Herring digs into his Custom Shop Fender
Stratocaster loaded with Seymour Duncan ‘59
humbuckers. Photo by Colin Vereen
Among guitarists familiar with his diverse array of projects,
Jimmy Herring is a guitar hero who defies clear-cut categorization.
Combining the three Ts—technique, tone, and taste—he
seems to be able to whip up a tantalizing ear feast for any situation
he’s thrown into. Just this past year, he has played everything
from post-bop fusion with Return to Forever drummer
Lenny White to Southern rock jams with Widespread Panic. With
each new project, Herring’s musicality seems to grow by leaps
and bounds. Any given night you could catch him juxtaposing
blazing pentatonic lines with angular phrases that sound like
something out of John McLaughlin’s catalog.
In 2008, Herring released Lifeboat
, his first solo album on the
jazz/fusion label Abstract Logix. And there not only did his playing
finally take center stage—something that hasn’t always been
the case in his various projects—but it also allowed Herring to
stretch his compositional wings.
Since joining seminal jam band Widespread Panic in 2006, Herring
has seen his star continue to rise to become one of the most
respected and influential axe-slingers on the jam scene. And on
their most recent album, Dirty Side Down
, he once again infuses
their tunes with everything from ripping leads to delicate acoustic
fingerpicking. From the opening, feedback-drenched notes of
“North” to the swampy de-tuned riffs on “Shut up and Drive,” it’s
clear Herring has settled in and found his place within the band.
wanted the inside scoop on what makes Herring tick in all
these different projects, so we caught up with him during one of
Widespread Panic’s seemingly never-ending tours to discuss his
gear, life on the road, and playing with some of his heroes.
You’re no stranger to touring, but it seems
like this year was especially busy.
These other opportunities keep coming up
in between tours. This was going to be that
year where I didn’t say “no” when I really
wanted to do something—even if it means
getting off one bus and getting into a van
three days later.
Where did you record the album?
It was recorded at [producer] John Keane’s
studio in Athens, Georgia. The guy is brilliant.
He has a long history with Panic, but
this was the first time I had the opportunity
to work with him—even though we
have been friends for a long time. Over
the years we have played together, but
this was the first time we have recorded
together. I can’t imagine ever calling anyone
else to record with.
Your live tone really came across on the
album. What amps did you use?
John Keane has a lot to do with that. I
was really glad, because he loved my
amps. There were only two amps that I
brought in, a ’64 Fender Super Reverb
and a Fuchs Tripledrive Supreme. We used
both quite a bit. On “Shut up and Drive,”
we actually used a Budda 80-watt amp.
John is absolutely brilliant with getting
guitar sounds. But for the most part it was the Super
Reverb and Fuchs.
What guitars did you use on the record?
We used a lot of guitars, but I would say
that close to 70 percent of the album was
actually John’s Fender Telecaster. The guitar
plays like a million bucks. I have never had
so much fun playing a Tele in all my life. A
lot of the stuff without the twang bar is his
Tele, mostly. There are a few songs where
I used a Fender Custom Shop Strat. I used
my main Strat on some songs. The stuff you
hear with a twang bar is my main Strat.
Do you bring those same guitars with you
on the road?
For variety, Herring brings out a Gene Baker B3 (left) with Lollar Imperial
pickups, in addition to a Jerry Jones Baritone (right) that he uses on “Shut
Up and Drive.” Photo by Jason Shadrick
Yeah, I usually bring my favorite Strat, which
I’ve had for about 17 or 18 years. It has
Seymour Duncan humbuckers in it. I probably
will bring a Tele and maybe another
Strat with single-coils, just so I can have
How does your rig change when you go
out with your solo band?
It’s smaller. With the solo band, we travel
under different conditions. We don’t have
trucks and semis, and the stages aren’t as
big. I do love a Super Reverb—it is really
hard to beat for a club amp—so I am bringing
that on tour. I generally try to use the
reverb through a separate source, like I
do with Panic.
Is the Super Reverb stock?
It has an external speaker out, but I never
use it. So I had my amp guy convert it to a
line level out—which is something like an
effects send. There is no return on the Super
Reverb. I could have one put in, but I don’t
want to do anything to a vintage Super
Reverb that can’t be undone. Converting
the external speaker out to a send is no big
deal—they can put that back pretty easily.
What do you use the line level out for?
I send the signal to a volume pedal and
then to a digital reverb of some type. Then
I return it to the power amp of another
amp and set the mix on the reverb unit to
100 percent wet. That way I have the dry
sound coming out of the Super Reverb and
you can bring the reverb in from another
source with the volume pedal. If I need
more reverb, I just step down. Basically, all
I use is a couple of volume pedals—one
for the main amp and another for the
reverb—along with a Hughes & Kettner