What Kind of Guitar You Drivin'?

Even before I started playing guitar (and subsequently learned their history, dynamics, and my personal preferences), I developed an affinity and distaste for certain models, and would project that feeling towards the bands that played those particular instruments. I don't feel embarrassed by this, as I believe that all of us, particularly when we first begin to identify and associate ourselves with bands that we "discover", create supremely superficial reasons to like or dislike an artist: whether it's clothes, hair color, the way they talk/act. Not only did I then over time develop a consistent opinion about bands/guitarists based on what they played, but I also created strong emotional connections to certain models that influenced what I played and even how I played them. So let's run through a semi-chronological history of the six-string wonders that shaped my musical life, for better or worse. Like a women, if they were electrified and could be turned on with a switch. I hear that's possible, but I don't believe it.

Chuck Berry and His Semi-Hollow

My grandfather, Donald Anderson, was a DJ in Wichita, KS. throughout the 1950s, and as a perk he brought home free records for my dad and uncle before they were out, and my dad was able to see some shows as a youngster- occasionally getting some autographs. His two most prized, at least in my opinion, are his Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. The Berry autograph is framed next to a picture similar to the one above, featuring a similar guitar. Although Berry never stuck to one guitar- this man would check them in at flights, and if damaged, oh well- he preferred the semi-hollows. I loved how big, red, and classy it looked, liked the cars of the day. Guitars are like cars, in that sense, and Berry's Gibson's ES 335s in particular always caught my eye. My second guitar I ever bought, while not a Gibson, was a red semi-hollow.

Jackson Guitars: Where It's Always 1986

Bottom line: If I see you play these or anything that bears a close resemblance, I will scoff and walk away. Bon Iver could walk out with one, or Wilco, and I cut all ties. Why? Mainly, I can't take someone seriously who plays these. I instantly associate you with hair bands or metal bands from the 1980s. You become Dokken, or even Queensryche (who I don't dislike but can't look at without only thinking of "Jet City Woman"). A guitar shouldn't date you- bands play vintage guitars from the 50s and we don't think for a second that they SOUND like that- but these do. This poster looks like something on Bill S. Preston, Esq.'s ceiling, but it's from 2003.


This may be hypocritical, but when I was 14 I loved Ibanez guitars, even though they were similar to Jackson. HOWEVER, I thought the cuts in the body were more subtle, smooth, and visionary, and the fact that Steve Vai pulled out a seven-string made it something beyond the time period I lived in (it even had a built in handle!). I fantasized about playing with the technical skill that Vai possessed. This was the first instrumental album I ever bought, and loved, although I don't know if "soul" would fit into his lexicon. There was a red Ibanez at the guitar store I took lessons at that I played all the time and felt perfect, but for some reason it had The Grateful Dead logo on it, which I never really understood. This was the first guitar I imagined owning.

My British Obsession= My First Guitar

In 1995 I developed an obsession with all things Oasis. I loved the British press and their constant use of hyperbole to blow everything out of proportion. I loved their excess, and being in college, I liked to at least think I could relate (not particularly). The brash, loud, arena-rock sound I thought was perfectly represented by their guitars. Noel Gallagher played a semi-hollow Epiphone, a cheaper version of Gibson (although owned by the parent company and a maker of quality instruments), and eventually had a line named after him -The Supernova. After a five hear hiatus from playing, I joined a band after college, and decided I needed to finally buy a nice guitar to call my own. I walked in to the Musician's Friend Warehouse in Kansas City, and after wandering around for thirty minutes, stumbled on a blue Supernova. Price? $600. Why? No case. That's half off. It was meant to be! I walked out, guitar literally in hand, and have been in love since. It was also the first guitar I named: Elsa, after a line from "Supersonic". My true first love.

Saved By New Zealanders

Not only did the Kiwis provide a wonderful director on Peter Jackson, they also gave us 60s-style garage bands in the early 200s who gave me hope for the state of music. Sick of boy bands and bland mainstream rock, I happened along the D4, a New Zealand band that actually had three covers (including a couple by Johnny Thunders) on their first album. It WAS like the 60s again! They weren't groundbreaking, but it felt like a sincere rock again, and at this same time, right when I thought music was something I could no longer get excited about, along came The Datsuns, The Hives, The Strokes, The Flaming Sideburns, and numerous other groups that may not have lasted, but at least brought guitar focused rock back to the populace. This Gibson double cutaway was played by The D4, and was the second guitar I bought, and my first real Gibson. Despite loving it's look and sound, it ultimately was too small for my lanky frame and was heavy at the head, making for constant adjustments. Sadly, the first and only guitar I sold, although it was a few years later.



Poindexter said...

Although I can't play a lick, I am obsessed with all things Gibson. Particularly and most obvious the Les Paul. However, it is tough to beat the SG, the Hollow Bodies, and let us not forget the Flying V!

Chris said...

I am a Gibson man. They just look more intresting than Fender, although they have somo pretty cool retro models that are getting out there (think Kurt Cobain and his Jaguar). I also have a Flying V. Fun stuff!