Bob Weir's 1959 Gibson ES-335

It was my first time in Nashville—I think it was around 1970—and I went to

Gruhn Guitars there—great guitar shop. I was just nosing around, playing a few guitars, and one of the guys in there was watching me—and he said, “You ought to look at this guitar.” He pulled it off of a rack, and I played it and fell in love with it. It was 350 bucks. Back then that was a lot of money—it was a couple months’ rent—but I had to have it. It’s worth a couple hundred times that now—it still has all the original parts. It’s pretty much the holy grail of thin-body guitars.

Furthur, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA, December 30, 2011

I was immediately drawn to the feel of it. I also liked the way it sounded, but I loved the feel—loved the neck, which is relatively slim for a Gibson. Sonically I can do just about anything. It’s not going to sound like a single-coil guitar—it’s definitely a Gibson—but that said, it can get bright, real bright. In fact, I generally play it pretty bright. It has wonderful balance. The tone isn’t real tubby. Sometimes Gibsons have a sort of tubby tone, but not so with this particular guitar. And it works well both in the studio and live—it’s good no matter where you plug it in.

Steve Kimock's 1972 Charles LoBue Explorer

I didn’t go after this guitar; this guitar came to me. You could say more than anything that they were both gifts. When I got this, I was playing in a band called the Goodman Brothers. We lived on a farm in Pennsylvania. The whole setup was kind of a commune.

There was more than one band involved in this, and the guitarist in the other band, who was known by the name of M.K., played theatrical hard rock, and he used to throw his guitars a lot and spin them around his body on the strap—lots of guitar throwing. Apparently, Explorers don’t throw well. He got the guitar and didn’t have it long before it was thrown and broken. He repaired the headstock, but realized that the guitar was not very aerodynamic. I had maybe two Stratocasters at the time, and he said, “Hey, you want to trade the Strat for the Explorer?” So that’s how I got it. That was ’74 or ’75. But I didn’t go looking for it, it was one of those “to each according to his needs” commune deals, and it just turned pretty instantly into my main guitar.

Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley, CA, December 15, 2013

I think Charles made four Explorers. The most visible one belongs to Rick Derringer, who did a Guitar Player cover with his LoBue guitar back in ’75. LoBue also made basses. I think there was a lot more visible, iconic use of his basses. He made Gene Simmons’ first axe bass, for example. He also took care of the New York guys. The funk guys, like Alphonso Johnson had a couple of LoBue fretless guitars that he played later on in Weather Report.

LoBue became a friend, and since he passed I’ve been trying to find his guitars and get them under my roof so eventually I can pass them on together. I have three of those Explorers. I don’t know where Derringer’s is. It might be with Gibson still, or it might be in Nashville, or it might have been destroyed in the flood. Nobody knows. But I’m seeking them out, because I loved the dude. Charles was a very special guy. He was in my life for many years.

I think what I like most about the guitar is that it’s been with me through everything. It does whatever I need it to do. It’s a great big dominating-sort-of-thing in the mix. That guitar will eat the room; it’s one of those guitars. You can’t pick it up unless you mean business. It’s like, “Okay, we’re not screwing around here!” Also when I’m picking up this guitar, I’m picking up a lot of stuff, a lot of memories. I’ve got pictures of it from pretty far back, and it was beautiful back in the day. You can see now that it’s pretty beat up, but so am I. We’re aging together, and old friends with gray hair are hard to find.