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Do you use more gear in the studio?
Believe it or not, yes and no! For studio sessions, I use my trusty old vintage guitars that I don’t want to bring out on stage and a different amp – a Fender blackface Deluxe Reverb. I still don’t use a whole lot of rack stuff in the studio, though, only my normal pedalboard that I use on stage. That’s really a general trend that most studio players are following.
What are your main studio guitars?
For the most part, I really only use two guitars, a 1957 two-tone sunburst Fender Stratocaster and a black 1969 Fender Telecaster. The Strat is almost original stock but I have Bill Lawrence pickups installed – they are fantastic. The back of the headstock is signed by B.B. King; I recorded with him on his Love Me Tender album. My Tele is more unique; it has three pickups, special electronics and a Glaser B&G bender. In the bridge position I use a Lindy Fralin pickup, in the middle a Seymour Duncan Hot Rail Blade and in the neck a Bill Lawrence pickup, with the normal Telecaster 3-way switch to dial in the different combinations. The stock tone pot is replaced with a blend control for the middle pickup. At one point, I had a Gibson mini-humbucker and active EMG pickups in the guitar, and the additional switch on the control blade has been disconnected ever since. In addition to these two, I also sometimes use a Jerry Jones guitar-bass that is tuned one octave below a normal guitar to double some passages to get a fatter sound.
Do you ever play lapsteel like your father?
No, my dad played classical Hawaiian music on his lapsteel, songs like “Sweet Leilani,” and similar stuff, but no country. To be honest, I never tried it.
What about amps…?
I really like the Fender Deluxe Reverb model, and I own several of them. I use some blackface models and a silverface model that Techstar in Nashville converted to blackface specs. The Deluxe Reverb is fantastic and really is a great reference for clean Fender tone. I’ve played these amps for a long time now, and know them inside out. For a while I also played some Hullett and Matchless amps, but I came back to the Deluxe Reverb.
Like I said, I don’t use the big racks anymore. In the ‘80s, a recording session without them was unimaginable. Today I use a simple pedalboard that Dave Wilkerson from Techstar built for me. It is loaded with an Ernie Ball volume pedal, a Cry Baby 5350 wah, Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, MXR DynaComp, Boss GE-7 Equalizer, Boss Chromatic Tuner, Voodoo Lab Tremolo and Sparkle Drive, and last but not least, the good, old T.C. Electronic Stereo Chorus. These are all permanently installed on the board and powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2. Everything is stock – no modifications at all. My favorite stompbox is the Boss GE-7 equalizer – that little box is fantastic and I can get any sound I want out of it.
What’s your experience with boutique pedals?
I really don’t know what is so special about them. I don’t need any; I use my time to make music while others are busy discussing boutique stuff.
Do you have any endorsements?
No, none. I have everything I need, and I’m happy with it. I had an endorsement with Fender for some special string sets, but they don’t offer the strings anymore.
Can you describe them, and what do you use now?
Really, there was nothing too special about the Fender strings, they were more or less a normal nine set with a .0095 instead of a .009 top E string. Fender offered this set for some time, but it’s not available anymore. Now, I play D’Addario XL Nickel Wound Super Light Plus strings with the gauges .0095-.044.
I really like this set for bending – it helps me stay better in tune. I’m bending the strings very heavily and a .0095 string has more resistance than a standard .009. I use these strings on all of my guitars, and I like normal action, not too low and not too high.
Do you still own your first guitar?
No, it was an old National that my father gave me on Christmas in 1950. I exchanged it for another guitar but I don’t own that guitar anymore either.
How many guitars do you own?
I don’t know exactly, but I don’t have too many. If I don’t play a guitar for a while, I’ll either give it away or sell it.