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11 Iconic Guitar Combinations

Jay Karlson . . . Comments

It’s said ‘a poor musician blames his instrument’ but what about good musicians? Do they claim their accomplishments are solely the result of their own efforts? Not really. Most of them thank co-writers, band mates, friends and family.

Guitar players, however, are famous for attributing success to a unique bond with their instrument. As a result, man and machine become inseparable, and over time, the general public has trouble separating where the guitar ends and the guitarist begins. Submitted for your approval is a list of several iconic guitar(ist) combinations. And yes, this one goes to eleven.


Rick Nielsen
Hamer 5-Neck


As a boy, Rick Nielsen quit collecting stamps because they weren’t loud enough. Switching to guitars should have slowed him down, but didn’t: he recently pared his vintage guitar collection down to the essentials, and it’s still well north of two hundred instruments.

That’s not counting the dozens of novelty guitars he uses in every Cheap Trick show: he has checkerboard guitars, Beatles guitars, album cover guitars, even a cartoon character guitar that looks exactly like him. So it’s gonna take a special guitar to cement the public image of Rick Nielsen on stage.

Enter the wonderfully stupid Hamer five-neck electric guitar. It hit public consciousness hard in the 1982 ‘She’s Tight’ music video, and Nielsen has been doomed to lug the 80-lb joke on tour ever since. Possibly one of the most-recognized rock instruments ever, the guitar is completely functional, with one 12-string neck, three six-string necks, and a fretless bottom neck (if you can reach it).


Bo Diddley
Square Guitar


Bo Diddley is, arguably, most responsible for transitioning blues into rock and roll, mainly through his use of insistent, driving rhythms and hard-edged tone. His trademark instrument was a rectangular-bodied electric guitar that he developed himself and played in thousands of concerts. Why a rectangle? Well, it turns out he was jumping around on stage one night, and his massive Gibson L5 shifted and hit him right in the boys. The next day, Bo designed the smaller (safer) guitar we’ll forever associate with him.


Stevie Ray Vaughan
Number One (First Wife)


Number One (aka, ‘First Wife’) was a Fender Stratocaster used by Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. He played it on every one of his studio albums, and in hundreds of concerts. Stevie Ray said he immediately knew there was something special about Number One. He said he didn’t even have to play it—he just knew by the way it looked that it would sound great.
Usually it’s the woman who tries to change the man after marriage. Not with Stevie Ray. Immediately after trading for Number One, he tried to convert it to a left-handed tremolo to imitate his idol, Jimi Hendrix. But the job was botched, and he went to a truck stop desperate for something to cover the damage. All he could find was a “custom” sticker in the parking lot, so he slapped that across the bridge, and added prismatic stickers to spell out his initials, “SRV”. Additional modifications are too numerous to count.

But that’s nothing compared to the legendary abuse that Number One took. Treat a woman like Stevie Ray Vaughan treated a guitar, and you’ll do time. Stories abound about how he would kick it, punch it, ride it like a surfboard, and carry it around by the tremolo bar. And if that wasn’t enough, during shows he’d bounce it off the wall, catch it (or not), and keep on playing.

Number One is currently in the possession of Stevie’s brother, Jimmie Vaughan, although rumors persist that it was buried with Stevie in Dallas.


Angus Young
Gibson SG


Much like a cartoon character wears the same clothes in every episode, cartoonish Angus Young is rarely seen in anything but a schoolboy uniform, playing a Gibson SG electric guitar. The look is every bit a trademark as the band’s logo, and has been official AC/DC merchandise for over thirty years.

Young first discovered the SG at 14, when he bought a used 1967 model. It was very light and had an extremely thin neck that suited his smaller hands (he’s 5’3″). This is odd for Gibson products, and many now believe he learned to play on a factory defect or a stolen custom instrument. That guitar lasted only a year, as the neck warped and rotted from Young’s blood and sweat. But by then his fingers could twist into pretzels if called upon, and it’s been nothing but stock SGs after that.

Young has worked with Gibson extensively to try and re-create the specific elements that made that first SG so special, but to no avail. You can however, play a signature model, which re-creates many components of his current touring guitar.


Brian May
Red Special (The Fireplace)


Dr. May (PhD, Astrophysics) built his one-of-a kind electric guitar with his dad over 40 years ago, primarily because they couldn’t afford a ‘proper’ guitar. Father and son designed and built the instrument from scratch, with the goal of producing greater range, tunability, and vibrato than guitars currently on the market. Oh, and it HAD to feed back, which was precisely what Fender and Gibson were trying to avoid with their guitars.

The ‘Red Special’ took two years to complete, and emptied the local junkyard. The neck used wood from a 19th century fireplace mantle, and the tremolo used metal from a motorcycle kickstand and his mother’s knitting needles. The unique red color came from countless applications of Rustin’s Plastic Coat (a furniture finish). The only place young Brian splurged was on the Burns Tri-Sonic pickups, which are responsible for the bright, crunchy tone on Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ and the biting solo in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

Numerous companies have made Red Special copies over the years, but now you can get a real one from the man himself at Just don’t take your motorbike if you pick it up in person—you may be missing some pieces on the ride home.


Bruce Springsteen
’50s Fender Esquire


Bruce Springsteen plays other guitars, and keeps plenty of spares on tour, but the Born to Run album cover forever links The Boss to a blackguard, maple-neck Fender Esquire. And he hasn’t fought the perception. Since its debut on BTR in 1975, the guitar has been his virtual co-star, appearing on the covers of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live 1975-85, Human Touch and Greatest Hits.

Like any legendary instrument, details of its origins are murky. Some say Bruce originally bought it from a luthier who (others say) rescued it from a recording studio liquidation sale. His guitar techs say it’s either a 1953 or ’54 model, or possibly a ’55 due to the v-profile on the neck. It’s been in the shop for more nips and tucks than Joan Rivers, so you’d best go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (where it now resides) to decide for yourself.

As Fender’s mortal enemy Gibson says, ‘Ultimately, who cares…whatever kind of mutt of an instrument the thing had become by the time it landed in Springsteen’s hands, it has been the driving force behind some of the most compelling rock anthems in the last 35 years.”


Eddie Van Halen


David Lee Roth sent Eddie Van Halen home for bringing a Gibson ES to practice, telling Eddie “you ain’t Roy Orbison, come back with a real guitar”. Eddie tried a Les Paul but it was too heavy, and a Fender Stratocaster sounded too thin. That’s when he got the crazy notion to combine the two. The resulting surgery was a mess, but the butchery was covered by a black pick guard, so no one was the wiser. Well, except for the ‘tone’ knob controlling the volume.

Undeterred, he then used masking techniques to paint the guitar white with random black stripes. It looked pretty awful, but all those electrical mods produced a rich tone known as the ‘brown sound’. The guitar was prominently photographed on the 1979 album Van Halen, which sold gangbusters and made the band an overnight sensation.

Eddie’s popularity spawned loads of copycat guitars, so he painted the Frankenstrat with red bicycle paint, lost the pick guard, and added a nonfunctional pickup near the neck, next to a fake five-way switch. Other changes included a Floyd Rose tremolo shimmed with a 1971 quarter, school bus reflectors on the back, and a smaller pick guard made out of a vinyl record.

And that’s not even half the modifications this poor instrument has endured. But the guitar is now as unique to Eddie as his fingerprint, and the band did go on to sell over 50 million records with it. A 2008 version of the Frankenstrat now resides in the Smithsonian Institution.


Jimmy Page
Les Paul


Guitarists buy Les Pauls because they think playing one on stage will get them laid. They’re right. And much of the thanks goes directly to Jimmy Page, who made this guitar—and Led Zeppelin—the sweaty embodiment of 70’s sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

Case in point: Black Dog.

We’re done here.


Eric Clapton


In the late 60s Eric Clapton was at a career crossroads. On pure impulse, he bought six Fender Stratocasters from a Nashville music store, despite being a devoted Gibson player. He gave one guitar each to friends George Harrison, Pete Townsend, and Steve Winwood, and then used the best components of the remaining three to make a single guitar for himself.

Little did he know that instrument would become his stage and studio guitar for the next 15 years. Clapton nicknamed the guitar ‘Blackie’ and played it on thirteen consecutive solo albums, including 461 Ocean Boulevard (“I Shot the Sheriff’) and Slowhand (“Wonderful Tonight”, “Lay Down Sally”, and “Cocaine”).

Blackie’s last public appearance before retirement was the Live Aid concert for Africa in 1985. In 2004, Clapton auctioned off Blackie and donated the proceeds to the Crossroads Centre, a drug and alcohol rehab clinic on the Caribbean island of Antigua. American music chain Guitar Center purchased Blackie for $959,500, which was a world record at the time. Guitar Center technicians say the instrument is in working order, and if it goes missing, the first place they’ll look is Clapton’s house.


Jimi Hendrix
Fender Stratocaster


In the 1960s, seeing a black man with a foot-wide afro dressed like a pimp and playing rock guitar backwards must have been mind-blowing, drugs or no drugs. Add that said music was 20 years ahead of its time, and it’s almost too much too take. Such was Jimi Hendrix.

Yeah, it is rumored that Jimi preferred the darker tone of Les Pauls right before he set the standard for rock star deaths. But Hendrix will forever be remembered for playing reverse-strung, right-handed Fender Stratocasters left-handed. Don’t bother re-reading that—it doesn’t help, and yeah, it was just as weird to write as it was to read.

And note the plural. Jimi isn’t linked to a single guitar because he had this insane penchant for lighting the damn things on fire during performances. As a result, the few remaining Hendrix Strats are worth a small fortune. In 2008, a guitar Hendrix torched during a London show sold for £280,000 at auction.


BB King


No guitarist is more wedded to his instrument than the reigning Monarch of the Blues, B.B. King. As the man himself tells it, in 1949 he was playing a ‘Chitlin Circuit’ dancehall in Arkansas when the heater upended and set the building on fire. In his haste to escape the flames, King left his beloved Gibson semi-hollow electric guitar inside.

Mortified at his potential loss, King ran back into the burning building and retrieved it. The next day he learned the fire was started by two men fighting over a woman named Lucille, so he named the guitar ‘Lucille’ to remember those mad moments when he risked his life to save it. He then vowed never again to run into a burning building or fight over women (some will argue these are two separate things, but they don’t understand the blues).

In 1968 King described Lucille with equal parts sacred devotion and dirty passion: “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.”

  • AG

    Where’s the guy from Fine Young Cannibals?!

  • Not really a guitar or rock person… I still learned somethin though, so good list!

  • Branigr2

    Wow… Great list, very interesting and well written, love it…….. But not as much as my Les Paul Standard that is…

  • Mkoua

    Great list, but you gots to include Willie Nelson and Trigger. That guitar has been through hell and in the hands of some of the greatest rockers and crooners for over 40 years. Also, got the wood of the acoustic molded and shaped from years of playing, nicked, scratched, dropped, collapsed on, smoked through and drowned in whiskey; I love my electrics, but the acoustic got way more soul.

  • Eric Clapton and B.B. King are so fantastic. The album they did together blows my mind. Cool idea, and very well-executed. The only person I feel you left out is Pat Metheny. I’m not sure he has a name for his guitar, but when I think of him, I think of his Gibson ES-175.

    Maybe Joe Satriani could be here too, but he uses so many guitars. I guess “Chrome Boy” might deserve a mention.

  • Damn Awesome list Jay . Knew all of these entries but the details taught me a lot . Some of my favourite guitarists in this list. Got an SG and a strat . But Im ashamed of owning them even though i picked them up the same way as Angus . Using my first shitty $42.00 guitar to make a Frankenstein metal guitar (been telling friends this forever) as soon as i get cash for some crazy as balls pick ups .

    Id put a bun in a nun’s oven for a Hendrix or SRV orig guitar .

    • also gibson pulled out of my country so its damn hard and futher mucking expensive to get hardware . resorted to pratleys steel to fix my tuning heads .

    • curiouslittlerhino

      had a feeling this list was right up your alley. this is possibly the first list i knew most entries before reading it. too bad they missed brian seltezer’s gretch jet firebird.

  • randomizer

    A top 11 list!! Is it just me or is listverse doing a secret makeover? I mean lists have improved in quality and quantity, topics are interesting, and the odd absence of jfrater. I think the korean list was the straw that broke the camels back.

    • The lists have been getting better over the past while, but the absence of Jamie doesn’t have to do with it. Without speaking for him too much, I do at least know that he is busy working on his new book and all his cooking projects.

    • jay_karlson

      Jamie was behind the scenes on this one, let me assure you on that.

  • Will Trame

    Damn good list. IMHO, Jimi Hendrix was the ultimate pioneer of the electric guitar. He was extremely dexterous with his instrument, playing it with his back, teeth, etc. and I recall seeing him burn the thing onstage (Monterey) as well as attempting to f*** the thing. I figure there was a reason he called his axe his “electric lady”. Another interesting aspect is that a number of musicians that were awed by Jimi’s prowess switched to playing Stratocasters….Ritchie Blackmore and Robin Trower (definitely worth a mention as his music has often been categorized as being a Hendrix rip-off) come to mind.

    Other notable mentions include Jimmy Page’s technique of applying a violin bow to his guitar (although this is reputed to have been pioneered by Eddie Phillips of the little known band the Creation) and Pete Townshend’s collection of smashed guitars.

    • Maggot

      As a player I love the guy, but Page is a known plagiarizer and yes he copied that bow schtick from Phillips.

  • Rizza81

    Argh Damn. I was working on this exact same list myself! Too slow. Great list though. Some other notable combinations that I was going to use include Gibson EDS1275 (twin neck) – Jimmy Page, Gibson ’59 Les Paul – Slash (since I’d already used Jimmy Page), Hofner 500/1 Violin Bass – Paul McCartney, Epiphone Casino – John Lennon, Fender Jagstang – Kurt Cobain, Gibson ES-335 – Chuck Berry. As you correctly put it, guitarists have a unique bond with their instrument and there are plenty more we could add to this list.

    • Write the sequel!

    • Jay Karlson

      Lots of people would read a sequel…go for it! The comments section should get you to eleven easily. And remember that while Slash does love Les Pauls, it’s ironic that the ‘Apetite’ guitar was a Les Paul copy…

    • Maggot

      I was also going to mention McCartney’s iconic Hofner bass. Good call.

  • Scotjock81

    Cracking list, love the bb king and lucile quote,
    An honourable mention for seasick steve and his many guitars my favourite being the hubcap

  • br0ck

    this list is not for my taste 1/10 sorry

    • ciremelf

      …and yet you still felt compelled to let everyone know.

  • chrom3d

    Nice list! clap! clap! clap!

    • ParusMajor

      Don’t you mean “fap fap fap”?

  • azer

    where is JEFF BECK ??

    • Auburn Tiger

      If it were a list about best guitarists then I’d agree, but it’s about top guitarists’ bonds with instruments. When you think of any of these guitarists, you immediately think of their instrument. Jeff Beck’s Fender just isn’t very iconic.

      • Maggot

        In the “50’s Rockers” list I wrote awhile back, I’d mentioned that Beck had done an album of Gene Vincent covers as a tribute to his idol, the great Cliff Gallup. What I didn’t mention was that in effort to capture Gallup’s signature sound, Beck even went as far as using the same model guitar that Gallup was known for – a ‘55/’56 Gretsch DuoJet.

  • ciremelf

    Awesome list! I’ve played guitar my whole life and i love lists like this.

  • I would have thought that Bo Diddley would have realised that guitar corners can be very dangerous to one’s “boys”. Also, having followed Angus Young since `74, I kinda think that original Gibson was stolen. However his brother George Young was an important guitarist & songwriter from legendary Aussie bands The Easybeats and Flash & The Pan, so perhaps Angus got it from him?

  • Nigel

    This list goes to 11.

    • Finnish man


      • fendabenda

        I get it, Spinal Tap reference LOL :D

  • Lizzie

    Willie Nelson’s guitar isn’t on the list? Really?

  • Scoliosis Jones

    Great list, thank you!

  • vanowensbody

    Great list. Love that you included Rick Nielsen and Brian May – two of the most recognizable and unique guitars out there and two GREAT and under recognized guitar players. All of your selections were great and accurate. I might have made it an even dozen list and added someone recognized with the classic Rickenbacker – Pete Townshend or Peter Buck or Tom Petty. But no complaints, great list.

    • jay karlson

      glad you like it. Nielsen’s my favorite.

      go here to see Brian May describe his guitar at length. he comes off as a very humble and likable guy.

      • Lifeschool

        Excellent video Jay – very intereresting – thanks for the post!

      • Elizabeth

        He should have been top 3 on this list, in my opinion…..

  • oouchan

    I know people can become attached to their toys (me and my video games systems for one) but I learned something new with these. I really liked the entry for B. B. King. I like my game systems, but I won’t run back into a burning building for them.
    I have a lot of music from the ones listed above so they had to have done something right by being so attached to their instruments.

    Amazing list.

  • nickoho

    Nice list! I would’ve liked to seen Zakk Wylde’s “Bullseye” but beggers can’t be choosers!

  • Blu Ridger

    Willie Nelson also saved his guitar, (and a bag of Hawaiian weed), from a fire in Nashville. He should be in the top five.

  • Lukas

    Great list! Keith Richards could’ve been included too. His Telecaster’s called ‘Micawber’.

  • WI – BA

    Les Paul is from my home town. Yeah…that makes me special. :)

  • Diablo135

    Fantastic list! We’re done here. :)

  • Amy

    What about Tom Morello and Arm the Homeless???

  • Ghostbuster123

    Jerry Garcia and Wolf?

  • kevin

    steve vai and “evo” or “flo” come to mind here.

  • Lifeschool

    Excellent list – learned a lot! Very interesting stories. Thumbs up.

  • Eddie

    Awesome list!! Great stuff. Thanks!

  • Kim

    One of my favorite lists so far!

  • AlexanderNevermind

    No Prince and the Cloud Guitar?

  • deeeziner

    I’m not a musician, so I don’t think much about the subject of instruments. But I’ll admit a bit of jealousy for those so gifted.

    A good list, that has left me new things to ponder.

  • bigski

    this was one of the best lists ever….what about willie nelsons ole beatup guitar ? does it have a name ? very cool list !!

  • Auburn Tiger

    YES. I completely agree with the content and order of this list! As soon as I saw the title, I thought “If B.B. King and Lucile aren’t number one…” Great job Jay. This gives me hope for writing a rock list myself.

  • Auburn Tiger

    Potential additions:
    Randy Rhoads- Gibson V
    James Hettfield- his original fake Gibson V
    Dave Murray- Fender Strat
    Dimebag Darrell- Dean Razorback
    Yngwie Malmsteen- Scalloped neck Fender Strat

    • Maggot

      Speaking of Dime, and tying in with the Frankenstrat list entry – Eddie’s Bumblebee Strat, the one pictured on the back cover of the VHII album, was placed in Abbott’s casket and is buried with him. Talk about an iconic guitar combination…that’s one for eternity…

      • Auburn Tiger

        Damn. That’s neato. You’re just full of fun facts today.
        Also, do you play (out of curiosity) and if so, what do you play?

        • Maggot

          Nah, I don’t consider myself to be a musician, but I have a Tele that I fool around some on. My son plays fairly well (he’s plays lefty). I’m mostly just a huge rock fan, and dig its history and related trivia.

          • Auburn Tiger

            I think fooling around makes you a musician (that’s what I do…). I play an SG. I used to play trumpet, but after I got my braces off (I learned to play with them) I didn’t want to spend the amount of time it would take me to relearn trumpet especially since I’m in college now. In my opinion, anyone who takes music seriously and attempts to create it is a musician. We’re not all great musicians though…

  • Guest

    Great list! This is really up my alley and i feel i should share a few precisions.

    1. SRV’s guitar was also known as ”Lenny”, named after his wife Lenore. There’s an excellent song he did called ”Lenny” devoted to both his wife and guitar.

    2.Jimi’s guitars were never ”reverse-strung”. I think you’re mistaking that particular fact with Albert King, who played right handed guitars upside-down without changing the strings.

    Jimi Hendrix employed regular stringing configuration, while playing right handed guitars upside down.

    Thanks for the great list!

    • Maggot

      Jimi’s guitars were never ”reverse-strung”… Jimi Hendrix employed regular stringing configuration, while playing right handed guitars upside down.

      I think you are just mixing up the intent of the phrasing – the guitar is reverse-strung (and played upside down, or flipped over), but as you said, in doing this, it is effectively “regular-strung” (low E at the top) for a left-handed player’s orientation. Btw, like King, Dick Dale is another lefty who plays truly reverse-strung, because he taught himself how to play on a flipped over righty but didn’t know to restring it. Now he just reverse-strings his lefty axes.

      • Guest

        Ah yes. Semantics are a bitch aren’t they! It makes sense when viewed in this light.

        However i still feel that the term ”reverse-strung” does not apply here, since in theoretical terms the orientation of the strings is standard, whereas behind them is only a guitar intended for left handed playing. The ”reverse” article hence should not apply to the strings, but to everything else. But i did mistake the intent of the phrasing. Bah! Great list!

  • bullamakanka

    Why is Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits always given the cold shoulder in music lists? I really wanna know.


    • Will Trame

      You have a strong point there. I happen to believe that Mark Knopfler and his red strat definitely present an iconic image. Another such image is Tony Iommi’s axe, which depicts crosses on the fretboard.

      • bigski

        i agree…

  • skin2win

    b.b. king, over rated, and boring. can’t even play and sing at the same time. any first year can match or baet what he can do.

    • bigski

      if you knew anything about the blues you would know that very few blues singers/guitar players sang and played at the same time….THATS THE STYLE ! p.s. dont ever talk trash about b.b. king arsehole….

    • fendabenda

      You’re an idiot. It’s not about whether or not you can sing and play at the same time (I’m sure B.B. King could have taught himself to do that if he really wanted to), it’s about WHAT you sing and WHAT you play. Listen to B.B.King’s recordings, and then come back and say anyone can “baet” (you can’t even spell) what he can do.

      • bigski

        well said fendar….

  • vtec6k

    what about pearly gates and billy gibbons? this list needs a part two

    • Will Trame

      Billy Gibbons does rate a mention. An excellent guitarist, his prowess was even reputedly endorsed by Hendrix. Another iconic image I remember was once noting a photograph of Ian Hunter (Mott The Hoople) holding a guitar whose machine head and soundboard were modeled into the letter “H”.

  • undaunted warrior 1

    Yea I agree with most of the above posts well written and presented, a job well done – must have taken some research.

    Thanks Jay.

  • nick

    i think if you are going to include eric claptons plain ol black strat yuou need to include james hetfields ESP explorer…

  • Maggot

    Steve Via’s Ibenez Universe pretty much introduced the seven-string electric to metal, and then a few years later Korn’s Munky Shaffer and Head Welch use of the seven basically pioneered the so-called nu-metal genre onslaught.

  • chris s

    good list

    thought steve vai’s 7 string ibanez might be in here ( I think he invented it, could be wrong there…)

    malcom young has played the same guitar on every single AC/DC song except for one (don’t know which ‘one’), his signature Gretch model is made solely for rhythm guitar playing. they’re really expensive :][

  • chris s

    “Steve Via’s Ibenez Universe pretty much introduced the seven-string electric to metal”

    ah sorry maggot, I didn’t read that just before replying…

  • fendabenda

    Wonderful list! I’d like to add Leslie West and Gibson Les Paul Jr. Leslie West was a big man with a big voice and a big sound with his Gibson Les Paul Jr, the latter was a cheapo guitar with only one pick-up, aimed at beginners, until some professional musicians found out that it actually sounded pretty good. The producer Felix Pappalardi (who had produced Cream’s album “Disraeli Gears”) once heard West play and was impressed enough to offer him a one-off LP deal. The result was the classic album “Mountain” by Leslie West, on which Pappalardi himself played the bass. West and Pappalardi then decided that this was pretty good, why don’t we get a band together? They did, they called the band “Mountain”, and played at Woodstock. “Mississippi Queen” is probably their best known song.

    Felix Pappalardi was shot to death by his jealous wife in 1983, Leslie West is still alive and playing his Gibson Les Paul Junior, although he now also has a DEAN Leslie West signature model guitar as well.

  • isaiah desimone

    why isn’t johnny ramone’s white mosrite he used from 1977-1996 at every show and beat it to shit

  • putty58

    Some great guitars, but I would have included David Gilmour’s black Strat, Malcolm Young’s Gretsch (possibly more responsible for AC/DC’s thunderous sound than Angus…) Page’s double neck is probably more recognized than his Les Paul (the most casual Zep fan knows “Stairway” is coming when Pagey straps on that one!) Billy Gibbon’s Pearly Gates? How about Clapton’s “The Fool” Gibson SG?

  • j

    Where the hell is Gilmour’s Black Strat??????

  • TheSwamper

    Great list! Lots of detail and written with passion and knowledge.

  • mvr24

    wheres SLASH with his famous gibson les paul! he made gibson very popular.

  • Bob

    Awesome list. Really well done.

  • Battman

    Great list. I’m no musician, but I appreciate just about any instrument that’s played really well (Bagpipes excepted). I can definitely see another list or two coming from this subject. I see that Carlos Santana didn’t make the list. What’s his choice of guitars? I really like his playing.

    • jay_karlson

      Carlos is known much more for his unique tone (basically a fuzzbox with the treble turned ALL the way down) than his guitar. He played a red Gibson SG at Woodstock, but for the last twenty years or so, he’s been using Paul Reed Smith (PRS) guitars almost exclusively. PRS tries to walk the middle ground between Gibson warmth and Fender light weight/twang. They are usually made of mahogany with a maple top and have a brilliant finish.

  • bigski

    adding 10 more to this list should be easy…..

  • Mr Bishop

    Great list!!!! A follow up is needed. So many great suggestions already mentioned but I’d have to add Edge and the Gibson Explorer. U2 is so simple right? Go ahead… Try to play I Will Follow just right. It’s brilliant in it’s simplicity. Or better yet, as Steve Vai said of New Years Day, try and write it.

  • Bladder Blimp

    What about…..

    Andy Summer’s: Telecaster custom
    Muddy Water’s: Telecaster
    The Edge’s: Explorer
    Steve Howe’s: Gibson ES 175
    Alex Lifeson’s: ES 335
    John Lennon’s: Rickenbacker

  • jasper

    where’s dimebag darrell guitar??

  • Commander Cyclops

    How about Ace Frehley’s Les Paul “smokers”?

    If you want to include bassists, there’s Lemmy and his Rickenbacker, and Gene Simmons’ Axe bass.

  • TheOneTrueDenis

    Where’s Rory Gallagher? :O

    • Good call! I can’t believe Rory isn’t on the list. Most recognizable Strat ever!

  • Sam

    Or Alex Lifeson and his white ES-355. But I guess the under-appreciated get stiffed again. He should be up there instead of “The Boss”.

  • Adam

    Kurt Cobains Fender Mustang deserves a mention here, he single handedly made that guitar cool again.

    Also, Jack White’s airline guitar. This list is good for anyone who started ignoring rock music after the 80s

  • Weasel

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Jack White’s guitar! He uses different ones in his side projects, but he only ever played the red one while he was in The White Stripes (RIP) – which was definitely a challenge when playing the bass parts of Seven Nation Army.

  • redcaboose

    This is one of the most interesting lists I have read in a long time. Good show.

  • Alec Richman

    I was about to strangle myself with some .046 E strings until I finally saw Jimmy Page and his classic Les Paul down at number four. I was worried he and it weren’t even on the list, but fortunately, my fears were allayed.

    Also, a good, and perhaps more original choice, would have been to put Jimmy Page with his Gibson EDS-1275 (double necked SG) at number four instead. Yeah, Slash played it, but Jimmy Page ROCKED it.

    And where was Eric Clapton’s “Fool” SG?

    Great list anyway!

  • The Knight

    Great List. I also recommend Neil Young and his electric guitar Old Black, which he’s been throttling for nearly fifty years. Willie Nelson and Trigger is another fine example. While Jimmy Page on a Les Paul is a good choice, Les Paul on a Les Paul deserves mention surely.

  • Emilsans

    Number 1 was such a great story.

  • Mike oxlong

    As others have said Willie Nelson should be on this list. He’s even said when trigger is unplayable, that’s when he’ll retire.

  • psychosurfer
  • Robert cray and his fender strat? michael angelo batio and his twin neck guitar? John petrucci and his ibanez guitar? Eric johnson and his fender strat? And lastly. Alan holdsworth. Are we missing something here people?

  • fendabenda

    Hey, what about Hank B. Marvin and his Fender Stratocaster, serial number 34346?

  • Dude

    Randy Rhoad’s Jackson must be here,everything about that guitar is legend!

  • fiachB

    matt bellamy’s delorean? :/

  • RP

    where’s slash…??
    slash and his gibson les pauls are inseparable…!!
    well along with his hat…!

  • rob

    thats all for jimmy page and his les paul?….

  • emeryj10142

    What about Willie Nelson’s “Trigger?”

  • andyclarke

    no rory gallagher? he had a bond with his instrument equal to any on this list

  • Jay

    Very good list, learned some. And since I’m a veritable fountain of pop-culture trivia, that’s saying something.

    Now, as is my wont as of late, I’ll suggest a different topic. How ab out guitars that are NOT iconic but used for specific reasons or just highly unusual?

    Eric Clapton’s “Love Box” comes to mind, the one he used several times on the Blind Faith album. It was a 3/4 size guitar and produced a higher tone than most guitars. And it is beautiful with the heart-shaped inlaysa on the fretboard.

    Jimmy Page’s Heritage Cherry double-neck was absolutely necessary on “Stairway to Heaven” as he needed to switch quickly. (Although he has done an acoustic version, which I can’t find.)

    I can think of one or two others that might be appropriate for such a list, but I think I’d rather read the list than try to write it.

  • Wow…Cant believe Randy Rhodes’ Jackson Mod V didn’t make the list seeing how how it spawned a whole generation of guitarists to use it. One of the most copied designs of all time. Should replace Claptons blackie, or at least there should have been 12 …13 if you wanna count Jerry Garcias custom Alembic.

  • shahroze

    what the hell!!!!!!!! wheres slash , wheres zakk wylde , where the hell is randy rhoads and his polka dot V

  • Gate Factory

    That looks incredible. I am seriously impressed right now …/

  • moses

    What about Billie Joe Armstrong’s (from Green Day) “Blue”?????

  • Anne Onemus

    What! No Django and his Selmer Maccaferri?!? Booooo!

  • Ken

    Very happy you mentioned the great, but very underrated Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. He has retired the orange Hamer 5-Neck (it is a permanent addition to his Chicago restaurant “Piece”), but he has two more 5-Necks to take its place.

  • Hello Ken. I saw Cheap Trick back in 1986 and they we’re great ! Perhaps you could tell me about Rick Nielsen’s Hamer 5-Neck guitar (which he used when I saw them) and what I would like to know is HOW MUCH DID THAT DAMN THING WEIGH !!!!!………LMAO

  • Was this list intentionally meant to be 11 guitarists or is it in reference to the “Amplifiers” of Spinal Tap which the volume controls go to “11”. If it is, than KUDOS to the writer of this list on being thought provoking……

  • I thought Bo Diddley played a rectangular guitar because he used to make his own cigarbox guitars? no?

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  • Bill Dill

    Long before Van Halen’s Frankentstrat, there was Steve Morse’s FrankenTele. And don’t you all forget it!

  • petet2112

    Michael Schenker / Gibson L-6, Flying V guitar

  • Joe

    Where’s Slash??? BB king really? Hes great but not that iconic

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  • petet2112

    @ Joe. You’re halfway right about B.B. King. He even gave his guitar a name “Lucille”. From a musical standpoint, he doesn’t play chords as he only plays his guitar with individual notes. But look at how long he has been performing. He is great but like you said not iconic. I would say that his longevity gives him the honor of being iconic.

  • d.haynes

    great list. Bo Diddley is my grandfather’s only brother! Honestly

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