The Most Famous Guitars Of All Time
Oftentimes, musical instruments are just as recognizable as the people who play them. Some of the greatest guitar players in history have guitars that are forever linked to their careers. There are so many examples of guitar players who are connected to a certain instrument they can hardly play anything else without heads turning. Take Brian May - can you imagine seeing him onstage with anything besides his Red Special? Nope, you can't. May's self-built axe is just one of a number of memorable guitars that have become household names among music enthusiasts thanks to the people who play them.
Rockstars' guitars are an extension of their sound and even their appearance, so if you're a musician who's lucky enough to be associated with a special instrument, you likely changed the course of music as well.
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Jimi Hendrix's StratocasterPhoto: Steve Banks / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
There are actually quite a few guitars that could be associated with Jimi Hendrix, but the Fender Stratocaster is perhaps the most recognized and notable. Hendrix's most cherished Strat is the one now known as the Monterey Strat, a guitar he painted himself specifically for the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.
It's also the guitar he set on fire at the end of his set - something his sister, Janie said she wasn't aware of until well after the fact. The moment has become a staple in rock history, and the guitar has become the stuff of legend. So much so that Fender eventually issued a series of replicas of the coveted axe.
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BB King's Gibson 335, AKA 'Lucille'
BB King's Gibson 335, AKA "Lucille," wasn't actually the first guitar he owned with the name. It all started during a fire at a nightclub where he was playing, when he ran back inside to retrieve the guitar he forgot. That guitar was a completely different Gibson model, and he gave it the name Lucille after the woman over whom a fight broke out that caused the fire. King named the guitar after the woman as a reminder to never risk his life for something like that ever again.
From that day forward, a number of guitars King owned were given the name. Finally, he bought a 335 model from Gibson in the '80s and collaborated with the company on a heavily customized version of it. That guitar was given the name and is now known as the one and only Lucille.
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Eddie Van Halen's FrankenstratPhoto: Bainzy / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
After playing Strats and Les Pauls, Eddie Van Halen realized he wanted something that could combine the things he loved about both. From there, his Frankenstrat was born. The guitar was built to Van Halen's exact desires, and painted black initially before he put strips of paint on and added the signature stripes. In an interview, Van Halen summed up the reason he decided to build something on his own rather than stick with the standard fare, saying, "If you're happy with what you have then fine, but if not then do something about it. I apply it to everything. Even if there's something about my car I don't like, or anything for that matter, I'll change it, until I like it."
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Jimmy Page's Double Neck
From Jimmy Page's Les Paul to his Danelectro to his Yardbirds-era Fender Telecasters, the Led Zeppelin rocker has put many instruments on the map. There might not be a more Page-esque guitar, however, than the Gibson EDS-1275 Double Neck. That's because it's the "Stairway to Heaven" guitar - the one he played live on the band's most cherished song. Every performance of "Stairway," as well as several other songs in their catalog, was played on the dual six and 12-string guitar. It was ultimtely reissued as a signature Page model.
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Brian May's Red Special
Arguably one of the most recognizable guitars of all time, the Red Special is distinct in that it has no other association than with Queen's Brian May. That's because May built it - along with his father - when he was a young lad in the early 1960s. There's really a combination of factors that create May's singular sound, and the RS is at the center of that recipe. The biggest thing about the guitar is how it's wired: May had the foresight to see the potential for wiring it in a way that gives it a fat sound, and he included switches that allow him to switch phase on all three of the hand-wired pickups.
Along with May's use of a coin instead of a standard guitar pick, Queen's guitarist has created a unique sound that is virtually impossible to be replicated with 100% accuracy.
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Angus Young's SG
It's possible nobody is more associated with the Gibson SG than AC/DC's Angus Young. He's been playing them since before his band even started, and has claimed it was the first big-name guitar he ever bought. It's the sound of everything AC/DC does, and the only model guitar he plays live. There's just something about the combination of Young's stage presence and unmistakable SG. The year of his original SG hasn't been confirmed, though he believes it to be a 1969 or 1970s model.