Top Ten Blues Guitarists Guitars

10. Johnny A. Gibson Signature Model

Johnny A. Gibson

Boston local legend Johnny A. collaborated with Gibson in 2003 to create this unique modern guitar, and it has since become one of their most popular signature series guitar ever. The guitar’s hollow body and flat inner back make it one of the most unique, resonating guitars available today. And with a carved AAA maple top, a mahogany neck, and custom pearl inlays, it is one of the most visually stunning guitars on the market.

9. Rory Gallagher’s Fender Stratocaster

Rory Gallagher's Fender

Rory Gallagher’s 1961 sunburst Stratocaster was extensively modified and heavily worn. Gallagher used the same guitar for his entire 32-year career, he loved  vintage fender guitars and produced timeless blues-rock music withthem. All of the original tuning pegs were replaced, along with the scratch plate, the pickups, and the wiring. Gallagher installed a 5-way selector to replace the 3-way factory one. The sunburst finish was almost completely worn off by the end of Gallagher’s life. Without a doubt, the Strat’s wear and tear and customization make it a one of a kind guitar.

8. Jack White’s Airline

Jack White's Airline

Jack White of the infamous White Stripes used an original 1964 red and white JB Hutto Montgomery Airline most notably for the “Elephant” album. It is named for the blues player, J.B. Hutto, who used the guitar. White has had two of them. After he wore out the first one, a fan bought him a new mint 1964 Airline, the same exact model, on Ebay. Guitar Kits USA has recently been manufacturing re-issues of this guitar that are nearly identical to the original version, and they cost about $2000-$3000.

7. Warren Haynes’ Les Paul

Warren Haynes' Les Paul

Warren Haynes is a self-proclaimed “Gibson man”. He frequently used the Gibson Firebird and the Gibson ES-335, but his favorite guitar is a reissue of the 1958 Gibson Les Paul. Gibson collaborated with Haynes to make a Warren Haynes Signature Les Paul, modeled after his ’58 version with a few changes, particularly that the volume on the guitar can be changed without altering the tone.

6. Dan Auerbach’s Telecaster

Dan Auerbach's Telecaster

The Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach uses a Fender Jerry Donahue Signature Telecaster as his go-to guitar. Made by Fender and the folk/blues artist Jerry Donahue, this guitar is a beautiful piece of art that produces a unique vintage sound.

5. Muddy Waters’ Telecaster

Muddy Waters' Telecaster

Ranked as the No. 17 Greatest Artist of All time by Rolling Stone, there is no question why Fender gave Muddy Waters his own signature Telecaster. The signature Telecaster that was manufactured for the public is an exact replica of the late ‘50s Telecaster that Muddy used; it even includes all the wear and tear that Muddy’s own guitar had. To replicate it, guitar designer George Blanda went to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and used rulers, calipers, and gauges on Muddy’s Tele.

4. Buddy Guy’s Stratocaster

Buddy Guy's Stratocaster

Buddy Guy loved his Strat for making his timeless blues music. It was the only guitar he consistently used, and Fender eventually let him design his own. His Signature Stratocaster rises to the standard of other Strats, and produces a vibrant, rich tone. It is available with an ash or polka dot body, and it is a beautiful guitar indeed.

3. Albert King’s Flying V

Albert King's Flying V

Albert King preferred to associate himself with the Gibson Flying V. He started with a 1958 version, one of the most beautiful vintage gibson guitars, then moved on to a version built by Dan Erlewine in 1974, and had one built by Radley Prokopow after 1980. An interesting fact about King is he was left-handed, but he played on a right-handed guitar that he flipped upside down.

2. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Signature Stratocaster

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s favorite guitar was a 1959 model Fender Stratocaster given to him by his wife in 1974. He named the guitar Number One, and played it for most of his career. In 1992, two years after SRV’s death, a replica of Number One was released by Fender. It is what the Number One would be if it were brand new. It features a three-color sunburst, a maple neck with Dunlop 6105 narrow jumbo frets, and a pau ferro fingerboard.

1. B.B. King’s Lucille

B.B. King's Lucille

B.B. King named his ES-355 “Lucille”, a name of endearment to him. He adored his guitar and even wrote a song about it called Lucille. In 1980, Gibson produced the B.B. King Lucille model. It is a custom-built Gibson ES-355, manufactured specially to King’s liking. Unlike the regular ES-355s, the Lucille Model has the name Lucille engraved on the headstock, has a maple neck, and no F-holes at the top. B.B. King had the F-holes removed to reduce feedback. In 2005, on B.B. King’s 80th birthday, Gibson released 80 special Lucilles, giving the first one to King as a present. It was later stolen from him in 2009, and returned to him after a fan bought it from a pawn shop and discovered it was stolen.

Honorable Mentions for Top Ten Blues Guitarists Guitars

Johnny Winter’s Gibson Firebird. Robert Cray’s Fender Stratocaster. Various Gibsons from Duane Allman, Dickey Betts and Derek Trucks. George Thorogood’s ES-125 and Bo Diddley’s Custom Gretsch Guitar.

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Top Ten Classic Rock Guitars

 

10. Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Fender SRV Stratocaster

Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Fender SRV Stratocaster

The Stevie Ray Vaughn Stratocaster signature model was based on Vaughn’s favorite guitar, “Number One”, also called his “First Wife”. The SRV Stratocaster was in the works in the late ‘80’s with a planned release date in 1989. Stevie’s touring and recording schedule, however, delayed its release. Finally, in 1990, Stevie was presented with 3 prototypes, right before his Tonight Show performance. That night, his notable SRV stickers on the pickguard were missing, so the Tonight Show art staff got creative and applied temporary white Letraset stickers. Vaughn liked the script-style lettering so much that he suggested that the lettering be engraved into the pickguard – as it appears today. Vaughn died about 10 weeks after his Tonight Show appearance, and the SRV was put on hold until 1991. At that time, at the direction of Stevie’s brother Jimmi, plans for the Limited Edition were scrapped. Jimmi’s goal became making sure the SRV guitar was affordable so that “every kid that wanted one could afford one.”

9. Jerry Garcia’s Tiger

Jerry Garcia’s Tiger

Where did Garcia’s rich, deep tones come from? From his appropriately named “Tiger”. Jerry’s custom-made guitar was named Tiger because of the inlay on the battery/preamp compartment. Tiger was built in the so-called Alembic “Hippie Sandwich” tradition described as several different layers of wood sandwiched together to create beautiful layers. Tiger’s top layer was cocobolo, followed by a stripe of Maple, then a layer of Vermillion and a Flame Maple core. The binding across the body and front of the guitar is brass, with a gorgeous inlay on the back side of the body. The neck, made of Western Maple, has a hardwood section of padauk inlayed in the back. The ebony fret-board is enhanced with a brass binding. One writer states that Tiger is “12 ½ pounds of muscle and beauty” — the power behind the sound that defined the Grateful Dead.

8. Bob Dylan’s 1964 Sunburst Fender Stratocaster

 Jimi Hendrix’s Gibson Flying V

When Bob Dylan plugged in his 1964 Sunburst Fender Stratocaster at the Newport Folk Festival, he literally electrified rock history. But there was controversy surrounding his first live “plug-in”. Dylan was booed by his fans. The reason for the crowd’s hostile reaction was either that Dylan appeared to be “abandoning” the folk orthodoxy, or poor sound quality on the night of his performance – or a combination of the two. Either way, Dylan’s actions had huge implications for both rock and folk music. His ’64 Sunburst Fender Stratocaster was front and center in the event that shifted Dylan’s career.

But the famous guitar has stayed in the limelight. Dylan’s history-making Strat went missing for 47 years, and controversy over its whereabouts still simmers. In a Rolling Stone Music article, PBS Detectives are quoted as saying that the missing guitar has been found in the home of a New Jersey native, Dawn Peterson, and has been authenticated. The story goes that Peterson’s father was a private pilot who worked for Dylan’s manager in the mid ‘60’s. After a flight, Peterson claims to have found 3 guitars that were left on the plane, with 17 pages of hand-written lyrics in the cases. Peterson claimed that when he tried to return the guitars, no one got back to him. Dylan, on the other hand, claims to have the guitar. But experts make a strong case that the guitar in Dawn Peterson’s possession is the same Sunburst Fender Stratocaster that Dylan played at the festival in 1965. Vintage-instrument specialist Andy Babiuk was convinced after PBS asked him to compare it to close-up color photos from Newport. “The more I looked, the more they matched,” Babiuk says. “The rosewood fingerboard has distinct lighter strips. Wood grain is like a fingerprint. I’m 99.9 percent sure it’s the guitar – my credibility is on the line here.” PBS History Detectives also called in Dylan memorabilia collector Jeff Gold, who often helps auction houses authenticate items for sale. “A vast percentage of the stuff I get shown isn’t real,” he says. “By nature, I’m a defeatist. But this was obviously real.” The mystery surrounding this iconic, history-shaping guitar only adds to its mystic.

7. Jimi Hendrix’s Gibson Flying V

Jimi Hendrix’s Gibson Flying V

Along with his hand-painted Fender Stratocaster, Jimi also owned 3 Gibson Flying Vs. His first Flying V was the famous hand-painted psychedelic one that was designed especially for Jimmy in 1969. His performance at the Isle of Whyte Festival put this iconic model center stage. The routings and pick guard are left handed; all the hardware is gold. The vibrato is a typical flat mount base (no difference left or right). This was the first time Gibson inlayed a pearl logo on a Flying V. And perhaps in honor of Jimi’s native American (Cherokee) background (from his father’s side), Jimi requested the split diamond inlays be made to represent Indian arrow heads. The Kluson-built tuners are very unusual. They are Gibson Deluxe double line tuners with single line tulip buttons that were unusual for that period. At that time, through 1971, the perloid buttons had 2 strings.

6. Derek Trucks Gibson SG Standard

Derek Trucks Gibson SG Standard

One of the most accomplished and respected guitarists working today, Derek Trucks’ “weapon of choice” is a Gibson SG Standard. A departure from the original 1961 SG, the hardware complement of Derek’s SG is quite unique. His Signature SG is also modified with a decorative Lyre vibrato cover with the vibrato mechanism itself removed and replaced by a stopbar tailpiece. Derek also customized the guitar with the early style “no wire” ABR-1 Tune-o-matic tailpiece, without a pickguard. His rise from child prodigy to one of the most talented guitar players of our time, has put him in the company of many top-notch musicians. Truck is currently the co-leader of the acclaimed new Tedeschi Trucks Band and longtime bandleader of The Derek Trucks Band. He also continues to play with the Allman Brothers Band and has performed with legends like Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton. Who ever he’s playing with, his “sublime tone and unique playing style—both of which benefit from liberal slide playing” are unparalleled. His Gibson SG is the guitar that makes it happen.

5. Eddie Van Halen’s Hand-Painted Frankenstrat

Eddie Van Halen’s Hand-Painted Frankenstrat

In 1979, Eddie’s original guitar was repainted red, with stripes left unpainted to reveal the original black and white underneath. Eddie changed the neck, removed part of the pick guard, and eventually installed a Floyd Rose vibrato unit. The guitar is known both as “Frankenstrat” and as the “Frankenstein”. Fender issued a replica of the guitar in relic form at a retail price in 2007. A “new” (non-relic) Frankenstrat was available through the Charvel company for significantly less, but it was eventually discontinued. This Fender/Charvel series was the first time Van Halen had consented to the commercial release of a guitar with his signature graphics on it. Allmusic described Eddie Van Halen as “Second to only Jimi Hendrix… undoubtedly one of the most influential, original, and talented rock guitarists of the 20th century”. His use of two-handed tapping, natural and artificial harmonics, vibrato, and tremolo picking, combined with his rhythmic sensibility and melodic approach, have influenced an entire generation of guitarists. The solo in “Eruption” was voted #2 on Guitar World magazine’s readers’ poll of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. The trademark red Frankenstrat played a huge role in shaping the sound of this epic guitarist who ranked 8th in Rolling Stone’s 201l list of the Top 100 guitarists.

4. Eric Clapton’s Blackie

eric claptons blackie

Jim Hendrix and Blind Faith band mate, Steve Winwood, greatly influenced Clapton’s choice of guitars. Impressed by their instruments, Eric Clapton switched from Gibson guitars to Vintage Fender Guitars. His first Stratocaster was nicknamed “Brownie” because of its sunburst brown finish. Brownie was used on his albums “Eric Clapton” and “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”. In 1970, Clapton discovered the Sho-Bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee. He bought six 1950’s Stratocasters for $200-$300 US dollars each. He gave one to George Harrison, Pete Townshend and Stevie Winwood, then took the best parts of the remaining three and assembled “Blackie”, his favorite Fender Stratocaster – affectionately named by Clapton for its black finish. Clapton played Blackie for many years, but finally retired his Fender favorite in 1985 due to problems with the neck. A 1990 TV commercial for Honda brought Blackie out of retirement at the specific request of the company. Clapton’s guitar solo on “Bad Love” was filmed for the commercial. Blackie was also brought out on stage for one number during the Royal Albert Hall shows in 1991.

3. George Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster

George Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster

“There are instruments, and there are legendary instruments which have become mythical in proportion.” Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster is one of the later. Mythical! In 1969, the Beatles were at the end of their long and winding road together. Time had taken its toll on their creativity and relationships within the group. They had stopped performing concerts by then, and decided that as their parting collaboration, they could come together for the “Let it Be” album and film – followed by a final live performance on the rooftop of Apple’s London headquarters. During the filming and recording, Harrison received a new instrument custom-made for him by Fender. To generate market excitement over the new Fender design, a prototype of the Fender Rosewood Telecaster , a vintage fender telecaster, was presented to Harrison. The new solid body was made with a thin layer of maple, sandwiched between a solid rosewood top and back. Harrison’s guitar was flown to England in its own seat, accompanied by a courier and delivered to the Apple offices. The now famous guitar was used in the “Get Back” recording sessions and in the final rooftop performance. The day after their rooftop show, with cameras rolling in the Apple basement studio, the Fab Four performed and recorded “The Long and Winding Road” and “Let it Be”, with Harrison using his now legendary Rosewood Telecaster. Not long after, the band went their separate ways. In 1969, Harrison attended Delaney and Bonnie’s London show. Eric Clapton was on the bill. Following the performance, Clapton asked Harrison to join the group for shows through Great Britain and Denmark. The next day, Harrison joined the tour and as an unforgettable gesture of appreciation for the invitation, presented Delaney with his much-loved Rosewood Telecaster with these words, “This is what you did for me last night”.

2. Jimmy Page’s Gibson Double Neck

2. Jimmy Page’s Gibson Double Neck

The epic double neck Gibson played by Led Zepplin’s Jimmy Page has been called “The Hammer of the Gods”. The sound of Page on the Double Neck for Stairway to Heaven is considered unequalled in rock history. One Zepplin fan is quoted as saying that while other artists have played this model, “It wasn’t until Jimmy picked up the double neck that it became the instrument that screamed “Rock God” and became an icon.” Another source names Jimmy Page’s Gibson EDS 1275 Double Neck as “the coolest guitar in rock”. It allowed Page to perform “Stairway to Heaven” without an awkward mid-song guitar change. Page would alternate from the bottom 6-string for the delicate finger picking in Stairway’s intro and verses and the spiraling guitar solo, to the 12-string for the song’s bridge and final chorus. Page also used his famous Gibson Double Neck for classics like “The Song Remains the Same” and “Rain Song”. The Jimmy Page Signature Double Neck, no longer in production, was a painstaking recreation of Jimmy’s original 1971 model with mahogany 6-and 12-string necks outfitted with rosewood fingerboards. A dark cherry finish, chrome hardware and strap locks, a period-correct 5-ply pick guard, 4 Page pickups and 2 volume and tone control knobs.

1. Jimi Hendrix’s Hand Painted Fender Stratocaster

Jimi Hendrix

Hard to believe that with only 4 years of mainstream exposure before his death, Jimi Hendrix is still widely considered “the greatest electric guitarist in music history”. His fame in the US skyrocketed after his 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival using what we consider to be the #1 classic rock guitar of all time, his hand-painted Fender Stratocaster. At Monterey, Jimi smashed the guitar during his performance of “Wild Thing” and then did what he often did to his beloved guitars – he lit it on fire! Throughout his career, Hendrix used many guitars, but his guitar of choice was always the Fender Stratocaster.

 

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Top Ten Historical Basses of Legendary Players

10. Gene Simmons’ Axe Bass

 

As if their pyrotechnics and shock-rock make-up weren’t enough, Gene Simmons’ flair for the fantastic even made its way to his instruments.  In the late 70’s, there was no bigger band in the world than KISS, and Gene Simmons wanted the most rock-n-roll bass guitar ever. He hired guitar luthier Steve Carr to design an instrument with shock value. Given that one of the big moments in a KISS live show was when Simmons spit blood all over the stage, he wanted his bass to resemble an olde English executioner’s axe. As ornate as the instrument looks, it’s actually simple and effective – just one pickup, one volume knob and one tone knob. It was originally manufactured by Kramer guitars with the aluminum neck designed to increase the sustain and improve structure and durability. Probably the most famous  kramer bass guitar ever, these guitars are extremely rare and definitely not cheap. Original run of Axe basses was intended to be 1,000  but collectors feel that the number actually produced was much lower, with only around 500 original Axe basses around today. Most have been signed by Simmons himself.

9. Phil Lesh’s Guild Starfire with Alembic Electronics

 

 Phil Lesh’s Guild Starfire with Alembic Electronics

After a few less-than-favorite instruments including a Gibson EB-O that  “had telephone poles for strings”, The Dead’s famous bassist, Phil Lesh met his match in his Guild Starfire Bass.  Dubbed the “Godfather”, the instrument had 3 Alembic pickups – a quad pickup with four outputs (one for each string) and standard bass and treble humbuckers. How did he get that amazing sound? The bottom half of the bass is loaded with electronics and the top half is full of foam rubber to eliminate feedback.

8. Tom Peterson’s 12 String Hamer Bass

 

Tom Peterson’s 12 String Hamer Bass

 

Tom Peterson of Cheap Trick played the first-ever 12-string bass guitar. It was created by The Hamer Guitar Company in the late 70’s by combining a 4-string bass with a 12-string guitar. (Think 4 bass strings with 2/3s of a 12-string guitar, 4 + 8). It’s really just an extension of the 8-string bass invented in the ‘60’s by the Hagstrom Guitar Company. Hamer is the maker of Cheap Trick guitarist and collector, Rick Nielson’s custom guitars.

7.  Paul Simonon’s Fender Precision Bass

 

 Paul Simonon’s Fender Precision Bass

Simonon’s bass earned fame after appearing on one of the greatest rock albums of all time, The Clash’s “London Calling”, named #1 Record of the 80’s by Rolling Stone. Simonon put this bass on the list not only by playing it, but by smashing it. The Precision Bass is an early ‘70’s maple neck model. The smashed remains can be found at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

6. Jack Bruce’s Gibson EB-3

 

Jack Bruce’s Gibson EB-3

The classic EB-3 was made famous during Cream’s live tours during the 60’s, one of the most famous Vintage Gibson Bass Guitars. By cranking up the volume on his Gibson EB-3, Bruce unwittingly produced the heavy distorted sound he made popular. Later, by installing a diode into his EB-3’s wiring, Bruce was able to produce the same effect without overdriving his amps.

5. Stanley Clarke’s Alembic with Bigsby

 

Stanley Clarke’s Alembic with Bigsby

Clarke’s Alembic Signature Standard with Bigsby Vibrato is the classic jazz bassist’s most recognizable instrument. It not only donned the Cover of “I Wanna Play for You,” but it’s vibrato adds extra flavor to the album’s track, “School Daze”.

4. John Entwistles Alembic Explorer Bass

 

John Entwistle’s Alembic Explorer Bass

This bird’s eye maple bass was featured in 1978’s “The Kids are Alright,” and remained The Ox’s main bass up until the ‘90s.  Entwistle was famous for his collection of vintage basses – any number of which were well worthy of this list.

3.Bootsy Collins’ Space Bass

 

Bootsy Collins’ Space Bass

William Earl “Bootsy” Collins made his name in the 60’s with James  Brown, and in the 70’s with Parliament-Funkadelic. His trademark Space Bass was made by Larry Pless of Gus Zoppie’s music store, based on a hand drawn picture Bootsy brought into the shop. Pless made the now famous, star-shaped bass for him, and when the original was stolen, Pless was asked to make another. The first bass had a mahogany body and a maple neck. The second was made with a basswood body and a maple neck. Bootsy preferred the first bass. He lucked out when the original was found in aCincinnatipawn shop and returned to him.  Ed Roman makes a respectable copy of the original. There is also a Warwick Bootsy signature model, but it lacks the Space Bass shape.

2. Jaco Pastorius’ 1962 Fretless Fender Jazz Bass

 

Influential American jazz musician, Pastorius is known for his unique playing style, his intricate solos in the higher register and for the “singing” quality he achieved on his 1962 Fretless Fender Jazz bass. In 1988, Pastorius became the only electric bass guitarist ever inducted into the “Down Beat” Jazz Hall of Fame. The original 1962 Fender is now owned by one of today’s most exciting bass player, Robert Trujillo, currently of Metallica and formerly of Suicidal Tendencies.

1.    Paul McCartney’s 1963 Hofner Violin Bass

 

 

McCartney’s 1963 Hofner bass is the most notable instrument in the history of music. He use the violin shaped ’63 from the Beatles

“Ready, Steady, Go” performance all the way up until the “Rooftop” Let it Be” performance, and beyond.

Honorable Mentions

 

Paul McCartney’s Rickenbaker 4001 from the Magical Mystery Tour Album, Dee Dee Ramone’s Fender P- Bass, John Paul Jones’ Jazz Bass, Lemmy Kilmister’s Rickenbacker 4004, Anything played by Bill Wyman or Sting, Chris Squire’s 4001, Victor Wooten’s 1983 Fodera Monarch Deluxe, Les Claypool’s Carl Thompson Basses, Flea’s Music Man from the “Bust a Move” Video, Berry Oakley’s “Tractor Bass” and SpinaL Tap’s BC Rich’s from “Big Bottoms.”

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