A dozen pro players share the story behind the first 6-string they ever had. Read about Al Di Meola’s Christmas Guild, Paul Gilbert’s Stella, the Steve Vai-signed Ibanez RG that Nita Strauss once coveted and now owns, and more.
Everyone remembers their first guitar—the one that fanned the flames. And let’s face it: While most beginners can’t afford the types of instruments that pro players acquire and use as they mature into bona fide stars, they simply don’t care. They just wanna play!
That’s why first axes are so memorable. They are the keys to the magic kingdom of the 6-string, and once we enter, that’s where so many of us spend much of our lives. So, Premier Guitar asked a dozen elite players about their own first guitars. For most, it was love at first strum—even if there was a little rattle and buzz involved. Here are their stories, with photographs of each first guitar for added nostalgia.
Photo by Libby Knudsen
Mark Arm (Mudhoney)
Photo by Emily Rieman
Eventually, I learned about barre chords and tuning. The Orpheus guitar came with a flatwound A string that couldn’t be changed or tuned because the machine head was broken. So, the band had to tune to that ancient unbreakable string. I added an MXR Distortion +, turned the knobs all the way up, and with the gain cranked on the Peavey, that Orpheus made this incredibly beautiful, head-shearing, room-clearing noise.
Photo by Pooneh Ghana
I hassled my parents for a guitar for so long that finally a family friend loaned/gifted me an old nylon-string they had kicking around the house. The fretboard was popping off the neck so it made a constant rattle. Thankfully, my neighbor filed down the nut a little bit and re-strung it left-handed for me, and then he taught me how to play “Come As You Are.”