There aren’t many guitarists that can boast five custom Epiphone signature models, but Joe Bonamassa is one of them.
And rightfully so. With countless albums, collaborations and tours under his belt, Bonamassa has amassed a huge following of guitar nerds and music appreciators. Today, he leads the charge as one the finest blues and rock players around.
Bonamassa’s latest collaboration with Epiphone—the Limited Edition 1958 “Amos” Korina Flying-V Outfit—is based on his priceless original Flying-V, first purchased by Amos Arthur’s music store in Indianapolis in 1958. Bonamassa worked closely with Epiphone’s luthiers in Nashville to ensure that every detail of the original was reproduced accurately.
“[The] guys at Epiphone nailed it,” Bonamassa said. “From the moment I opened the case at my house, all I had to do was look at it and I said, ‘OK, we're good!’ It sounds great. They sound better than the originals!”
In celebration of the release of this special guitar—and to salute Bonamassa—we’ve rounded up 10 of his absolute best guitar moments. Check them out below!
"The Thrill Is Gone" (Live)
Of all the many blues guitar greats with whom Bonamassa has developed close friendships, perhaps none were greater than his friendship with B.B. King. Bonamassa opened for King in 1989 as a 12-year-old prodigy, and King's songs have remained a standard part of Bonamassa's repertoire ever since. Perhaps the most amazing part of this live version of "The Thrill Is Gone" is how comfortable Bonamassa seems with the song. He perfectly replicates both the smoothness and powerful, vivid sadness that made this song perhaps King's finest.
"Different Shades of Blue" The title cut from his 2014 album, "Different Shades of Blue" is a slow burner with equally soulful singing and guitar playing. The video gives us a peek into Bonamassa’s recording process—did you notice Reese Wynans of SRV’s Double Trouble on keyboards? With his trusty Les Paul in hand, Bonamassa dives into a stellar solo at the three-minute mark.
“I’ll Take Care of You” (Live with Beth Hart)
In this searing blues ballad, Bonamassa is joined by frequent collaborator and vocalist Beth Hart. A great moment arrives at the four-minute mark, when the audience is applauding, believing the song is over—moments later, Hart wails on the mic, and Bonnamassa rips a signature hair-raising solo to finish out the tune. This performance of “I’ll Take Care of You” is captured on the 2012 CD/DVD release, Beacon Theatre: Live from New York.
“Further on Up the Road” (Live with Eric Clapton)In this 2009 performance from the Royal Albert Hall, Bonamassa is joined by none other than Slowhand for the upbeat shuffle, “Further on Up the Road.” Seeing the two trade verses and solos is the stuff of legend. For your listening and viewing pleasure, the performance is included on Bonamassa’s 2009 CD/DVD release, Live from the Royal Albert Hall.
“Drive”Taken from Bonamassa’s 2016 set Blues Of Desperation, the mellowness of “Drive” is highlighted by a crunchy, verbed-out solo kicking in at the 3:05 mark. As the title suggests, it’s the perfect tune to play while driving at night, windows down, with nowhere to go.
"I'll Play The Blues for You" (Live)A classic Albert King number, the performance is made all the more awesome since Bonamassa is playing a custom-made Flying V-style guitar (nicknamed “Lucy”) that King used extensively in the Seventies and Eighties. It’s always a good day when we get to see heroes pay tribute to their heroes—and Lucy’s tone is something else.
"Going Down" (Live with ZZ Top, Derek Trucks)
Tragically, blues guitar master Freddie King—who died in 1976 at the age of 42—did not live to see his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. His presence, though, was certainly felt through the disciples who paid tribute to him the night he was posthumously honored.
That night, Bonamassa, ZZ Top and Derek Trucks teamed up for a stinging rendition of King's "Going Down." Bonamassa, Trucks and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons work flawlessly with one another throughout the track. What we wouldn't give to see these three team up more often...
"Midnight Blues" (Live)
This remarkable cover shows Bonamassa paying tribute to another hero of his, the great Gary Moore. The claustrophobia and insomnia of the lyrics go head to head with the longing and melancholy the titular time of night so often produces. In Bonamassa's playing, these conflicting emotions go to war with one another in a remarkable storm of sound.
"Just Got Paid/Dazed and Confused" (Live)
Another selection from Bonamassa's Live from the Royal Albert Hall performance, this clip, in particular, shows Bonamassa's onstage charisma, which stands just as tall as his chops. From the very first lick, you can see how the guitarist has the crowd wrapped completely around his finger. Throughout, he makes the storied London concert hall feel more like an intimate, smoke-filled blues club, transforming one of the world's most well-known stages into his own.
"Breaking Up Somebody's Home" (Live with Warren Haynes)
This amazing video—recorded live at Guitar Center's King of the Blues Finals in September 2011—shows Bonamassa working with another of America's great guitar players, Warren Haynes. Watching these two work together is a treat unto itself, but watching them trade individual licks, call-and-response style (which they do around the 5:45 mark) might just be the highlight of the whole thing.