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Rig Rundown: Derek Wells

Rig Rundown: Derek Wells

PG’s John Bohlinger joins Derek Wells in the studio to check out the decorated Nashville hit-maker’s recording rig, which includes a custom-built pedalboard and a six-pack of tube amps.


It might actually be easier to list the artists Derek Wells hasn’t worked with, than the ones with whom he has.

The Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist and producer has lent a hand to more than 100 number one singles over the years, with household staples like Kenny Chesney, Maren Morris, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, even Shakira. He’s also piled up production credits with artists like Hardy, Lainey Wilson, Maddie & Tae, and Scotty McCreery, and over the years he’s collected a flashy mantle’s-worth of awards: the Academy of Country Music named Wells their Guitar Player of the Year two times, and he was MusicRow’s 2022 Guitarist of the Year.

Wells invited PG’s John Bohlinger to the studio to run down his main recording rig.

Brought to you by D’Addario XS Strings.

Make It Rain

“The Money Maker” is Wells’ 1961 Gibson Les Paul SG with original PAF pickups.

Twang Town

Wells’ 1953 Fender Telecaster features a Fralin neck pickup and a Fender lap steel pickup in the bridge.

Golden Hour

This 2008 goldtop Gibson Les Paul also sports a Fralin in the neck position, while a vintage PAF pickup holds down the bridge.

Atkins Diet

Wells’ sharp 2003 Gretsch 6120 runs TV Jones FilterTron pickups.

Red Rider

This bloody good 2000s Danelectro Baritone has been upgraded with custom saddles and bridge from Jeff Senn.

Black Cat

Last but not least, Wells’ 2000s Duesenberg Double Cat is dressed up with an Asher Double Palm Bender.

The Magnificent Six

When Wells goes into a studio session, he doesn’t travel light. This time, he’s brought six trusty friends with him: a Supro Black Magick head, a 1960 Fender Tweed Deluxe, a ’67 50-watt Marshall Plexi, a Matchless HC-30 from 1996, a 1961 white knob Fender Bassman, and a quirky custom amp titled The Knob.

This heavy-hitting tonal bullpen runs through either a Matchless 1x12 or a Bogner 4x12.

Drowned In Tape

Wells’ amp rack houses a gorgeous old Roland Chorus Echo RE-501, while the rest of his effects are on his pedalboard built by Nashville’s XAct Tone Solutions (XTS).

XTS Ecstasy

XTS constructed Wells’ do-it-all-and-then-some board utilizing a Gig Rig G3 Switching System. Right now, the stomp headquarters includes a Line 6 M9, Strymon’s Mobius and Timeline, a Mission Engineering Expressionator, Electro-Harmonix’s Micro Synth, a MXR Bass Compressor, and doubles of the Boss GE-7 Equalizer (which have both been modded by XTS). Wells gets his dirt from an Ibanez MT10 Mostortion, a REVV Shawn Tubbs Tilt Overdrive, XTS’ own Winford Drive, and Xotic’s RC Booster. A modded Digitech XP series pedal, a Boss FV-500H, and a Dunlop DVP3 round out the collection.

With a team of experts on hand, we look at six workhorse vintage amps you can still find for around $1,000 or less.

If you survey the gear that shows up on stages and studios for long enough, you’ll spot some patterns in the kinds of guitar amplification players are using. There’s the rotating cast of backline badasses that do the bulk of the work cranking it out every day and night—we’re all looking at you, ’65 Deluxe Reverb reissue.

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Amazon Prime Day is here (July 16-17). Whether you're a veteran player or just picking up your first guitar, these are some bargains you don't want to miss. Check out more deals here! https://amzn.to/3LskPRV

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A technicolor swirl of distortion, drive, boost, and ferocious fuzz.

Summons a wealth of engaging, and often unique, boost, drive, distortion, and fuzz tones that deviate from common templates. Interactive controls.

Finding just-right tones, while rewarding, might demand patience from less assured and experienced drive-pedal users. Tone control could be more nuanced.

$199

Danelectro Nichols 1966
danelectro.com

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4.5

The Danelectro Nichols 1966, in spite of its simplicity, feels and sounds like a stompbox people will use in about a million different ways. Its creator, Steve Ridinger, who built the first version as an industrious Angeleno teen in 1966, modestly calls the China-made Nichols 1966 a cross between a fuzz and a distortion. And, at many settings, it is most certainly that.

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The author standing next to a Richardson gunstock lathe purchased from Gibson’s Kalamazoo factory. It was used to make six necks at a time at Gibson in the 1950s and 1960s.

Keep your head down and put in the work if you want to succeed in the gear-building business.

The accelerated commodification of musical instruments during the late 20th century conjures up visions of massive factories churning out violins, pianos, and, of course, fretted instruments. Even the venerable builders of the so-called “golden age” were not exactly the boutique luthier shops of our imagination.

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