It seems inevitable now, but if you take a step back, it's amazing to think that all of the following elements came together at the same moment: Jimi Hendrix' spirit and creativity, the then-recent past of the great blues guitarists, the new psychedelic energy, the structure of the guitar-bass-drums unit, and the technology of the electric guitar with distortion and wah wah and tone pedals. All of these elements came together so powerfully between 1966 and 1970. It was the perfect balance - one man holding an instrument that he was still playing in a kinetic and physical way, but which could seemingly unleash the heavens and allow for sonic expression on a huge scale. That was the moment. (I'm thinking especially about the Band of Gypsies album. In fact I'm thinking specifically of the first 2 minutes of the song "Power of Soul" from the Band of Gypsies album.) Nobody has matched the looseness and fluidity with which he played and corralled those sounds. This was the true shred. At the same time he opened up a whole zone of exploration, different corners of which have been investigated by different beautiful musicians in the years following him.
The electronic music / turntable laptop sampler keyboard etc. revolution of the last 30 years has been extremely beautiful and exciting because it has pushed the sonic boundaries even further out. But I don't think we have yet found an instrument or musical form that combines this newly expanded kind of electronic inventiveness with the satisfaction of watching somebody physically corral and bend and shape sound in the way that has been possible on the electric guitar since Hendrix. It'll happen.
Here are some of my favorite shredders, ancient to the future: Jimi, Charlie Parker, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, Bonnie Raitt, Angelina Carberry, Sonny Rollins, Isaac Alderson, Charlie Christian, Cat Power, Wayne Shorter. In fact I'd love to put together a band of all of these people. Rehearsal is at 11 AM this coming Thursday!