A List of Famous Electric Guitars and the Legends Who Played Them
5. Fender Telecaster, played by Jimmy Page
As one of the most effective and revolutionary designs for electric guitars, the Fender Telecaster was the first commercial solid-body, cutaway electric guitar produced by Fender. Page selected this pattern for the rhythmic hard rock solo in the final section of Led Zeppelin’s monumental 8-minute hit, “Stairway to Heaven,” from the band’s 1971 album, Led Zeppelin IV. The arrangement brought out the cutting twang and warm bluesy tone of the Fender Telecaster that had previously made it a favorite among country musicians.
4. Gibson ES-355, famously played by BB King
Hailed as the world’s first commercial semi-hollow electric guitar, the Gibson ES-355 provided the versatility of the solid body with the warmer, smoother tone of an acoustic guitar.
King’s instrument of choice is a black Gibson ES-355, which he calls “Lucille”. The name is reminiscent of a near-death experience involving a fire at a club where King was performing, which allegedly started due to two men fighting over a woman named Lucille. An excellent solo with the warm tone of “Lucille” can be heard on the track “The Thrill Is Gone” from his 1969 album, completely fine.
3. Gibson ES-175, famously played by Joe Pass
The virtuoso American jazz guitarist has collaborated with almost every jazz musician in the industry and almost always with his Gibson ES-175 in hand. Considered one of the most famous jazz guitars in history, the Gibson ES-175 is more accessible than the Gibson L-5, due to its fully laminated construction which reduces overall cost and prevents unwanted feedback.
Pass has been hailed as one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time for his refined technique, sophisticated harmonic sensibility and sonic purity. A great example of Pass’ talent and the smooth sound of the Gibson ES-175 is featured on his incredible 1973 album, Virtuoso.
2. Fender Stratocaster, famously played by Jimi Hendrix
Famous for his outrageous techniques and for burning his guitar on stage during his live sets, Hendrix used the Stratocaster model of Fender guitar for most of his career. One of the most copied guitar shapes, the Stratocaster is an extremely versatile model that has been used in genres ranging from country to heavy metal. Hendrix’s Stratocaster was his favourite, which he lovingly nicknamed “Black Beauty”. Its double cutaway feature allowed Hendrix to access the upper frets and achieve higher notes than most guitars of its type, as shown on the hit single “All Along The Watchtower” from his album of 1968, electric ladyland.
1. Gibson L-5, played by Wes Montgomery
First produced in 1922, the Gibson L-5 model was considered the finest rhythm guitar of the big band era. Easily identified by its f-holes (sound holes resembling the shape of a lowercase “f”) and hollow design, by the time Montgomery entered the scene in 1958, the Gibson L-5 had become an easily accessible standard.
A notable characteristic of Montgomery’s sound was that he played with his thumb rather than a standard guitar pick. Feeling that the pick never produced the right sound, he used the fleshy part of his thumb to create the distinct sound featured on his remarkable 1960 album, Wes Montgomery’s incredible jazz guitar.