Lovers Lane
In The Flesh

8. Rick Nielsen

| March 31, 2008

The 20 All-Time Greatest Chicago Guitarists


8. Rick Nielsen

Rick Nielsen deserves a spot on this list for his guitar collection alone; he has reportedly owned more than 2,000 sweet axes, including at least one custom five-neck Hamer with 38 strings. (Storage space must be cheap in Rockford.) Equally impressive is his contribution to power pop. Nielsen is a master of sustain (how he stretches those chords on “Surrender”) and showboating (as a white Chuck Berry on “I Want You To Want Me”). So what if he’s self-taught? Without Nielsen, Robin Zander’s vocals wouldn’t have been so dreamy, and rock ‘n’ roll wouldn’t be so fun. At Budokan knows best.

— Mike Meyer

20 – 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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  1. Robert in Alhambra, Ca. says:

    Rick NIelsen is probably the top under-rated guitarists in rock and roll. So many bands cite Cheap Trick and Rick Nielsen as their inspirations. Number 8 in Chicago? How about, of all time.

  2. Ramon Sierra says:

    Rick Nielsen, is the best of the best all around rock and roll guitarists and I enjoy a lot his performance at stage, I wish him well for a lot a years with CT.

  3. heaven tonight kicks ass there explosiveness and tightness the glove could not get any tighter on o.j.

  4. 1st time i saw cheaptrick was in 1977, Ricks playing is like a fine wine he only gets better with time!!!! keep rockin ……

  5. Faith says:

    Sure a Chicago writer goes for the blues guitarists, but the rest of the country ranks Rick at the top of the list.

  6. Rick Nielsen is the single Greatest Guitar Playing, Songwriting, Stage Performing, Phenomena, that we will likely EVER see !!! A serious exploration into his talent and abilities needs to be presented in order to fully comprehend the depth of this man’s creativity and contribution to the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

  7. James says:

    Met Rick at Riverfest pre-show just outside of Rapid City, SD back in the late 80’s. Not only was he AMAZING in concert, he treated this fan (me) like I was the celebrity! Class act on and off the stage. You are a rock god Rick. Axe on Rick, Axe on!

  8. OrlandoTrickFan says:

    Rick Nielson should be @ the top of this list. A true musician, songwriter, and a down to earth person who embraces his fans. He realizes the big picture means keep things real and keep rockin’ until it’s no fun anymore. Obviously he’s having fun and still rockin’!!! A future RNR Hall of Famer…Wake up in Cleveland!!!


  9. Gus Rachels says:

    If someone said to me, “You can be any guitarist in the world,” I would pick Rick Nielsen. I think that 8th is a complete understatement, and he deserves number one. Nothing will ever beat Rick Nielsen and Cheap Trick.

  10. Jocktrick says:

    Rick was voted Scotlands top guitarist 1978/79/80/81/82…..1999/2k… get the drift…

    Showman or what!

  11. Tiffany Creel says:

    Eight IS GREAT–even 4 Rick.

    You Rock, Rick!!

  12. skruch says:

    after being 60 yrs old rick should be #1 in chicago, he’s awesome, a true journeyman… we love you in toronto, canada

  13. kelly says:

    Rick is number one no matter what anyone says and his fans know it!!
    Love ya Rick cant wait to see you in Denver this summer.
    Kelly I

  14. Hmmmm says:

    C ould H ave been high Er if you A sk me P erhaps,
    T hen R ecalling, I linked here from a C heap tric K site

  15. Jason Stromberg says:

    Youre on top of the world Rick and i cant see why youre not #1 Always a memorable show and a big fan since the 70s hope you never stop. From a fellow rockford resident to another You Rock.Cheap trick SHOULD be in the rock and roll hall of fame.

  16. Sylvie Lachapelle says:

    Who is this guy who made up that list anyway??? Rick stole my music heart a long time ago. I don’t think he gives a hoot about being number 8, like all of us, he knows better right? the only sadness, he’s not coming to Montreal this summer…we’ll drive to Toronto than…unless my hubby is his bus driver… crossing my fingers…

  17. Bob Blahnik says:

    I have been seen Rick and the band since the seventies when I saw them play at the Rockford Armory and have seen them at least 30 times or more. I have met Rick and he could not have been more hospitable. A class act on and off the stage!

  18. Rob Bartlett says:

    Although I doubt that Rick would mind being on a list behind the likes of legendary guitarists like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam and B.B. King, I think he should have edged out Mike Bloomfield. There is nobody in Rock n’ Roll today who can work an axe like Uncle Dick. That Cheap Trick isn’t in the Hall o’ Fame yet is an INFAMNIA! There isn’t a band on the planet that puts on a better show than those four guys from Rockford. There are at least ten artists in the Hall who were influenced by CT. Wheather they admit it or not. Call your congressmen. CT for the class of ’08. (Seems fitting on the 30th Anniversary Year of Budokan)

  19. pineapple says:

    Ricky should have been # !. One of the best axe man in rock and roll. Can’t wait till they come out to the west coast (L.A.) Long live Cheap Trick!!!!!!!!

  20. TrickyTolles says:

    Wow, numero ocho!
    Well, as previously stated I don’t think Rick gives a s**t about it at all. He’s one of the most under appreciated guitarists in Rock. (unless your a Cheap Trick fan) and very self depreceating in his comments about himself. Example: “I can make ANY guitar sound lousy!” Pure Rick Nielsen.
    But again, WE, US Cheap Trick fans know the REAL DEAL. Rick is AWESOME beyond words. His style is “blues based” in that he, (uses little to no guitar FX) and he likes to play loud and overdriven. With a Rick Nielsen guitar solo you never know where it’s gonna end up, but the ride, OH THE RIDE is where the fun’s at!!! :)
    I met Rick in June 2007 and when he approached me I blurted out “MR NIELSEN!” Rick quickly responded “RICK PLEASE!” Now thats the real deal.
    Cheap Trick Forever!!

    Cheap Trick Cheap Trick Cheap Trick Cheap Trick
    The Worlds Greatest Power Pop Band!!

  21. Luckyman327 says:

    Rick is a Master Guitar Player. He doesn’t just own 2000 guitars, He OWNS guitar Playing! He can probably play a cigar box with kite strings on it and still sound better than most people that make a living playing this instrument. I still can’t believe the 5 neck animal that he plays on “Surrender”sometimes. How can he even lift it, let alone Torture it into sounding great. The greatest comparison is, “Rick just isn’t hung like a horse, Horses are hung like Rick Neilsen Plays Guitar”.

  22. James says:

    Rick is a very recognizable player in the world of music.

    His playing has been featured in movies and commercials.
    It is great to let Rick know that he is a respected player of rock guitar. He deserves it!

  23. Rich Salzer says:

    Rick is the best ever, period. It’s
    too bad they [CT] don’t have their
    best Bass player [Jon Brant] anymore.
    Could have been MORE than contenders!
    I’ll be at the show in Virginia Beach, VA
    on Aug. 12th. Y’all come on down, heah?!

  24. Rich Salzer says:

    Rick is the best period. It’s too bad
    CT no longer has their best Bass player
    Jon Brant. Wake Up Cleveland! It’s
    time to put these guys in the Rock ‘n
    Roll Hall of Fame!

  25. Ryan from Rockford says:

    Being from Rockford, you might say that I am biased somewhat… however, after seeing these guys live over 100 times, they still rock like they’re in their 20’s again, and Rick is the ultimate showman. I can’t wait to see them this Wednesday at the Hard Rock in Chicago. Keep rockin’ Rick!

  26. Richard Crouch says:

    He is number 1, when will the rest of the world wake up.
    Met him and Robin in 86 when they were recording ‘The Doctor’ in the UK.
    Rick is the best, always will be the best. Its been a great 30 years for me, roll on the next 30 with Rick and CT.

  27. Brad C. says:

    Rick is most definitely one of the BEST guitarists in Rock music history! So under-rated it’s not funny. Glad to see someone FINALLY realized it! RICK ROCKS!

  28. JIM WESCOTT says:

    I need Rick to Check out my band!!!!!!!!

  29. JIM WESCOTT says:

    Oh Ya ………. CHEAP TRICK ROCKS!!!!!!!

  30. JIM WESCOTT says:

    Cheap Trick day April 1st in RockFord!!!! Well glad to share that day with you guys! Its my B-day!

  31. buz boote says:

    Rick is the nicest smart-ass I’ve ever met. We’re lucky that he’s graced us with his presence. Cheap Trick is up there with The Beatles and Beach Boys in my book.

  32. Coach Watkins says:

    Rick is a first rate, high class person, as well as a great guitarist. His style and influence has and does have an effect to everyone that has ever heard a Cheap Trick song.
    I happen to run into him at the Charlotte Airport after they played the raceway. He sat and chatted with me, as if we were lifelong friends, asking me about my life, as I couldn’t get enough about his. I’ve been honored to have seen Cheap Trick over 100 times in 11 different countries, and looking forward to seeing them with Journey and Heart this summer. Cheers to all

  33. Nick Sarich says:

    Rick in my eyes and ears should be recognized as one of the top guitarists in the World and most definitely one of the top 2 in Chicago. I used to work at Haymaker’s to me and a lot of others the home of Cheap Trick in the 70’s. Gee, felt like yesterday. The band might have the name of Cheap Trick but Rick is not Cheap in quality but also he can do a Trick when it comes to plucking those strings. Thanks for all those wonderful years……..Nick

  34. Penny Kilberry says:

    I have been a fan for a long time and have seen the band several times. I recently purchased tickets for an upcoming concert in Chicago in September. Anyway, last week, coming home from vacation in Las Vegas, my husband and I saw Rick at the airport, and I asked him if I could take his picture. He was trying to get booked on a flight, and was obviously rushed (and probably stressed). Instead of waving me off (which he’d have every right to do), he said “in a minute”, talked to the ticket agent, and then came back and graciously posed for a photo with me. This was the highlight of my vacation and the photo will always be a prized possession. Class act, indeed – he’s a great guitarist and a down to earth, nice guy.

  35. jimmy G. ( s.florida) says:

    Rick is an absolutey fabulous guitar player(i should know i play 2) seen them many times here in south florida and was absolutey blown away by his playing and acrobatics.he’s one of my all time favorites, cant wait to see them steal the show here in west palm beach on 7/31 the whole band is great! IF U WANT MY VOTE, U GOT IT! lol, see you guys soon in west palm bch..Rock on!!!

  36. jimmy G. ( s.florida) says:

    almost forgot, how do i get back stage!

  37. Ely Martinez says:

    Rick Neilsen is an incredibly talented guitarist, musician, showman, and certainly a class act! I have seen Cheap Trick 9 times and they never fail to entertain. Rick Neilsen is everything that is Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Jimmy Page, The Beatles, Elvis and the Blues – all rolled up into one.

    Never one to be caught up in one’s success… CT and Rick soldier on and continue to provide first class entertainment! I especially like the way he pays homage to those that came before him and made their mark. You know you’ve got something special when your asked to sit in with John Lennon. Rick Neilsen carries the spirit of John in him and he shares it with everyone.

    Rick is underrated, but he is Number 1 in my book! He will be recognized as such. And, I am sure that Guitar World will give him his dues and so will the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  38. David Engh says:

    Ask people to name their favorite rock songs of all time and “Surrender” always pops into the conversation…Rick is a guitar god! He shouldn’t be ranked with mortals. He seemingly does effortlessly what other players don’t even attempt. Can’t wait to see Rick, Tom, Robin, and Bun in July. I feel bad for Journey and Heart for following that show. Rick shreds, nuff said.

  39. Mike in Wisconsin says:

    I’ve chatted with Rick several times back stage. I’ve seen Cheap Trick 64 times, it will be 65 in July.
    I’ll never forget the time I got Rick and the band to sign my 1980 HAMER. Rick and Robin were laughing at the condition of the guitar case..UNTIL..I opened the case.
    Rick picked up my guitar and played it. He said it was one of his favorites, and loved the color.
    I have pictures and great memories.
    If Rick is #8 Illinois is truly blessed with some awesome guitar players.

  40. Mark Bohrer says:

    Rick & Cheap Trick have been a huge inspiration to many many bands and aspiring guitarists, bassists, drummers & singers.

  41. Gene Duffy says:

    I owe Ricks dad around 20 bucks for the tamborine I heisted out of his music store in the summer of 67. I thought I was slick, but Im sure he saw me take it. I mean, how could our band (The Tyme) play Mr. Tamborine man without one…Anyways, where do I send the cash?

  42. Paul Hamer says:

    The first time I saw Rick perform was at the Electric Theatre/Kinetic Playground in Chicago in the fall of 1968. He was great then and he is even better now. Congratulations Rick!!!!!

  43. Paddy says:

    I like different guitarists for different things they do, but Rick has ALWAYS been my favorite showman. The guy never stops moving on stage, and never misses a note. I think Rick has always been undervalued in popular music, but if I can kick a quarter of the ass he does on stage when I am of his vintage, I would be a lucky man.

  44. Jessica Stanton says:

    I love Rick, and last night I was able to stand directly if front of him during the Manistee, Michigan concert. And to learn that he was actually self-taught, that really opened my eyes as to what I can acomplish as I slowly teach myself the guitar.

  45. Schömer says:


    We are a Radiosender in Berlin, can we have a Promo cd from Cheaptrick. Thank you very

    with friendly greeting
    Eugen Schömer