A: Steve Vai - EVO Ibanez Jem JEM7VWH
Evo is the name Steve Vai gave to his primary stage and
recording guitar, an Ibanez JEM7VWH. It was designed by Vai and
Ibanez back in 1987.
The guitar was signed on the back twice by Les Paul. The first
time was at Les Paul's birthday in 1995 and then again in 1998
after the first wore out. After the second signing, the signature
was covered in plastic.
Steve Vai said this about Evo:
"I wanted to design a Jem that had a classic look to it. We
experimented with some color combinations and I decided on a white
guitar with gold hardware. Ibanez had sent me 4 of them when they
were available. They were production models with absolutely no
modifications. I couldn't even tell them apart. I started to play
them all to get a feel for the one I wanted to make my main
Guitars are like snowflakes in that it seems like there are no two
that are exactly alike. Each of those 4 guitars had a slightly
different feel and sound. None were better than the other just a
At the same time, I was also working with DiMarzio designing a new
pickup. There were four that we experimented with and each was
named after a Harley Davidson engine style. They were
the Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead and Evolution.
The one I liked the most was the Evolution, so DiMarzio put them
into production and they are still available.
The reason I liked the Evolution pickup was that it had a hot
output, smooth yet cutting top end and tight bottom end. I had them
put in one of the new white Jems and to tell the guitars apart I
had to write something on them. That's how Evo got her
name. Another one at the time was Flo. The way I got her name
will remain a secret for a while.
There was something about Evo that I responded to. Even though she
was technically exactly like every other production model guitar,
there was something about her touch and sound that moved me. To
this day, whenever I see her, my heart goes pitter-patter.
Regardless of what is going on in my life, highs or lows, Evo is
always a tender sanctuary. The feeling I get when I see her or
approach her is akin to a warm home where you feel safe and secure,
maybe even around the holiday season - you get the picture.
I started playing her before the Sex And
Religion recordings and she has been my main ax since. The
only time I use another guitar is if I'm looking for a sound that
Evo can't deliver. Flo received a Fernandez sustainer and these
days I have been using her more often for two reasons: I have been
using the sustainer, and poor Evo is coming to pieces. Read the
descriptions and look at the pictures! I did not want to put a
sustainer in Evo because it really changes the sound.
I have several backups for Evo and Flo that I use and take on
tour. The original Evo II was given to Charlie Bolis. He is a cool
guy that is one of my studio techs.
Although Evo is just made out of wire and wood, I'm afraid of how
much emotional investment I have in her. I think when you play an
instrument long enough it becomes an extension of yourself in ways
that run deeper than anyone may understand but you. It moulds and
shapes to your body and style or you mould and shape to it. It is
the tool an artist uses to express his or her deepest emotional
expressions and secrets. For me, Evo has been the voice of my heart
and has seen the depth of my most depressed emotional frames of
mind to my most euphoric moments of joy and divine love, and she
usually gets the brunt of it all. I have cried, screamed, prayed
and bled through that instrument, and like I said, although she is
only wire and wood, there is an emotional investment in her. I'm
afraid at how much I love her but I know that she is only on loan
to me for a short time and will one day be dust. But for now,
there's still quite a bit we have to say together."
B. James Hetfield - Gibson 1973 Les Paul Custom "Iron
James Hetfield's 'Iron Cross' guitar, also refered to as 'Uncle
Milty' has been the Metallica frontman's main guitar since the
release of 'Death Magnetic'
It's a Gibson 1973 Les Paul Custom but somehow provided the
inspiration for the ESP James Hetfield signature 'Iron Cross'
guitar. Despite being ESP endorsers, Hetfield and Kirk Hammett have
always been Gibson players, having used Flying V's, Explorers and
in more recent years and whole host of wonderful looking Les
C. Jack White - 1964 JB Hutto Montgomery Ward Airline
Airline Guitars were a brand of electric and
acoustic guitars made in the United States from 1958-68.
The angular red Airline model played by Jack White is commonly
referred to as the "JB Hutto" model, after the bluesman and slide
guitar artist J. B. Hutto. Hutto was the first most visible
guitarist to regularly use the guitar in live performances and
recordings, and is pictured with the guitar on
hisSlidwinder and Stompin' at Mother
Jack White actually owns two of these Airline Res-o-glas
guitars. An all original one which was given to him later in his
career, and his first one, which had a broken neck pickup. This was
the one he ended up taking the knobs and neck pickup off.
Jack White speaks about his main guitar:
"I got my first one from Jack Oblivian. Jack Yarber is his name,
and he's in a band called the Oblivians, from Memphis. He was
playing in Detroit, and I went backstage. He said, "Hey, look at
this guitar that I got." And he opened the case, and I was like,
"Oh, man! That's amazing! That's......my color!" And it's plastic.
I love it so much!" And he said, "It's for sale. I wanna get an
Airline with three pickups." I had, like, 200 bucks or something.
[laughs] Can't get 'em for 200 bucks anymore.
Playing that guitar makes me feel like I have to take something
that's broken and make it work. It's hollow, it's made of plastic,
and it feels like it's going to fall apart. The front pickup is
broken, but the treble pickup has an amazing bite. I've never had
it refretted or anything. It's pretty much the way I found it,
except for new tuners."
It's work to play it, but I like that. I had a Silvertone guitar
that never stayed in tune, but when it went out of tune I would
just work with it. If I wanted to play it safe I'd go out and get a
brand new Stratocaster or something like that. But I don't like to
play it safe; I like it when things are get messed up. It's like
when things get messed up onstage: it forces me to figure something
out now, because no one else can save me. With a guitar like the
Airline, my mind is always working. I'm not just "phoning it
For guitars, you just have to go to junk shops. You won't be able
to find something like the Airline at a pawn shop very often. I
don't think you should buy brand new instruments because they
haven't proven themselves. You can buy an old guitar and it's
already got soul inside of it; it's gone through a battle. A new
guitar - yeah, it stays in tune, it's perfect and it will never
crap out on you or anything. But it doesn't have any soul to it;
it's just another piece of plastic coming out of a factory. I've
never been able to relate to that."
D. Joe Strummer - 1966 Fender
Joe Strummer was playing with the 101ers when he bought his 1966
Fender Telecaster in 1975 for £120. After joining the Clash, the
guitar's body and pickguard were refinished in grey auto primer and
then painted black. By 1979, the word NOISE was stenciled on the
upper part of the body, a rasta flag sticker was placed
at the horn of the pickguard, and an "Ignore Alien Orders" sticker
was placed above the bridge. By the release of Give 'Em Enough
Rope, the guitar was fitted with a bridge with individual saddles
and the original Kluson tuners were replaced with later model
tuners and a large question mark was spraypainted on its back. The
guitar would remain in this configuration throughout his career
with the addition of different stickers on its body. The guitar's
black paint became worn down due to Strummer's playing and on many
places the original sunburst finish and bare wood shines through,
except for the square where Strummer taped his setlists.
Strummer was naturally left-handed, but learned to play guitar
right-handed. He had attributed this as a drawback and claimed it
caused him to be underdeveloped as a guitarist, although his style
of playing was unique.
Fender guitars have since released a Joe Strummer Signature
Telecaster Model designed in cooperation with the Strummer
E. Albert King - Custom Flying V
ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons had this guitar made for the late Albert
King as a surprise present for the bluesman's 65 th birthday in
1988. It was crafted by Tom Holmes, a Nashville luthier who has
made over 25 guitars for Gibbons, as well as many of Bo Diddley's
odd shaped instruments. "It's built like a Les Paul," says Holmes.
"It's an archtop with a maple top and a mohogany body and neck. I
had (Cheap Trick guitarist) Rick Nielsens' Flying V here at the
time, which I used as a model to sketch the body and check the
headstock and neck joint, so its body shape is exactly like a
Gibson Flying V's.
King, who played Flying V's - all of them dubbed "LUCY" -
throughout his lengthy and influential career, immediately made
Holmes's creation his number one guitar. In December 1992, just
eight days before the great guitarist died of a heart attack, he
presented it to its present owner, his adopted "cousin" Lee
Lee and his brother, Sam, both former members of Albert's band,
went to see King play at a Los Angeles club. It was destined to be
his final performance.
"We were hanging around in the dressing room when Albert came
off stage," Lee King recalls. He told me he wasn't feeling well and
said he might have to go to the hospital to have some bypass work
done. Then he gave me the guitar and said, "Here, take this
thing and play it." I was shocked. I grabbed him and hugged him but
he kind of turned away because he wasn't the hugging type. Then
they called him out to do an encore, and he took the guitar back
and told me and Sam to come with him. We stood back in the wings
and then he motioned for us to come out. He gave me the guitar
again, infront of everyone.
"Again I was shocked. I didn't know how to thank him enough, but
he told me that he just wanted me to carry on the blues. And that's
what I'm doing."
F. Woody Guthrie - 1945 Gibson Southern
Not much is known about many of Woody Guthrie's guitars since
Woody was fairly casual about property and his guitars. However as
well as his black L-00 we do know that after Gibson introduced the
J-45 dreadnought style guitars in 1942 in order to compete with the
Martin D acoustics, Woody purchased the Southern Jumbo model.
Gibson introduced the Southern Jumbo in 1942 which was
essentially a J-45 with better trim and trapezoid mother-of-pearl
replacing the dots on the fretboard. While on leave from the
Merchant Marine in December 1943, Woody purchased his Gibson
Southern Jumbo in New York City.
He immediately decorated it with his trademark "This Machine
Kills Fascists" sticker and from then on (until he began playing
Martin acoustics) became his main guitar.
When Woody and Cisco Houston showed up at the recording studio
in 1944 for Stinson Records, they both had Gibson Southern Jumbos.
These recording sessions produced by Moe Asch and Herbert Harris
and form the largest body of Woody Guthrie recordings.
Gibson guitars have since released a Woody Guthrie signature
Southern Jumbo after working with Woody's son Arlo Guthrie
"The Woody Guthrie SJ acoustic guitar (is) a painstaking and
faithful recreation of Woody's beloved 1945 Southern Jumbo. The
idea was conceived in 2002 when his son Arlo-a folk legend in his
own right-visited the builders at Gibson Acoustic in Montana. That
visit resulted in the eventual replication of his favorite guitar
right down to an aged-like vintage replica finish." (Gibson
"His J-45 was borrowed from somebody," said Steve
Earle the guitar player, singer songwriter, and vintage guitar
collector . "He was hard on guitars, and most of them he did not
pay for. The famous Southern Jumbo, I don't know about. I think the
Southern Jumbo might actually be one he purchased, because it's the
guitar that he's playing in the pictures and on his radio show. He
was an organizer, but had a radio show in L.A., so he might have
bought that one." Steve Earle, Vintage Guitars
G. Tom Morello - "Arm The Homeless" Custom Built
Morello's most famous guitar, and his main guitar for standard
tuning since 1986 is his "Arm The Homeless" Mongrel Custom.
The original guitar was made by Performance Guitar USA custom
guitar builders for Morello to his exact specifications
although Tom was less than happy with the results.
Tom says this about his guitar:
"The origin of the guitar dates back to 1986, pre-Lock Up. I was
bumping around between some crummy Hollywood jobs, making $13,000 a
year - no goldmine, but it did provide for some income, and it
allowed me to save up and get a guitar.
"I went to this place in Hollywood that builds guitars. I'm no
luthier, I didn't know anything about woods and what have you - you
go to this place, check off all these boxes, and they build it for
you. They made me the shittiest guitar in the world, but it's what
would ultimately become Arm The Homeless.
"Everything about it was bad: it looked bad, it sounded bad, it
was grotesquely overpriced, and over the course of the next two
years, I changed literally everything about it except for the piece
of wood. I got the guitar and hoped I would sound like I was
playing Mr. Crowley on it, but it was pretty bad. I didn't know
what to do - I had spent all of my money.
"Over time, I swapped necks on it maybe four times; pickups came
and went maybe a dozen times; the whammy bar - I tried every
different version of Kahler and Floyd Rose; all of the internal
electronics were gutted, just me trying to get it right. I'm not
much of a builder, so every time I got an idea I brought it to some
new guitar shop and had it worked on.
"Finally, I found a graphite neck in a bin at a place called
Nadine's Music, and I put that on. It's not a Kramer neck, but it's
got the Kramer end to it - it's a knock-off. Then I put some EMG
pickups in it, and the whammy bar was changed to
an Ibanez Edge.
"At this point, I gave up and said, 'OK, it's never going to
sound like what I hear in my head, so I'm going to stop worrying
and fucking around, and I'm just going to play music.' Just to make
it clear: I wasn't happy with where the guitar was at, but I
When I made the decision to stop searching for a sound that just
didn't exist in that guitar, and I just started creating, I learned
to take the sounds the guitar had and found ways to make music that
I liked with them.
"The bounce that's in my contribution to the riffs of Rage
Against The Machine have a lot to do with that front pickup. I
never really liked that sound; in fact I was quite disappointed
with it, because it has a very single-coil sound. But that is the
sound - that front pickup.
Tom speaking about the Hippos and the slogan:
"They're literally the only thing I can draw, and I can only
draw them facing the one way. I drew them on and then painted them.
As for my other change to the look of the guitar, this was in the
early days of Rage Against The Machine. We were set to play at the
Whiskey, and just before going over to soundcheck I scrawled 'Arm
The Homeless' on the guitar. I liked the juxtaposition of that kind
of provocative and militant situationist slogan with those four
smiling hippopotamuses all facing in one direction.
"Then I started stringing the guitar the opposite way, with the
balls coming out of the top so they can wave around. Actually, I
did that in my high school band. I remember one of the guys in
school - and a far superior musician - kind of looked down his nose
at my little band. One day he said to me, 'Dude, cut your strings.
You do not dare have floppy strings like that unless you're in the
baddest band in town.' Well, when I was in Rage Against The
Machine, I was in the baddest band in town, so I let my strings
That guitar and I have spent tens of thousands of hours
together, and I've grown very happy with it through the years. For
somebody who isn't particularly sentimental about instruments and
all that stuff, I admit that I've become very sentimental about
that guitar. I was playing it today, as a matter a fact.
"I had an exact replica of it made up as a back-up, and frankly,
it's a sturdier version - the sound is a little bit clearer, it's a
little bit heavier - but the one that I trust is Arm The Homeless.
I don't really look at a guitar as something that does slave labor;
it's more of a colleague. It listens to me, and I listen to it.
It's that combination together that makes the music that we
H. Bo Diddley - Gretsch G6138
Bo Diddley's trademark instrument was the rectangular-bodied
Gretsch nicknamed "The Twang Machine" (referred to as "cigar-box
shaped" by music promoter Dick Clark). Although the guitar in the
picture is a Gretsch G6138, he had other similar-shaped guitars
custom-made for him by other manufacturers.
The original version of the "The Twang Machine" was fashioned by
Bo himself and Gretsch around 1958. In a 2005 interview on JJJ
radio in Australia, Bo implied that the design sprang from an
embarrassing moment. During an early gig, while jumping around on
stage with a Gibson L5 guitar, he landed awkwardly hurting his
groin. He then went about designing a smaller, less restrictive
guitar that allowed him to keep jumping around on stage while still
playing his guitar.
I. Tony Iommi Jaydee SG Custom 'Old Boy'
Tony Iommi's Jaydee SG Custom, also known as "No.1" and "The Old
Boy" is Tony's main electric guitar, both live and in the
The guitar was built in Birmingham, England by John Diggins, now
Jaydee Custom Guitars. The exact date of its manufacture was not
recorded but it is thought to be between 1975 and 1978. The guitar
was first used on the 'Heaven and Hell' album and then used more
and more frequently until it eventually took over from Tony's black
John Birch S.G. as his main instrument.
It is instantly recognisable, with a vaguely maroon colouration
and many patches of peeled paint exposing well-worn wood. The
fretboard has 24 frets (plus a zero fret) and the trademark cross
inlays. The pickups are of different types, the bridge is a Jaydee
special and the neck is a John Birch style Magnum X in a John Birch
casing, though made by John Diggins. The bridge is by Schaller and
features fine tuners. The machine heads are Sperzels.
There is a pickup selector switch and five control knobs on the
front of the instrument, though only three are wired in. All of
Tony's road guitars have the bridge pick up tone control
disconnected. The fifth control was connected to a booster circuit,
which has been removed. There is also an additional ¼" jack socket
on the front of the guitar. This was originally a low impedance
output for recording purposes, but has subsequently been
The very 'distressed' look of the guitar is due to a couple of
factors. It was built on John Diggins's kitchen table and had to be
finished very quickly. As a result, the coats of paint and finish
did not have the time to cure properly. At a later date the guitar
was left in a car in an extremely hot part of the world and a lot
of the finish bubbled up, giving the guitar the look that has
become familiar to all Sabbath guitar fans.
On tour, this is Tony's main instrument for the 'one step down' D#
J. David Gilmour - 'The Black Strat'
Much has been written about David Gilmour's famous Black Strat,
so much so, the guitar is now almost as legendary as the man
himself. In fact we dedicated a whole issue to it last year.
You can read our David Gilmour special here.
David bought the Black Strat at Manny's guitar store in New
York, USA in May 1970 during Pink Floyd's North American tour. As
fate would have it, David had just weeks earlier bough his first
black Stratocaster at the same store but it was stolen along with
the rest of Floyd's rig. Being forced to cancel the rest of the
tour David once again visited Manny's on their way back home and
the rest is pretty much history. The Black Strat made its debut
performance at the Bath festival in June 1970.
The guitar went through many changes over the years with
different necks, pickups and custom features but by the mid 80s
David had replaced all of his guitars with Fender's new line of
1957 reissues. The Black Strat was donated to Hard Rock Café where
it was on display until 1997. In 2005 Pink Floyd reunited for the
last time at the Live 8 show in London's Hyde Park and the Black
Strat made its triumphant return. It's been David's main guitar
K. Willie Nelson - 'Trigger' Martin N20 Classical
Willie Nelson bought his first Martin guitar, the N20 now known
as 'Trigger' without even seeing it in 1969. The Baldwin company
had originally given him an amp and classical electric guitar with
a special three-cord stereo pickup which became his main guitar but
it got badly damaged on tour. During a show in Helotes, Texas,
Nelson left the guitar on the floor of the stage, that was later
stepped on by a drunk man. Willie sent it to Shot Jackson in
Nashville to see if it could be fixed.
Shot called Willie back and said, 'I can't fix it. It's broke
too bad.' So Willie asked what else he had around? Shot said he had
a Martin up on the shelf for $750.
Willie asked him if he could put that same Baldwin pickup in the
Martin. Shot said he could and that's how Willie got it, unseen and
right off the shelf.
When Willie got it he said he knew he had gotten something
special. He just enjoyed sitting around in a room and playing it,
writing on it, and most importantly, he just liked the sound of
The guitar is one of the most instantly recognizable instruments
in existence. Willie's constant strumming with a guitar pick over
the decades has worn a large sweeping hole into the guitar's body
near the bridge and the top has been signed by over a hundred of
Nelson's friends and associates, including those of Leon Russell,
Roger Miller, Kris Kristofferson, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Waylon
Jennings, lawyers, football coaches, and other friends and
The first signature on the guitar was Leon Russell's, who
asked Nelson initially to sign his guitar. When Nelson was about to
sign it with a marker, Russell requested him to scratch it instead,
explaining that the guitar would be more valuable in the future.
Interested in the concept, Nelson requested Russell also to also
sign his guitar.In 1991, during his process with the IRS, Nelson
was worried that Trigger could be auctioned off, stating: "When
Trigger goes, I'll quit". He asked his daughter, Lana, to take the
guitar from the studio before any IRS agent got there, and bring it
to him on Maui. Nelson then hid the guitar in his manager's
house until his debt was paid in 1993.
In his book, The Tao of Willie: A Guide to Happiness in
Your Heart, Nelson described the influence of the guitar in his
style: "One of the secrets to my sound is almost beyond
explanation. My battered old Martin guitar, Trigger, has the
greatest tone I've ever heard from a guitar. If I picked up the
finest guitar made this year and tried to play my solos exactly the
way you heard them on the radio or even at last night's show, I'd
always be a copy of myself and we'd all end up bored. But if I play
an instrument that is now a part of me, and do it according to the
way that feels right for me. I'll always be an original".
L. Buddy Guy - Polka Dot Fender
Buddy Guy's famous polka dot Stratocaster was custom made for
him by Fender after he requested the design as a tribute to his
According to Buddy..."When I left Louisiana in 1957, I told my
mother I was going to Chicago, gonna make a lot of money, and come
back and buy her a polka dot Cadillac. Then later she had a stroke,
so I never did get a chance to give her that car. Those polka dots
on my guitar are for her."
Buddy's guitar tech Mark Messner says the guitarist currently
owns seven polka-dot Strats, many of them equipped with the same
built-in preamp found in the Eric Clapton signature Strat. Four of
Buddy's polkadot Strats were made by the Fender Custom Shop, with
pickups ranging from Lace sensors to Texas Specials. The remaining
three are production- line Buddy Guy Signature models from Fender's
manufacturing facility in Mexico. One of these instruments is
equipped with '59 humbuckers and another has vintage noiseless
pickups. Buddy often uses the latter guitar when he plays at his
Legends club, which has significant buzz issues, according to
"You have to spend more time with that guitar than you do with
your wife," say Buddy. "That's why I'm by myself now. My wife would
tell me, 'You're putting too much time into the guitar and ain't
givin' me none.' And I said: 'You go, I'm keepin' my guitar.'"
M. B.B.King 'Lucille' Gibson ES355
In the winter of 1949, King played at a dance hall
in Twist, Arkansas. In order to heat the hall, a barrel
half-filled with kerosene was lit, a fairly common
practice at the time. During a performance, two men began to fight,
knocking over the burning barrel and sending burning fuel across
the floor. The hall burst into flames, which triggered an
evacuation. Once outside, King realized that he had left his guitar
inside the burning building. He entered the blaze to retrieve his
beloved $30 Gibson guitar. Two people died in the fire. The next
day, King learned that the two men were fighting over a woman named
Lucille. King named that first guitar Lucille, as well as every one
he owned since that near-fatal experience, as a reminder never
again to do something as stupid as run into a burning building or
fight over women.
"It seems that it loves to be petted and played with. There's
also a certain way you hold it, the certain noises it makes, the
way it excites me ... and Lucille don't want to play anything but
the blues ... Lucille is real, when I play her it's almost like
hearing words, and of course, naturally I hear cries." - B.B. King,
liner notes from the album, Lucille, 1968
Listen to B.B. King's 'Lucille' below to hear the full
In 2005, for B.B. King's 80th birthday, Gibson made a special
run of 80 Gibson Lucilles, referred to as the '80th Birthday
Lucille'. The first prototype was presented to King as a birthday
present. King used the guitar as his main guitar until the summer
of 2009, when it was stolen from him. On September 10, 2009, Eric
Dahl unknowingly purchased the stolen instrument from a pawn shop
in Las Vegas. Upon researching information on the instrument,
he was contacted by a Gibson Artist Relations representative, who
informed Dahl of the stolen status of the guitar. This Lucille was
returned to King in late November 2009, who was happy to receive
his 80th birthday present back.
N. John Lennon - 1965 Epiphone Casino
John Lennon's Epiphone Casino made a bigger impact on the
imaginations of Beatle fans than any of the several other guitars
he played during his career, and became an iconic instrument in the
process. The fact is, though, that this guitar is revered in two
entirely different incarnations: many love it in its original state
as a vintage sunburst 1965 Epiphone Casino, while others admire its
"Revolution-era" appearance from around 1968, after Lennon stripped
it and altered some of its hardware.
John Lennon and George Harrison both acquired 1965 Epiphone
Casinos to match the guitar that Paul McCartney had bought before
You can see both versions of the guitar in the videos below
O. Brian May - 'Red Special'
One of the most iconic guitars in the history of rock music is
Brian May's 'Red Special' also refered to as 'The Fireplace' or
'The Old Lady'.
Custom-built by May and his father in 1963 over a period of two
years it is a guitar that would go on to define Brian's
unmistakeable playing style and sound. The name Red
Special came from the reddish-brown colour the guitar attained
after being stained and painted with numerous layers of Rustins'
Most of the wood came from an 18th century fireplace mantel that
a friend of the family was about to throw away. The neck was
hand-shaped into the desired form; this was difficult because of
the age and quality of the wood. According to May, there are two
wormholes in the neck of the guitar.
The neck was finished with a
24 fret oak fingerboard. Each of the position inlays
was hand shaped from a mother-of-pearl button. May
decided to position them in a personal way: two dots at 7th and
19th fret and three at 12th and 24th.
Originally the guitar had a built in distortion circuit, adapted
from a mid-1960s Vox distortion effects
unit. The switch for this was in front of the phase switches. May
soon discovered that he preferred the sound of a Vox
AC30 distorting at full power, so the circuit was removed. The
switch hole is now covered by a mother-of-pearl star inlay, but was
originally covered by insulation tape.
In this video Brian talks about building the guitar with his
father and his desire to built an instrument that would feedback
and communicate with the moving air.
P. Steve Morse - Signature Musicman "n°1"
Steve Morse was our cover star in issue 9 of iGuitar Magazine.
He talked extensively about his guitar and his technique that led
to the concept for the design of his signature model. Read the Steve Morse Issue here.
Although throughout the 80s, Steve used a custom "frankentele"
guitar, made up of a Tele body with
a Strat neck and a Gibson style stop tailpiece,
he changed his main axe when he was approached by Music Man
Guitars and asked to help create a signature model designed to
his specifications. The prototype n°1 of his Steve Morse signature
guitar was built and Steve is now one of the longest endorsees of
the company, using the guitar for more than 20 years. The guitar
has been refretted eight times and is still the first original
He now has two signature models with MusicMan guitars which he
The first one is an exact replica of his n°1 guitar which
features a poplar body with maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, 4
pickups (a DiMarzio Steve Morse bridge and neck
model Humbuckers, and two DiMarzio single coils, a DP 117
and a custom wound Steve Morse single coil in HSSH configuration)
volume and tone controls. The switching is also particular: it
features a 3 way selector that changes between the bridge
humbucker, the neck humbucker and the first single coil ( aligned
with the Bridge Humbucker), a mini switch that adds the bridge
pickup to any configuration and a third switch that adds the
second, slant single coil to any configuration. This switch also
allows for independent single coil selection.
The second one, the Steve Morse SM Y-2D 9 (Which we reviewed and
gave away in our monthly competition as part of our Steve Morse
special in issue 9 of iGuitar Magazine), is an updated version with
quilted maple top same neck & body, 3 pickups (the slant single
coil has been eliminated) and a 5 way super switch.
Both are available with a stop tail piece or floyd rose
The pickup are Steve's own signature humbuckers made
by DiMarzio. The DP 205 Bridge model and the DP 200 Neck
model. They are evenly balanced to allow playing all over the
fretboard, since steve plays high notes on the neck pickup and low
ones on the bridge. Dimarzio also wires a custom wound single coil
pickup for Music Man to use into the SM signture
In these videos Steve talks about his sound and walks you
through the 11 different pickups configurations available to him to
help create the wealth of sounds and tones that he uses.
Q. Eddie Van Halen - Frankenstrat
The 'Frankenstrat' also refered to as 'Frankenstein' represented
Eddie's attempt to combine the sound of a
classic Gibson guitar with the physical attributes of
a Fender. It was originally made with an
ash Stratocaster body and a maple neck which Eddie bought
from Wayne Charvel who sold Boogie Body-made bodies and necks.
The body of the guitar was sold as a 'second', due to there
being a knot in the wood. Eddie managed to buy it at a discount
($50) because he believed it would perform fine and intended to
paint the guitar himself. The maple neck cost him $80.
Eddie originally painted the guitar black. After it was dry he
put strips of masking tape on the body and then painted it white.
This would create the classic version of the Frankenstrat. Due
to companies selling guitars with similar finishes, he stopped
playing the guitar in public, instead using the famous black and
yellow "bumble bee" guitar (pictured on Van Halen II). In
1979, after being continually disappointed with the performance of
the black and yellow guitar, Eddie re-taped the body of the
original white and black Frankenstrat, and painted it with
red Schwinn bicycle paint. As Eddie later said, "The
Schwinn bicycle paint gives it pop."
Various versions and variants of the guitar have appeared on
guitar shop walls throughout the years. In an attempt to mislead
companies trying to capitalize on the success of Van Halen, Eddie
installed a non-functional red single-coil pickup in the neck
position of the guitar. To confuse imitators even further, he
screwed a three-way switch into the empty middle-pickup rout in the
guitar's body. Like the neck pickup, it was purely decorative,
intended to do nothing but keep would-be copycats guessing.
Kramer was the first company that Eddie officially endorsed
after the company built a replica Frankenstrat for him in 1983.
During this period he replaced the original neck with a Kramer
neck. From this point onwards Eddie began using a number of other
guitars made by Kramer, Charvel, Ibanez and Fender.
In issue 10 of iGuitar Magazine we uncovered some of the
mysteries of the guitar further and featured a 'lost interview'
from 1978 in which Eddie delivers even more insight into his early
sound and how the guitar was built. Read it here
R. Eric Clapton - 'The Fool' 1964 Gibson SG
A number of different stories and rumours surround the origins
of this famous Gibson SG and as such a definitive history of the
guitar has never been proven. It is widely believed that the guitar
originally belonged to George Harrison before it was given to Eric
Clapton after his Les Paul Standard had been stolen. The riff from
The Beatles 'Daytripper' is thought to have been created and
recorded on a Gibson SG so it's not impossible that this could have
been the instrument responsible.
What is known for sure is that the 1960's psychedelic custom
paint job was done by The Fool, a Dutch design team and sometimes
band (recording one album), the noted members/ artists of which
were Simon Posthuma and Marijke Koger.
The pair had designed clothes and album covers for a number of
artists in the 60's, including Procol Harum and the
Move, but they are primarily known for, and made their name with,
the work they did for the Beatles. Hence the rumours that Harrison
was the one who commissioned the paint job in the first place.
Clapton was so impressed by what they had created for the
Beatles (Posthuma and Koger were responsible for
John Lennon's piano used in the 'I Am The Walrus' video, one of his
acoustic guitars and the mural that featured on the exterior wall
of the Beatles' Apple Boutique) that early in 1967 he commissioned
them to paint some instruments, including a Fender bass for
Jack Bruce, just prior to the first Cream tour of the U.S.A.
This was the same time-frame that saw Clapton using the
1964 SG Standard and he probably had that specific guitar
painted as part of the Cream commission.
Whatever the origins, its iconic status truly started in those
early months of 1967, as witnessed by many U.S. fans including one
particular eighteen year old just starting out on his own
Todd Rundgren was part of the audience that saw Cream
make their American debut on March 25th 1967 at
the RKO Theater in New York.
He was reportedly as taken by Clapton's guitar as he was by the
performance of the British power trio.
The Fool guitar became Clapton's main weapon of choice for nearly
two years until the band broke up in November 1968. It featured
prominently on Cream's classic album Disraeli Gears and was also
used on the band's later records Wheels of Fire and Goodbye.
Its live outings certainly didn't start and end with that 1967
U.S. tour - it can be heard on both Live Cream and Live Cream
Volume II, released a few years after the band's demise.
It also traditionally featured on 'Crossroads.'
In December 1968 Eric Clapton loaned the guitar to singer Jackie
Lomax, an Apple label mate of the Beatles. Clapton had also played
on the sessions for Lomax's album 'Is This What You Want?' produced
by George Harrison.
A rumour from around this time claims Clapton was actually going
to return the guitar to Harrison (which makes sense if Harrison was
indeed the original owner), only for Lomax to ask if he could
borrow it (from Clapton or Harrison).
What the loan arrangement was supposed to be regarding this
historic guitar has long since been forgotten, but
what is known is the guitar remained in Lomax's
possession for four years. There are publicity shots and photos
from 1968 featuring Lomax with the guitar, now sporting
two non-original gold volume control knobs.
In 1971, while in Woodstock, New York, Lomax and Todd Rundgren
met at a session and became friends. Rundgren was astonished when
he learned that Lomax owned the very same guitar that had made such
an impression on him when he'd seen Clapton perform with Cream back
Rundgren clearly mentioned that first sighting of the guitar to
Lomax because a year later, in 1972, Lomax offered to sell him the
guitar for $500.
Lomax's only caveat was that he had the option to buy the guitar
back, but nothing was ever heard again from Lomax in regard to
There are other versions of this story that say Rundgren actually
got the guitar from a Pawn Shop, the guitar having been deposited
there by Lomax.
When Rundgren acquired it however, the guitar was in a bad state
of repair and he had it restored. The body was sealed, headstock
replaced and paint retouched.
A fixed stop tailpiece was installed along with a Tune-o-matic
bridge, strap locks and new knobs. As far as can be ascertained,
none of the original electronics, wiring or pickups were ever
Todd also gave the guitar a name, 'Sunny,' as a nod towards the
instrument's appearance on the classic 'Sunshine of Your Love' from
The Fool SG became a featured instrument in the live shows of Todd
Rundgren and his band Utopia for some five years and is thought to
have been used on a number of his studio recordings around this
Although Rundgren retired the Fool guitar from live appearances
later in the 1970s, he still kept it around his studio and in late
1980 the famous guitar reappeared for Utopia's Deface the Music
tour and their spring 1981 shows.
At some point after that tour he again had the paint
touched up and had the body re-sealed to prevent any more paint
Although he was seen performing with a Fool guitar throughout the
rest of the 80's, there's every chance it wasn't the Fool
SG as it's believed he had a number of copies made.
Whatever Fool guitar was being used by this period, the original
was officially retired in 1995 when it was put in storage.
Five years later Rundgren decided to auction the guitar through
Sotheby's New York, with the guitar expected to go for
hundreds of thousands of dollars and some estimates putting the
value at $500,000.
But, strange as it may seem, Sotheby's managed to poorly advertise
and promote the silent Internet auction and a private bid got
the guitar for $150,000 (some accounts state $120,000).
After a twenty-eight year ownership Rundgren had finally parted
with the famous instrument. But he was so aggrieved with Sotheby's
handling of the auction and subsequent sale he allegedly sued
Sotheby's, reaching an undisclosed settlement.
Taken from Ross Muir's Story of 'The Fool' read it here.
S. Neil Young - 'Old Black' Gibson Les Paul
Neil Young's Old Black started life as a
1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. When the Gibson Les
Paul models first went into production in 1952 that was the only
finish available and P-90 single coil pickups were standard.
Young acquired Old Black in 1968 through a trade with
one-time Buffalo Springfield collaborator Jim
Messina, who received one of Young's orange Gretsch guitars
(Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins) in return. How the guitar came to
have it's distinctive black spray paint job is something of a
mystery although it is thought to have happened after the guitar
was left at a guitar repair store.
In April, 1969 when the guitar was still new(ish), it was
pictured with Young at the Troubadour club in LA during Crazy
Horse's opening week of shows.
At that time The instrument was already a beautiful gloss black
with an old punch-print tape strip above the pickups that read: "It
ain't easy bein' a fuckin' indian!". The headstock was also nicely
bound with crème binding and, even then, sported the Gibson crown
There has always been speculation about the year of "Old
Black"'s neck. It has a partially painted-over pearloid inlay on
its headstock that appears to be a "wheat stack" rather than split
trapezoid style. The "wheat stack" inlay was applied to Gibson
necks made between 1961 and '68, well past "Old Black"'s vintage.
Of course, Old Black has seen considerable wear and tear after
decades of playing and touring and now has most of the black
paint removed from the mahogany neck. A white
tape pinstripe extends down the back of the
guitar neck but it has been pulled off from the body,
resulting in the removal of a jagged strip of body wood down the
back. An additional round aluminum access plate is present
underneath the bridge in order to adjust the intonation of the
The original bridge pickup was replaced by a
Gretsch Dynasonic single-coil pickup and eventually a
mini-humbucker pickup from a Gibson Firebird guitar
replaced the Dynasonic. The neck pickup has always been the
original P-90 pickup, but it is covered by a metal P-90
cover, most likely from a Gibson ES-330.
Perhaps the guitar's most unusual modification is the toggle
switch mounted on its front between the volume and tone speed
dials. It is reportedly a bypass switch that lets "Old Black"'s
signal go straight into one of the small, late '50s amps that Young
sets on "stun" to create his big, bad rumble, dodging the
potentiometers and capacitors within the guitar.
Most of Young's electric guitar parts have been recorded on Old
Black and it has rarely been seen without Neil Young's
famous peace symbol and dove guitar strap,
which has also seen modifications over the years-most notably, its
attachment to a Levy's wide guitar strap.
'Old Black' is one of the most loved and used guitars in rock n'
roll existence and one of the few on this list still making albums
and touring to this day. It makes you wonder what it's name would
have been if it had never had that spray job back in 1968. 'Old
T. George Harrison - Gibson Les Paul 'Lucy'
During the 60's it seems a lot of guitars changed hands between
famous musician friends and 'Lucy', the Gibson Les Paul is no
different. Previously owned by Eric Clapton, John Sebastian and
Rick Derringer it eventually ended up in George's possession after
Clapton decided to use 'The Fool' as his main instrument. After our
search deeper into the history of 'Lucy' we found this brilliant
article by Jerry Mculley about the story of Harrison's well
travelled Crimson Les Paul.
During the height of mid-'60s Beatlemania, the guitars most
frequently associated with George Harrison on tour and TV/film
appearances were the Gretsch Country Gentleman, Rickenbacker
360/12 and the Epiphone Casino that both he and John
Lennon wielded on their final 1966 world tour and sessions for the
epochal Sgt. Pepper's album. Harrison had also
played a cherry-finish '64 SG Standard during
the Rubber Soul/Revolver era, an instrument
that shows up in promo films for "Paperback Writer," "Rain" and
But in August of 1968, Eric Clapton gifted Harrison with a 1957
Les Paul Standard, now factory refinished to cherry red, that
already had an impressive rock history - and would soon reach even
greater heights. Harrison immediately dubbed his new crimson Les
Paul 'Lucy' in honor of red-headed comedy icon Lucille Ball, then
quickly put it to work recording the White
Album outtake, "Not Guilty." Within weeks George also
appeared playing it in the Beatles promotional film for the single
"Revolution," which initially aired on David Frost's U.K. TV show,
and later on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
In September, it would perform what remains one of the Beatles',
and rock's, most iconic solos - but not in the
hands of George Harrison. After the initial session for "While My
Guitar Gently Weeps," Harrison admitted in a
1974Crawdaddy interview, that because of ongoing
tensions with main songwriters Lennon and McCartney he "went home
really disappointed because I knew the song was good."
"The next day I brought Eric Clapton with me [to the studio]. He
was really nervous. I was saying, 'Just come and play on the
session, then I can sing and play acoustic guitar.' Because what
happened when Eric was there on that day … it helped, because the
others would have to control themselves a bit more. Eric was
nervous saying, 'No, what will they say?' And I was saying, 'F**k
'em, that's my song!'"
Harrison also admitted he lacked confidence in his own guitar
work during the era, explaining that "I'd played sitar for three
years. And I'd just listened to classical Indian music and
practiced sitar - except for when we played dates, studio dates -
and then I'd get the guitar out and just play, you know, learn a
part for the record. But I'd really lost a lot of interest in the
"[Eric and I] used to hang out such a lot at that period, and
Eric gave me a fantastic Les Paul guitar, which is the one he plays
on ["While My Guitar Gently Weeps"]. So it worked out well."
Harrison used 'Lucy' frequently during the final studio dates
for the White Album and the subsequent,
haphazard Get Back/Let It Be recordings that
followed in January, 1969, then played it extensively that summer
on the Beatles swan song, Abbey Road. That's 'Lucy'
wailing on the middle of "The End"'s trio of brief guitar solos.
George also took the crimson Les Paul on the road briefly with
Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett later that year.
As the legend goes, 'Lucy' was originally a late-'50s Les Paul
Goldtop that had made its way to the Lovin' Spoonful's John
Sebastian, and then McCoys' mainstay Rick Derringer, who'd sent it
off to Gibson's Kalamazoo factory for refinishing.
Decades later, Rick would recall "I loved playing it, but my dad
- who's always loved a guitar looking real good - used to comment
on how it was kind of beat up. It was a very, very used guitar,
even when I got it. But it played great. So I figured that since we
didn't live far from Gibson's factory in Kalamazoo, the next time
the group went there I'd give it to Gibson and have it refinished.
I had it done at the factory in the SG-style clear red finish that
was popular at the time."
Yet Derringer noted that the instrument "just didn't feel the
same … it had changed into an altogether different guitar" after
refinishing. So Rick traded it for a sunburst finish Les Paul at
Dan Armstrong's guitar shop in Manhattan, which is where Eric
Clapton purchased it not long after.
But memories - especially those of veteran, hard-living rock
stars - can be notoriously cloudy, while legends - particularly
those surrounding the Beatles - tend to take on a life of their
own, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Which is just what we
encountered trying to track down photos documenting Harrison's
cherry-refinished Les Paul Standard in its original state. Which
led us to wonder: Was 'Lucy' really a Goldtop in her first
incarnation? Several pieces of circumstantial and visual evidence
cast some doubts on the instrument's generally accepted
The serial number on the rear of the instrument's headstock -
#7-8789 - does indeed correspond with a Goldtop that was shipped
from Gibson's Kalamazoo factory in December 1957. But, as noted in
Anthony Babiuk's and Tony Bacon's exhaustive reference
book Beatles Gear, experts who've examined the
instrument note that the style and typeface of 'Lucy''s serial
number don't match other instruments of its vintage.
While John Sebastian did indeed own a Goldtop, and is pictured
playing it on the cover of his well-received Real Live
John Sebastian concert album, that record was released in
1971, years after he had supposedly given the ax up to Derringer.
Yet during the Lovin' Spoonful's '60s prime, Sebastian frequently
played what appears to be a similar vintage Les Paul Standard with
a sunburst finish. It shows up on the cover of the band's "Summer
In the City" single, some concert shots, and a 1966 television clip
of their biggest hit, "Daydream."
Rick Derringer was most frequently pictured playing an ES
series during the McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy" heyday. But a grainy,
amateur snapshot taken at a 1967 dance featuring the band shows
Derringer playing what appears to be a Les Paul Standard that
appears very similar to the one Sebastian was documented using with
the Lovin' Spoonful the previous year - or is it the sunburst model
Rick says he acquired from Dan Armstrong's shop?
Perhaps only 'Lucy' knows for sure - and she's not talking.
The fabled red Les Paul was stolen from under the bed of George
Harrison's Beverly Hills home during a burglary in the early '70s.
Eventually it ended up at the Guitar Center in Hollywood, where a
musician from Mexico purchased the instrument for $650. After a
complex set of negotiations involving a third party and a trip to
Mexico, 'Lucy' was eventually returned to Harrison in exchange for
a '58 sunburst Les Paul and a Precision bass.
"['Lucy'] got kidnapped and taken to Guadalajara," George would
later muse, "and I had to buy this Mexican guy a Les Paul to get it
back." His beloved 'Lucy' Les Paul would remain a prized part of
George Harrison's collection until his death in 2001.
Article taken from Gibson.com
U. Paul Kossoff - 1959 Gibson Les
Although the guitarist pictured playing this 1959 Les Paul above
is of course blues-maestro Joe Bonamassa, the guitar was originally
owned and made famous by Free's late great Paul Kossoff.
Kossoff owned a number of Les Pauls but this particular one now
belongs to a friend of Pauls. He received the guitar from Paul's
father after he passed away and was asked never to sell it without
first consulting the Kossoff family.
When Joe Bonamassa was in Newcastle, UK as part of the Black
Country Communion tour, the guitar was loaned to him by the owner
to use for the show. Joe has always been very vocal about Kossoff's
influence on his playing and has since spoken openly about how it
felt to play that guitar. In fact he posted the video below along
with this message on a Les Paul forum
"Here ya go guys and gals.... One of the thrills of my life.. !!
Got to use Koss's 59 Burst the other day for 9 songs on the
To see more photos of the guitar, check out Geoff Oldfield's
Flickr page here
V. Marc Bolan - Gibson Les Paul Standard
Marc Bolan's main guitar was this Les Paul Standard (fitted with
a Les Paul Custom replacement neck after the original neck was
broken) which started life as a Les Paul Goldtop and was refinished
in a translucent orange to resemble one of Eddie Cochran's
Gibson have since released a Custom Marc Bolan Les Paul based on
this model which come with the Custom neck and ebony fretboard and
the Burstbucker pickups (the neck pickup is zebra, the bridge
For more info visit the Gibson site here
W. Peter Green - 1959 Les Paul Standard
Last but by no means least, one of the most famous and highly
collectable vintage guitars of all time, the infamous Peter Green
Les Paul. Most Blues fans will know that as well as being revered
for his amazing tone and unmistakeable vibrato, B.B. King once
remarked "He has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He's the
only one who gave me the cold sweats.", over the years
Peter's Les Paul has built up a similar legend in guitar folklore.
Now in the hands of a private collector, it made it's journey
through Peter Greens hands and into the arms of Gary Moore who put
it to good use on a number of his albums and live shows.
Earlier on in his career, Peter Green played
a Harmony Meteor, a cheap hollow-body guitar,
but quickly started playing a Gibson Les
Paul with The Bluesbreakers after he
replaced Eric Clapton in the band. Green's guitar was
often referred to as his "magic guitar". "I never had
a magic one. Mine wasn't magic...It just barely
worked" said Green in 2000. "I stumbled across
one when I was looking for something more powerful than my Harmony
Meteor. I went into Selmer's in Charing Cross Road [central London]
and tried one. It was only £110 and it sounded lovely and the color
was really good. But the neck was like a tree trunk… It was very
different from Eric's Les Paul, which was slim with a very fast
In part, his unique tone derived from a modification to
the neck pickup which was reversed and
rewired, a modification made after 1967. For anyone looking to
modify their guitar in the same way, we found a link to a nice blog
here on how to perform the tone mod in detailed
It was in the early 70's when Green passed the
guitar over to Gary Moore. Peter was suffering from mental health
problems and would put his guitar down for the best part of 8
years. At the time, the Irishman was a friend and close neighbor of
Green's in London. Green initially tried to give the Les Paul to
him on the understanding that he could ask for it back when he was
well enough to play again but Moore insisted on paying the £110
that it originally cost and Peter Green never did ask for it to be
Once in the hands of Gary Moore, the guitar went on to be used
on a number of recordings, most notably the 'Blues For Greeny'
album of Fleetwood Mac covers dedicated to the orginal owner. Green
used it extensively until he sold the guitar in 2006.
Gary Moore explained why he parted ways with the iconic
"It's a long story. The instrument itself was a very
special instrument, obviously. But it got to the point where I
couldn't take it anywhere. I didn't want to sell it. I had to sell
it for various reasons because I injured my hand a few years ago
and the insurance didn't pay up, and I had to cover the tour costs
for canceled shows with my own money, and I didn't get paid for any
of the shows, obviously, or for anything. I ended up with debt. So
it was kind of a financial thing, really, and that was the quickest
way to do anything about it. So I never wanted to sell it. I mean,
why would I? I kept the other '59 Les Paul and I sold that one.
That guitar was played by Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher
played it, and I've played it. It was a very special instrument.
Les Pauls are all so different. That one is a big old battle axe.
Peter Green never really liked that guitar because the neck was too
big. He wanted me to have it because he said he wanted it to go to
a good home."
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