A list of famous electric guitars and the legends who played them
5. Fender Telecaster, famously 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, single-cutaway electric guitar produced by Fender. Page selected this model for the up-tempo hard rock solo in the final section of Led Zeppelin’s 8-minute monumental hit, “Stairway to Heaven,” from the band’s 1971 album, Led Zeppelin IV. The arrangement highlighted the cutting twang and warm bluesy tone of the Fender Telecaster which had previously made it a favourite amongst country musicians.
4. Gibson ES-355, famously played by B.B. King
Hailed as the world’s first commercial thinline archtop semi-hollow electric guitar, the Gibson ES-355 provided the versatility of the solid body along with a warmer, mellow tone of an acoustic guitar.
King’s instrument of choice is a black Gibson ES-355, which he calls “Lucille.” The name acts as a reminder of a near-death experience involving a fire at a club where King was performing, allegedly started due to two men quarreling over a woman named Lucille. An excellent solo featuring the warm tone of “Lucille” can be heard on the track “The Thrill Is Gone” from his 1969 album, Completely Well.
3. Gibson ES-175, famously played by Joe Pass
The American virtuoso jazz guitarist has collaborated with almost every jazz musician in the business and almost always with his Gibson ES-175 in hand. Deemed as one of the most famous jazz guitars in history, the Gibson ES-175 is more accessible than the Gibson L-5, due to its all-laminate construction which reduced the overall cost and prevented unwanted feedback.
Pass was hailed as one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time for his refined technique, sophisticated harmonic sensibility and purity of sound. A great example of Pass’ talent and the mellow sound of the Gibson ES-175 is showcased on his incredible 1973 album, Virtuoso.
2. Fender Stratocaster, famously played by Jimi Hendrix
Notorious for his outrageous techniques and 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 a hugely versatile model that has been used in genres ranging from country to heavy metal. Hendrix’s Stratocaster was his particular favourite, which he lovingly dubbed “Black Beauty.” Its double-cutaway feature allowed Hendrix to access the upper frets and achieve higher notes than most guitars of its kind, as featured on the hit single “All Along The Watchtower” from his 1968 album, Electric Ladyland.
1. Gibson L-5, famously played by Wes Montgomery
First produced in 1922, the Gibson L-5 model was considered the top rhythm guitar during the big band era. Easily identified by its f-holes (sound holes resembling the shape of a lower-case ‘f’) and hollow design, by the time Montgomery hit the scene in 1958, the Gibson L-5 had become an easily accessible standard.
A notable feature of Montgomery’s sound was that he played with his thumb rather than with a standard guitar pick. Feeling that the pick never produced the right sound, he used the fleshy part of the thumb to create the distinct sound featured on his standout 1960 album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.