Top 10 Big 5 Interviews of 2021
This year we uncovered that Billy Gibbons X-rayed his hands, John 5 celebrated his unsung guitar hero, and why Tommy Shaw has beef with the guitar industry. Now see our most memorable chats from 2021.
10. Red Fang's David SullivanPremier Guitar
The sludge-metal aficionado takes the mic on Teles, "Holy Grails," and how he stays chill in the spotlight.
9. Megadeth’s David EllefsonPremier Guitar
Metal's bass icon on his Jackson's P-pickup mod, Kiss' 'Destroyer,' and the owner of his lonely '80s heart.
8. Blackberry Smoke's Charlie StarrPremier Guitar
The Southern-rock ringleader opens up about his vintage-refin No. 1 and not letting trolls get him down.
7. John 5 on How He Gets Old-School Tones from His Metal-Friendly TelePremier Guitar
Plus, find out which guitar hero the Rob Zombie sideman “begs and pleads” with you to listen to.
6. Steve StevensPremier Guitar
Billy Idol’s trusted sideman digs deep on classic prog and even gets a little zen as he takes on our questions.
5. Yngwie MalmsteenPremier Guitar
How does the same answer apply to three of our five questions? Everyone's favorite sweep-picking Swede loves going against the grain—that's how!
4. Billy F. GibbonsPremier Guitar
The ZZ Top legend on what makes his "Pearly Gates" Les Paul so special, why he recently had his hands x-rayed, and the "slithering" slide guitarist whose work still inspires him.
3. John PetrucciPremier Guitar
The Dream Theater legend shares surprising desert-island-album and guitar-hero picks, and remembers finally saying "screw it " to self-consciousness about his "super nerdy" secret weapon.
2. Warren Haynes Reveals His Secret Studio WeaponPremier Guitar…And it's not his vintage Les Paul. Plus, the Gov't Mule mainstay "cheats" on his desert-island album pick.
1. Styx’s Tommy Shaw on What Irks Him About the Guitar IndustryPremier Guitar
Plus, how he cried the day Wes Montgomery died, and the surprise family connection with his prized '54 Tele.
Top 4 Blues-Rock Rig Rundowns
Witness the gear of the gods—covering Eric Johnson’s ’57 Strats, Warren Haynes’ arsenal of Gibsons, Sonny Landreth’s pedalboard tricks, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s Dumble.
Sure, most of the magic conjured by the world’s best players is in their hands, but obviously their gear is a huge deal, too—because they’re still pretty particular about what they play. So take a break from honing your own chops for a bit, and check out what your heroes use to conjure their amazing tones. Who knows, maybe it’ll help you rethink how you approach your music and give you some ideas for how to improve your own rig. Or just sit there and lust after all the cool stuff. Either way works.
Here we’ve compiled our top Rig Rundowns with some of the most badass blues-inspired legends on the planet:
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Warren Haynes—Gov't Mule
To keep things fresh, Haynes' guitar tech Brian Farmer takes some liberty and names all of Haynes various Les Pauls, Firebirds, and ES-335s to keep them all straight. His two main Les Pauls are Chester—features a Chet Atkins nut cover—and Lester, which are both Inspired By Warren Haynes models. The third Inspired By model has P-90s instead of the traditional humbuckers. Two of the his Firebirds are MoLester and Paul Y Lester—for 'polyester' and because it has three P-90s—and both are tuned to Eb. The third Firebird, also in Eb, is Haynes' first non-reverse Firebird he got in mid-2000s. (At the time of this video, Farmer had not been struck inspiration to name it.) The only SG (called Crazy) in his live collection was a Gordy Johnson model tuned to open C and loaded with P-94s that's used for "Brighter Days" and "Like Flies." The two alternatively-tuned Les Pauls include a '58 reissue tuned to D-A-F-C-G-C for "Wandering Child" and a '59 reissue tuned to drop D. His two ES-335s are Little Red—which is based on Haynes' cherry '61 335 Big Red that stays at home—and his main live guitar for Gov't Mule is '61 reissue 335 coined Blondie. The gem of his live stash during the 2010 had to be the Les Paul 12-string (one of only two made when this video was shot) that is in drop D.
Haynes brings an impressive trio of boutique heads on the road with him and during his 2010 jaunt with Gov't Mule he switched between a prototype PRS Super Dallas and a heavily modded Soldano SLO100, and a Diaz CD-100. The Super Dallas was reverse-engineered and based on a '68 Marshall Plexi that belonged to Eric Johnson. The main amp of the show was the Soldano that Haynes used exclusively with the Allman Brothers Band. The PRS and Soldano are routed through a Marshall 1960 cab loaded with four 12" Vintage 30 Celestions—only the PRS or Soldano are running at a time depending on the song. The Diaz goes into a separate Marshall 4x12 that is loaded with 65-watt Celestions. Both cabs are mic'd with Shure KSM37s on the top speakers and Sennheiser e609s.
For the Gov't Mule gig, Haynes only brought out a select batch of rackmount gear and stompboxes that included a Korg DTR-1 Tuner, a Chandler SDE II Digital Delay, a Cesar Diaz Texas Ranger Treble Booster—which is used exclusively to boost the Firebirds so they're as loud as the Les Pauls, a Klon Centaur, an Emma DiscumBOBulator, a Boss OC-2 Octave, a Hughes and Ketter Rotosphere, a Fulltone Supa-Trem, a Jim Dunlop 535Q Wah—it's hooked up with 20-foot cables to reduce some of his tone's unnecessary high-end shrill, and the entire setup is powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus.
When we caught up with Sonny, he was doing fly-in dates, so he was working with his "survival" rig. For this rig, he uses two very similar '57 reissue Strats from the late '80s. They have soft V necks, Lindy Fralin Hot Vintage Pickups, and a Suhr Silent Single Coil system installed in the back to reduce the hum.
Though he's known for his Dumble amps, Landreth doesn't generally travel with them on tours that involve a lot of flying. His go-to setup is a Demeter TGA3 with 6L6 tubes run into the speakers of a Fender Twin '65 reissue backline. He uses the TGA3 exclusively on the yellow (clean) channel live, and has used the amp extensively on recordings as well.
Landreth calls his pedalboard "the runway." It's set up so it can be folded and put into a suitcase for easy traveling. He has a larger pedalboard for other tour with a Voodoo Lab switching system. This pedalboard has a Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner, Demeter Fuzzulator, Hermida Audio Zendrive modded for higher gain (his go-to pedal), Hermida Audio Mosferatu, Keeley Compressor, TC Electronic Chorus+, and T-Rex Replica Delay. It's powered by the Sanyo Pedal Juice rechargeable power supply.
Kenny Wayne ShepherdGuitars
Shepherd is known for using Strats, and brings a number of them on the road. He relies heavily on his Fender signature models, but employs different variations on the Strat for different songs. Shepherd uses Ernie Ball strings and varies between .10s to .12s, depending upon how much he's been playing.
Left to Right: stock Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat, Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat prototype, Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat with GraphTech Ghost pickup system (used for the "Blue on Black"), Fender Jimi Hendrix Monterrey Pop Limited Edition.
Left to Right: Martin Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Acoustic prototype, Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Strat with GraphTech saddles and a custom neck (used heavily on his first album), National Resophonic Dobro Electric (used for "Aberdeen"), Guy Guitars Strat-style with lipstick pickups, built-in Roger Mayer overdrive boost, and Drop D lever.
When we caught up with Shepherd, he was experimenting with different amp setups and trying to use lower wattage amps to lower the stage volume. That night, he was using a 1964 Fender Blackface Vibroverb Reissue, a new Fender Super-Sonic Twin set on the Bassman setting, and a Fender Deluxe Reissue that's been rebuilt by Alexander Dumble called the Tweedledee Deluxe. He runs all three amps and brings the Deluxe into the mix as "icing on the cake."
Shepherd was using an in-between pedalboard while a custom board was being built when we caught up with him. The signal chain was a Dunlop Uni-Vibe, Electro-Harmonix POG 2, MXR CAE wah, Chicago Iron Tycobrahe Octavia (modern), Analog Man King of Tone (newest version), Ibanez Hand-Wired TS808 Tube Screamer, Analog Man Bi-Chorus, JAM Pedals Delay Llama, and Boss TU-3.His main tone comes from the combination of the King of Tone and Tube Screamer. His new board adds an additional MXRCAE Wah circuit mounted in the board and a BK Butler Tube Driver. The board is powered by Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus and his new board uses a Voodoo Lab Ground Control System.
PG's Jason Shadrick is On Location at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with guitarist Eric Johnson.
Both guitarists will continue with the band through the end of 2014.
New York, NY (January 8, 2014) -- For 25 years and 15 years respectively, we've had the honor and pleasure of playing, living, learning, and traveling with the Allman Brothers Band, one of the truly legendary rock and roll bands. We will be forever grateful for the opportunity and the experience, and for the love, enthusiasm, and support of the incredible fans. We are both preparing to dig even deeper into our various creative and musical endeavors and, as a result, 2014 will be our final year as part of the band. We are looking forward to seeing our loyal ABB fans at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta this Friday night January 10th and in March at the Beacon Theater in New York City as we celebrate the 45th Anniversary of the band. - Warren Haynes & Derek Trucks
A Statement from Warren Haynes:
I joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1989, at age 28, for a reunion tour with no promise or expectations of it going any further. Based on the success of the tour and the uncanny chemistry between the original members and the new members, we decided to continue and see where it all led. Now, here we are, 25 years later, and it has been an amazing experience. I've always said that if I were to join a band that I grew up listening to the ABB would be at the top of that list. The original version of the band was a huge influence on me and I'm sure that the countless hours I spent listening to and studying that music helped shape me as a musician. As proud as I am of being a member of such a legendary band, I'm even more proud of the music that we've made together and of being a part of carrying their original vision into the future.
As someone who's been fortunate enough to juggle a lot of musical projects and opportunities I look forward to maintaining a vigorous schedule which will include many more years of touring and recording with Gov't Mule in addition to my solo projects and to enjoying more family time as well. Being part of the ABB has opened a lot of doors for me and that's something I don't take for granted nor do I take for granted the friendship and musical relationships I have with each of the members. The 45th Anniversary of the ABB is a milestone amidst too many highlights to count and I'm looking forward to an amazing year creating music that only the Allman Brothers Band can create.
A statement from Derek Trucks:
I got the call to join the Allman Brothers while on tour with my own band at the age of 19. It was out of the blue and felt surreal. I leapt at the chance. This was the music that I had cut my teeth on and it was the distinctive sound of Duane's guitar that inspired me to pick up the instrument in the first place.
When I started with ABB I didn't know how long it would last, only that I would let the music lead me and teach me. Amazingly that led me past the band's 40th anniversary, to the band's 45th, and now my 15th year as a member of this incredible band. Five years ago the 45th seemed like a lofty goal but I thought if we could make it to that milestone it would be a logical time to move on.
While I've shared many magical moments on stage with the Allman Brothers Band in the last decade plus, I feel that my solo project and the Tedeschi Trucks Band is where my future and creative energy lies. The Tedeschi Trucks Band tour schedule keeps growing, and I feel the time has finally come to focus on a single project, which will allow me to spend that rare time off the road with my family and children. It's a difficult decision to make, and I don't make it lightly.
I'm proud to have made a small contribution to the masterful music they have created over the past forty years, and will continue to create. Now seems like a good time to go out on a high note with a great 45th anniversary in 2014, and the mutual respect and friendship of the other 6 members of ABB.