13 Of The Most Famous Left-Handed Guitar Players You Should Know

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Since only about one out of ten people are left-handed, southpaw guitarists have always been a rarity in the music world. Yet, despite the odds, many of the best guitar players in music history have played with their left hands, often learning on a right-handed model flipped upside down. 

From Jimi Hendrix and Malina Moye to Kurt Cobain and Mdou Moctar, lefties have become innovators with their unorthodox way of playing, leading to remarkable revolutions that changed the world of music. 

In this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the greatest and most famous left-handed guitar players over the last 100 years. Let’s jump in.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix is one of the greatest and most innovative guitar players of all time, and he may have the unique way he used his hands to thank for that. 

Although Hendrix mostly played a right-handed guitar upside down with his left hand, he also often used his right hand to write and would sometimes use both hands when playing the guitar. 

Hendrix’s ambidextrous tendencies have led some to speculate that it’s what made his music so great.

People who are ambidextrous use both sides of their brain, meaning they’re more capable of blending different ideas together and working within ambiguity. 

2. Tony Iommi

The lead guitarist and co-founder of Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi, originally learned to play with a right-handed guitar held upside down

Over the years, he searched for a left-handed model when he finally found, oddly enough, a right-handed man who was playing a left-handed guitar upside down. 

The two met in a parking lot and exchanged guitars, and Iommi has preferred the feeling of left-handed guitars ever since. 

Of course, left-handedness isn’t the only odd thing about Iommi’s guitar playing. He also lost the tips of his fingers on his right hand when working in a sheet metal factory. 

He almost gave up the guitar until he met Django Reinhardt, who lost the use of two fingers in a campfire accident.

Reinhardt convinced him to pick up the guitar again, and Iommi ended up playing with soft plastic tips attached to his fingers. 

3. Dick Dale

Dick Dale became known as the “king of the surf guitar” with his heavy rapid-fire guitar playing that he says was his attempt at emulating the sounds of the ocean that he surfed as a young man in southern California. 

Dale, the guitarist for the Del-Tones, used a right-handed Fender Stratocaster that he flipped upside down and used extra thick strings to get his signature heavy sound. 

Dale’s music became popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His music influenced artists as wide-ranging as Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys, and Eddie Van Halen. 

4. Malina Moye

Malina Moye is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who mixes R&B, blues, and hard rock to create her own style. 

Moye came from a musical family. Her father is bassist George Moye, and both he and her mother have played with musicians such as Tina Turner. 

When Moye was a little girl, her dad gave her a right-handed guitar even though she was naturally left-handed. She said she tried to play it right-handed, but it just didn’t feel right, so she flipped it upside down. 

She’s played an upside-down right-handed Fender ever since with remarkable success. 

5. Paul McCartney

Although Paul McCartney is best known for playing the bass, he did start his career as a guitarist for The Quarrymen. 

As a kid, his dad bought him a trumpet since trumpets were really popular at the time, but once he decided he wanted to sing as well, he traded it for a guitar.

However, the Zenith he got was for a right-handed player, and McCartney was left-handed.  So, he started out playing with his right hand because he didn’t realize anyone played with their left. 

Later on, he saw a picture of Slim Whitman with his guitar upside down and playing with his left-handed. So, McCartney decided to try the guitar that way and switch the strings around.

He realized that he was a much better player when using his dominant hand and became one of the most famous left-handed musicians of all time.

6. Zacky Vengeance

Zacky Vengeance (Zachary James Baker) is the rhythm guitarist for Avenged Sevenfold.

Despite being left-handed, his first guitar was right-handed, which he learned to play upside down at the age of 13. 

Baker now has his own line of left-handed Schecter guitars, which all have his signature 6661 under the bridge. 

Zacky Vengeance was also one of the founding members of Avenged Sevenfold and came up with much of the band’s image, including the acronym that the band sometimes goes by “A7X.”

7. Elizabeth Cotten

Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten wrote “Freight Train” in 1904 at just 11 years old. The folk song would go on to be recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Grateful Dead, and Pete Seeger. 

At only eight years old, Cotten learned to play her brother’s right-handed banjo while he was at work. She would do her fingering upside down. 

After a few years, her brother moved away, so she got a babysitting and house cleaning job where her employer paid her 75 cents a month.

After five months, she bought her first guitar for $3.75. 

8. Kurt Cobain

The verdict is still out on whether Kurt Cobain, Nirvana’s legendary frontman, was completely left-handed.

Although he called himself left-handed and usually played that way, he also wrote with his right hand and sometimes played with his right hand. 

Like Jimi Hendrix, Cobain was at least partially ambidextrous, which may explain his fantastic creativity.

Or, his switching hands could have come from his lack of money when he was learning to play and the rarity of left-handed guitars at the time. 

9. Albert King

Mississippi-native Albert King was the master and creator of his unique string-bending guitar style, influencing musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

Like many left-handed guitarists, King learned to play on a right-handed guitar flipped upside down.

He also tuned his guitar down one and a half steps and primarily used the top three strings. 

His innovative style is almost impossible to play on a standard right-handed guitar in proper tune, leading many other blues guitarists who wanted to copy his style to improvise, which created even more transformations in the way people play guitar. 

10. Barbara Lynn (1942-)

Barbara Lynn is an R&B guitarist and singer-songwriter who has toured alongside other greats, including Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, and B.B. King. 

She began her career performing in local clubs throughout her home state of Texas before she got signed to Jamie Record in the early 1960s. 

Many people considered her extraordinary during her heyday since she was a female African American who wrote her own songs and played the lead instrument, in this case, left-handed on the guitar. 

She took a break from music during the 1970s and early 1980s but made a comeback in 1984.

She continues to perform at clubs in Los Angeles, sometimes alongside her son. 

11. Mdou Moctar

Mdou Moctar (Mahamadou Souleymane) grew up in a small village in Niger where many people did not like secular music.Despite this, he built his first guitar himself out of four bicycle brake cables and a 2×4.

Once he got older, he finally got a real guitar which he learned to play quickly. 

The Tuareg-style singer-songwriter who mixes traditional West African music with synthesizers, drum machines, and the acoustic guitar first made a name for himself when his music appeared on an album called “Music from Saharan Cellphones, Vol. 1,” which became popular worldwide. 

12. Elliot Easton

Elliot Easton was the lead guitarist for The Cars for decades and has sold tens of millions of records worldwide. 

Easton said that he got his first guitar at the age of three.

As a small child in the late 50s, he came to love the guitar from watching cowboys, Elvis Presley, and the Mickey Mouse Club Show, where the lead Mousketeer played the instrument. 

He began learning the guitar more seriously by the age of eight and played on a right-handed guitar that he flipped upside down.

As a teenager, he saved up money to get his first left-handed guitar, a custom-ordered Fender Telecaster. 

13. Otis Rush

Otis Rush’s love of music came from listening to records on his mother’s wind-up Victrola record player and blues albums on jukeboxes in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi. 

He picked up the harmonica and sang in the choir as a child before borrowing his right-handed brother’s guitar to learn how to play. 

His self-taught guitar playing, which he did with the guitar upside down, gave him his signature style that would end up dazzling audiences in Chicago in the 1950s. 

Summing up our List of the Greatest Left Handed Guitarists

Left-handed guitarists have had their share of struggles trying to make it in a right-hand dominated world. 

Yet, for many of them, learning to play the guitar upside down made them better musicians whose innovations changed the entire popular music scene for decades after them.

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Written by Andre Roberts