Checking in with one of the first families of country-rock.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is an American music legend—a Grammy-winning outfit that’s also been inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. In this group’s case, what becomes a legend most is still working as hard as when Jeff Hanna co-founded the NGBD in 1966.
So, when PG’s John Bohlinger recently checked in with Hanna and his guitar-playing son, Jaime Hanna, they were rehearsing at Nashville’s SIR for an ambitious spring and summer Nitty Gritty Dirt Band tour supporting a new album, Dirt Does Dylan, to be released May 20. The Hannas took us through their touring gear and gave us a close-up look at some guitars that Jeff has played since the beginning.
[Brought to you by D’Addario XS Electric Strings.]
This 1960 Les Paul, owned and long played by Jeff Hanna, was the inspiration for the Gibson Custom Shop’s Collector’s Choice #33 Jeff Hanna 1960 Les Paul Standard reissue, which lists for a mere $10,299. (Yikes!) It’s strung with D’Addario EXL-125s (.009–.046). Hanna has a great story about how he got this guitar, but for that you’ll have to watch the Rig Rundown!
And here’s that Gibson Custom Shop reproduction—a made-in-2017 #33 Jeff Hanna Les Paul with Ron Ellis PAF pickups. Like its inspiration, the guitar wears a set of D’Addario EXL-125s.
Light, in White
Jeff does a little less lifting onstage with his 1962 reissue Fender Stratocaster in Olympic white. It sports the neck from an earlier ’62 reissue he owned, which was made in 1989, and has samarium-cobalt-magnet pickups. The Hipshot Key Xtender is set up to take his low E string to D. And it’s wearing D’Addario EXL-125s.
No country-rock band is complete without a Gibson Jumbo. This long-serving 1955 J185 is just a little smaller than a SL-200, and has a Sitka spruce top and maple back and sides. Jeff has it strung with D’Addario EJ-16s (.012–.053).
Open D for Dan-o
This 1990s Danelectro U2 reissue—based on the model that debuted in 1956—stays tuned to open D and strung with D’Addario EXL-125s. With its lipstick pickups and hardboard/plywood body, this thing’s a midrange machine.
It’s Got the Bump
After years of using his beloved 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb, Jeff has moved to a SoHo 65 Amp with a matching 2x12 cab, although Jeff usually only runs one speaker. This amp has a secret weapon: a “bump” function that allows a switch from American to British classic tone.
Board To Run
Jeff runs his acoustic through a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI and a Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner. The electric side of his board includes another Boss TU-3, a Paul Cochrane Tim overdrive, a Keeley Katana Clean Boost, a J. Rockett GTO, a Keeley-modded Boss TR-2 Tremolo, and a Keeley Mag Echo.
Jaime’s No. 1 acoustic is his 1964 Martin D-28 with Brazilian rosewood sides and back. It’s been aesthetically modified, with a bound headstock and delicate inlay work on the neck. This D-28 appeared on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s eponymous debut in 1967. Although this guitar was at the rehearsal, it no longer hits the road.
The Tour Flattop
While on tour with Gary Allan in Canada, some bad weather and a faulty stage ruined several of Jaime’s guitars. So now he leaves the 1964 D-28 at home and brings his new Martin 2021 D-18 Standard with an LR Baggs Anthem SL soundhole mike on tour.
Wide Range Twang
This 1973 Fender Telecaster Custom offers all the twang of an older vintage Tele in the bridge pickup but opens up big with a Seth Lover Wide Range neck humbucker. It stays strung with D’Addario EXL140s (.010–.052).
This 2009 Gretsch G6128T-1957 Duo Jet with Alamo neck inlays has TV Jones Classic humbuckers and a Bigsby, and stays tight with D’Addario EXL140s. That’s Jaime’s brother Chris’ decal on the body.
Here’s the prototype for the Jeff Hanna Gibson Collectors Choice #33 1960 Les Paul Standard. These reissues come with Custom Buckers, but Jaime put PAFs in this guitar to get closer to vintage tone.
Jaime uses a reissue 1968 Fender Custom Deluxe Reverb amp modified with a Celestion Cream alnico 12". His summary: “It sings!”
Pedals Du Jour
Like his dad, Jaime combines his acoustic and electric pedals on one board. The acoustic side features a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI, Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner, and a Radial JDI direct box as a back-up. For electric, there’s an Ernie ball volume pedal that feeds a TC Electronic tuner. The main out hits a Mesa/Boogie Stowaway Class A Input Buffer, a Keeley Compressor, a Paul Cochrane Tim, a J. Rockett Archer boost/overdrive pedal, an MXR Super Badass Distortion, a Boss GE-7 equalizer modded by XTS, and a Line 6 M-9 multi-effects pedal. A Truetone 1 SPOT PRO CS12 provides the juice.