Famous Rock Guitars Part 1

I love guitars…I own 12 of them. It’s something about them that draws me in. Each one has its own sound and vibe. My family made guitars in the 60’s and 70’s so I do remember as a small kid walking into the guitar shop smelling the wood and glue. Some guitars are just as famous as their former or current owners.

I will include 2 guitars per post…this week we have two famous guitars from two completely different artists.

Brian May’s “Red Special”

Brian May’s sound was as a big part of Queen as Mercury’s voice. Brian May designed and built the Red Special with his father, in 1963, using any parts they could find.  The neck of the guitar was fashioned from an 18th-century fireplace mantel, the inlays on the neck from a mother-of-pearl button. For the body, they used wood from an old oak table. Then the bricoleurs combined a bike saddlebag holder, a plastic knitting needle tip, and motorbike valve springs to create a tremolo arm.

Brian May: I remembered that at the time we finished the topcoat of varnish, my Dad had wanted to christen her as the Brian May Special, and I had poo-pooed the idea; now I realized that it wasn’t so uncool to give her a proper name. So one day in a radio interview, when someone asked me what I called the guitar, the words Red Special just tumbled out before I’d had time to think. 

Legendary Guitar: Brian May's Red SpecialBrian May of Queen, playing Red Special, the guitar he built himself as a  teenager. | Queen guitarist, Brian may, Queen band

The Red Special is not in a museum it’s with Brian and it’s still his number 1 guitar.

I have a couple of guitars that has some cracking in the finish but nothing I’ve had or seen compares with this one.

For more than 40 years Willie Nelson has been playing a Martin N-20 nylon-string acoustic guitar he named “Trigger,” after Roy Rogers’ horse. A classical guitar designed with no pick-guard, the famous relic has developed a gaping hole in the body.

Willie got this guitar in 1969 after a drunk stepped on his Baldwin guitar. The same year he bought Trigger his house caught fire and Willie braved the blaze to pull it out.

Willie Nelson has said….“When Trigger goes, I’ll quit.” 

Willie still plays this guitar…and yes it has a distinctive sound all its own.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

75 thoughts on “Famous Rock Guitars Part 1”

  1. I am kind of a music gear geek, so this stuff always interests me. I don’t know whether you’ve heard of rockabilly musician Deke Dickerson, but he has a fabulous collection of guitar oddities (including one made out of a log). You may wish to look him up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I just looked up some of his guitars and they are incredible. He has some really cool Bixby guitars from the 50s.
      I also just looked up some of his signature Mosrite guitars…I love them.

      Thanks I’m checking him out today. I just love guitars.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes…I’m going to do two guitars probably every weekend for a while. I’m glad you are liking it! I didn’t know how many people would. Enough people have respsonded to go on. You know I love it.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. When we talked about his guitars a few days ago is when I started this.

        I’m going to feature at least one of his and maybe Phil Lesh’s bass also.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. You probably won’t be surprised I love the idea of your series! Brian May truly has created a signature guitar sound that largely can be attributed to the “Red Special”. Also, I don’t believe I know any musician who also is an astrophysicist! As for Willie Nelson’s guitar, wow, that’s certainly a worn ax!

    I’ve done a bunch of posts about guitars as well, focusing on more common rock workhorses like the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul and, of course, Rickenbacker 360/12. I just noticed, some of the YouTube clips in these posts have gone dead – I hate when that happens!

    Anyway, these are the types of guitars I’ve always wanted to own. When I was a teen I didn’t have the dough. Now I have a family and a mortgage, so I still don’t have the dough! 🙂

    But the dream will never die. Maybe one of these years…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Christian…I didn’t know how many people would like this but it’s got a good response. I’m going to try to find some more famous ones and have them ever weekend…two per post.

      To be truthful I would get just as much of a kick of seeing the guitar in person than meeting the person who played it. They have a history to them. Who wouldn’t want to play “Rocky” George Harrison’s guitar just once?

      I hate when those youtube links do that. Once in a while I’ll go back through some of my posts and post new links but it’s just too time consuming.

      I know exactly what you are saying. I have much more than I did when I was a teenager of course but I can’t justify going out and spending for a Rickenbacker…although I really want to!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Let’s make a pact now, Max: One of these days, you and I will get one of these mighty Rickenbackers! 🙂

        Who knows how old I may be, as long as I can hold that ax in my hand, I’ll be a happy camper. In fact, just looking at the beauty would be a joy.

        I finally watched the stream of the Dirty Knobs at the Troubador last night -really great, BTW! At some point, Mike Campbell was playing a 12-string Rickenbacker – man, what a mighty sound. It almost made me cry!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. That is a deal! I’ll take it further… if I win the lottery… you have one also! Yes I do want to get one.

        I’ve seen one of those 12-strings hanging on a hook at the music store… the Roger Mcguinn signature model… I felt unworthy to grab it.

        Just to look at it in my home would almost be enough for me!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ha! 🙂

        BTW, I fixed those dead YouTube links in my gear posts (titled The Hardware) – just drove me crazy. But, yeah, now I spent a lot of time I could have used to work on a new post!

        To the extent possible, I try to pick clips that were published by the actual artists/appear on their YouTube channels. If they are posted by the record companies, I think it’s even better. One might think if they post the footage themselves, they’d be okay with other folks using it, as long as it all stays non-commercial – as long as you’re not fooling around with Don Henley… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I posted youtube links that quite working as soon as my post was published. The owners denied letting someone publish it .

        Oh Don Henley or the Jimi Hendrix estate…yes you can forget those unless you get them off of vimeo.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Those are both amazing guitar stories. Guitars are to you what antique and vintage sewing machines are to me. I have twelve of them, and wouldn’t know which one to part with if I had to. 🙂 Looking forward to more of your guitar series.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Never in my life have I pawned or even sold a guitar…like you I just couldn’t let one go. I like thinking of the history of them. That is why I usually get older ones when possible.

      Some of them are works of art to me…like the vintage sewing machines… When I’m playing one of my older guitars I have to think…who played this in the 60s? How many stages has it been on?

      Thank you…this will be fun.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I ponder the same things when I use one of my old machines. At one time each one was new and likely a dream machine for that first owner. About guitars, they say the first-ever performance with an electric guitar took place here in Wichita. Our local museum has done some excellent exhibits centered around that guitar and other historic guitars.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow I didn’t know that about Wichita. That I would like to see. I have around 7 Kustom Amps…the same amps (they are padded on the outside) that CCR used and they are made in Chanute, Kansas…I always wanted to visit their plant.


      3. They still make them there. I probably have before.
        Oh…Jennifer got into sewing really big at one time. I was at a yard sale and got this contraption. I think we still have it. It’s huge I think…it unfolds and there is a sewing machine inside and it also has a booth…like a restaurant…it looks like it was made in 75 or so with the design. If I ever get it out I will take a picture of it…it’s just so odd. I would think we still have it.


      4. I’m totally fascinated with the contraption you’ve described. I can’t picture what it might be. I hope you do get it out and take a picture some time. There are some fold-out sewing armoires being sold today, that are amazing. I wonder if this was a prior generation of something like that.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It would have to be because it was old. Jennifer thinks we do still have it. I will keep an eye out for it and take a picture. I hope I described it right but I wll check. Maybe you would know.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Off topic, but I watched another excellent documentary on The Who this week. It’s called ‘The Who – Sensation – The Story of Tommy’ (2015). Amazon Prime has it in their streaming collection right now.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Thank you we have Prime so I will look that one up…I’m always in the mood for a documentary and on the Who is icing on the cake. I appreciate when this stuff is brought up because I live under a rock at times…its the way I find out.

        One blogger “introgroove” who is in our draft recommended “Looking for Lennon” a doc on John on Prime as well.


      8. I was surprised at how good this doc was, and that I’ve never heard about it before now. I hope you enjoy it.

        I think I started watching ‘Looking for Lennon’. Not sure how far I got or why I haven’t finished it yet. Thanks for the reminder.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! I do have three machines with the treadle (pedal). I love them. If you want to see one of them, here’s a post I did on it during the early part of the pandemic. http://run-sew-read.com/2020/05/10/the-lovely-vera-has-been-called-up-for-active-duty/

        So sorry your uncle sold your grandma’s machine. That happens a lot. People think they have no value beyond decorative or yard art, and they take up too much space for that. Truth is, they literally never wear out, they make a pretty stitch, and are so simple mechanically that anyone can maintain them. Get me started talking vintage machines and I can’t stop! 😀

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m really surprised they don’t show these in movies once in awhile. Thinking of a Zombie Apocalypse, where the electricity is knocked out, and how one of these beauties could keep clothes on a family.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I just bought the Google Play book My Life with the Dead by Phil Lesh, but I Have not had a chance to read it yet. I wanted to convert it using calibre, so I could send you a copy, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You are a true audiophile Max. I thought I had a passion for music, but mine pales in comparison with many other bloggers like yourself. Sadly, I cannot play a single instrument. I wish I could play piano or drums, but never had a strong enough interest – nor the discipline – to take lessons. You’ll think it blasphemous of me, but I honestly cannot remember whether I’ve ever even held or tried to play an actual guitar. Pathetic, I know…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yea but Jeff you have a broader sense of taste than me…and that I envy. I have opened up more since I have been reading blogs though…giving other music a chance.

      I had a couple of lessons when I was around 14 or 15 and then started to play by ear…but the most important thing was I had a buddy who was a few months more advanced so he showed me what he knew and we learned together. We still play together. We cannot read music.

      I’m not the best…average maybe at best but that doesn’t matter. I’m very fortunate because it’s something you don’t lose…like a friend that never goes away.

      You need to rectify that Jeff…once you hold a guitar you might want to learn something on it…Even Smoke on the Water brought me joy when I learned it.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Alright! A new feature on famous rock guitars! Delighted to learn about Brian May’s Red Special. I thought it was cool he has a degree in astrophysics, but I see his dad was no slouch! I’ve watched that video on Trigger before or one like it. Can’t wait to see who else you’ll be covering.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I think George used it for slide guitar…that is what he had it setup for.
        yea I wish Clapton would not have moved away from Gibson.


      2. That reunion with Cream…it was just blasphemy for Clapton to use a Fender…it cleaned them up too much.


    1. Yea I know Trigger was a throw in…but I just had to Jeremy…can you believe it’s still holding together? Damn…that one is rough.


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