Top Ten Famous Guitars

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Posted on January 8th, 2008

His partner in music
Guitar Gods Make Certain Guitars Popular

Some guitar players are good and have thorough knowledge of guitar-playing. Some, though, are so great that people recognize the sound of their guitars.

The popularity of these guitar gods has reached such heights that even their guitars take on personas of their own.

10. Head and Munky’s Ibanez 7-Strings

Ibanez 7 Strings
Seven-string electric guitar
Front runner to “Nu-metal,” Korn has been credited with reinvigorating the rock scene in the late 1990s. Fusing elements from hip hop and heavy metal, the band’s music spoke to the sensibilities of the youth who were looking for an alternative to standard radio fare.

Many were drawn to Korn’s music because of the 7-string guitars of Head and Munky. The 7-strings they used had a lower B-string, in itself producing a low sound. Still, the two opted to detune their guitars one entire step, creating the signature sound many have grown to appreciate.

9. Matt Bellamy’s Mansons

Matthew Bellamy
Hailing from Teignmouth, Devon, the band Muse fused different musical genres to form what critics call “new prog.” Putting a modern/rock twist to classical music, Muse’s popularity is based on the virtuosity of its lead singer, guitarist and keyboardist, Matt Bellamy.

Bellamy’s lightning-speed is often punctuated by his masterful control over feedback, made possible by the guitars he had customized by Hugh Manson. Bellamy’s Mansons are each equipped with a Z Vex Fuzz Factory, an MXR Phase 90 phaser, and a Roland midi pickup. Not too many guitarist have this much gear built into their instruments.

8. Tom Morello’s Custom

Tom Morello
nylon-string acoustic guitar used by Morello
Many remember Rage Against The Machine not only because Zach de la Rocha’s lyrics were politically charged and because bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk drew heavily from hip hop and funk. After all, guitarist Tom Morello played in a way nobody could ever emulate. He saw the instrument’s potential and took his playing beyond what conventional technique dictates. Morello’s custom guitar is patterned after a Kramer, packing two EMG humbuckers.

Morello is able to make his guitar sound like a turntable and synthesizer all in one song, partly because his guitar is wired differently. Each pickup has a dedicated volume control, and a toggle switch that enables him to mimic the sounds mostly heard in hip hop albums.

7. Zakk Wylde’s “The Grail”

Zakk Wylde
Zakk Wylde
Lead guitarist to Ozzy Osbourne and frontman of the Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde is widely known for punctuating his solos with pinch harmonics. This screeching wouldn’t be possible without “The Grail,” which is a Les Paul with a black and antique white bull’s-eye design.

On tour, Wylde uses other guitars, but “The Grail” remains his primary instrument. For a time, though, Wylde lost the guitar when it fell from a truck on the way home from a performance in Texas. A widespread search ensued, with Wylde offering reward to anybody who would return the guitar. The search paid off a few years later when a fan contacted the Wylde camp after purchasing the guitar from a pawnshop. The reunion took place because the fan realized what he had just purchased upon noticing the design, the serial number and the initials “Z.W.” on the guitar.

6. Dimebag Darrell

Dimebag Darrell’s muscular riffs made Pantera the quintessential Texan metal band. His guitar shredding likewise brought his other projects to modest fame – Damageplan and Rebel Meets Rebel.

Dimebag Darrell
Darrell Lance Abbott
Sadly, in December 2004, Darrell was shot to death while playing onstage with Damageplan. A fan, later found to be a paranoid schizophrenic, fired four shots at Darrell, instantly killing the guitarist.

Darrell’s death had so affected the metal community that Dean Guitars, his sponsor at the time, released a line of “Dime” guitars that are commemorative of the ones he used. Dean has so far released 26 guitars, most of these in the proverbial ML design.

5. Slash’s Lemon Drop LP

Slash performing live with Velvet Revolver
Guns N’ Roses (or GNR to its fans) was described by critics to be both the pinnacle and downfall of the glam rock era. The rebel attitude of lead singer Axl Rose is often cited as significant, yet what captured the imagination of fans was the guitar playing of Slash. With his big afro and top hat, Slash blew audiences away with his restrained yet powerful guitar solos.

Though he has a wide array of axes, Slash still keeps his first guitar, a 1960 Lemon Drop Type Les Paul (LP). The Lemon Drop is the guitar he used in the video for “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

Contrary to popular belief, however, this guitar isn’t an original Gibson, but actually a replica built by luthier Chris Derrig. Slash so loved the sound of this guitar that he decided to keep it at home and use it only for recording.

4. Angus Young’s SG

Angus Young
Angus Young in Germany
Ranked 4th in VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” and 7th in MTV’s list for the “Greatest Heavy Metal Band of All Time,” AC/DC is often lumped with rock legends Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Kiss. Hailing from Australia, AC/DC captured the attention of rock lovers all over the world, mostly because of lead guitarist Angus Young’s stage antics. Often dressed in a schoolboy uniform, Young is likewise famous for sporting a Gibson SG.

Young started playing with a banjo he’d strung like a guitar. Upon moving to Australia, Young bought himself a 1968 Gibson SG and began playing seriously. The rest, as they say, is history, and Young has remained a loyal user.

Due to Young’s devotion to guitar playing, the Gibson Guitar Corporation decided to collaborate with him to create the Angus Young Signature SG series. These guitars are equipped with pickups designed by Young himself and are only used for recording purposes.

3. Brian May’s Red Special

Having a PhD in astrophysics, guitarist Brian May was named Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University in November 2007.

Brian May
Guitarist of the band Queen
Two years before, he was knighted for his contribution to the music industry.

Such is the popularity of the Queen guitarist that some his fame was transferred to the guitar he uses. In most Queen albums and concerts, Brian May used the “Red Special,” a guitar he and his father built with wood from an old fireplace and hardware from old motorbikes and cars. So unique is the design of the guitar that many companies have attempted to replicate it.

By 2006, however, Brian May himself decided that if anybody wanted to manufacture a guitar similar to his “Red Special,” he had to be part of the process. As a result, Brian May Guitars was established in London in 2006.

2. Eric Clapton’s Blackie

When former Cream guitarist and current blues legend Eric Clapton went to America in 1970, he stumbled on a small guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee.

Eric Clapton
Clapton at the Tsunami Relief concert
Finding that the vintage guitars were on sale for only $100 each, he purchased six, three of which became gifts to George Harrison, Pete Townshend, and Steve Winwood. The remaining guitars he kept for himself.

Out of the blue, Clapton decided to take the best parts of each guitar and put them together. The resulting axe was named “Blackie” for its lacquer finish that was significantly chipped on the guitar’s backside.

Back then, Clapton was only trying to set up a guitar according to his preferences. He couldn’t have anticipated that he had created what would be one of the most sought-after guitars of all time. Today, Blackies are sold in guitar shops and by guitar dealers all over the world.

1. B.B. King’s Lucille

Riley B. King, otherwise known as B.B. King, is considered the most respected blues and R&B musician alive today.

B.B. King
B.B. King at Roy Thomson Hal
With a career that spans over 40 years, the king has recorded countless albums. He also continues to perform 300 nights a year at his age of 82.

Considering B.B. King a good guitar player is an understatement. Likewise, his popularity is hinged on his guitars he fondly calls “Lucille.” The name supposedly came to B.B. King one winter night of 1949 where he was playing at a community hall in Twist, Arkansas. In the venue, heating was made possible by a barrel half-filled with lighted kerosene. A fight broke out between two men and the barrel was tipped over. The dance hall was immediately engulfed in flames.

King was able to leave, but upon realizing he left his guitar inside the hall, he immediately went back in to retrieve it. Luckily, he got out with his guitar unscathed. Later on, he found out that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. Since then, he has used the name to refer to all of his guitars.

The Fusion of Man and Instrument

The guitar god phenomenon is really about the melding of a person’s talent with the technology available. If anything, these guitars are popular because they’ve become effective conduits for the message guitarists wish to convey.


* Music enthusiasts literally worship rock gods, most especially guitarists who most of the time grab the spotlight in concerts. They make guitar labels famous and pricey that is why if you have the time, you may want to learn how to make a guitar of your own. Etch your legend and be your own star by making your own guitar!

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