Top 5 Blues-Rock Rig Rundowns
Sure, most of the magic conjured by the world’s best players is in their hands, but obviously their gear is a huge deal, too—because they’re still pretty particular about what they play. So take a break from honing your own chops for a bit, and check out what your heroes use to conjure their amazing tones. Who knows, maybe it’ll help you rethink how you approach your music and give you some ideas for how to improve your own rig. Or just sit there and lust after all the cool stuff. Either way works.
Beck took four very similar Fender Stratocasters with him for this short tour—two in standard tuning, and one in Eb. His main axe remains the 1993 Custom Shop Strat that he usually favors for anything other than rockabilly fare. Its bridge- and middle-position pickups were custom-wound by John Suhr during his tenure at the Fender Custom Shop, and both are wired to the guitar’s lowermost tone knob. Because of Beck’s propensity for extremely nuanced vibrato-bar work, each guitar is set up with quite a bit of forward pull on the bridge—there’s a gap of 3/16"–1/4" between the back of the bridge and the guitar’s body. Peters says the former Yardbird prefers this noninvasive approach over having a cavity routed behind the bridge. The neck has been refretted with Dunlop 6150 wire, though Peters says he filed it down because Beck likes the feel of lower, flatter wire. There’s more to the guitars, of course—PG fans asked us on Facebook to find out about Beck’s string gauges, nut preferences, potentiometer values, and trem-spring placement, and more—and it’s all in the video!
Beck has long been known for employing a Marshall DSL100H onstage, but Peters says his boss used a Fender Vibro-King 3x10 combo for about 65-70 percent of the tunes he played with Brian Wilson. Beck employed the Ultra Gain portion of the DSL (at half power)—either soloed or blended with the Vibro-King—for the rest of the material, and he routed it into a Marshall 1960B straight-front cab. His backup for British tones was a 20-watt, handwired Marshall 2061X, which had all four knobs at maximum.
Known for getting most of his otherworldly tones from his hands, Beck used a fairly sparse pedal setup for the Brian Wilson dates. His main pedalboard had a Snarling Dogs Super Bawl Whine-O wah, a Klon Centaur, and a Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere, but off to the side he keeps a Way Huge Aqua-Puss (for slapback echo on “How High the Moon”), an MXR Carbon Copy (for more subtle ambience), and a Lehle Little Dual A/B/Y amp selector within foot’s reach. He also ran a Lexicon Reflex rack unit in the Vibro-King’s effects loop, including for a subtle, long-tailed reverb on “Danny Boy.”
Warren Haynes—Gov't MuleGuitars
To keep things fresh, Haynes' guitar tech Brian Farmer takes some liberty and names all of Haynes various Les Pauls, Firebirds, and ES-335s to keep them all straight. His two main Les Pauls are Chester—features a Chet Atkins nut cover—and Lester, which are both Inspired By Warren Haynes models. The third Inspired By model has P-90s instead of the traditional humbuckers. Two of the his Firebirds are MoLester and Paul Y Lester—for 'polyester' and because it has three P-90s—and both are tuned to Eb. The third Firebird, also in Eb, is Haynes' first non-reverse Firebird he got in mid-2000s. (At the time of this video, Farmer had not been struck inspiration to name it.) The only SG (called Crazy) in his live collection was a Gordy Johnson model tuned to open C and loaded with P-94s that's used for "Brighter Days" and "Like Flies." The two alternatively-tuned Les Pauls include a '58 reissue tuned to D-A-F-C-G-C for "Wandering Child" and a '59 reissue tuned to drop D. His two ES-335s are Little Red—which is based on Haynes' cherry '61 335 Big Red that stays at home—and his main live guitar for Gov't Mule is '61 reissue 335 coined Blondie. The gem of his live stash during the 2010 had to be the Les Paul 12-string (one of only two made when this video was shot) that is in drop D.
Haynes brings an impressive trio of boutique heads on the road with him and during his 2010 jaunt with Gov't Mule he switched between a prototype PRS Super Dallas and a heavily modded Soldano SLO100, and a Diaz CD-100. The Super Dallas was reverse-engineered and based on a '68 Marshall Plexi that belonged to Eric Johnson. The main amp of the show was the Soldano that Haynes used exclusively with the Allman Brothers Band. The PRS and Soldano are routed through a Marshall 1960 cab loaded with four 12" Vintage 30 Celestions—only the PRS or Soldano are running at a time depending on the song. The Diaz goes into a separate Marshall 4x12 that is loaded with 65-watt Celestions. Both cabs are mic'd with Shure KSM37s on the top speakers and Sennheiser e609s.
For the Gov't Mule gig, Haynes only brought out a select batch of rackmount gear and stompboxes that included a Korg DTR-1 Tuner, a Chandler SDE II Digital Delay, a Cesar Diaz Texas Ranger Treble Booster—which is used exclusively to boost the Firebirds so they're as loud as the Les Pauls, a Klon Centaur, an Emma DiscumBOBulator, a Boss OC-2 Octave, a Hughes and Ketter Rotosphere, a Fulltone Supa-Trem, a Jim Dunlop 535Q Wah—it's hooked up with 20-foot cables to reduce some of his tone's unnecessary high-end shrill, and the entire setup is powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus.
When we caught up with Sonny, he was doing fly-in dates, so he was working with his "survival" rig. For this rig, he uses two very similar '57 reissue Strats from the late '80s. They have soft V necks, Lindy Fralin Hot Vintage Pickups, and a Suhr Silent Single Coil system installed in the back to reduce the hum.
Though he's known for his Dumble amps, Landreth doesn't generally travel with them on tours that involve a lot of flying. His go-to setup is a Demeter TGA3 with 6L6 tubes run into the speakers of a Fender Twin '65 reissue backline. He uses the TGA3 exclusively on the yellow (clean) channel live, and has used the amp extensively on recordings as well.
Landreth calls his pedalboard "the runway." It's set up so it can be folded and put into a suitcase for easy traveling. He has a larger pedalboard for other tour with a Voodoo Lab switching system. This pedalboard has a Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner, Demeter Fuzzulator, Hermida Audio Zendrive modded for higher gain (his go-to pedal), Hermida Audio Mosferatu, Keeley Compressor, TC Electronic Chorus+, and T-Rex Replica Delay. It's powered by the Sanyo Pedal Juice rechargeable power supply.
Kenny Wayne ShepherdGuitars
Shepherd is known for using Strats, and brings a number of them on the road. He relies heavily on his Fender signature models, but employs different variations on the Strat for different songs. Shepherd uses Ernie Ball strings and varies between .10s to .12s, depending upon how much he's been playing.
Left to Right: stock Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat, Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat prototype, Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat with GraphTech Ghost pickup system (used for the "Blue on Black"), Fender Jimi Hendrix Monterrey Pop Limited Edition.
Left to Right: Martin Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Acoustic prototype, Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Strat with GraphTech saddles and a custom neck (used heavily on his first album), National Resophonic Dobro Electric (used for "Aberdeen"), Guy Guitars Strat-style with lipstick pickups, built-in Roger Mayer overdrive boost, and Drop D lever.
When we caught up with Shepherd, he was experimenting with different amp setups and trying to use lower wattage amps to lower the stage volume. That night, he was using a 1964 Fender Blackface Vibroverb Reissue, a new Fender Super-Sonic Twin set on the Bassman setting, and a Fender Deluxe Reissue that's been rebuilt by Alexander Dumble called the Tweedledee Deluxe. He runs all three amps and brings the Deluxe into the mix as "icing on the cake."
Shepherd was using an in-between pedalboard while a custom board was being built when we caught up with him. The signal chain was a Dunlop Uni-Vibe, Electro-Harmonix POG 2, MXR CAE wah, Chicago Iron Tycobrahe Octavia (modern), Analog Man King of Tone (newest version), Ibanez Hand-Wired TS808 Tube Screamer, Analog Man Bi-Chorus, JAM Pedals Delay Llama, and Boss TU-3. His main tone comes from the combination of the King of Tone and Tube Screamer. His new board adds an additional MXR CAE Wah circuit mounted in the board and a BK Butler Tube Driver. The board is powered by Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus and his new board uses a Voodoo Lab Ground Control System.
PG's Jason Shadrick is On Location at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with guitarist Eric Johnson.