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KINGS OF STRINGS
The world’s greatest guitarists have cutting edge instruments. Here are some of them
The guitar is a Les Paul Studio Model. Just to show you that you don’t have to have a $3,000 guitar to get started, Slash started out with a one-string acoustic. His first electric was a copy of a Gibson Explorer. Later guitars included a Memphis Les Paul copy, a B C Rich Mockingbird, a B C Rich Warlock, a Fender Stratocaster, a Jackson Firebird copy and a Charvel. Sadly, almost all of these early Slash guitars were sold to support his former drug habit.
Slash is entirely self-taught. He learned to play guitar by listening to records and trying to mimic what he heard. He would play as much as 12 hours a day, and one of the first songs he learned was Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water.
Slash often plays pedal-steel bends and uses the pentatonic major scale to create leads that have a country sound. You can hear this in Paradise City. When playing rhythm, Slash relies on power chords, riffs played on the lower strings, or arpeggiated figures. Slash’s pick is held between his index finger and thumb, and he sometimes plucks strings with his free fingers.
B B King
The King uses a trademark Gibson guitar. He plays a very uncluttered style with liberal use of bends, his signature tremelo and T-Bone Walker influenced jazzy sounding blues runs. Also, as BB says it, he “don’t do no chords”. BB’s style is best characterised by saying that he knows when to play the right note and he knows when silence is better. Back in 1951, a young blues guitarist named Riley King had his first hit song titled 3 O’Clock Blues. The song was so successful, promoters whisked the young man from his Memphis home to the bright lights and big stages of New York City, where he shortened his stage name from Beale Street Blues Boy to BB. Over the past 40 years, King has established himself as the indisputable king of blues guitarists. Songwriter. Bar owner (BB’s Blues Club in Memphis). Performer. Legend. Which hat does he wear most comfortably? “All I do is play Lucille,” King says with a smile, pointing toward his trademark Gibson guitar.
Here are some of the guitars the Dire Straits frontman has used. Pensa-Suhr custom (with EMG pickups and Floyd Rose double locking trem) Schecter Strats and Teles Fender Strats amd Teles Gibson Les Pauls It’s impossible not to recognise the classic riffs that stream from Knopfler’s guitar, the ones that have become synonymous with the signature sound of Dire Straits. After starting in Deptford, South London in 1977, Dire Straits have proceeded to coin such rock ’n’ roll classics as Sultans of Swing and Money for Nothing. Between June and November 1977, Knopfler (guitar/vocals), his younger brother David (guitar), John Illsley (bass) and Pick Withers (drums) began rehearsing some of the songs Mark had written. They played their first gig, a punk festival, under the name Cafe Racers. Soon, they recorded a demo and took it to BBC Radio London DJ Charlie Gillett, a renowned talent-spotter. He played the tape on his Honky Tonk Show, and after Phonogram A&R man John Stainze heard the music, Dire Straits signed to the Vertigo label. In the winter of 1978, Dire Straits recorded their first selftitled LP, which included Sultans of Swing and Six Blade Knife. From June to July 1980, they recorded Making Movies, which included Tunnel of Love, Solid Rock and Romeo and Juliet.
The king of the strings’ favourite has been a Fender Stratocaster, lovingly christened ‘Blackie’. It was acquired by Clapton in 1956/1957, and had in his own words “become part of me”. Clapton has tremendous affection for this guitar, and had an intense working relationship with Blackie throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Blackie recently sold for $959,500, breaking a world auction record for any guitar.
The first copy of the ‘Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster’, modelled after Blackie was extensively used by Clapton from 1990 onwards. A credible rival to Blackie in ranking was Clapton’s 1964 cherry-red Gibson ES-335. This famous Gibson is the second electric guitar Clapton ever bought, and the one he is most sentimental about. Clapton used this guitar throughout his career, from his time with the Yardbirds. The instrument that changed the role of the acoustic guitar in rock music forever was the 1939, 000-42 Martin Clapton played on the Unplugged album.