steve Nowicki’s list of guitar greats

March 27, 2023

When Howard and Stern Show staffer Steve Nowicki took umbrage recently with Guitar World magazine ranking Brian May as the greatest all-time guitarist, at least one person agreed — Brian May. In a Stern Show exclusive, the Queen founder appeared humble about the nod. “I take everything like that with a pinch of salt,” he noted in audio heard Monday. “The nice thing about guitar playing is everybody’s different. You can’t really rank people … but the fact that people put me in that position makes me smile — it’s a lovely feeling.”

The guitarist put several players ahead of himself on his own list, including Nowicki favorite Eddie Van Halen. “We worked together, and it was the most wonderful experience,” he recalled “My jaw dropped every time he touched a string.”

Stern Show regular Adam Levine, who demonstrated his own prowess when he ripped the “Purple Rain” solo at Howard’s 2014 Birthday Bash, disagreed with both the magazine and Nowicki. “He’s got mad love for Brian May, but he’s not in the top 10,” Howard said of the message he received from the Maroon 5 frontman, who gave top honors to Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Prince, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. “He wants to smack [Steve Nowicki] right in the head for saying Eddie was better than Hendrix.”

Watch Adam and Train’s “Purple Rain” performance (below).

See Queen and Adam Lambert on “The Rhapsody Tour” across North America beginning in October. Tickets go on sale Friday, March 31 at 10 a.m. at livenation.com.