52 famous players on their first guitars

2nd Jul 2012 | 14:57

52 famous players on their first guitars
What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

Featuring a stellar cast including the likes of Slash, Joe Bonamassa, Phil Collen, Mark Tremonti, Duane Eddy, John Petrucci and a host of other axe heroes, read on to find out about the first guitars of some of the biggest names in the business...

Every month, Guitarist magazine runs a feature called Perfect 10. Guitar stars from across the globe are grilled with the same 10 questions, the first of which requires them to cast their minds back to the very beginning of their playing careers and identify their first instrument.

52 famous players on their first guitars
Gus G
Greek guitar god of Ozzy Osbourne/Firewind fame

“My dad got me a cheap classical when I was 10 years old and I still have it. I didn’t get an electric until I was 14, and I still have that too. It was a Fender Strat Classic Floyd Rose Series. It’s a kinda like the Richie Sambora model and is a really great guitar.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Matt Pike
The stoner/doom pioneer behind Sleep and High On Fire

“My very first guitar was just some weird acoustic thing from [US department store] Sears – I was eight years old and it was small enough for my hands. My uncle and grandfather used to play guitar to me all the time, so I’d try to play along with them. I picked up the chords because I’d been watching them since I was a baby. I was a natural at just jumping into it.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Duane Eddy
'The guitar man'

“I was about nine and my aunt sent me a little lap steel with an amp – I guess it appealed to her. So I learned to play it, then my folks gave me an old Kay they found somewhere – I had that until I was 14 or 15. Then I bought a Les Paul Goldtop in 1954.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Slash
Ex-GnR legend and hat connoisseur

“The first really significant memory was when I had this Les Paul copy and a little Fender Twin with an MXR distortion pedal. I hit an A chord that all guitar players look for and it was like the Holy Grail. That was a very inspiring moment for me as a musician.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Mark Morton
Lamb Of God's lead man

“It was a nylon-string acoustic – a very cheap version of a classical guitar. I bought that guitar from an ad in a local paper called Trading Post for $15, and I was 12 years old.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Todd Rundgren
The multi-talented US producer/player

“It was something made in Japan or Korea – a steel-string acoustic. I was only seven or eight at the time, and it was something that you got if you signed up for three months’ worth of lessons at the local music store.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Kris Coombs-Roberts
Pictured on the left, Funeral For A Friend's spider-handed lead guitarist

“A Hohner Rockwood, I think I was 12 years old. I nagged my father for a guitar and initially he thought my interest would be a flash in the pan – something I’d only be in to for a couple of months. But that guitar was horrible – it had a black painted fretboard and the frets were so high that it had a sitar-like effect of bending the note out of tune. To be honest I don’t know how I stuck with it, because everything I played on it sounded absolutely horrific!”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Max Cavalera, Soulfly
The enduring spirit behind Soulfly, Cavalera Consipracy and early Sepultura

“My first acoustic was my dad’s. He used to play guitar and sing Italian songs. He worked for the Italian embassy in Brazil, but in his spare time he’d grab a guitar and sing. He passed away when I was nine, in 1979. When I was 11, I found his guitar, and I was really into KISS at the time. I remember Paul Stanley had a guitar that was all mirrors, so I decided to do the same with my dad’s guitar. I broke a mirror and glued it on – it was not well done at all!”

52 famous players on their first guitars
John Petrucci
Dream Theater's technical prog wizard

“My first guitar was an acoustic, kind of plastic, nylon-string thing that eventually ended up breaking. I’m not sure where my parents got it, but it wasn’t very good – it wasn’t very nice to play [laughs].”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Tim Farriss
Guitarist and founding member of INXS

“My father bought me my first guitar when I was eight and I still own it – I just had it fully reconditioned. It’s a Suzuki classical guitar and its serial number is something like 402. I learnt to play Spanish and classical guitar on it.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Mike Mushok
Staind's PRS-toting lead guitarist

“I guess my first guitar was a Yamaha acoustic – I was probably about seven or eight and I got it for Christmas from my parents. They actually played a very mean joke on me – it was Christmas and they brought down a guitar case, but they had taken the guitar out and just gave me the empty case which, at seven, made me cry [laughs]. Then they brought down the guitar and that night I proceeded to pretend I was Elvis and found out what a belt-buckle can do to a guitar – it gouged the whole guitar up and I cried again…”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Rick Parfitt
One half of Status Quo

“My first guitar was a Framus sunburst and I shall never forget the smell of the varnish when I opened that case. I got it in 1958, for Christmas. I was so thrilled, because I’d seen Cliff Richard and The Shadows with Hank [Marvin] and I was mad to have a guitar. It had a chord with sort of a pom-pom hanging down from the machine heads…”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Matt Schofield
UK electric blues star

“It was a 3/4-sized classical, and I was about eight. When I realised I wanted to play electric guitar, I cut a cheese wedge shape out of the lower bout so I could get up higher! Completely ruined it with a hacksaw.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Scott Gorham
One half of Thin Lizzy's twin-guitar assault

“I was nine and my father bought it for me. It was about as cheap as you could get – a nylon-string Silvertone from the department store Sears. It was the shittiest thing you could imagine.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Dave Kushner
Velvet Revolver's moustachioed rhythm guitarist

“I was 16 and it was a Strat copy. But I don’t even remember who made it!”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Stevie Salas
Funk guitar maestro and George Clinton collaborator

“It was an electric my brother-in-law built. He used to make all my surfboards and he used to make my fishing poles, and then one day he decided to build this Strat copy. That was when I was about 15.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Joe Bonamassa
Modern electric blues giant

“It was called a Chiquita. It was my first electric guitar – like a short-scale, little electric guitar that was easy for a four-year-old to play. And then I got a Gibson SG at six.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Tommy Shannon
Stevie Ray Vaughan's bassman

“I was about 15 years old and I remember washing dishes all summer so I could buy my first Fender guitar. It was a beautiful white Jaguar and I loved it. I played guitar first then one night a bass player didn’t show up so I played the bass and I liked it so much I stayed with it.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Paul Gilbert
Shred virtuoso and Mr Big star

“I had a Stella acoustic guitar that I played for two years. I recently found one just like it on Ebay. I realised it was actually a small-scale neck, so it was really great for my little nine-year-old hands.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Björn Gelotte
In Flames songwriter and guitarist

“My very first was a Spanish guitar. At the time I wanted to sound like Vivian Campbell from Dio and of course the nylon-strung guitar was nothing like that! I was using coins as picks and I was about 11 or 12. At that time there was so much good music to learn and I discovered why I couldn’t sound like Dio – so I learned a lot.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Dan Hawkins
Darkness and Stone Gods powerhouse

“It was a bass because I played that before guitar – but I did use my dad’s acoustic from the age of eight. It was based on a Gibson Hummingbird but it should have been called Mingingbird – I used to spend hours just trying to get the thing in tune! My first electric was a budget white Strat that I named Mumm-Ra – my guitars always have names.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Myles Kennedy
Alter Bridge frontman and Slash's vocalist du jour

“An Ibanez X Series DT250. I wish I still had it but it was stolen from my high school.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Greg Howe
Fusion star and sessioneer extraordinaire

“It was given to me by my sister’s boyfriend when I was 10. It was called a Guya and it looked like one of those models The Ventures used to play. It had four pickups and it was pretty ugly. I don’t have it any more, butI really wish I did.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Mark Tremonti
Creed and Alter Bridge axeman

“A Tara, which was an imitation Les Paul that I got when I was 11 years old. I remember it cost 10 bucks.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Joe Brown
Veteran Brit rock 'n' roller

"I bought it for a pound off some bloke in a pub. I was about 11. I grew up in my mum’s pub, y’see, and this bloke would come in on Saturdays with this guitar. I don’t remember the model, but it had a lot of knobs on it. In those days, you couldn’t get your hands on Gibsons and Fenders, so you either had to have a Höfner – which were beautifully made but sounded bloody awful for rock ’n’ roll – or one of these hand-made jobs. I dunno what happened to it. It probably disintegrated.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Juha Raivio
Swallow The Sun guitarist

“It was a guitar by a brand called Rocky – a really crap Fender Stratocaster copy. I must have been 11 or 12.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Vic Flick
Legendary James Bond Theme guitarist

“My first guitar was a small-bodied Gibson Kalamazoo bought for $10 in 1949. It was good to play, and with a Tank Commander’s throat microphone clamped to the machine head and played through a radio it nearly sounded like a guitar! All through my life I have regretted trading it in for a really crappy banjo.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Mike Stern
American jazz virtuoso

“I was about 12 years old. It was a nylon-string and cost about $30. I don’t even think that it had a make – I think somebody found it on the street or something – it was really funky.Then I got some kind of Fender, maybe it was a Strat.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Martin Harley
British slide guitar maestro

“My mum had a 3/4-sized Portuguese classical guitar, she pulled it out of a flood. I think she was living in Wales at the time and it went floating past a second-floor window and she pulled it out of the water. I started playing when I was about 16 or 17 – I’d never really shown much interest until then asI don’t come from a very musical family.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
J D Cronise
With his bandmates in The Sword (second from right)

“An Ibanez RG550 in bright orange when I was 13 or 14. I originally wanted a Les Paul – I started playing guitar because of Jimmy Page – but I had these friends at school who said Les Pauls were stupid and I needed to get an Ibanez. It was cool, a total shredder guitar though.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Chris Robertson
Black Stone Cherry frontman

“It was an acoustic guitar that my grandfather made by hand. He gave it to me for Christmas when I was 12 years old.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Charlie Burchill
With his Simple Minds bandmates (far left)

“My earliest one was an Embassy coupon guitar – you got them from a catalogue when you saved up enough coupons from cigarette packets. My mum got me that guitar by smoking her life away!As you can imagine, it was more like a cheese-cutter than a guitar. My first ‘proper’ guitar was a Gibson Flying V.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Joel O'Keeffe
Frontman of Australian hard rockers Airbourne

“It was a Gibson SG. I got it when my Dad agreed to buy it if I spent the summer coating the house in wood preserve when I was 12. I got covered in it, but I got an SG!”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Alex Westaway
Fightstar guitarist and songwriter

“A £20 Spanish guitar I got when I was eight and starting guitar lessons. When I got into it more it was an Ibanez RX, which was a good low-end guitar. I’d play my Nirvana covers on that.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Peter Frampton
Which guitar made his playing come alive?

“My first guitar was a nasty, old and cheap – I think they call it a plectrum guitar [a four-string tenor-style guitar]. It was steel-string and cost about four pounds 10 shillings. It didn’t have a name on it – they were too embarrassed to put it on I think!”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Warren Haynes
Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule star

“My first guitar was a Norma, with a Norma amp. One was $49 and the other was $59. They lasted about a year and after that I got a Lyle copy of a Gibson SG.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Dallas Green
With his Alexisonfire bandmates (left)

"The first guitar that I ever had was one my dad bought me. It was from a music shop in St Catherine’s, which is the place where I grew up. The shop had a Midnight Madness sale on and I got an old Harmony guitar and a Tiger amp combination – it was my first foray into the electric.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Phil Collen
Def Leppard star, fitness fanatic, thoroughly nice guy

“It was my 16th birthday, a Gibson SG – it was the 200, the cheap one. I’ve still got it. You can see it on my website. So yeah, it was my 16th birthday, I’d pestered my mum and dad for two years and finally got it.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Tim Sult
Big riffs from the big Clutch man

“I was 14 and I believe it came fromSears or JC Penney. I think I ordered it straight out of the catalogue, it was a little Strat-style guitar that came with a two-watt practice amp.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Keith Nelson
These days the Buckcherry star has many fine guitars

“My first guitar was a beat-up Fender acoustic that I got when I traded my drum kit in. I started playing the drums as soon as I could bang things together and I switched to guitar when I was 17.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Herman Li
Fleet-fingered Dragon Force shred machine

“Like a lot of people starting the guitar it was just the cheapest Squier – I was 16. After that I got into Satriani and Vai and started doing all the whammy bar stuff and tapping, so after a year I traded it in for an Ibanez and since then I’ve pretty much played Ibanez.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Satchel
Unassuming Steel Panther guitarist

“I was eight years old and it was an acoustic guitar made by a company called Global. I wanted an electric guitar, but when I asked for a guitar they bought me an acoustic for my birthday and I was really, really pissed off about it too. You know what – I’ve still got the guitar.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Mark Hosking
Axeman for Australian prog-metallers Karnivool

“My family were very musical and I started on drums, then piano before moving onto guitar when I was about 12. But the first guitar I ever played was my dad’s Maton Wildcat, they only made about 4000 of them. It was a killer guitar, but I broke something on it and my dad wouldn’t let me play it any more!

"So then I had to get one of my own and the first one I ever had was a Fender Squier – I modded the pickups and electronics on it. From then it was a Fender Strat and then a PRS Custom 24, which I still play now, nine or 10 years later.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Dweezil Zappa
Moon Unit's younger brother

“A Fender Music Master, which was kind of like the Fender Duo Sonic. I got it when I was about six, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. It wasn’t until I was 12 that I picked it up seriously.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Steven Wilson
The brain behind Porcupine Tree

“When I was about six years old my parents decided I was going to learn to play guitar and they bought me a nylon-string classical, I don’t even remember the make, but I hated it. I hated guitar lessons and after about six weeks I gave up and it went in the attic for about four years. Then finally I rediscovered it when I discovered my passion for music.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Josh Rand
Stone Sour's rhythm guitar engine

“I was a late bloomer because I started out on bass. I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 17 – it was an Ibanez RG550, all black.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Philip Sayce
Welsh-born Canadian guitar star

“My brother and I played piano as kids – we took piano lessons and my mum and dad saved up in order to buy a piano for us. So I always felt guilty asking for a guitar, but I wanted one, so they got me an acoustic guitar from Sears. I used to carry it around in a garbage bag. The action was like that [indicates a high action] and it was almost impossible to play...”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Pepper Keenan
Down and Corrosion Of Conformity riffmeister

“My friend Pat The Rat got decapitated on a motorcycle trying to outrun the police and died… obviously. Me and my friend snuck into his house and I took his guitar, because it wasn’t going to get used. So I started learning at 13. It was a junk Sears Les Paul copy and I sprayed it black.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Steve Rothery
With his impressively-coiffed Marillion bandmates (far right)

“It was a Strat copy that I got when I was 15, so 1974.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Ginger
Wildhearts hard rocker

“The first guitar I took onstage was a little red Westone that I loved. I swapped it for a blonde Strat, but the Strat was so crap I swapped it back for the Westone!”

52 famous players on their first guitars
John Norum
The Europe guitarist who got the blues

“I was 12 years old and my mom gave it to me. It was actually her guitar. I can’t remember the name of it, it was an acoustic. I didn’t have a plectrum, so I took a bottle opener and used that as a pick. I ripped that thing apart – all the finish was gone. I was quite aggressive… I was playing hard, even back then.”

52 famous players on their first guitars
Mick Box
Uriah Heep legend

“I was 14 years old, so it was quite a while ago. I went with my mum to buy it from a pawnbroker and it was £12.10 in old money. It was called either a Telstun or a Telstan, I think. It was a hollow body cutaway, with the one DeArmond pickup; the action was like a bow and arrow. Bleeding fingers but it never put me off.”


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