Richard Thompson was already an exceptional guitarist when he was playing with Fairport Convention - it was his guitar style that pretty much got Fairport their first signing.
He left them 40 years ago.
I hesitate to guess how many tens of thousands of hours he's played since then, but we saw him last night with his band, and his sheer fluency on his Strats was amazing. (For the guitarists among you, he was playing a bit using the sunburst Strat that he bought back in 71, but mostly a newish one modified by his guitar tech Bobby Eichorn.) Watching his fingers on the fretboard (we were second row, to the left of the auditorium, so were barely twenty feet away) was an education. He's quite possibly the best rock guitarist out there, able to do note perfect fast runs live, bending notes using the strings rather than the Strat tremolo.
(Edit: Sorry, that last bit sounded as though note bending on the frets is in some way unusual - it's not. However, the extent to which he's doing it would be enough to make a lesser man take to the tremolo bar. In his case he's playing some fast passages where you can see him bending almost every note.)
Thompson does tend to wander genres - the last time we saw him was at a performance of his 1000 Years Of Popular Music show (which is well worth going to), but that was him, an acoustic guitar, a percussionist and a singer. The time before that was more folk-rock. Last night though, was loud, fast and rock: even when he did do some folk-style songs, they were a million miles away in style from your traditional folk musician. This wasn't a man in a pub - this was a rock group in front of a sell-out thousand seater crowd, even if there was violin, flute and mandolin in the mix.
(God in this instance is of course Eric Clapton)