While RubyRed Productions in Santa Monica has a superb stash of gear, for the Rig Rundown, songwriter-guitarist-producer Butch Walker gathered these 6-string sweethearts that he uses to create on a daily basis.
(Far left) Butch’s newest tool in the chest is this Taylor 517e Grand Pacific Builder’s Edition V-Class finished in a wild honey burst. The round-shoulder dreadnought features Taylor’s new V-Class bracing designed by PG contributor Andy Powers, torrefied Sitka spruce top, and tropical mahogany back and sides decked out with sapele binding. Butch bonded with it because of its unique, pronounced midrange voice. He says in the Rundown its natural mid-heavy voice lets it potently sit in the mix even among full instrumentation from drums, bass, and electrics.
To its right, Butch has a Japanese-made Yamaha LL56 Custom ARE (an updated, evolved continuation of the company’s LL53 favored by John Denver). Butch loves its beefier voice that works well accentuating electric parts for a wider sound.
The last of three acoustics is one of his oldest flattops, but it’s had a complete makeover to give a second life. From a glance, it appears to be a vintage 1960s Harmony Sovereign completely overhauled, upgraded, and rebuilt by luthier Scott Baxendale. He disassembles the instrument piece by piece and starts from scratch (including reconstructing the bracing into his own formula of scalloped X-bracing heavily influenced in his 30 years of specializing in pre-war Martins). The “new” instrument has its original tonewoods is original, but that’s it. The rest is reformed by way of Baxendale’s expertise and attention to detail. Butch’s opinion on its resurrection: “it plays and sounds like butter.”
The far-left electric is a 1972 Gibson Les Paul Custom he bought from Norman’s Rare Guitars. It’s his only Les Paul in California and the guitar only had one previous owner before Butch— illustrious studio-and-stage guitarist Jimmy Stewart (not the guy from It’s a Wonderful Life). Stewart put that Custom to good and featured it on over 1,200 recordings, worked prominently alongside Gábor Szabó, added guitar to Broadway productions (West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and TV (The Mike Douglas Show and The Tonight Show) and authored Guitar Player’s “The Complete Musician” column from 1971-1981. You’ll see Stewart added some mini toggles to open up the pickups for even more tonal options by splitting/isolating coils.
Next one on the right is a custom, one-off triple-humbucker Yamaha SA2200 semi-hollow loaded with Lollar pickups. Walker went mad scientist on the normal SA2200 layout and requested that it have a master volume (moved that to where the original pickup selector was) and master tone (normally each pickup has its own independent controls). He used the allocated cavity space to add mini toggles to split the humbuckers’ coils, and moved the pickup selector to the pickguard.
Another new friend to the collection is a 2020 Ernie Ball Sabre with a honey suckle burst. Butch has really enjoyed playing and recording with this double-hum guitar because it’s “spanky, spongy, has a pleasing top-end clarity, and can still bite for solos or rocking.”
Last up is a Fender Custom Shop Telecaster Custom that screams Andy Summers and Joe Walsh. Butch had put in an order to the heralded custom shop for a Telecaster. The wrong guitar (the sunburst Tele Custom) showed up, but before letting Fender know their error, he plugged it in. Game over—he wasn’t parting ways with this stud so he cancelled the other order with Fender and has rocked with this one ever since.
All of Butch’s electrics take Ernie Ball Power Slinkys (.011–.048) and he bashes away with Herco HE211P Flex 75 1.01 mm.