Joe Bonamassa recalls the time he played Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitars in one afternoon

Joe Bonamassa
(Image credit: Gus Stewart/Redferns via Getty)

While most of us can only dream about playing the electric guitars and acoustic guitars that were wielded by our heroes, Joe Bonamassa has come along and induced some serious guitar-gear envy by revealing he once played not one, not two, but three iconic six-strings, all in one afternoon.

In a recent appearance on the Cory Wong-hosted Wong Notes podcast, Bonamassa recalled the time he played two Eric Clapton guitars – the Hare Krishna Gibson ES-335 and his famed “Blackie” Strat – as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s revered Lenny Strat.

Revealing that he ran each guitar through a Reissue Deluxe Reverb, Bonamassa recalled, “One afternoon, through my friends at Guitar Center, they brought up a couple of gigbags.

“I got to play the Hare Krishna ES-335 – it’s that guitar, Clapton at Albert Hall, he’s the reason I wanted to play Albert Hall, it’s because of him and that guitar. And 'Blackie', and Lenny, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Lenny. I got to play all three of those in a single afternoon.”

Despite the saying “never meet your heroes”, JoBo clearly wasn’t left feeling disappointed by his run-in with the guitars, dubbing the Hare Krishna semi-hollow stunner “the most vibrant, lively, explosive-sounding ES guitar I’ve ever played in my entire life”.

Eric Clapton

(Image credit: Susie Macdonald/Redferns via Getty)

“I tried to weigh the experience, ‘Is this what I want to hear or is it what I’m actually hearing?’ he continued, before adding, “because this is hallowed ground, and I go, ‘No, this is actually really ‘effing good.’”

He did, however, reveal that playing 'Blackie' was a “rough ride”, and that “it was not the most easy-playing Strat”, saying, “Maybe it’s that the strings were rusty… but it sounded fine. He played this guitar throughout the ‘70s, and that was his guitar.”

Ever the guitar historian, Bonamassa divulges in a bit of “Blackie” history, before moving onto Vaughan’s “hybrid” Lenny guitar and stressing its iconic status.

"Getting to play Stevie's guitar, which is another hybrid guitar, the neck is something, I don't even know if it's a Fender neck or whatever, and it's a '65 body and pickups, and it was just something Stevie put together and happened to play Lenny on it, you know what I mean?" he muses. "It's iconic."

Elsewhere in the interview, the blues-rock god gave an insight into his post-guitar-collecting days, revealing that, “If somebody buys something too cheap from either my estate, or my parents, or god forbid my niece and nephews or sister and brother-in-law, it’s guaranteed in my will that I will haunt them from beyond the grave.” 

JoBo is certainly no stranger to vintage guitars, with details recently emerging regarding the highly anticipated recreation of his '51 Fender Nocaster, The Bludgeon.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.