By: Steven Rosen
Maybe more than any other guitarist ever, you're inextricably
linked to the Gibson SG? What was the evolution that brought you
to this particular instrument?
I started playing on banjos and re-strung them up with six
strings. [But] an acoustic guitar, an old bang up little
ten-dollar job, that was probably the first thing I started
playing on. Me brother Malcolm got a Hofner off of one of me
other brothers and he got a Gretsch and passed the Hofner on to
me after much squabbling.
It was semi-acoustic and had all been packed with cotton. But I
never used to really take it as a serious thing; I just used to
fool around with it. When I was about 14 was when I really
started playing it seriously. I got an amplifier for about sixty
bucks that used to distort all the time. It was a Phi-Sonic.
After that I got out and got a Gibson SG that I played until it
got wood rot because so much sweat and water got into it. The
whole neck warped. I bought it second-hand, it was about a '67.
It had a real thin neck, really slim, like a Custom neck. It was
dark brown. After about a year, you lose about half the power in
the pickups so you either get them re-wired or put new ones in.
Just ordinary Gibsons.
Did these early instruments still have that tremolo arm
They did but I took it off. I used to fool around with them but
you begin sounding like Hank Marvin.
And why did you remain loyal to the Gibson SG for the remainder
of your career?
It was light [weight-wise]. I'd tried the other ones, Fenders,
but you've really got to do a number on 'em. They're great for
feel but the wiring just doesn't got the balls. And I don't like
putting those DiMarzios and everything because everyone sounds
the same. All the other sort of Gibsons I tried like the Les
Paul was too heavy. Hip displacement.
When I first started playing with the SG there was nothing to
think about. I don't know how this came about but I think I had
a lot thinner neck. Someone once said to me they [Gibson] make
two sized necks, one was 1 ½ and one was 1 ¼ and this was like 1
¼, thin all the way up. Even now I still look all over and I
still haven't found one; I've been to a hundred guitar shops and
I found the same guitar [model] but with different necks.
Did you ever experiment with the Gibson SGs when they were
called Les Pauls [Eric Clapton's graphically appointed Cream-era
guitar is probably the most famous representative of this
Yeah, I had a really old one I bought, a 1962. But it had a very
fat neck; it was good to play but it felt heavier than all the
other ones. That's why I stopped using it. And when you're
running around a lot, it weighs you down.
So from High Voltage on it's always been the SG. Have you ever
tried using more modern types of instruments?
Yeah, I tried a Hamer but I wouldn't buy an expensive guitar -
especially in my case. It's always getting beaten around. With
the SG, you can do plenty of tricks with them.
And you've been faithful to Marshall amplifiers as well?
Ever since I've been in this band I've been using Marshalls.
I've tried Ampeg and they weren't too good for the sound I
On stage I have four stacks going, all hooked up with splitter
boxes. 100-watt stacks . it's good for your eardrums. I use a
real lot of volume, I turn that up; I turn the treble and bass
on about half and middle, the same. I don't use any presence. If
I don't think it's putting out enough top, I will kick up the
With Marshalls, if you're using a fair bit of volume, if you
whack the treble and bass at half, that's where they're working.
We get them from the factory, that's what we do. We go down
there and try them out and fool around with amps and tell them
what we want and they doctor them up. At the moment, they're all
back to the old style of Marshalls, they're very clean. They
don't have these master or preamp settings.
You have entered the modern age of electronics in your use of a
Yeah, I use the Schaffer-Vega. I've been using that since '77.
On the receiver you've got like a monitor switch you can boost
the signal and in the transmitter you've got the same sort of
thing. You can really give a guitar hell with 'em. I have used
the remote in the studio and it worked really good. I don't
believe I've ever had a wah-wah or a fuzz box. It's just the
guitar and the amp and if I need anything, if someone says they
want a different approach to the sound, then I'll get it with
About the author:
Steven Rosen is a Rock Journalist. Since 1973 he has accumulated
over 1000 hours of audio content and 700 articles and
interviews...all now available for licensing or purchase. Contact Steven Rosen for more information.
Gibson SG '61 Standard Reissue 6.27 lbs. 051252