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Rig Rundown: Blackberry Smoke's Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson [2023]

The modern Southern rockers recently played Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, and guitarists Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson displayed a bevy of gear every bit as hardworking as these road dogs.

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Graduating beyond his hardcore roots, guitarist/vocalist JB Brisendine marries the sting of Neil Young’s “Old Black” with searing and spacey Southern-rock grooves.

Facing a mandatory shelter-in ordinance to limit the spread of COVID-19, PG enacted a hybrid approach to filming and producing Rig Rundowns. This is the 15th video in that format, and we stand behind the final product. 

Following the release of Brother Hawk’s EP Big Trouble Sessions (with remarkable covers of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden) and amid writing sessions for their next full-length album, the guitar-and-keys duo of guitarist/vocalist JB Brisendine and keys/vocalist Nick Johns-Cooper welcomed PG’s Perry Bean into their Atlanta-based jam space. The hardcore-kid-turned-southern-blues-rocker explains tailoring his tone to a specific pickup, switching from American-voiced 100-watt amps to 50-watt British-flavored plexis, and dealing spades of snarl and sizzle thanks to three different fuzzes. Plus, Johns-Cooper lays out his setup putting him more in a driving “rhythm-guitar” role than backseat-keys player. 

JB is an unabashed Les Paul dude. He got the Les Paul Standard (left) at 18. It was his main guitar for years (always favoring the neck pickup) until he purchased the 1978 Gibson Deluxe Pro (right) about five years ago. Loving the tone of P-90s but hating their onstage shortcomings (buzz), he opted for the middle ground by putting in a Lollar mini-humbucker in the bridge and a Porter mini ’bucker in the neck. The Lollar bridge mini is his go-to pickup on the Deluxe Pro and is the foundation in which the rest of his current tone is built around. Both guitars are typically in Eb standard tuning and take D’Addario strings gauged .012–.060. (That’s the set he’s played since he was 9 years old because he read SRV used huge strings.) 

During his days of neck-humbucker glory with his first Les Paul, he would pair that force with a 100-watt Fender or Dumble-style amp with tons of headroom to even out the guitar’s low-end thickness and woof. Now that he rocks and rolls with a mini-humbucker in the bridge, he prefers matching the Deluxe Pro with 50-watt plexi-style amps. His main guitar for the last year or so has been this 2006 Germino Classic 45. The head uses high-plate voltage on the power transformer to give more clarity and headroom to the standard plexi formula. The Classic 45 runs into two Germino 2x12 cabs—the one under the head has Celestion Cream Alnicos and the all-black cab has Celestion Heritage G12H 30-watt speakers.

JB’s signal starts by hitting the Peterson StroboStomp HD. The first tone tickler is the D*A*M* (Differential Audio Manifestationz) Stompboxes Maggot Brain fuzz based on a BC108 Fuzz Face. To its left is another fuzz—a custom recreation of a Dallas Rangemaster made by Moreland Magnetics. And continuing down the bottom row you have a Prescription Electronics Experience octave fuzz and a his longtime favorite, a Subdecay Super Spring Theory reverb. Up top he has an Analog Man ARDX20 Dual Analog Delay (tap tempo/modulation controlled by the auxiliary Analog Man Amaze1 on its right). 

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Nearly 50 years since its creation, the Marshall JTM45 remains both a relevant and near-perfect example of what a great rock ‘n’ roll tube amp should be.

Nearly 50 years since its creation, the Marshall JTM45 remains both a relevant and near-perfect example of what a great rock ‘n’ roll tube amp should be.

It was originally built around the design of one of Jim Marshall’s favorites, the Fender Bassman; like the Bassman, the JTM45 was actually a fantastic guitar amp. Because of its consistent popularity, Marshall has offered a reissue version of the head— more than 20 years after production of the original JTM45 ceased. While the reissue is built with modern components and assembly techniques, it retains much of the tone, responsiveness and character of the original, hand-wired versions of the early days. No wonder builders today still carry on the tradition of the JTM45, and guitarists continue to seek out the pure simplicity and touch response of this tone machine. To celebrate the JTM45, I got together with my Sunday afternoon amp group, after contacting a handful of respected amp builders who sent us their versions of the amp. We fired them all up alongside an original and a reissue JTM45 to take a listen—and to enjoy one of the best amps ever designed.


About the Authors

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