gary clark jr

This 1994 Vibro-King hangs with another versatile tone machine—a Fender Strat. The combination can yield enough clean or gnarly sounds that some players might want to leave their overdrive pedals at home.

This bruising 60-watt powerhouse is ready for anything, with three speakers, five reverb and tremolo controls, and a fat boost.

I'd like to pay respect to the Fender Vibro-King. I still remember how I first admired it, brand new in guitar magazines, in 1994. It was the raw, wild, and blonde Viking cousin of the classic vintage Fender amps. I immediately wanted one and got my first in 2004. So, let me share my view on this flagship from Fender's Custom Shop.

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Known for playing Epiphone Casinos onstage, Gary Clark Jr. now has his own signature model, dubbed the Blak & Blu Casino.

Photo by Lindsey Best

The innovative bluesman says he wasn’t made for these times.

Just in case this whole hotshot axe-man thing didn't pan out, Gary Clark Jr. had a backup plan—more than a few of them, in fact. “My mother used to say to me, 'What if you can't be a guitarist? What then?' So I told her, 'If the guitar doesn't work out, then I'll play drums. If that doesn't work, I'll play bass. If that doesn't work, I'll play keys. And if that doesn't work, I'll play trumpet.' Or whatever. The backup plan was always music. There was never any two ways about it."

The funny thing is, Clark made good on most of his promises. While he doesn't play trumpet on his musically diverse and compelling new album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, the 31-year-old singer-guitar star gives pretty much everything else a go, functioning as a veritable (and astonishingly versatile) one-man band, tackling drums, keyboards, bass, finger snaps … oh, and, of course, the guitar. The album brims with the kind of fiery, emotive, and imaginative 6-string work that has prompted some writers to compare Clark to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. But the Austin native is anything but a strict traditionalist, and on the new set he weaves psychedelic and Delta blues, chillaxed retro-soul, acoustic gospel, and gonzo garage rock into a personal sonic tapestry that's as daringly au courant as it is classic.

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Three days of guitar highlights from Chicago’s world-renowned festival.


This year marks Lollapalooza’s 11th year as a destination festival—its 19th overall—in Chicago’s beautiful Grant Park alongside Lake Michigan. Since its inception, Lolla has tried to serve all music fans with a healthy dose of rock, metal, punk, pop, dance, comedy, hip-hop, and in recent years, has even fully embraced the emergence of EDM (electronic dance music). This year was no different with sets from Tyler the Creator, the Weeknd, Paul McCartney, Metallica, Sturgill Simpson, Black Pistol Fire, Gary Clark Jr., and hundreds more. Premier Guitar was onsite for all three days and here are just some of the guitar-centric highlights. The scene above is the setting sun overlooking downtown Chicago and the Samsung Galaxy main at the beginning of Sir Paul McCartney’s 2.5-hour set on Friday night.