The 26-year-old roots guitar titan shows off his prime stage axes, including his signature ES-345 and a vintage parts Les Paul, plus he reveals the secrets of his personal MK Ultra.
Since Marcus King’s previous Rig Rundown in 2017, he’s made two albums—produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach—and scored a Grammy nomination. He’s also busted out his own signature Orange amp with an allusive name, and upped his profile, stepping from clubs to big halls. Not bad for a South Carolina kid with blues in his bloodline.
And, really, not entirely unexpected. King hit the scene in his teens as a full-blown virtuoso, playing club gigs at night and going to high school by day. He was initially championed by Warren Haynes, who was so impressed that he released the Marcus King Band’s 2015 debut, Soul Insight, on his Evil Teen Records label. And then the hard-playing young roots genre-blender rode that wind under his wings.
Before his September 29 gig at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, touring behind his recent release Young Blood, he entertained PG’s John Bohlinger—with some help with the details from guitar tech Cody Bates—with a close-up look at his current touring rig. Dig in!
Brought to you by D’Addario DS XS Strings.
If you’ve seen Marcus King play, you’ve noticed this beautiful all-stock 1962 Gibson ES-345. The model debuted in 1958 and was immediately used by Chuck Berry, Freddie King, and, later, B.B. King (pre-ES-355) and Eric Clapton, among others. This particular guitar was purchased new by King’s grandfather and it’s been Marcus’ No. 1 since the family put it in his hands. The big red rocker and all of King’s electric guitars stay strung with Elixir Optiweb Nickel Plated Steel mediums, .011-.049.
The New Red Rider of the Playful Stage
In order to save wear and tear on his grandfather’s ES-345, King usually leaves that one at home and tours with the No. 1 prototype of his Gibson Marcus King Signature ES- 345 Custom, which was unveiled in early 2021. But since he lives in Nashville now, both attended the Ryman show.
Back in Black
King picked this 1962 Fender Strat up at Nashville’s Carter Vintage Guitars. He describes the neck as “sweet as pie.” After he took it home, he sent it to Matt Hughes at Banker Fine Handcrafted Guitars in Atlanta for some work: a refin and a swap of the original 3-way switch for a 5-way.
Not Quite a Beauty …
But a beautiful instrument. This weathered 1958 Gibson Les Paul Custom is a vintage parts guitar, featuring a ’58 body merged with a 1970s neck and hardware. Dig the tone in the video!
Here’s another beauty—a 1939 Martin D-18 shade top that was a gift from Zac Brown. Body crack repairs in the top display in the photo, as does the wear of many miles over the years. This exceptional vintage working-player’s acoustic stays strung with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze mediums, gauged .013–.056.
These Three King’s
Unveiled by Orange in 2021, King’s signature heads bear the name MK Ultra—maybe … or maybe not named after a top-secret government experiment with LSD and other substances. (Insert smiley emoji!) It’s a rad amp, with 30 watts output from 6L6s, one volume control, a treble dial marked SING and a bass knob tagged DEEP. Each of his two MK Ultra heads runs into its own Orange slanted 8x10 with Celestion Vintage 30s. In between those citrus commandos sits a 1968 Fender Bandmaster TFL5005D powering up a Fender Bassman cab with two Celestion 15s—the company’s G15B-100 speakers, which hone in on the deep end.
Marcus King's Pedalboard
King runs his guitar’s cable into a Dunlop Volume (X) 8, and then his signal hits a Dunlop Cry Baby wah, an MXR Booster, an Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, a Tru-Fi Two Face fuzz, MXR Micro Chorus, Dunlop Rotovibe chorus/vibrato, MXR Phase 100, Tru-Fi Ultra Tremolo, Dunlop Echoplex Delay, MXR reverb, and a Radial Shotgun signal splitter and buffer. Juice? That comes from a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 3 plus.