These party-rockin’ tone hunters plug their idiosyncratic axes into gifted Klons, helping them turn Music City into riff city.
Nashville has long been the hub for all things country music but in the last two decades, transplant rockers like Jack White, the Black Keys, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner and others, have all have made the 615 home. Adding to its growth is the organic blossoms generated via the rock block, cultivating names like Paramore, All Them Witches, Bully, Moon Taxi, The Wild Feathers, The Band Camino, and the guitar extraordinaires that make up Diarrhea Planet.We got caught up with the semi-retired fearsome foursome for their first headlining performance at the Ryman Auditorium ahead of their return to Bonnaroo. We covered why neck humbuckers are useless (but neck dives rule), how the whole band was gifted Klon KTRs, and what each shredator does to stand in and out among their collective guitarmegeddon.
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Diarrhea Planet’s unofficial 7th member is longtime tech and friend Dave Johnson of Scale Model Guitars. (Johnson has done several DIY features for PG, check them out!) Here is his 73rd build based on the Solid Guitar design. Constructed in 2015 it has an alder body, maple neck, and ebony fretboard. The alder was selected to keep the guitar’s weight under five pounds, the neck shape is based on a ’61 Melody Maker, and the fireworks ignite by way of the single Greer Wind humbucker wound by Porter Pickups. He opted for this one because it walks a fine line between a P-90 and PAF for a bouncy, rounder, snappier sound that sits best in DP. The switch is for a “high-octane” mod that bypasses the tone and volume controls and for a direct connection to the output jack for highway-to-the-danger-zone moments. He’s been loyal to D’Addario Medium Balanced Tension strings (.011 –.050) and Dunlop Tortex picks (.88 mm).
Diarrhea Planet Special
This bargain-bin bruiser is a Kramer Striker that cost Smith a mere $349. It has been overhauled by Dave Johnson in a recurring manner that includes Gotoh locking tuners, Graph Tech ResoMax bridge, removed the middle and neck pickups and dropped in a Bare Knuckle Nailbomb, and got a proper fret job and setup.
Smith has always been chasing a “bigger, more low-mid focused JCM 800” and this striking steal of a deal he scored fit the bill. The 120-watt Peavey 6505 runs into a Tyrant Tone 1x12 cabinet loaded with a single Electro-Voice Electro-Voice EVM12L Black Label Zakk Wylde speaker.
Jordan Smith’s Pedalboard
Smith’s board holds the staples for DP gigs. It starts with a Spaceman Effects Explorer Phaser, an Electronic Audio Experiments 0xEAE Boost (his favorite pedal on the planet), Boss SD-1 SuperOverdrive, and a Mr. Black Tapex 2. Diarrhea Planet might be the only band to earn KTRs. Back in 2014 or ’15, Klon creator Bill Finnegan and his employee Matt visited DP during a soundcheck near their East Coast-based shop. Finnegan loaned the foursome their own KTR to test out during the run-through. They plugged into them and instantly realized this was the sound they’ve been missing. Finnegan enjoyed the soundcheck so much that he told the band they deserved the magical red boxes and they’ve been on their boards ever since. “I’ll never sell it because we somehow impressed the guy that built one of the most influential pedals ever. It’s an honor and it means so much to me,” admits Smith. Everything rides on a Pedaltrain Classic Jr and is brought to life with a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus.
Dave Does It Again!
Brent Toler hit the Ryman stage with one guitar—his partscaster baby. Brent sourced all the parts (including painting the body in his parents’ garage) and luthier pal Dave Johnson helped put the pieces together. The single humbucker (with a push-pull pot engaging single-coil mode) was handwound by Alex Avedissian out of Atlanta. It has a HipShot bridge with an upgraded Hipshot Tremsetter Strat tremolo Stabilizer 401000. The roasted maple neck and dazzling pickguard was scooped off eBay. He recently switched from D’Addario strings to local faves Stringjoy.
Steal of a Deal
Traveling into town for this pair of shows, Toler packed light with just his partscaster and a pedalboard. He borrowed this Laney LC30 from bassist Mike Boyle who scored the 1x12 tube combo for $200.
Brent Toler’s Pedalboard
Paring down for carry-on limits, Toler returned to Guitar Town with a svelte pedal platform home to five effects and a tuner: a MXR Carbon Copy, a Mooer Yellow Comp, a Bogner Ecstasy Blue, Klon KTR, a MXR Phase 95, and an Electro-Harmonix EHX-2020 Tuner Pedal.
Standing out is a must when you’re battling frequencies with three other guitarists. Emmett Miller takes a left when his brethren take a right. His custom guitar (again built by Scale Model Guitars’ Dave Johnson) is a loving recreation of a ’80s Fender Performer. Miller first got a taste of the futuristic axe when studying at the National Guitar Workshop under Shane Roberts. He posted on Craigslist in the hopes of borrowing a Performer to copy for Dave to build from. He quickly received an anonymous response that included a complete blueprint of the instrument. It has 24 scalloped frets on an ebony fretboard, a Wilkinson/Gotoh VS-100N Tremolo bridge the middle and neck pickups are Hot Stack Plus Strat hum-canceling single-coils, a handwound Avedissian humbucker in the bridge (with a coil-spot mod), and the smaller dip switch adds in the neck pickup with the bridge humbucker. And the best part of the whole thing, the night-sky artwork was painted by Emmett’s mother.
When DP first disbanded in 2018, Miller went off to school to study electrical engineering and digital signal processing, and in doing so, he “had to play through a computer now.” He landed on the Kemper Profiler and hasn’t looked back. He avoids cabling and routes his guitar through a Line 6 Relay G55 Wireless unit.
Emmett Miller’s Pedalboard
Keeping the Kemper on amp-only duties, Miller has a standard pedal playground comprised of a Strymon El Capistan, a Klon KTR, a JHS Sweet Tea V3, Dunlop Cry Baby wah, a Moog EP-3 Expression pedal, a MXR Uni-Vibe, and a TC Electronic PolyTune. Up top you might notice what appears to be a Boss pedal enclosure, but that’s just a goof gift from fellow guitarist Evan Bird.
The Classiest and Nastiest
“I think, in my arms anymore, anything but a Tele feels weird. I do like other guitars, but these are the only ones I can throw around and then still pick back up and play,” concedes DP’s fourth guitarist Evan Bird. This MIM Fender Telecaster Thinline Deluxe was facelifted by Dave Johnson (shocker). It got a refret, improved hardware—including a 3-barrel brass bridge, Gotoh locking tuners, and strap locks—plus a fresh set of Avedissian Night Prowler humbuckers (with a push-pull coil-split mod on the bridge ’bucker). Both his Teles take D’Addario NYXL1052 Light Top/Heavy Bottom strings.
That’s Gold, Jerry, Gold!
Supplementing duties with Thinline is this Squier John 5 signature that’s finished in Frost Gold. It got the Dave Johnson Scale Model treatment and also features Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates with Les Paul-wiring and CTS pots.
After toting around a hefty Twin Reverb for years, Bird made the back-saving switch to a Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb that knocks off half the weight. Another issue he was having with the OG tube Twin was blowing up the preamp section by hitting it too hard with pedals. Since making the move to the Tone Master, he’s been flying clear of any meltdowns. And keeping the cables away from his feet is the Sennheiser EW-DX EM 2 Two-Channel wireless unit.
Evan Bird’s Pedalboard
Bird keeps it lean and mean with a 4-stomp pedalboard that includes an EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master, XTS Winford Drive, Greer Amps Supa Cobra, and a Klon KTR. Occasional tuning is assisted by the Boss TU-3 and a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus brings the juice.
Shop Diarrhea Planet's Rig
See how a Tube Screamer and a pair of POGs mesh with badass bassist Bridget Kearney’s carved double bass. Plus, touring guitarist James Cornelison shows the oddball guitars and pickups he chose to funkify the band’s neo-soul dance parties.
College internships can run the gamut. They can lead you into a career or dissuade you from pursuing one altogether. In 2004, while still attending the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, singer Rachael Price, bassist Bridget Kearney, founding guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson, and drummer Mike Calabrese joined forces to perform as what they dubbed a “free country band,” where they intended to play country music in an improvised, avant-garde style. As it goes with many college-years experiments, it didn’t stick, but the fervid foursome pushed forward in continuing to develop their own sound. They quickly graduated to a bona fide band cultivating a buzz with infectious concerts, creative covers, and complex, groovy originals. Through their mutual influences and complimentary counterpoints, their sound matured into a harmonious fusion, as if Berry Gordy produced the Beatles in Nashville’s RCA Studio.
If starting a band and shaping their sound was an internship and bachelor’s degree, self-releasing records and organizing U.S. tours would be their master’s and doctorate. They self-released 2007’s In This Episode... and 2008’s Promises, Promises before joining Signature Sounds, who put out 2010’s Lake Street Dive and 2014’s Bad Self Portraits. (The latter slotted them on the Billboard charts—No. 18 in the 200 and No. 5 in Top Rock Albums.) They then signed to Nonesuch, where they’ve dropped three more albums—most notably 2016’s Side Pony, which put them atop the Top Rock Albums chart, while 2021’s Obviously netted them their highest single, with “Hypotheticals” hitting No. 2 on the Adult Alternative Airplay chart.
And while the band has continued to evolve, experiment, and expand their signature sound, they have kept to their core identity—having fun. They seem never to miss a Halloween dress-up show, and still aren’t gun-shy about covering classics and making them their own. Setlists are often littered with audience requests and reinterpretations of the Beatles, Hall & Oates, George Michael, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis, Shania Twain, the Pointer Sisters, the Jackson Five, the Kinks, Steely Dan, Annie Lennox, Sly & the Family Stone, and countless others.
The afternoon before their second consecutive sellout at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Lake Street Dive’s Bridget Kearney and touring guitarist James Cornelison welcomed PG’s Chris Kies on stage for a casual gear chat. Kearney explained how she uses a pair of octave pedals through her standup double bass, and what she’s doing with four tuners! Plus, she explains what restarted her slow-burn courtship with electric bass. Then, Cornelison walks us through his setup, which includes leftover pieces from retired guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson and a ratty pickup bought off a former PG staffer. It both honors the band’s catalog and carves his own musical fingerprint.
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All About That Bass
Bridget Kearney is known for almost exclusively using a standup double bass on stage and in the studio with Lake Street Dive. (As you’ll see in a minute, she’s fostering her connection with electric bass.) She’s been thumping on this one since LSD took shape. She acquired the 50-year-old carved double bass (all solid-wood construction) from fellow bass player and friend Ben Davis. When she received it from Davis, he had already added a David Gage Realist LifeLine pickup, but she’s opted to add and amplify via a Fishman Full Circle Upright Bass Pickup (“the heart of the tone”) and a Pierre Josephs String Charger magnetic transducer (“helpful getting extra juice to cut through when playing with a full band”). The Fishman provides a pure, clean signal to FOH, while the String Charger handles all the effects Kearney puts on her instrument. It’s been years since she’s changed strings, but she thinks they’re D’Addario Helicore Orchestral bass strings.
In Brooklyn for Halloween 2020, Lake Street Dive recreated the iconic Beatles rooftop concert. In doing so, the entire band doubled down to look the part (wigs, sideburns, and shaggy coats included). To be as authentic as possible, Kearney borrowed a friend’s Höfner for the performance. She enjoyed the playing experience and wanted to further investigate the electric bass, then bought this Höfner Limited Edition H500/2-RLC-O Club Bass. “Before this, I hadn’t played electric bass for nearly 20 years. It took me to the age of 35 to think, ‘I wonder if electric bass could be a cool thing?’ Höfner and that rooftop concert was my gateway drug back to solidbody electric basses.”
Kearney landed this brown beauty just a few months ago while instrument-shopping in Seattle. She had saw this 1975 Fender P bass on a store’s online inventory, but Bridget realized after arriving that she had went to the wrong store. However, the “wrong” store had a 1969 P she couldn’t pass up. Even after buying a vintage gem, months later, the above ’75 was still haunting her. So, the next time she visited Seattle, Kearney went to the “right” store and made the purchase. She hasn’t used it in the studio yet, but during this run of shows, she brought it for the band’s cover of “Love Doctor” from her 2017 solo record Won’t Let You Down. (The Cookin’ Outlaws stickers were put on prior to the score, and Bridget notes they are a part of the instrument’s charm.)
Bridget Kearney’s Pedalboard
“My pedalboard is a little bit ridiculous. It’s composed of four Boss tuners [laughs],” concedes Kearney. Unraveling the 4-tuner conundrum, she explains that she uses a pair of TU-3s for each pickup on her standup bass. The ingenious silver plate allows her to mute both signals with one kick. A passive TU-2 stays on all the time to help her play the fretless standup as close to in tune as possible. And the fourth Boss tuner is for her electric basses. Her duo of Electro-Harmonix Micro POGs each have a specific duty—one goes low (for “Good Kisser”), and one goes high (for solos and melodic lines). An Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer adds some sting to the double bass for “Bobby Tanqueray” and other parts. A couple of Radial Firefly Tube Direct Boxes send all her bass signals to FOH.
Gather ’Round This Gibson
For this batch of shows under the Gather Round Sounds Tour umbrella, LSD revamped their catalog for stripped-down, alternative arrangements. This is how they described the tour on social media: “Join us for these easy going, semi-acoustic evenings full of the fan favs, some deep cuts, and maybe even some works in progress in our most relaxed, basement couch setting yet.” Accommodating those cozy cabin vibes, guitarist James Cornelison brought along this 2010s Gibson J-35 reissue.
When the band reaches maximum campfire camaraderie, they perform as a guitar trio. In that arrangement, drummer/percussionist Mike Calabrase uses this Gibson Songwriter Standard EC Rosewood acoustic-electric.
This late-’60s Harmony H165 is singing better than ever, thanks to the facelift handed out by Old Style Guitar Shop in L.A. Aside from bracing upgrades and a proper setup, it’s been given two pickups (a piezo) and what looks like (but is unconfirmed) a variation of Seymour Duncan’s Hot Rails. When asked during the Rundown, James was unsure but did note that Old Style uses this pickup on all their acoustic overhauls. You’ll also notice a rubber bridge giving this storyteller even more vibe.
Cornelison’s roommate received this Excel SS from D’Angelico, but James gravitated more towards the instrument, so it unofficially became his. (What a friend!) Since adopting the 6-string, he’s designated it as his “Frankenstein project” as he’s tried several experiments on it—using flatwounds, playing in open tunings, and replacing the stock neck humbucker with an old Teisco gold-foil pickup. It currently is the slide guitar for LSD material and stays in high-tension F-tuning for “Hush Money” off 2021’s Obviously.
We’re Not Worthy!
Single-coil sweetness is provided by this ’90s Squier Wayne’s WorldStratocaster. (As you would assume, “Stairway” is not allowed on this Strat—denied!)
Big Ups to Big Thief
“I’m a big fan of Adrianne Lenker and I always enjoyed that she played semi-hollow guitars with P-90s in it. I thought it was cool to have the reversal of the hollowbody archetype with P-90s instead of humbuckers,” admits Cornelison. This D’Angelico Deluxe DC features a set of Seymour Duncan STK-P1 Stacked P-90s and is serial #3.
Original guitarist and cofounding member Mike “McDuck” Olson left this ’50s Les Paul Standard (finished in Heritage Cherry Sunburst) for Cornelison to use in his absence. James remarks that this electric does the bulk of the work when the full band is represented.
On this subdued set, Cornelison plugged all his electrics into the above Magnatone Twilighter 112 combo.
James Cornelison's Pedalboard
This dialed-in setup was designed and built by longtime Jason Isbell tech Michael Bethancourt. Cornelison has onstage control of everything via the RJM Mastermind GT. Also, out front is a Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner and an Ernie Ball VP Jr volume pedal. His two-drawer rack holds the following pedals: a Source Audio EQ2 Programmable Equalizer, a JHS SuperBolt V2, a Behringer US600 Ultra Shifter/Harmonist, a JHS Colour Box V2, a Keeley Katana Clean Boost, JHS Morning Glory, and a Strymon Flint & Deco. Everything is powered by a pair of Strymon Zuma units. Additionally, an RJM Mini Effect Gizmo MIDI controller helps organize the signal paths.
The country and bluegrass power duo show off a selection of their acoustic and electric guitars, which include gems like an original Frying Pan and a 1927 Montgomery Ward acoustic.
Since their debut, Before the Sun Goes Down, in 2014, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley have made a name for themselves as some of the hottest country and bluegrass players in the business. As individuals, their credits range from Willie Nelson to Earl Scruggs to Merle Haggard—and as a duo, they’ve toured and recorded with artists including Tommy Emmanuel, Taj Mahal, Jorma Kaukonen & Hot Tuna, Luther Dickinson, and Molly Tuttle. It’s likely their forthcoming full-length release, Living in a Song, will only bolster their already impressive reputation.
Out on February 10th, Living in a Song is a new collection of two covers and 10 originals that were inspired by Ickes and Hensley’s life on the road. They collaborated with long-time producer Brent Maher (Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson) along with some award-winning songwriters to compose a total of 40 songs, which were then trimmed down to the resulting selection. That final cut of material leans into a classic country sound, with some Americana and bluegrass thrown in.
Along with the aforementioned credits, Ickes and Hensley have long been established, separately, as formidable musicians. Ickes has been International Bluegrass Music Association Dobro Player of the Year an incredible 15 times, and Hensley made his debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry at just 11 years old. In other words, the two have been around the block, and especially know their way around dobros and flattop acoustics.
Click here to pre-save Living in a Song which releases on Friday, Feb. 10.
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This dreadnought was built for Trey by the Oregon-based Preston Thompson Guitars in 2018. It’s the company’s D-MA model, with sinker mahogany back and sides and an Adirondack spruce top. But what truly makes the guitar special is its StringBender B-bender, which was built into the model by former Byrd and StringBender founder, Gene Parsons, himself. It’s also equipped with an LR Baggs Lyric. As for accessories, Trey uses D’Addario Nickel Bronze .013-.056 strings on all of his guitars, Blue Chip TAD60 picks, a Dunlop Blues Bottle slide, and a D’Addario Rich Robinson slide.
Here's a tight shot of the inner mechanisms that engage the B-Bender.
Trey’s favorite guitar is his 1954 Martin D-28. “I’ve had this one for about 20 years now,” he says, “I think I’m the third owner of it.” The first owner wore the neck down so that “it’s real skinny and gets super fat right at the fifth fret.” He brings his D-28 to most of his recording sessions, and while it also has an LR Baggs Lyric, “This guitar does not want to be plugged in at all,” he says, “It just fights back.” It has Brazilian rosewood back and sides; as for the top wood, “Anybody’s guess is as good as mine.”
Found at Fanny’s House of Music in Nashville, this 1965 Harmony Sovereign Deluxe H1265 makes a bit of a statement with its prominent pickguard and mustache bridge. Or, as Trey puts it, “It’s possibly the ugliest guitar I’ve ever seen.” He calls the jumbo-bodied model his “Taj Mahal guitar,” as the bluesman requested it when Trey and Rob joined him for a few performances late last year. “I really like it,” Trey says, smiling, “It’s the guitar that shouldn’t be.”
“This is probably one of my other favorites,” Trey says of his 2015 Wayne Henderson dreadnought—the guitar maker’s 610th build. Its specced to a Martin D-18, with mahogany back and sides. The Virginia builder famously built a few models for Eric Clapton, and notoriously has a very, very long wait list—which is why Trey was so afraid to put a pickup in it and take it out on the road after he got it. And then…. “The first night I took it out, it wasn’t on the strap button good, and it fell and hit the concrete floor. This piece here was split,” he says, gesturing to an area on the top plate. Thankfully, he was able to get it repaired. “It sounded really good before I dropped it, but it sounded about a million times better after I dropped it,” he says, “So, the moral of the story is: Drop your guitar.”
Before the War
Another D-18 copy, this 2017 Pre-War Guitars Co. model has mahogany back and sides, and is outfitted with an LR Baggs Anthem SL. It bears Taj Mahal’s signature on the front, and Trey’s on the back. The latter choice was Trey’s way of imitating Earl Scruggs, since he saw Scruggs had done the same to a couple of his instruments when he performed with him as a kid.
Next, a 2022 Gibson Elvis Dove, is “probably the only oddball acoustic I have,” says Trey. “I wasn’t planning on flatpicking on this thing, but I’ve already used it for some sessions.” Its maple back and sides make it the perfect choice to emulate the J-200 he borrowed from his producer for a country record he and Rob just finished recording.
Tried and True
Last in the acoustic queue is Trey’s 2021 Martin D-41. “This one’s been my main guitar for about a year now,” he says. It’s equipped with an LR Baggs Anthem SL, and has a bit of a lower setup compared to his other guitars—but with medium gauge strings, he says, it doesn’t buzz.
Loud and Clear
Trey’s go-to electric is his Gibson Custom Shop 1958 Les Paul Reissue VOS, which he got in 2008. He keeps this guitar and his other electrics strung with D’Addario NYXL .010-.046 strings, which can be a bit jarring to his fretting hand when switching over from the .013s on his acoustics. “It takes a minute to not rip the neck off,” he says.
This 2017 Parsons StringBender T-style was one of Gene Parsons’ early prototypes when he started building guitars.
Headshot For the Headstock
Here's Gene Parsons riding proudly on his 2017 T-style build for Trey Hensley.
To the T
The newest addition to Trey’s electric arsenal is this Berly Guitars Telecaster, built with Rocketfire ’60s-style pickups and “frets basically as big as my Les Paul.”
Trey Hensley’s Pedalboards (Acoustic)
Trey’s acoustic pedalboard is set up with a D’Addario tuner, an EHX Nano Q-Tron Envelope Filter, a Boss CE-2W Waza Craft Chorus, a Boss HM-2W Waza Craft Heavy Metal, a DigiTech Whammy Ricochet, an EarthQuaker Devices Ghost Echo Reverb, a Grace Design Alix preamp, and an LR Baggs Voiceprint. Power comes from a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2. It might be a bit unconventional for him to have two DIs, but he says he uses the Alix “for some EQ and mainly a boost; I’m bypassing it as a DI.” And, referring to the Voiceprint, he says, “If I can only take one pedal, it’s going to be that.”
Trey Hensley’s Pedalboards (Electric)
“I’ll preface it by saying, I don’t know what I’m doing,” admits Trey. On his electric pedalboard, he goes into his Dunlop Zakk Wylde Wah, then his D’Addario tuner—“You want that, after the wah,”—then into an EHX Micro Q-Tron, a Keeley Super Phat Mod, a Keeley Sweet Spot Johnny Hiland Super Drive, a JHS PackRat, an EHX J Mascis Ram’s Head Big Muff Pi, a Keeley Dark Side, and an MXR EVH Phase 90.
Trey has several amps for acoustic and electric. Today he was using a Fender ’68 Custom Princeton Reverb Reissue for his electric.
Bold and Byrly
“When you play a really good dobro, it’s in your face super fast,” says Rob Ickes, describing his main axe, a Byrl Guitars Rob Ickes Signature Series resonator—an instrument distinguished by its half-and-half ebony and curly maple fretboard. It’s equipped with a Fishman Nashville Reso Series pickup, which Ickes says is probably the first pickup that he’s used that’s nearly 100 percent faithful to the dobro sound. He uses D’Addario Nickel Bronze strings, Blue Chip thumb picks, and Bob Perry gold-plated fingerpicks, as well as a Scheerhorn bar slide.
This resonator guitar, made by Tim Scheerhorn, has Indian rosewood back and sides and a spruce top. According to Ickes, Scheerhorn “was kind of the Stradivarius of the dobro.” He was the first to start using solid woods—as opposed to the earlier use of plywood—and put sound posts inside the body, like those in a violin. “He also does a little baffle that helps force the sound out of the sound holes,” explains Ickes.
The second Byrl resonator Ickes shared with us is made from flame maple, giving it that distinctive look, and is actually the first guitar he got from Byrl. He tunes it to an open G chord, which he recently discovered is the original Hawaiian tuning. It has a Beard Legend spun cone made of an aluminum alloy and named after Mike Auldridge.
One Man’s Trash
Ickes found this 1930s dobro at a music store owned by a friend outside of Franklin, Tennessee. It’s made with a stamped cone. “It’s a little bit garbage can, in a good way,” he says, “I’ll use it on sessions if I want a trashier sound.” He normally keeps it in a lower tuning, such as open D.
This 1927 Montgomery Ward guitar has a story as intriguing as its sound. It belonged to Ickes’ grandfather, who was a fiddle player: He discovered it one day in the attic of his family home. “This one spoke to me right out of the box,” he shares,” It had that funk—times 10.” It sports signatures from Taj Mahal and Merle Haggard, the latter of whom Ickes recorded a bluegrass album with back in 2006. “I take this to a lot of sessions, in case they need that funky kind of dirt-road sound,” he explains.
“This next one is a more modern version of that,” Ickes says of another model, a Wayne Henderson guitar which he says is the first slide guitar Henderson built. “I just said, ‘Do what you do, but raise the action a bit here at the nut.’” It has a Fishman Nashville Series Reso pickup which Ickes has go into a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI.
A Flash in the Pan
One of the most interesting guitars in Ickes’ collection is his 1932 Rickenbacker Frying Pan, an electric lap steel that was one of the first ever of its kind to be created. “It just cracks me up how they nailed it right out of the box,” he comments. Its single knob is a combination of tone and volume—“As you move to the right, it gets brighter and louder. As you move to the left it gets quieter.”
As you can tell, several of the guitars that Ickes brought on this Rig Rundown are from the 1930s, including this Rickenbacker lap steel, nicknamed the “Silver Surfer.” Its mirror-like fretboard made it difficult for Ickes to see the frets when playing live, so he had them covered in red tape, which make them stand out much better.
Black and White
The last of Ickes’ guitars is another 1930s Rickenbacker lap steel, which he fondly refers to as the “Panda,” due to its black-and-white decor. He loves how it sounds, but admits, “This is great if you don’t leave the house [with it],” as it’s very heavy and doesn’t really stay in tune.
Dulcet Dairy Tones
Despite how Ickes typically favors vintage amps, he’s fond of this newer 20-watt Milkman Creamer, which he bought with a lap steel from a friend in California after hearing the two in combination. It has all the vintage vibe without the hassle of old amps.
Another amp in Ickes’ collection is his ’50s Fender Champ.
Small Yet Mighty
A third amp that Ickes shared with us is a vintage 1930s Rickenbacker.
Rob Ickes’ Pedalboards (Dobro)
Ickes has two separate pedal boards for his dobro and for his lap steel. Both boards are powered with separate Truetone 1 Spots. He keeps things simple on his dobro board, which includes a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI, an MXR Eddie Van Halen Phase 90, a Walrus Audio Mako Series R1 Reverb, and a ’80s era Boss DM-2 Delay.
Rob Ickes' Lap Steel Pedalboard
The simple setup trend continues with his lap steel pedalboard, which is made up of another four pedals: an EXH Micro Q-Tron, a Keeley Super Phat Mod, an MXR Phase 90, and a Keeley Omni Reverb.