John Bohlinger’s joy is palpable during this 2014 Rig Rundown with Larry Carlton. Photo by Perry Bean
When PG started the Rig Rundown series in 2008, YouTube limited videos to a lean 10 minutes. Now running time is limitless and we’ve packed hundreds of hours of guitar geekery into more than 450 of these addictive videos, racking up millions of views while giving us all-access to what were formerly trade secrets.
For me, it’s not so much about the gear as much as it is the stories behind it that makes these videos fascinating. So, in no particular order, here are my Top 10 Rig Rundowns.
Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein: Doyle was in full Misfits’ makeup, shirtless, muscled up, and intimidatingly towered over me. This was my first interview ever, so I asked the basic questions about his rig and signed off. Then Doyle says in thick Jersey, “What? It’s ov’r? I got all dressed up for this. Ask me more stuff.” I realized this big scary monster was just a fun, 50-year-old kid who wants to make every day Halloween.
Mike Stern: In 2016, Stern tripped over construction debris left on the streets of New York, which resulted in two broken arms and nerve damage in his hands. It looked like Stern’s reign as a jazz giant was over. A year later, Stern released Trip and was back touring and killing it. In this rundown, he revealed that he was having trouble holding onto a pick, so he started applying wig glue to his right hand. Stern’s recovery is a testimony to the indomitable human spirit.
Joe Bonamassa: It’s an unworldly experience standing next to arguably one of the greatest guitarists ever as he plays a ’59 Les Paul through two Dumbles and two tweed Twins cranked so loud you can hear it from outer space. When Bonamassa said, “John, play this thing,” I was both elated and terrified.
Tom Bukovac: Buk and I moved to Nashville around the same time. Although the attrition rate is fairly high for musicians here, 27 years later we’re still standing. Buk is a great guitar player, but more importantly, he’s one of the most musical people you’ll ever meet. Just listen to his improv in the opening. He never runs out of ideas.
Steve Wariner: Chet Atkins assigned the honor of C.G.P., aka Certified Guitar Player, to his favorite pickers. There are three left in the world: PG has filmed Rundowns on two of them. Steve Wariner is a C.G.P., four-time Grammy winner. and mind-blowing talent. From his family band to his teenage years playing bass for Dottie West to playing in Atkins’ band to becoming a huge country star, Steve’s career odyssey feels like a movie. If the stories aren’t enough, listen to Wariner rip on his signature Gretsch.
Tommy Emmanuel: Speaking of C.G.P., this Rundown is the most fun and informative 43 minutes you can spend online. Sitting next to Tommy as he plays is like watching Picasso paint. You see that it’s just six strings and 10 fingers, but you hear an incredibly tight band. Not only is the playing amazing, Tommy is just plain fun and funny.
Peter Frampton: As we entered Frampton’s massive studio, his iconic black Les Paul Custom was leaning on a stand, with a cable leading to a Klon, then an old Bassman with a talk-box running to a mic. Frampton, standing next to it, said, “Hi, I’m Peter. Here’s my rig.” He waited a few beats, then opened up a door to another room to reveal his real rig, featuring several boats of vintage guitars, two refrigerator-sized racks, two Bradshaw boards, stacks of amps, a trio of Marshall 4x12s, and more. Frampton’s electric and acoustic performances during this rundown highlight his incredibly melodic playing. Somehow he makes his jazz leanings fit perfectly with classic rock ’n’ roll.
Waddy Wachtel: When I was a kid, pre-MTV, you rarely saw live music on TV, but when you did, it seemed like Waddy Wachtel was always there. Any concert, be it Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Keith Richards, Stevie Nicks, etc.—at stage right was this guy rocking out with long, crazy hair, granny glasses, and bell-bottoms. He was the guy that made me think, “That’s what I want to do: play with everybody.” Waddy has great stories, like the time Stephen Stills sold him his 1960 Les Paul for $350, or giving his neighbor Leslie West his first Les Paul Jr.
Daniel Lanois: Lanois produced two of my top five albums: Chris Whitley’s Living with the Law and Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball. Lanois was touring with his vintage Korg SDD-3000 that he’s used since the ’80s, on albums like U2’s The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree.There were strips of whitetape across the top of the SDD-3000 covered with Sharpie’d tempo reminders from his tour with Emmylou when they performed the entire Wrecking Ball album live. As a pedal-steel player, it was amazing to hear him play his old Sho-Bud in some weird tuning I would’ve never imagined. His battered ’53 Les Paul with a mini-humbucker from an old Gibson Firebird was the icing on the cake.
Larry Carlton: When Mr. 335 invited us to his Nashville home studio, I felt like I was meeting the Dalai Lama. Listen to Carlton’s improv on the head and you’ll understand why he’s a legend.
Fill that comment section below with details of your favorite gear-geek viewing Rig Rundown moments.