There is much debate and disagreement concerning this question. There are many names both past and present that could be included. By no means do I intend any disrespect to those not included in this short list of Great Pickers. Arguably there may be others that deserve inclusion in this elite list but it can hardly be said that these three should be ignored. The one name that most all Acoustic Guitar picking enthusiast will agree with is Doc Watson. Doc is a master flat picker and a finger picker whose abilities are legendary. Doc is probably one of the most influential picker in folk and traditional bluegrass music since the 1960's.
Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs along with Ricky Scaggs performed as the Three Pickers in a North Carolina Concert for PBS. Doc and Earl are both from North Carolina and are only a year apart in age. In the concert Doc played the Acoustic Guitar, Earl Scruggs anchored the banjo and Ricky Scaggs rounded out the sound with the mandolin. Allison Krauss joined in on a few numbers as well.
Clarence White whose Acoustic Guitar fame came with the Kentucky Colonels. Clarence would later achieve noted fame with the Byrds but still maintained his roots singing the bluegrass gospel standard "Farther Along" on the Byrds final album of the same name. Tragically, Clarence White's life was cut short July 15, 1973 when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver.
It would be impossible to derive a list of great pickers and not include Tony Rice. Tony has rightly been referred to as "the greatest innovator in acoustic flat-picked guitar since Clarence White." His influence in acoustic guitar music spans the range of pure bluegrass to acoustic jazz music even to folk. Tony was greatly influenced by both Clarence White and Doc Watson. Rounder Records said that "Tony was the first instrumentalist to seize upon the innovations of guitarists like Clarence White and Doc Watson and propel them into new flights of rhythmic, harmonic and textural virtuosity."
The accomplishments and accolades of Doc, Clarence and Tony are innumerable and give credence to their inclusion in this list of the top three greatest guitar pickers of all time. When you think of the Acoustic Guitar the one name that dominates them all is Doc Watson. Because of his days with the Byrds Clarence White may not immediately come to mind but in his younger years with the Kentucky Colonels Clarence forever cemented his name as one of the top pickers. Being influenced by both Doc and Clarence and considering his talents and accomplishments Tony Rice is well deserving of inclusion in this list of the three greatest pickers.
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