- Guitars share a special bond with their players, and those partnerships often outlast those between humans. These 11 are not necessarily the most recognizable guitars, or necessarily ones that defined a sound, but these are the guitars that have stood the test of time. These guitars were given names. Sometimes, we know them by that name alone…
1. “Lucille” – B.B. King
Legend has it King saved his guitar from a fire in an Arkansas dance-hall where he was performing. The fire was caused by a fight he witnessed – over a girl named Lucille. Ever since, he’s named all of his Gibson guitars “Lucille.” Question is, when he calls her name, which one comes?
2. “Old Black” – Neil Young
Neil obtained this ’53 Les Paul in 1969 a guitar trade with Jim Messina – probably the best trade since the Yankees got Babe Ruth from the Red Sox in 1920. “Old Black” veritably defined legendary Young’s guitar growl. Old Black’s Dirty Little Secret – its original color was gold.
3. “Frankenstrat” – Eddie Van Halen
A creature bionically engineered by Eddie to combine his favorite features of both the Gibson guitar and the Fender Stratocaster. Van Halen accessorized his Frankenstein’s monster with paint, wax, tape and even used pieces of vinyl record for its pick-guard. Probably the most recognizable guitar in rock music history.
4. “The Twang Machine” – Bo Diddley
While playing and jumping around at the Apollo in the late ‘50s, Bo straddled a Gibson L-5 guitar and took a hit to his family jewels. He decided then and there that he needed a guitar that was more groin-friendly. In 1958 he designed his own custom flying broomstick – the “The Twang Machine.” With its unique rectangular “cigar box” shape, this Gretsch gave him all the ridin’ room he needed. Necessity again proves to be the Mother of Invention.
5. “Red Special” – Brian May
Has there ever been a guitar that matched Red Special’s unique bell-like tone? Built from scratch by May, its neck was made from an 18th century fireplace mantel. Survived 30 years of touring until he restored it in the late 1990s. Oh, May plays it with a coin.
6. “Blackie” – Eric Clapton
“Slowhand” pieced together the best parts of 3 guitars he bought in 1970 to create a “SuperStrat.” (Which would have been a far more original name for such a creative player.) For awhile it was the most expensive guitar ever, auctioned for charity for $959,500 and acquired later by Guitar Center. A Strat with 20 celebrity guitar signatures that sold for 2.8 million dollars now holds the distinction of being the most expensive guitar.
7. “Trigger” – Willie Nelson
Willie: “Roy Rogers had a horse named Trigger. This is my horse.” This Martin N20 is as craggy and weather-worn as its player, with a hole bored through it from decades of use. Trigger sports over 100 signatures of Willie’s friends and fellow musicians. When the IRS came looking for Willie, Trigger went into hiding, but it’s back “on the road again.”
8. “Old Faithful” – Bob Marley
The “cover guitar” from Marley’s Live! album, Old Faithful was Marley’s main squeeze throughout countless tours and albums. As legendary guitars go, this Les Paul Special from 1972 is a relative youngster, but it helped to introduce reggae music to the world. Talk about loyalty: rumor has it that Old Faithful was buried with Marley in 1981.
9. “The Beast” – Dick Dale
“The King of Surf Guitar” had a long and friendly relationship with guitarmaker Leo Fender. As such, Fender customized a guitar that could take the beating that Dick dealt. That guitar was “The Beast” – a gold and glimmering chartreuse beauty that has spent a career/lifetime with Dale and fully established “that surf sound.” Dale, left-handed, plays it upside down, without re-stringing.
10. “Miss Pearly Gates” – Billy Gibbons; Z.Z. Top
Originally the name for a Packard automobile once owned by Gibbons – a friend’s good luck charm. After selling the car and buying this 1959 Les Paul Sunburst with the money, the fortune and name lived on. Billy has played Pearly Gates on every album and on every tour over the last 30+ years.
11. “Ex-Sunburst” – Rory Gallagher
To be fair, Rory himself never referred to his beat-to-hell-and-back 1961 Strat as “Ex-Sunburst”; that’s what his fans called it. Among musicians, the look defined the sound: vintage, stripped down, and full of soul. Lore has it that it was the first Stratocaster ever to reach Ireland, in 1961. The poor thing had its original Sunburst finish stripped off, then was stolen and rediscovered in a ditch, having been left out in the rain. It lives safely now with Rory’s brother and former manager, Donal.
“Number One” – Stevie Ray Vaughan
Note that it was his second Strat that was named after his wife, Lenny. Number One was his more constant companion, which he referred to as “First Wife.”
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