In the summer of 63 … my mom said “piano or guitar?”
Sure, it was a trick question, but I choose guitar. I took a few lessons on a rental, then for Christmas, got a real guitar; a Gibson B-25 acoustic.
I learned “Red River Valley,” “Micheal Row the Boat Ashore” and other songs from the early sixties folk revival, and I liked it, but everything changed on February 9th after watching The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show.
I wanted to do that. And eventually I did, playing the Ed Sullivan Theatre with Shania Twain on the Late Show with David Letterman (twice) where I stood on that very same spot where George Harrison stood, who was referred to as the “lead guitarist,” the first time I heard that phrase.
But that required an electric guitar, and so my next move - as a country boy - was order one from the Sears catalog. A red Silvertone 1488 and top of the line 1465 amp with 6 ten inch speakers. But the guitar was not of the highest quality, and in time, the neck started to bow, and soon it was time for a new one.
Many guitarists I admired played Les Pauls, so i purchased a new 1968 Deluxe gold top. Gibson had stopped making them for a spell (shockingly, for lack of interest) and this was their reintroduction, but it was a far cry from the iconic guitars of the late fifties. None the less, I replaced the tuners and pickups, and it was pretty darn close.
I used that with my first pro band Dangerfish, and later the Boston rock band Reckless, I also added a handful of BC Rich guitars to the mix in the late 70s when they were still handmade in a shop in LA.
In time, I acquired a 1956 Les Paul gold top fitted with PAFs, and it was glorious. But soon, I playing with the Greg Austin Band, and then toured with country star Janie Fricke, both situations requiring to play a Stratocaster, so for years the Les Paul was hidden in a closet, and subsequently sold.
But before that, the friend who had sold it to me, New England guitar great Billy Loosigian, brought over another Gibson he thought I might like …
It was a brown burst 1959 Les Paul, with a curious groove worn in around the volume knob. The guitar had belonged to Joe Perry, and the price was $7800 and as insane as it sounds, to entice me, he left it at my house for a week. Yet in 1980, that was the price of a small car, and I had to pass. From me, it went to a few others and the finally to Slash. Joe offered to buy it back, Slash declined, but eventually gave it to him on his birthday. One day I saw Gibson had made an exact copy of it, selling for 4 times what I could have bought it for!
When I began 2 years of high profile shows with Shania Twain, I got a deal with Gibson, and my Les Paul collection started to grow again (though I was playing Fenders with her). When I joined Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen I twanged away on a Telecaster, but later as a member of Savoy Brown, reverted back to Les Pauls with 1960 and 1961 Les Paul Juniors. Touring with Garth Hudson (The Band) brought back a Tele, but in 2010, concerts with Broadway stars Adam Pascal & Anthony Rapp, as well as Daphne Rubin-Vega, brought back Les Pauls big time, with a handful of custom shop beauties. Tours in Europe with Pavlov’s Dog called for my favorite orange drop Les Paul, while the Rent musical tour uses a Les Paul, Strat and Gibson acoustic.
As you see, I started with Gibson, and always returned. And the Custom Shop is making beautiful guitars, simply the best in the world.
***And then there was another … though I adore the Gibson Custom shop’s work, I felt compelled to have just one vintage piece, and just got an amazing one early 2019 - a 1961 Les Paul Custom with 3 PAFs and a factory Bigsby. (PAFs - Patent Applied For pickups are the holy grail of tone, and this is a fine example. Come see it (and me) in the states and Europe this year. ***
As amps go, after the Sears, I got a Fender Super Reverb, which was replaced in 1974 by a 50 watt Marshall wedded to a 4 x 12 cabinet. In 1995 with Shania, I used 2 Vox AC/30s, and (after a brief run with Mesa Boogie Maverick) to this day it has become my amp of choice.
I had the original Fuzzfaces, etc. in the sixties, who knows where they all went? I was addicted to an Echoplex in the seventies, and went for a long time in Savoy Brown without any effects at all.
My current pedalboard is stocked with a Fulltone Ovedrive 2, Diaz Tremodillo tremolo, MXR Carbon Copy delay, Earthquake Dispatch Master delay, Z-Vex Ooh-Wah 2, MXR Dyna Comp, Vox wah wah (both tweaked by Modest Mike’s Mods) and a Big Muff Triangle tt.
Lava Cables wire me up and GHS his been my choice of strings for decades.