kay swingmaster

Although it's not a Kessel or Gold K series instrument, this Airline/Kay Swingmaster P-5 is a gorgeous hollowbody with appointments that revisit those earlier premium models.

The Kay-made Swingmaster P-5 carries the torch for its higher-end predecessors, like the company's Barney Kessel model.

When the guitar boom of the 1960s hit, manufacturing operations all over the world rushed to meet skyrocketing demand. There were factories in Japan and Italy, in Southern California and Czechoslovakia, and, perhaps most prolifically of all, in Chicago, Illinois—that long-established center of American retail distribution. Chicago instrument makers churned out entry-level guitars in enormous volumes, and by the time of Beatlemania, it seemed like they couldn't build them fast enough.

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"'If I fall and somehow my career ends on that particular day, then so be it," Joe Bonamassa says of his new hobby, bicycling. "If it's over, it's over. You've got to enjoy your life."

Photo by Steve Trager

For his stylistically diverse new album, the fiery guitar hero steps back from his gear obsession and focuses on a deep pool of influences and styles.

Twenty years ago, Joe Bonamassa was a struggling musician living in New York City. He survived on a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ramen noodles that he procured from the corner bodega at Columbus Avenue and 83rd Street. Like many dreamers waiting for their day in the sun, Joe also played "Win for Life" every week. It was, in his words, "literally my ticket out of this hideous business." While the lottery tickets never brought in the millions, Joe's smokin' guitar playing on a quartet of albums from 2002 to 2006—So, It's Like That, Blues Deluxe, Had to Cry Today, and You & Me—did get the win, transforming Joe into a guitar megastar.

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Bogner's beastliest amp is made miniature—and still slays.

Excellent sounds in a portable and very affordably priced package.

A footswitchable clean channel and onboard reverb would make it perfect.

$329

Bogner Ecstasy Mini
bogneramplification.com

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The original Bogner Ecstasy, released in 1992, is iconic in heavy rock circles. Though it was popularized and preferred by rock and metal artists (Steve Vai and Brad Whitford were among famous users), its ability to move from heavy Brit distortion to Fender-like near-clean tones made it appealing beyond hard-edged circles. Even notorious tone scientist Eric Johnson was enamored with its capabilities.

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