I really hate boring preambles, so I’m not going to write one. Let’s get straight to it:
1: John Gomm’s “Wilma” Lowden O12C
This early ’90s Lowden was picked up by Gomm as a 2nd hand bargain in 2000 and has been by his side every day since. 5,000 days of percussive playing and litres of sweat later, “Wilma” is looking a little worse-for-wear.
2: Willie Nelson’s “Trigger” Martin N-20
4 decades worth of songwriting, touring and recording have worn away a secondary sound hole near the bridge. From the looks of it, he also uses poor ol’ “Trigger” as a makeshift notepad for lyrics and phone numbers. We’re not sure about the bit of rigging hanging out of the sound hole, maybe he likes abseiling at the weekends?
3: Neil Young’s “Old Black” Gibson Les Paul
The go-to electric guitar for the Canadian folk-rocker, this heavily modified 1953 Goldtop has seen more action than [insert decorated war hero / adult movie star pun here]. Acquired through a trade in ’69, the original gold finish of the Les Paul is now starting to shine through the fading black paint.
4: Tony Iommi’s “Old Boy” Jaydee SG
The great-great-great-great-great grandfather of Metal’s unique faded SG is an icon of the genre, but its peculiar patina isn’t just a measure of its wear. The guitar was built in a rush by luthier John Diggins and flown out to the USA before the lacquer had hardened, hence the exhumed-from-an-unmarked-grave aesthetic.
5: Dweezil Zappa’s burned Fender Strat
Used, abused and set ablaze by Jimi Hendrix; rebuilt, abused and dismantled by Frank Zappa; re-rebuilt and modified by Dweezil Zappa. Probably one of the coolest, most illustrious histories of any instrument on the planet IF TRUE. Which it maybe isn’t. It depends who you ask.
6: Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Number One” Fender Strat
Purchased 2nd hand in 1973, this modified 1963 Fender suffered 16 years of being bounced off walls, kicked, stood on, yanked by the trem, and strangled by SRV’s giant, bejewelled yeti hands. Is it any wonder this guitar had to be rebuilt more than a dozen times? Vaughan’s other pet-name for this guitar was the “First Wife”; slightly amusing, mostly terrifying.
7: Dierks Bentley’s Martin D-28
A good few years of constant, hard strumming has worn a hole through the solid sitka spruce of Dierks ’93 Martin. Either that or he keeps a naughty little mouse in his guitar case. Make your own truth. Free your mind. Question authority.
8: Glen Hansard’s “The Horse” Takamine NP15
“Call that a hole?…” Never get into a game of knifey-spoony with Glen Hansard. His hole is much, much, much bigger than yours. Thousands of days spent busking on the noisy streets of Dublin trying to be heard over the traffic and crowds have left an unmistakable “mark” on this guitar. Purportedly, the president of Takamine met Hansard during the Japanese leg of a tour and presented him with a brand new guitar, begging him to stop playing his old, battered NP15 and bringing shame on his company.
9: Sting’s Fender Precision Bass
The P-bass has been Sting’s partner in crime since the late 1960’s, but his current duo of ’55 and ’57 basses are pretty unique: hand-built by Leo Fender in the first, fledgling runs of electric basses. Hewn, coiled and assembled by one of the most influential figures in music history. These 2 genuine relics of amplified music have seen over a century of wear and performance between them.
10: Seasick Steve’s “3-String Trance Wonder”
Bought from a friend for the princely sum of $75, this Coronado-ish guitar has half the normal strings, in all the wrong places, tuned to all the wrong notes. It also has a pickup held on by duct tape and gaffer tape holding the splitting binding together. That may sound ludicrous, but if ol’ Steve introduced his new number sporting a factory fresh Ibanez you’d more than likely implode into a gibbering wreck of uncertainty, expecting the rest of your fragile reality to crumble down around you.
11: Dimebag Darrell’s “Lightning Bolt” Dean From Hell ML
I’m getting pretty bored of writing this article now, to be honest. Maybe 12 was too many. Long story short: Dimebag won this Dean in a guitar playing competition and used it almost exclusively for a decade afterwards, with the custom paintjob being hacked away from years of brutal plectrum action. NEXT.
12: Van Halen’s “Frankenstrat”
Much like Dr Frankenstein’s original ambition of creating the perfect human with the mind of a genius and the body of a demi-god, Dr Eddie Van Halen created his very own monster of tone in 1979 with the aim of combining the fat sound of a Gibson with the playability of a Fender. It was an amateur job to begin with, but decades of demanding performance have left it nigh-on unplayable. Don’t worry though, it’s now enjoying a luxurious retirement in Eddie’s secret guitar dungeon, and a perfect replica is on display at the Smithsonian museum alongside a giant squid, the world’s longest beard and Benjamin Franklin’s walking stick.
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