Imagine this...The Guitar Gods appear before you with the following offer: "We will grant you any guitar you desire. What is your choice?"
Sure, images of ’59 ‘bursts and pre-war D-28s might be jumping around in your brain. But why not think really big? Given unlimited financial means—and perhaps the ability to move heaven and earth—why not go after your heroes’ iconic axes?
To make sure you're prepared just in case that day should ever come, Guitar World is pleased to present a list of ten of the coolest, most recognizable and desired instruments on the planet.
1) Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Number One Strat
Vaughan biographer Hugh Gregory called the guitarist’s main ax “the most famous battered Strat in rock history.” It’s also one of the most coveted. SRV’s second most famous guitar, “Lenny,” was sold to Guitar Center at auction for over $600,000, so it’s not hard to imagine Vaughan’s “First Wife” hitting the seven-digit mark. The Strat, originally thought to be a combination of a ’59 body with a ’62 neck, but later said by Stevie Ray’s long-time guitar tech Rene Martinez to be a complete ’62 model, is now in possession of older brother Jimmie. An exact replica produced by the Fender Custom Shop can be had for upwards of $20,000.
2) Jimmy Page’s Double Neck Gibson SG
When oil was found under Springfield Elementary, various Simpsons characters were asked how the school’s newfound surplus could be wisely spent. Otto the bus driver’s suggestion: “One of those guitars that’s like two guitars.” Whether this was a direct reference to Page’s iconic double neck or the rampant “excess-is-best” style of Otto’s beloved 80’s hair metal music, there’s no denying the gimmicky double neck can be a cool instrument to own… so long as it was once played by Jimmy Page.
3) Rick Nielsen’s Hamer Five-Neck
Is it practical? No. Does it play well? Probably not. Would it be the coolest thing to show off to your friends? Totally! Nielsen’s guitars may typically eschew tradition–and even musicality–in favor of theatrics, but sometimes bells and whistles have their place, like when you’re churning out classic power-pop. Hamer’s only made 3 quintuple neck guitars, and Nielsen owns them all. He supposedly tours with no less than 75 instruments. No word on whether his most famous ax counts as one or five.
4) Eric Clapton’s Blackie Strat
Eric Clapton’s most recognizable Stratocaster is actually an amalgamation of three separate instruments bought at the Sho-bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee. Derek & the Dominos made a stop in Music City during their 1970 tour; while there Clapton bought a total of six Strats, giving half to George Harrison, Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood. He used the three best parts of the remaining guitars to construct “Blackie,” which Clapton played from 1973 to 1985. The guitar was sold in 2004 at Christie’s Auction House to raise money for Clapton’s Crossroads Centre for Rehabilitation. The price: $959,500.
5) Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat
Slapped together in 1975 from pieces bought at Wayne Charvel’s guitar shop, Van Halen created one of the most iconic instruments in rock and roll. And he did it for a paltry $130. Originally black and white with a standard Fender trem, the Frankenstrat was given its most famous overhauls in 1979, such as the cut pickguard, the Floyd Rose tremolo unit, and the red, white and black finish. Fender’s Custom Shop recreated 300 perfectly replicated Frankenstrats, going so far as to equip each with 1971 quarters on the body, just like Eddie’s.
6) Ace Frehely’s Smoking Les Paul
It’s fitting that the original guitarist for the “hottest band in the world” would have, literally, the hottest guitar in the world. No serious guitar player would scoff at a custom three-pickup cherry burst Les Paul. But one that billows smoke is like a steak dinner… with a side of steak. Space Ace claims it was while touring in Canada with KISS that he came across some smoke bombs and got the idea of lighting them in the casing of his Les Paul. But Frehley would likely advise against this practice amongst amateur guitarists. “I did that for three or four shows before the bombs screwed up all the volume controls.” Best to leave fire in the hands of professionals.
7) Dimebag Darrell’s ML Dean
Few guitars in the metal world are as instantly recognizable as the late Darrell Abbott’s lightning-bolt Dean. Today Dean makes no less than 33 variants of Dime’s signature model. The original, a nondescript, maroon ML Dimebag won at a guitar-playing contest, was sold by Abbott when he was 16. It made its way into the hands of Buddy Blaze, Dime’s friend, who gave the Dean its now iconic blue lighting paint job. Sometime later, Blaze returned the Dean in exchange for a Flying V, and from then on the guitar became the feature staple of Dime’s setup.
8) Brian May’s Homemade Red Special
Designed and engineered with his father beginning in 1962, May used an eclectic mix of materials to build his Red Special, including a 500 year-old fireplace mantel and spare motorcycle parts. The Red Special took two years to finish, but was worth it for May and fans alike; its signature sound can be heard on every Queen album.
9) Peter Frampton’s Custom Three-Pickup Les Paul
There are live albums, and then there is Frampton Comes Alive. Perhaps most notable on tracks like “Show Me the Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do?” is Frampton’s trailblazing use of the talk box, but the guitar he used through that talk box is almost equally as celebrated. Thought to be a 1960 Custom LP, the Gibson is actually a 1954 Custom. Prior to Frampton’s acquisition, the instrument was given an overhaul at the Gibson factory, where it was repainted, refretted, and given the signature three pickups. Sadly, the biggest bank account in the world won’t grant you access to this Custom gem; it was lost in 1980 on a cargo plane that crashed in Venezuela.
10) Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Stratocaster
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this guitar, other than it was played at the Woodstock music festival in 1969… by Jimi Hendrix. Sure, it's an excellent Sixties Strat, but the true joy of owning this guitar would come from seeing the look on your friends' faces when you exclaim: “Dude...it’s Hendrix’s guitar!” The instrument now resides at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.