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Danny Bryant shares his greatest gear hits and misses – and his guitar shopping advice

Danny Bryant
(Image credit: Harry Herd/Redferns)

Danny Bryant spins the tale of a bargain Gibson BB King guitar and a Custom Shop Stratocaster that just didn’t make the cut, as we look back at his career in gear...

What was the first serious guitar that you bought with your own money? 

“An American Standard Strat when I was 15, so it would be a 1995. I’ve actually still got that guitar. I don’t really use it very much, but it’s one I’ve managed to hold on to.”

What was the last guitar you bought and why? 

“An Epiphone Riviera, 10 minutes ago! I’ve wanted one for a while, but they’ve all been out of stock. I don’t know if it’s because of Brexit or something. One came in so I thought, ‘I’ll buy it.’ A lot of people think that Otis Rush and Magic Sam were Strat players, but both their big early albums like Magic Sam’s West Side Soul, that’s a Riviera – but because of the mini-humbuckers they do sound quite Strat-like.”

What’s the most incredible bargain you’ve had when buying gear?

“The most incredible bargain? Well, I got a BB King Lucille. And it was just before they changed the look of it; they changed the headstock, probably about 12 years ago. They changed it to ‘BB King’ in big letters instead of ‘Gibson’. I got that for £1,399, new, in Coda Music in Stevenage and I looked the other day and they’re going secondhand on eBay – that particular year – for about £4,500/£5,000 now. 

“So I’d say that’s probably the best deal I’ve had. I tend to keep it at home. I mean, it’s a great guitar and it’s good in the studio; they just don’t react that well to flying and things like that. It’s a beautiful instrument. It’s like a violin. It’s sort of sensitive. I tend to fly with Strats.” 

What’s the worst case of buyer’s remorse you’ve experienced after buying gear? 

“I bought a Custom Shop ’69 Strat. It felt good in the shop and it just didn’t feel right once I got it home. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, there was no reason to take it back, and I even changed the gauge of strings that I would normally use. 

“I tried everything and it was just a Friday afternoon type of guitar, you know? So I sold it. I didn’t keep it very long. I mean, it might have been somebody else’s number one, you know, but it just didn’t speak to me.”

What’s your best guitar-buying tip?

“Well, I don’t really live by this myself – I should take my own advice – but I would go and try something and maybe have a walk around [afterwards] and think about it. Go somewhere where they have a few examples of the particular model you’re after, so you can compare them because they are all slightly different. 

“Try not to be too hasty. Buy with your ears and the feel rather than the look. I would rather have a guitar that I hated the colour of, but it felt and sounded good than the same model that was the perfect colour, but…”

When did you last stop and stare at a guitar shop window and what were you looking at?

“I haven’t been in a guitar shop since Covid, so it would have been a while ago. I usually go to Coda; I’m not too far from Stevenage where they’re based. I don’t go too often because I normally go if I’m going to buy. If I go [otherwise] then I end up spending money that I haven’t got. But I do enjoy looking around.”

If you were forced to make a choice, would you rather buy a really good guitar and a cheap amp or a cheap guitar and a top-notch guitar amp?

“I would always go for a better guitar. I don’t use any pedals, I always go directly into an amp and I like an amp to have reverb and I like it to have a gain stage, you know? I feel through the instrument more than I feel the amp. I know you kind of do feel the amp when you play, but, for me, the long-winded answer to that would be the guitar.”

If you could only use humbuckers or single coils for the rest of your career, which would you choose and why?

“I’d have to say single coils because most of my life is touring. In the studio I do much prefer humbuckers, but I’ll go with single coils.”

What kind of strings do you like to use on your guitars?

“I use D’Addarios, 0.010 through 0.046. I used 11s for a long time, but then we got to the point where we were doing 25 days in a row and I started taking a guitar that was strung with 10s and I would use it for two songs a night to give my fingers a break – and I didn’t notice a huge difference in the tone. So in the end I just transitioned and went to 10s.” 

Danny's go-to rig

“I play a Custom Shop Strat. It’s like a limited release: 1961, Fiesta Red. I’ve had it for almost 20 years. Then a couple of years ago, I found a late ’59 reissue that felt exactly the same so I bought that as a backup – and I use a Firebird for slide. They tend to be the guitars I use the most. 

“Then I take two Blackstar H-40s. I was approached by Blackstar for an endorsement and they sent me a [100‑watt] amp, but then I had a fly-in [gig] and I asked them to provide an amp and they provided a 40-watt combo. I just found that the lower power was sort of sweeter in the midrange. So I use two of those – one’s a backup, literally just behind the other one. That’s pretty much what I take on the road.”

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With over 30 years’ experience writing for guitar magazines, including at one time occupying the role of editor for Guitarist and Guitar Techniques, David is also the best-selling author of a number of guitar books for Sanctuary Publishing, Music Sales, Mel Bay and Hal Leonard. As a player he has performed with blues sax legend Dick Heckstall-Smith, played rock ’n’ roll in Marty Wilde’s band, duetted with Martin Taylor and taken part in charity gigs backing Gary Moore, Bernie Marsden and Robbie McIntosh, among others. An avid composer of acoustic guitar instrumentals, he has released two acclaimed albums, Nocturnal and Arboretum.