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108 Rock Star Guitars

Photographer Lisa S. Johnson captures the story behind rock’s most iconic axes owned by Page, Beck, Gibbons, and others—with commentary from the guitarists themselves.

Ace

Ace Frehley: Modified Gibson Les Paul UFO Light Guitar

"I met Ace's tech backstage at Mandalay Bay, and he guided me through an obstacle course of road cases as the crew readied for what would be an epic show-Skid Row and Ted Nugent performing in support of Kiss. He had staked out a small room near the stage, to work on guitars in relative peace, and it was here, in a craftsman's special lair, that he showed me three of Ace's special axes and divulged their secrets. Ace frequently plays this Les Paul when Kiss performs 'New York Groove.' It was built by luthier/guitar tech extraordinaire Steve Carr. -Lisa S. Johnson, 108 Rock Star Guitars


About fifteen years ago, Lisa S. Johnson was working as a technical sales representative for Kodak. In order to gain a greater knowledge of Kodak's product line, she bought her own professional grade camera equipment and began shooting still images in her spare time. As fate would have it, one night she found herself at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York, the Monday night court of one, Les Paul. The always-gracious Paul allowed Johnson to photograph his guitars, which, unbeknownst to either of them, sent Johnson on a quest that would span years and send her far and wide in search of guitar players old and new.

The culmination of that journey is available now. 108 Rock Star Guitars is a 396-page, leather-bound behemoth brimming with beautiful, elegant images of some of the most iconic and recognized instruments the world has ever known. The subjects who allowed their most prized possessions to be photographed by Johnson reads like a veritable who's who of rock guitar royalty. More than that though, Johnson's work is threaded with personal stories detailing her own epic adventure to discover and celebrate these wondrous instruments. It wasn't always easy, but it came out looking oh, so good.

Featuring FET instrument inputs, "Enhance" switch, and innovative input stage, this pedal is designed to solve challenges like poor feel, setting levels, and ease of use.

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Ted’s to-go kits: the silver box and the Big Black Bag.

Traveling with a collection of spare essentials—from guitar and mic cables to extension cords, capos, tuners, and maybe even a mini-amp—can be the difference between a show and a night of no-go.

Anyone who’s seen a spy flick or caper movie knows about go bags—the always-packed-and-ready duffles or attachés filled with passports, a few weapons, and cash that’s ready to grab and run with when the hellhounds are on your trail. As guitar players, we also need go bags, but their contents are less dramatic, unless, maybe, you’re playing a Corleone-family wedding.

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Caleb Followill's Kings of Leon Live Rig Explained
Caleb Followill's Kings of Leon Live Rig Explained by Builder Xact Tone Solutions' Barry O'Neal

The Xact Tone Solutions chief pedal puzzle solver Barry O'Neal goes over the gear in Caleb Followill's rack and explains all the ins and outs of its configuration to pull off the Can We Please Have Fun tour hitting U.S. arenas this summer and fall.

Firebirds came stock with a solid G-logo tailpiece, although Bigsby vibratos were often added.

Photo by George Aslaender

The author’s PX-6131 model is an example of vintage-guitar evolution that offers nostalgic appeal in the modern world—and echoes of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young.

An old catchphrase among vintage dealers used to run: “All Gretsches are transition models.” While their near-constant evolution was considered confusing, today their development history is better understood. This guitar however is a true transition model, built just as the Jet line was undergoing major changes in late 1961.

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