Everyone has that artist or band that makes him or her pick up the guitar for the first time and start picking. Who was that for you?
The Beatles. Cut and dry, that’s it. I mean, I’m a little bit older, so Elvis was big. I listened to Elvis when I was really, really small, and I just loved rock and roll.
I was an Elvis fan, until the Beatles came along. Then I was gone; I wanted to be in a band, grow my hair out, just like everyone. Actually, I just got a 12-string John Lennon Rickenbacker 235 a few days ago. I keep trying to collect the Beatles stuff.
Since you brought it up, you’re admittedly a huge collector. It had to have started early. Do you remember your first guitar and amp?
Oh, boy [laughs]. I think it was a Harmony, a big-bodied acoustic. I think I added a pickup that bolted on the back behind the bridge, with the cable just hanging down all over. And the amp? It was really a Radio Shack kind of thing too, called LaFayette Radio, with a 12” speaker and 15 watts. Those Harmonys are probably worth something now. When you were a kid, everyone played Harmonys.
In your collection now, is it mostly Strats and Les Pauls?
Yeah, pretty much. It’s got to be at least 20 Les Pauls and at least 20-25 Strats.
Is there one that really screams for your attention when you walk in the room?
Yeah, the first year Strat. The 1954 sunburst Strat, maple neck … it just kills me, slays me every time. I bought it for a song from Norm [of Norman’s Rare Guitars, in California], and it’s worth a stupid amount of money.
Is there a guitar you let get away, that you always think about?
That’s actually why I started collecting.When I was a kid, I played a little Les Paul Junior model, the little student guitar, and they were from the ‘50s … they didn’t stay in tune for me. I traded them for new Stratocasters, but now most of those Juniors I let go of I’ve gotten back. Not the exact guitars, but the same things. I just got a ’54 prototype Les Paul Junior at the shop. Norm got it, and it was a prototype; I didn’t even know, I just liked the look of it.We put it under a black light and everything was right on. I got it right away.
Do you play those?
Oh no, man. They’re worth too much money!
Like a Spinal Tap thing? Don’t even look at it?
Yeah, man [laughs]! Don’t dare look at it. Spinal Tap actually got all their guitars from Norm too.
Word on the street is you have a pretty sick collection of Marshalls. What is it about those amps?
Yeah, I have over 100 pieces of Marshall gear. I think it’s all about Jimi Hendrix. I just loved the look of those basket weaved cabinets with Jimmi’s silhouette on the front. I tried to put that on my website, I tried to get the same type of shot.
When you have that “tone” in your head, is that the tone that you’re hearing? A Marshall and a Strat, or a Les Paul?
Oh yeah, just like Jimmy Page. It’s that British crunch. I use a lot of Les Pauls with REO. It cuts through the mix. I could do any situation with a Marshall. Of course I’ve had other amps; a Soldano and a Boogie for a while. Soldano makes a tremendous amplifier, but I really just stick with the Marshalls; I’m getting too old to use anything else. I’ve used them so long, and I know what they can do. People get other amps and say, “It can get a Marshall sound.”Why don’t you just get a Marshall then?
I do have to mention, I do love Vox amplifiers too. I’ve got a bunch of AC30’s, which Marshall makes now anyway.
Do you ever mess around with modifying your gear?
Nope. Absolutely, positively stock! I’m a real fan of stock. On the Les Pauls, I play Historics live, and Custom Shop Relic Strats and Teles. I don’t really change anything; maybe if a guitar just doesn’t make it sound-wise, but I still like the feel of it, I’ll throw a Seymour Duncan pickup in there. I love Duncan; he’s a good friend of mine, and makes an unbelievable pickup. But I’ve been using a Seymour ’59 for a long time.
What is your formula for rock and roll?
A Strat and a Marshall or a Les Paul and a Marshall. It’s classic. Some of these kids use the off-brands, and I just want to say, “Come on, man. This is where it all started.” I mean, I went to Jackson in the ‘80s, because I thought Fender and Gibson were making some crap, and they really were. So I went to Jackson for a while, it was a little flashier for the whole Nugent thing, but then I eventually went back to the rock roots. Putting the Strat or the Les Paul with a Marshall is where it’s at.
When Dave is playing in front of thousands of fans, here’s what he plugs in for those great tones.