As a teacher, I am frequently asked "Which blues guitar players should I listen to?" To be an educated player it is essential to be aware of primary influences (in this case, focusing on the electric blues tradition) - so I’ll give you some opinions, but it’s crucial to keep in mind that there are many more than I mention who have also made important contributions to the style.
My own education in blues guitar began in the most typical way - I was inspired by the then-new generation of blues-rock icons such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page and became curious about how they developed their sound, which led me back in time to the beginning of the electric blues era in the early 1940s and ultimately to the dawn of recorded blues in the early 1920s. The farther back I went, the stranger the music sounded compared to the “modern” players I was familiar with, but I also began to hear the threads that connected them all and to develop a sense of how every player along the line drew on common elements and added their personal twist, creating an ever-expanding vocabulary of phrasing, technique, sound, and style.
Here are a few guitarists, in more-or-less chronological order (including two acoustic predecessors), who had a significant role in developing modern electric blues and blues-rock styles.