Henry James Schneekluth is best known as the guitarist for Orange County rockers Robert Jon & The Wreck. Like many players, he’s torn between a love of vintage electric guitars and a need for road-worthy touring gear.
We sat down to talk through the highs and lows of his journey as a guitar buyer, discussing his love for Firebirds and a sorry experience with a Jimmy Page Telecaster, in the process…
What was the first serious guitar you bought with your own money?
“Let’s see… probably my SG. I have a 2004 ’61 reissue that I bought a couple of years ago. A couple of years before that I actually built my own Strat. So it would be one of those two – probably the Strat because that one was more of a labor-intensive thing.
“I bought the parts individually and a local luthier helped me put it together. It had a left-handed neck and a sunburst body that I got on the internet, and then I got a custom pickguard from Warmoth.
“Originally, it had two Firebird pickups and then eventually I took those pickups out to put them in an actual Firebird. And now the guitar has a standard three-pickup setup with the reverse bridge pickup. So it’s kind of a little Jimi Hendrix-ish tribute. Something about the reverse stuff balances out the sound a little better for me.”
What was the last guitar you bought and why did you decide to buy it?
“The most recent guitar I bought was my Epiphone Firebird. I bought it in 2021. I changed the pickups out to Seymour Duncans and changed the bridge and the tailpiece, and it’s my main touring guitar now.
“I am a big Lynyrd Skynyrd fan and I especially like Allen Collins. There was just a curiosity; I thought it was a really cool‑looking guitar and the sound of it was attractive to me, so I thought I would try it out. It turned out that the first one I ever bought stood up to the test of the road. And so I continue to use it.”
What’s the most incredible find or bargain you’ve had when buying gear?
“The guitar I mentioned earlier, the SG. Knowing in the last couple of years how much the prices have gone up on used Gibsons and stuff like that, I got it for much cheaper than they’re going for nowadays.
“I use it as my onstage slide guitar. I play open E tuning slide and it’s my main guitar for that. They can have a tendency to neck-dive, and the one I have does neck-dive, but it’s never been a huge problem for me as long as I have a strap that grips. I think if you have some source of friction in the right spot, it tends to negate it a little bit.”
What’s the strongest case of buyer’s remorse you’ve experienced?
“I bought a Telecaster a couple of years ago – one of the Jimmy Page Dragon Telecasters – and I am currently in the process of trying to sell it. It just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.
“I’ve used it on recordings occasionally. But I barely play it; I just don’t have an affinity for that guitar. I haven’t found a Telecaster that I’ve really found an affinity for. I know I will eventually, but that one, I kind of bought it on an impulse and it just never clicked with me.”
Have you ever sold a guitar that you instantly regretted letting go?
“No, I don’t think so. I haven’t really sold that many guitars – maybe one or two – and I don’t think about them any more. They’re all stuff that I’m glad to be free of and I’m happy I have what I have. Yeah, I can’t say I have any seller’s remorse.”
What’s your best guitar-buying tip?
“Play it acoustically first and give yourself the time or the space to hear how it resonates. I can’t speak on behalf of everyone else, but for me I usually have a sense of what guitar is going to feel good in my hands and what guitar I’m going to enjoy the most. So generally I can tell by feel what’s going to be a winner for me. And if I don’t get that buzz from it, then I just don’t go for it.”
When was the last time you stopped and looked in a guitar shop window (or browsed online) and what were you looking at?
“I’m always looking at Reverb for different stuff, different deals. I’ve recently been looking into Explorer-type guitars. I’ve been playing one recently that I’ve borrowed – that’s been really great. But on my phone I’m always looking at a new pedal or Fender Tweed [amps] or different Firebird-style guitars, things like that.”
If 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 amp?
“Ah, that’s a really good question. I would probably have to go with the latter because I feel like if you have an expensive amp, you can make any guitar sound good. And you can always upgrade a cheap guitar, as well.
“Case in point, I’ve got an Epiphone Firebird and it’s constructed really well – neck-through [body], you know, like they did in the 60s. It’s vintage-correct for all intents and purposes, but I upgraded it.
“So, yeah, I would rather probably get a cheaper guitar and a more expensive amp.”
“Probably humbuckers. I just tend to find that with a good set of PAFs, lower output humbuckers, I don’t really find myself missing too much out of them. A good set of humbuckers really can cover all my bases.
“I’m in possession of a 1962 ebony block SG – I didn’t buy it, I’m just borrowing it – but it has this quality to it that seems to cover all the bases: the pickups, and the pots and all that stuff have this quality.
“When you roll the volume down, the pickups almost get this clarity, like a single coil. And that sound I just find is more relevant to the type of music I play.”
- For more information on Henry's touring activities, head to Robert Jon & The Wreck.