What was the last guitar you bought and why?
“I didn’t really buy it, I traded it. I was doing some recording with Alice Cooper and the guitar player had a ’61 Les Paul Junior. I always liked those. I’d just had a [Gibson] signature model made of my SG, so I traded him for that. It had the wide, flat neck of a Les Paul Junior from ’61. Gibson did a run of 100 of those. It came out good. They also did my ’54 Les Paul Black Beauty.”
What was the first serious guitar you bought with your own money?
“It wasn’t my own money, it was my dad’s money. He was going over to Spain on business and I told him, ‘Listen, you’ve got to go to this guitar shop called Ramirez in downtown Madrid and pick up a Flamenco guitar for me and I’ll pay you back.’ And for $200 he got this beautiful ’63 Flamenco guitar, which I still have.
"I wrote Spanish Caravan on it. Flamenco was the first lesson I took that I was serious about, especially since I had this cool guitar. Actually, I had a pretty cool Flamenco guitar before that one that was made in Mexico by Ramirez’s nephew. Mexico make some pretty high-end guitars if you look for them.”
What’s your best guitar-buying tip?
“I wouldn’t buy a guitar sight unseen on the internet. I like to make sure they sound good and I like light guitars - I don’t like them too heavy. If you’re a collector or something like that it might be okay, but I don’t have a lot of guitars just sitting around in a warehouse; I use them.
"I’ve got about 35 guitars. I went over to Richie Sambora’s house one day and he’s got quite a few. Although no one compares to Joe Bonamassa.”
What’s the most incredible find or bargain you’ve ever had when buying guitars?
“Well, the one that’s worth the most is my ’60 Les Paul Sunburst that I picked up about 15 years ago. This friend of mine who is a real Les Paul freak saw it down at the Guitar Center and told me about it, so I went there and got it.”
What’s the strongest case of buyer’s remorse that you’ve ever had?
“Years ago, I had a chance to buy the best Les Paul I’d ever seen. It was the most flame-y ’Burst ever. It almost looked painted. It was like the guitar was on fire or something. The guy said he wanted $3,500 for it and I said, ‘Are you kidding? No guitar is worth $3,500 dollars!’ It’d be worth at least half a million today. Should’ve bought that one [laughs]!”
Have you ever sold a guitar that you now intensely regret letting go of?
“My first guitar that I used in The Doors - a Gibson Melody Maker - got stolen. But I didn’t even care. I just went and got another one. In those days there were no collectable guitars. Today, that guitar would be worth a lot...
"About 20 years ago, I sold a ’59 dot-neck 335 for some reason. I wish I still had that one. I bought it a few years before that and I don’t know why I sold it. I think I had my eyes on a 355 that I bought and thought, ‘I don’t need that any more.’”
Are there any common design features on electric guitars that are an instant turn-off when you’re auditioning potential new guitars?
“All I know is how it sounds and how it plays. And I can tell right away if a guitar plays good or not, and if it sounds good. It sometimes takes me a while to get used to a guitar. Sometimes, after a month of playing, it’s not as good as I thought it was...
When was the last time you stopped to stare in a guitar shop window and what were you looking at?
“I go into the Guitar Center every once in a while, but, to tell you truth, I haven’t really seen anything that I would want to buy that would be better than what I’ve already got. My number one is the one I always use on stage - a ’67 SG Standard, similar to the one I had back in The Doors days. For some reason, it just plays really, really nice. It has a skinny neck, but I’m more into wide necks.
"I think it’s more about the sound. I got that about 25 years ago. Before that, I used a 335 mostly, like Larry Carlton.”
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?
“A cheap amp, I think. You can always get another amp, but it’s not so easy to find a good guitar. I like the [Fender] Blues DeVille with the 4x10s. I really like those. I seem to get what I need out of them. I really like the old ’59 Twin, but they’re hard to find. I’ve been looking for one and Joe Bonamassa said he’s got a bunch of them.
"He said he’d sell me one, but every time I call him, he’s on tour [laughs].”
If you could only use humbuckers or single coils for the rest of your life which one would you choose and why?
“Humbuckers. Even though my guitar on the first two albums was a single-coil Melody Maker. It sounded pretty good! But they buzz so much, you know. I didn’t really think about it that much when that Melody Maker got stolen and the next guitar had humbuckers on it.
"I just kind of got used to it... I bet someone has my [guitar] but just doesn’t know it.”
What’s your favorite guitar shop and why?
“My favorite one was a pawn shop called Ace Loans in Santa Monica. It’s not there any more. It eventually became just a guitar shop, because they became so famous for selling guitars.
"There was a guy called Hank there and he was a wheeler-dealer kind of guy. I used to make a deal with him. That’s where I got my first Melody Maker for $180 - and that was brand-new. They had old ones, too.”