Gibson announces Billie Joe Armstrong Signature Model Les Paul Junior

Gibson have just announced the introduction of a brand new Billie Joe Armstrong Signature Model Les Paul Junior. It’s based on Gibson’s historic 50’s era Les Paul Junior, built to “rock out on.” This modern take on a historic model features a single ’57 Classic Humbucking pickup, classic solid-slab mahogany body, and mahogany slim taper neck with rosewood board.

“I just think the Les Paul Junior is by far the coolest guitar on the planet.”

He says that the reason behind the simplicity of the design was his desire for kids to be able to “put their own identity to it”. Whether that be through painting it themselves, covering it with stickers or carving into it, because that’s what he always did with his guitars.

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Most bands traditionally play to a drummer, but The Rolling Stones have always been different. Instead, the band follows Keith Richards, their human riff machine. Charlie Watts, drummer for the Stones, has said on numerous occasions that he and the band take all of their cues from Keith who commands the stage with his rhythm and riffs.

With a career spanning over 50 years and counting, Keith’s arsenal of guitars has grown quite massive. While reading the excellent book, The Rolling Stones Gear, which checks out  the cataloging, photographing and even playing of Keith’s guitars.

Among the most magical guitar  of Keiths collection is the Fender Blackguard Tele named Micawber – the guitar Keith received on his 27th birthday from Eric Clapton.

The 1954 Fender Telecaster first arrived in the Stones’ camp during the band’s infamous 1971 Exile On Main St. recording sessions held in the south of France. It was a tumultuous time for the Stones, as they had just left England as tax exiles.

At the time, the British government had a staggering 90% tax on earnings over £15,000 per year. Keith looked at the situation as a way for Great Britain to rid itself of this troublesome lot. “We went to France because the British government had got a hard-on about a rock and roll band,” he said bluntly.

The group made a formal announcement that they and their families were going to leave Great Britain and settle in southern France, where they planned to write and produce new material for their upcoming album, Tropical Disease (later changed to Exile On Main St.).

Keith rented Villa Nellcôte in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a low-key town on the Côte d’Azur, about four miles east of Nice and six miles southwest of Monaco. Nellcôte (nicknamed “Keith’s Coffee House”) became the group’s headquarters.

The Stones’ mobile recording unit was brought across the channel and set up at Nellcôte in June. Recording ran from early July through mid November with producer Jimmy Miller and engineer Andy Johns, both of whom had also established residence in France.

Photos taken during these Exile On Main St. sessions show Keith with his ‘54 Fender Blackguard Tele with the butterscotch blonde finish and maple neck still in its original factory stock condition – fitted with standard Tele pickups and electronics with a stock Telecaster bridge.

It was during these sessions that Keith transformed the guitar into a 5-string by taking off the low E string and putting the guitar into an open G tuning (low-high: G – D –G – B – D). He used the guitar this way during the Exile session, which yielded a double album of such Stones classics like “Rocks Off,” “Rip This Joint,” “Tumbling Dice,” and “Happy,” to name a few.

The Stones set out to promote their new record on the road with their mammoth 1972 tour. Keith used his 1954 Blackguard Tele in its factory stock condition for the beginning of the tour before his guitar tech, Ted Newman Jones III, replaced the neck position Fender pickups on the Telecasters with Gibson PAF humbuckers.

He also replaced the bridge pickup on the ‘54 Tele with a Fender lap-steel pickup, which was similar to the Fender Broadcaster’s pickup. Jones set this Tele up as a 5-string for open-G tuning, and Keith described it as, “my main Tele five-string … a ’54, with the humbucker in the front.”

In the 1980s, Keith nicknamed the guitar “Micawber” after the irrepressible Wilkins Micawber character from Charles Dickens’s novel, David Copperfield. It’s also known simply as Telecaster No. 1.

Keith, who is a self-described “voracious reader” and Dickens fan explains, “There’s no reason for my guitar being called Micawber, apart from the fact that it’s such an unlikely name. There’s no one around me called Micawber, so when I scream for Micawber, everyone knows what I’m talking about.”

Though Keith has a few very similar Teles in his collection, Micawber can be easily identified from afar by a small but obvious dimple or gouge on the front upper left bout of the guitar opposite the cutaway. Keith continued to use his Micawber blackguard Tele on countless Stones recordings and endless tours. It wasn’t until the Stones embarked on their 1981 Tattoo You tour that Keith’s next guitar tech, Alan Rogan, made another modification to the guitar. Rogan explained, “You see, I had discovered the Schecter Telecasters for Pete [Townshend], so I knew where to get a solid-brass Telecaster bridge. That was the time period of all of the part companies – like Mighty Mite – making better parts for guitars. Better machine heads, like Sperzel, for example.

The [Stones] had been rehearsing up at the Long View Farm, and I showed up for the last three weeks. That’s when I made all the modifications to the Teles so they would sound better and stay in tune. I got the bridges from Schecter and got the tuners from Sperzel. I worked on all the guitars to try to make them better for the tour.”

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For more than 40 years, Micawber has been Keith’s go-to Tele for almost any Stones song in open G tuning. As a result, it’s seen its fair share of road wear.

When recently examining Keith’s Micawber, it was interesting to see the wear on the last seven frets where the neck meets the body on the bass side. Keith aggressively strums his guitars at an angle near the bottom of the fingerboard, and you can see how Micawber’s last seven frets are scalloped from his pick wear.

The butterscotch blonde finish also shows signs of heavy pick wear, especially on the upper bout of the body. There, the finish has worn completely off – even the exposed ash wood body has been worn down considerably.

The Humbucker pickup with its black mounting ring is still in the neck position, and the worn brass bridge only has five saddles to accommodate the 5-string open G setup. If you look closely at the lap steel bridge pickup, you’ll notice that it’s mounted with only two screws.

The guitar is fitted with a new set of Sperzel tuners and is strung with a custom gauge 5-string set of special Ernie Ball “Keith Richards” nickel wound strings (.011, .015, .018, .030 and .042). The well-worn neck has very little finish on it, and the black fret marker at the 17th fret is missing.

Take one look at Keith’s Micawber today, and you’ll immediately recognize its mojo. And when you stop to think about all of the songs Micawber was used on in the studio and all of the stages around the world this guitar has been played on, its historical importance becomes overwhelmingly clear.

Other players might feel the aura around the guitar when holding it, but it is Keith’s playing that brings Micawber to life. Without him, it would be just another guitar.

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Founded in Bakersfield, California in the ‘60s as something of an offshoot of Mosrite, the original Hallmark guitar company operated for just a couple of years, producing a relatively out-there model known as the “Swept Wing.”

In the late ’90s, the brand was revitalized by Maryland-based builder Bob Shade, who produces a whole range of guitars based ultra-rare original Hallmarks as well as some Mosrite-inspired designs. Based in their popularity, it appears the the current generation of Hallmarks have earned a spot as the go-to make for anyone looking for a Mosrite-esque guitar.

Revelation Marrakesh Quarter Note guitar

The Marrakesh Quarter Note guitar is the latest offset design by Revelation Guitars. The company was founded by British ‘Guitar-Guru’ Alan Entwistle, the man that gave us a pretty successful line of guitar pickups. But in recent years Alan has moved towards making budget guitars that offer cool features – and this looks to offer something pretty unique indeed.

Revelation Marrakesh

What caught my eye about this guitar was, of course, its offset design. Anyone that reads my articles frequently will know I am a fan of the offset guitar style. Well, I have been watching Revelation Guitars and their budget lines for some time. The firm has, for example, issued a 12 string instrument for under £300, which also sounds like a lot of fun.

The Marrakesh sounds lime a genuinely interesting design because it has a ‘microtonal’ fret system on the regular length guitar neck. If you look closely at the fretboard you will notice there are 7 extra frets amongst the ones you would expect on a regular guitar neck, placed between positions 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 12 and 14. This allows quarter notes to be fretted and played, which makes for some very interesting scale patterns and fingerings.

This opens up the world to more  Arabic and North African music styles, where these quarter tones are commonplace.

The main body is made from Okoume and is finished in a rather plain brown which they call Sand Storm. It’s fitted with a C-Shape, 25.5″ regular ‘Fender’ scale length maple neck outfitted with a Lignum-Rosa fretboard  fitted with those all-important extra frets to achieve its microtonal tuning.

The pickups are a pair of Entwistle X90 Ceramic P90-style single coils controlled by a three-way toggle and a  5-position rotary switch, the latter accessing the ATN circuit. This is, essentially, a set of preset tone stacks. Plus, you get a regular Tone and Volume control as well. Sounds lime a lot of variety from one guitar.

The Marrakesh also has a vintage-style tremolo with six saddles and matching vintage-styled machine heads as well. This all sounds like  a lot of fun and honestly, if I could actually get to hear one then I would be tempted to go out and buy one myself, but as yet I cannot find any audio demos online.

Developed by Supro with assistance from the David Bowie Archive, the David Bowie Limited Edition Dual Tone is based on the main guitar David Bowie played on the Reality album and throughout his final world tour, “A Reality Tour”, in 2003-2004. Although he played a variety of guitars throughout his career, Bowie enjoyed a special relationship with the iconic vintage 60’s Supro Dual Tone he had customized to his specifications.

“Of all the electric guitars that David played and owned over the many years that we worked together, he loved the Supro best. He was quite proud of it actually. I’ve never seen him get attached to a guitar, except that one.” Earl Slick, Bowie’s guitarist

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During the recording of the Reality album in New York City in early 2003, Bowie purchased two early-60’s Supro Dual Tone guitars on EBay. One of them, which is prominently featured on the cover art of the New Killer Star single, was a 1961 hardtail model. A second Dual Tone was modified by master luthier Flip Scipio, who inlaid the top five fret slots with rainbow colors after installing a Bigsby vibrato at Bowie’s request. “They brought me the second guitar and needed it done very fast, within one day,” recalls Scipio. “That is why I did not reinstall the top frets. The fret filler is made of dyed Japanese maple. David loved the way this guitar looked and sounded, so I chose the colors based on what I thought would look cheerful. I felt that if I can be happy with the guitar, then David would be happy with the guitar as well.” It was this highly customized Supro Dual Tone that became Bowie’s favorite guitar and main live instrument, appeared on the cover of the “A Reality Tour” live album, and inspired this limited edition 2018 re-creation.

Mirror finish Bowie Lightning Bolt insignia

Why did Bowie choose the Dual Tone? Guitarist Gerry Leonard, who played on both the Reality album and tour, says: “David was a discerning collector of not only art, but all things to do with music, music artifacts and specific instruments. The Supro was a guitar that nailed a few of these criteria for him. It’s a very stylish guitar and it has a great vibe and sound. It was a fantastic guitar and David loved it so much, it was the only one he wanted to play, even though we had many other great instruments from famous makers available to him.”

The Danelectro 64 Electric Guitar is a stellar tribute to the 1960’s classic. The vintage appearance features die cast replicas of original hat-style control knobs, as well as a vibrant Aqua finish. Its retro characteristics are further enhanced by the chrome-plated hardware and the contrasting cream-coloured peanut pickguard. When it comes to playing comfort however, the Danelectro 64 embraces the present day with a wider, flatter neck profile which allows an easier playing style. Other notable retro features include the Bigsby vibrato bridge for vintage style pitch bending, and a zero fret that gives the open strings a truer ring and improved intonation . The pickups feature a lipstick humbucker at the bridge and a single coil at the neck.

The body is crafted from masonite which offers accentuated highs, and the neck is made from maple with a rosewood fingerboard. This vintage inspired guitar is ideal for any level of player, especially someone wanting an authentic 1960s powerful crunch.

Danelectro 64 Electric Guitar, Dark Aqua

Image  —  Posted: January 18, 2018 in Guitars
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