Most pro guitarists entrust their live tone to a lone man working on the edge of the stage’s spotlight. Just like high-profile celebrities who hire nannies to watch their kids while doing interviews, acting, traveling, and all the other glamorous tasks associated with being a 21st century superstar, guitarists need help, too. It doesn’t mean the glitterati love their kids any less, and the same can be said for guitarists and their gear. From night to night and city to city, artists have a litany of responsibilities beyond rockin’ on the stage—radio gigs, in-store appearances, clinics, and meet-and-greets—so they can’t give their children the proper care and attention they need to survive the rigors of the road. Enter the guitar tech.

Besides facilitating guitar switches and reconnecting patch cables, the guitar tech—the good ones—are secret-service-level gear nannies. They are living, breathing insurance policies for guitarists’ most treasured possessions. “My most important job is to keep Warren happy, comfortable, and the gear safe,” says Brian Farmer, longtime tech for Warren Haynes. “The best thing and number one key to a good relationship between a tech and his guitarist is trust. He trusts me that I’ll have his guitar feeling like the night before. He trusts that all his gear—new or vintage—will be in top form through all the traveling. He trusts me that I’ll have him in his stage pocket at every venue and stage… and I trust he’ll pay me once and a while [laughs].”

While the job is based on a sworn commitment to protect and to serve the rig at all costs, friendships and bonds are naturally a big part of the tech and guitarist relationship. “Not only did we hit it off and mesh real well on a personal level, but our mutual love for gear and tone has made this work out so well,” recalls Mike Buffa, tech for James Valentine of Maroon 5. “He trusts my tone-based suggestions because I know James is very serious about his gear and sound. It’s a respect thing between James and I. He’s become family.”

PGrecently caught up with seven guitar techs and talked to them about road life, how they fell into the career, and why they’re still doing it after all these years. Also, be sure to come back for next week when we unleash part two of the tech spotlight by providing 10 must-know tone tips and setup guidelines as prescribed by some of the industries most important gear nannies.

But first, meet our panel of experts:

Elwood Francis
Years of Service:28
Past Gigs:Joe Perry, Steve Vai, Puddle of Mud, Izzy Stradlin and Gilby Clarke [Guns ‘N’ Roses], Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes
Current Job:ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons

Scott Appleton
Years of Service: 20 years, last 11 full-time
Past Gigs:Neal Schon of Journey, KD Lang, Styx, The B-52s, and Peter Frampton
Current Job(s):Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Rush’s Alex Lifeson

Warren Termini
Years of Service:24
Past Gigs: Blondie, Megadeth, Cold, Fuel, Clutch, Godsmack, Meatloaf, Extreme
Current Job:Bill Kelliher of Mastodon, Weezer

Enrique “Henry” Trejo
Years of Service: 14
Past Gigs:At the Drive-In
Current Job:The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez,The Raconteurs

Lee Dickson
Years of Service: 32 (’79–’10)
Past Gigs: Eric Clapton
Current Job:Off

Brian Farmer
Years of Service: 23
Past Gigs: Marty Stuart, Johnny Cash, Allen Woody
Current Job: Warren Haynes/Gov’t Mule

Mike Buffa
Years of Service:17
Past Gigs: John Petrucci and John Myung of Dream Theater, Vernon Reid, Stevie Nicks, Chris Chaney [Jane’s Addiction/Alanis Morissette]
Current Job: Maroon 5’s James Valentine