Joan Jett acquired her Gibson Melody Maker in 1977 and has been playing it with The Runaways and throughout her entire solo career ever since. Gibson released the first Joan Jett—a replica of Joan’s original white Melody Maker—a few years ago, and just recently introduced second Joan Jett signature model, the Blackheart. The Blackheart came about simply enough—Joan wanted a black guitar, with a few updates and simple features, and Gibson obliged.
The Joan Jett Blackheart Melody Maker from Gibson features a mahogany body, a quarter-sawn, rounded profile solid mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard with 12” radius and 22 jumbo frets, and mini Grover LP-style tuners. The Blackheart features one zebra coil Burst Bucker 3 pickup in the bridge position, one volume control and one tone control, both with black witch hat knobs. The toggle switch normally found on a Melody Maker is replaced with a sideways mounted kill switch, which Joan uses to turn the guitar off while singing.
The Blackheart sports great looks, with features that add a little refinement to the guitar. It has a satin ebony nitrocellulose finish, which is smooth to the touch and feels great—not too glossy or overstated. The fret inlays are bright red, and the 12th fret has mother-of-pearl inlay hearts lying end-to-end. To round out the custom features, Joan’s signature adorns the truss rod cover.
Picking up the guitar for the first time, I found it lightweight, comfortable and quite resonant when strummed unplugged. The smooth feel and worn-in texture of the neck is very comfortable, thanks to the satin ebony finish. It’s easy to see why this guitar fits Jett’s rhythm playing needs—it’s not too bulky, feels very solid, and you can crank out power chords with ease. The double cutaway allows easy access for chords all the way up the neck to the 19th position if you’re so inclined.
Though well-suited for rhythm playing, the Blackheart is probably not an ideal choice for extended lead playing. Some shredders may prefer a flatter or thinner neck as opposed to the rounded profile of this guitar neck, and folks with smaller hands might find it difficult play leads all night. However, beefiness of the neck does offer plenty of sustain, and the ebony fretboard produces a bold, clear tone.