The Greatest Violinists of Popular Music

This list ranks the greatest violinists and fiddlers of popular music. For the purposes of the list, the term "popular music" is predominantly defined in opposition to the term "classical music", meaning that even violinists who worked only in traditional folk styles or avant-jazz or -rock styles are included, even though these would usually not be considered "popular" music per se. Classical and pure avant-garde violinists (and also those working in the "classical crossover" genre) were always excluded unless they also provided a significant input to some popular music releases. Only violinists who were active during the recording era were deemed eligible.

These violinists are ranked primarily according to their influence, skill and creativity. Also considered, albeit to a lesser degree, was the greatness (influence, acclaim, popularity) of their performed or recorded output. Considered was only each player's output on the violin or fiddle; work on the viola, the cello or any other instrument was not considered. Also, only work in the field of popular music as defined above was considered.
Influence concerns primarily two aspects: firstly, influence on playing technique, meaning the way the violin is played; secondly, influence on the violin's place in popular music, meaning introduction to or popularization in a certain popular music style. Also considered to some degree were technical innovations around the instrument.

Skill means the technical proficiency on the violin, including the ability to play in different genres or styles.

Creativity means the originality and versatility with which the violin is being used.

Note that the artists listed in brackets are supposed to give an overview of each violinist's most important projects or collaborators (limited to a maximum of three each). They are by no means intended to give a complete picture of each violinist's work. Most of the players listed here have also released recordings under their own name and/or appeared as session players on recordings of a host of different artists.

Last Updated: 2018-09-24
  1. Stéphane Grappelli (Quintette du Hot Club de France; Oscar Peterson)
  2. Vassar Clements (Bill Monroe; Jim and Jesse; Earl Scruggs)
  3. Joe Venuti (Eddie Lang; Paul Whiteman; Bix Beiderbecke)
  4. Fiddlin' John Carson
  5. Jean-Luc Ponty (Mahavishnu Orchestra; Frank Zappa; Chick Corea)
  6. Stuff Smith (Dizzy Gillespie; Ella Fitzgerald; Sun Ra)
  7. James Scott Skinner
  8. Clayton McMichen (Gid Tanner)
  9. Gid Tanner
10. Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention; Ian Campbell; Martin Carthy)
11. Don "Sugarcane" Harris (Don & Dewey; Frank Zappa; John Mayall)
12. Cecil Brower (Milton Brown; The Light Crust Doughboys; Marty Robbins)
13. Eddie Jobson (Roxy Music; Frank Zappa; U.K.)
14. Michael Coleman
15. Leroy Jenkins (Anthony Braxton; Revolutionary Ensemble; Archie Shepp)
16. Johnny Gimble (Bob Wills; Merle Haggard; Ray Price)
17. Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra; The Flock; Jan Hammer)
18. Eck Robertson
19. Didier Lockwood (Magma; Billy Hart; Manu Dibango)
20. Jean Carignan
21. Mark Feldman (John Zorn; Arcado String Trio; John Abercrombie)
22. Byron Berline (The Dillards; The Flying Burrito Bros; Emmylou Harris)
23. Alison Krauss
24. Papa John Creach (Jefferson Airplane/Starship; Hot Tuna; Roy Milton)
25. Harry Choates
26. Tommy Jackson (Hank Williams; Ray Price; George Jones)
27. Eddie South (Django Reinhardt; Earl Hines)
28. Mark O'Connor (Béla Fleck; David Grisman; Randy Travis)
29. Richard Greene (Jim Kweskin; Seatrain; Rod Stewart)
30. Fiddlin' Arthur Smith
31. Benny Martin (Bill Monroe; Roy Acuff; Flatt & Scruggs)
32. Dennis McGee (Amédé Ardoin; Sady Courville; Ernest Frugé)
33. Noel Pointer
34. Buddy Spicher (Dolly Parton; George Jones; The Statler Brothers)
35. Michael White (Pharoah Sanders; John Handy; Sonny Simmons)
36. James Morrison
37. Andrew Bird
38. Kenny Baker (Bill Monroe)
39. Svend Asmussen (John Lewis; Duke Ellington; Lionel Hampton)
40. Clark Kessinger (The Kessinger Brothers)
41. Tex Logan (Bill Monroe; Peter Rowan; Bee Gees)
42. Michel Warlop (Maurice Chevalier; Django Reinhardt; Coleman Hawkins)
43. Hugh Farr (The Sons of the Pioneers)
44. Dewey Balfa (The Balfa Brothers)
45. Benny Thomasson
46. Warren Ellis (Dirty Three; Nick Cave)
47. Bob Wills
48. John Hartford
49. Steve Wickham (The Waterboys; Sinéad O'Connor; World Party)
50. Scotty Stoneman (The Stonemans; The Kentucky Colonels)
51. Robby Steinhardt (Kansas)
52. Michał Urbaniak (Larry Coryell; Miles Davis; Michael Brecker)
53. Doug Kershaw
54. Kevin Burke (The Bothy Band; Patrick Street; Christy Moore)
55. Owen Pallett (The Hidden Cameras; Arcade Fire; Beirut)
56. Howdy Forrester (Roy Acuff; Bill Monroe; Cowboy Copas)
57. Leo Soileau
58. Lili Haydn (Hootie & the Blowfish; Tracy Chapman; Tom Petty)
59. Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald
60. L. Shankar (Shakti; Peter Gabriel; Frank Zappa)
61. Billy Bang (String Trio of New York; Material; Sun Ra)
62. Chubby Wise (Bill Monroe; Hank Snow; Flatt & Scruggs)
63. Aly Bain (The Boys of the Lough; Phil Cunningham; Richard Thompson)
64. Boyd Tinsley (Dave Matthews)
65. Regina Carter (String Trio of New York; Straight Ahead; Kenny Barron)
66. Charlie Daniels (The Charlie Daniels Band; The Marshall Tucker Band)
67. Joseph Allard
68. Ray Nance (Duke Ellington; Earl Hines; Johnny Hodges)
69. Michael Doucet (BeauSoleil; Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band)
70. Ed Haley
71. Sharon Corr (The Corrs)
72. Lowe Stokes (Gid Tanner; John Dilleshaw)
73. Lisa Germano (John Mellencamp; Indigo Girls; Eels)
74. J. R. Chatwell (Cliff Bruner; Adolph Hofner; The Light Crust Doughboys)
75. Darol Anger (David Grisman; Turtle Island String Quartet; Montreux)
76. Martie Maguire (Dixie Chicks; Court Yard Hounds)
77. Cliff Bruner (Milton Brown)
78. Sharon Shannon (The Waterboys)
79. Sean Mackin (Yellowcard; Silverstein)
80. Jerry Rivers (Hank Williams; Ray Price; Lefty Frizzell)
81. Buddy MacMaster
82. Varise Conner
83. Peter Knight (Steeleye Span; Trevor Watts)
84. Ryan Delahoussaye (Blue October)
85. Ray Perry (Lionel Hampton; Illinois Jacquet)
86. Padraig O'Keeffe
87. Henry "Son" Sims (Charley Patton; Muddy Waters; Robert Nighthawk)
88. Urban Blitz (Doctors of Madness; The Real Thing)
89. Fiddlin' Doc Roberts
90. Isidore Soucy
91. Curly Ray Cline (Lonesome Pine Fiddlers; The Stanley Brothers; Jimmy Martin)
92. David LaFlamme (It's a Beautiful Day; Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks)
93. Samantha Bumgarner (Eva Davis)
94. Frankie Gavin (De Danann; Elvis Costello; The Rolling Stones)
95. Joe Kennedy, Jr. (Ahmad Jamal; John Lewis; Benny Carter)
96. Tommy Potts
97. Canray Fontenot (Amédé Ardoin; Alphonse "Bois Sec" Ardoin)
98. Dale Potter (Hank Williams; Bill Monroe; Chet Atkins)
99. Ashley MacIsaac
100. Mik Kaminski (Electric Light Orchestra; Violinski)

101. Zbigniew Seifert (Tomasz Stańko; Hans Koller; Oregon)
102. Miri Ben-Ari (Kanye West; Wyclef Jean; Brandy)
103. Johnny Cunningham (Silly Wizard; Nightnoise; Susan McKeown)
104. Harry Lookofsky (Sarah Vaughan; Tony Bennett; Ben Webster)
105. Lonnie Chatmon (Mississippi Sheiks)
106. John Sheahan (The Dubliners; Kate Bush; Shane MacGowan)
107. J. E. Mainer
108. Carla Kihlstedt (Tin Hat Trio; Sleepytime Gorilla Museum; Fred Frith)
109. Earl Johnson
110. Jesse Ashlock (Milton Brown; Bob Wills)
111. Helen O'Hara (Dexys Midnight Runners; Tanita Tikaram; Mary Coughlan)
112. Natalie MacMaster
113. John Weider (Eric Burdon & the Animals; Family)
114. Sid Harkreader (Uncle Dave Macon)
115. Simon House (Hawkwind; High Tide; David Bowie)
116. Prince Albert Hunt
117. Don Messer
118. Uncle Jimmy Thompson
119. Israel Baker (Ella Fitzgerald; Mel Tormé; The Monkees)
120. Scott Joss (Dwight Yoakam; Merle Haggard)
121. Rufus Thibodeaux (Jimmy C. Newman; Neil Young; Jim Reeves)
122. Seán Keane (The Chieftains; Kate Bush; Ali Farka Touré)
123. Susie Honeyman (The Mekons; Echo City; Vivian Stanshall)
124. Brian McNeill (Battlefield Band; Dick Gaughan; Loudon Wainwright III)
125. Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire; Bell Orchestre; The Luyas)
126. Mack Magaha (Reno & Smiley; Porter Wagoner; Dolly Parton)
127. Matty Malneck (Paul Whiteman; Bix Beiderbecke; Frankie Trumbauer)
128. Daniel Huggins Williams (The East Texas Serenaders)
129. John McCusker (Battlefield Band; Kate Rusby; Teenage Fanclub)
130. Noel DaCosta (Rahsaan Roland Kirk; Roberta Flack; McCoy Tyner)
131. Petra Haden (The Decemberists; Foo Fighters; Beck)
132. Uncle Bunt Stephens
133. Vicky Aspinall (The Raincoats; Tuxedomoon; Robert Wyatt)
134. Posey Rorer (Charlie Poole; Kelly Harrell)
135. Fiona Brice (Placebo; John Grant; Vashti Bunyan)
136. J. B. Fuselier
137. Barry Dransfield (The Dransfields; Shirley Collins; Richard Thompson)
138. Lindsey Stirling
139. Benny Sims (Flatt & Scruggs; Roy Acuff; Bill Monroe)
140. Claude "Fiddler" Williams (Andy Kirk; Jay McShann)
141. Jonathan Segel (Camper Van Beethoven; Eugene Chadbourne)
142. Charlie Bowman
143. Luderin Darbone (Hackberry Ramblers)
144. Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
145. Eliza Carthy (Waterson:Carthy; Nancy Kerr)
146. Don Rich (Buck Owens; Tony Booth)
147. Darryl Way (Curved Air; Jethro Tull)
148. Graham Townsend (Raffi; Tom Paxton)
149. Scarlet Rivera (Bob Dylan; Tracy Chapman; David Johansen)
150. G. B. Grayson (Grayson & Whitter)
151. Sue Draheim (John Renbourn; Richard Thompson; John Martyn)
152. Merl Lindsay
153. Sophie Trudeau (Godspeed You! Black Emperor; A Silver Mt. Zion)
154. Uncle Am Stuart
155. Hugh Marsh (Bruce Cockburn; Loreena McKennitt; Mary Margaret O'Hara)
156. Charlie Burnham (James Blood Ulmer; String Trio of New York; Cassandra Wilson)
157. Tommy Peoples (The Bothy Band; Paul Brady)
158. Joe Holley (Bob Wills; Moon Mullican)
159. Mark Wood (Trans-Siberian Orchestra; Jordan Rudess)
160. Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek; Dan Wilson; The Decemberists)
161. Amanda Brown (The Go-Betweens; Died Pretty; Silverchair)
162. Ornette Coleman
163. Stoney Cooper (Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper)
164. Soozie Tyrell (Bruce Springsteen; David Johansen; Southside Johnny)
165. Ric Sanders (Fairport Convention; Soft Machine; The Albion Band)
166. Charlie Cline (Lonesome Pine Fiddlers; Bill Monroe)
167. Nash the Slash (FM; Gary Numan)
168. Bert Layne (Gid Tanner; Clayton McMichen)
169. David Ragsdale (Kansas; Smashing Pumpkins; Queensrÿche)
170. Lonnie Johnson (Prater & Hayes; Bessie Smith; Victoria Spivey)
171. Dickon Hinchliffe (Tindersticks)
172. Blind Alfred Reed
173. Máiréad Nesbitt (Celtic Woman; Michael Flatley; Bill Whelan)
174. Bobby Valentino (The Bluebells; The Men They Couldn't Hang; The Style Council)
175. Scott Tixier
176. Seth Lakeman (Equation; The Lakeman Brothers; Cara Dillon)
177. Leonard Rutherford (Burnett & Rutherford)
178. Peter Stampfel (The Holy Modal Rounders; The Fugs)
179. Laurie Anderson
180. Ray Shulman (Gentle Giant)
181. Tom Anderson
182. Ric Grech (Family; Traffic; Blind Faith)
183. Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Altan; T with the Maggies)
184. David Cross (King Crimson)
185. Sarah Martin (Belle and Sebastian)
186. Ed Alleyne-Johnson (New Model Army)
187. Mat Maneri (Joe Maneri; Joe Morris; Matthew Shipp)
188. Sady Courville (Dennis McGee)
189. Allen Sloan (Dixie Dregs)
190. Eyvind Kang (Bill Frisell; Mr. Bungle; Wayne Horvitz)
191. Andy Stein (Commander Cody; Asleep at the Wheel)
192. Jon Boden (Bellowhead; Spiers & Boden; Eliza Carthy)
193. Jessy Greene (The Jayhawks; Wilco; Foo Fighters)
194. Martin Fay (The Chieftains)
195. Eddie Anthony (Peg Leg Howell)
196. Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle; Queens of the Stone Age; Jenny Lewis)
197. John Blake, Jr. (Grover Washington, Jr.; McCoy Tyner; Archie Shepp)
198. Wilfred Gibson (Electric Light Orchestra; Hothouse Flowers; Oasis)
199. Susan Voelz (Poi Dog Pondering; Alejandro Escovedo; The Aluminum Group)
200. Roy Acuff

201. Gordon Marron (The United States of America; John Coltrane)
202. Phil Wachsmann (Evan Parker; Roscoe Mitchell)
203. Curly Fox (Curly Fox & Texas Ruby; The Shelton Brothers)
204. Julie Penner (Broken Social Scene; Do Make Say Think; The Weakerthans)
205. Robert "Georgia Slim" Rutland (Howdy Forrester; Ray Price; Hank Thompson)
206. Billy Currie (Ultravox; Visage; Gary Numan)
207. Wild Willy Barrett (John Otway)
208. Sugizo (Luna Sea; X Japan)
209. Johnnie Lee Wills (Bob Wills)
210. Nic Jones (Richard Thompson; Shirley Collins; June Tabor)
211. Blaine L. Reininger (Tuxedomoon; The Durutti Column; Snakefinger)
212. Ben Mink (k.d. lang; FM; Rush)
213. Bridget Regan (Flogging Molly)
214. Louis Tierney (Bob Wills)
215. Uncle Eck Dunford
216. Imani Coppola
217. Carroll Dickerson (Louis Armstrong; King Oliver)
218. Tracy Bonham
219. Samara Lubelski (Thurston Moore; The Fiery Furnaces; Tara Jane O'Neil)
220. Theron Hale
221. Snakefinger (The Residents)
222. Colm Mac Con Iomaire (The Frames; The Swell Season; David Gray)
223. Saul Davies (James)
224. Rebecca Zeller (Ra Ra Riot; Talib Kweli)
225. Henry Reed
226. Carrie Bradley (The Breeders; Ed's Redeeming Qualities)
227. Max Johnston (Uncle Tupelo; Wilco; The Gourds)
228. Lionel LeLeux (Joe Falcon; Lawrence Walker)
229. Tourie & Damien Escobar (Nuttin' But Stringz)
230. Jim Lea (Slade)
231. Michael Karoli (Can)
232. Tim Charles (Ne Obliviscaris)
233. Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown; Tres Chicas)
234. Ketch Secor (Old Crow Medicine Show; Gillian Welch)
235. Alexander Rybak
236. Rod Clements (Lindisfarne)
237. Russell Senior (Pulp)
238. Jim Seals (Seals & Crofts; England Dan & John Ford Coley)
Violinist Stéphane Grappelli
Stéphane Grappelli

Violinist Vassar Clements
Vassar Clements

Violinist Joe Venuti
Joe Venuti

Violinist Fiddlin' John Carson
Fiddlin' John Carson

Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty
Jean-Luc Ponty

Violinist Stuff Smith
Stuff Smith

Violinist James Scott Skinner
James Scott Skinner

Violinist Clayton McMichen
Clayton McMichen

Violinist Gid Tanner
Gid Tanner

Violinist Dave Swarbrick
Dave Swarbrick

Violinist Don Sugarcane Harris
Don "Sugarcane" Harris

Violinist Cecil Brower
Cecil Brower

Violinist Eddie Jobson
Eddie Jobson

Violinist Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman

Violinist Leroy Jenkins
Leroy Jenkins

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